I'm a woman

I'm a woman
Photos copyright Laurence Gouault
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Friday, 4 November 2011

Trad climbing’s survival in a material world, by Stevie umpayed Haston.

this rack weighs about 8kg
Trad climbing is certainly doomed from what I have seen lately, the once and only way to climb is now just a circus side show! The free climbing ethic grew very slowly over many years until it became established in its proper form in the 1970s, there were many fight arguments and discussions along the way. There were also great climbers and some great impassioned ascents that showed that it was all possible. Out of the many examples I could use, I will highlight the Boulder climbers of the seventies as thee great standard. I do this because they are documented and where written about in great detail and I also know that most of it is true. So the ethic was basically to start at the bottom and make your way to the top with out hanging on gear or using it in any other way. Simple, very, very simple! If you fell off or had a slip or touched something it was called cheating and you had to start again, simple! If you had a lot of gear in or used a rope to protect you from above the ascent was invalidated, simple. One climber a man who inspired me and others, called screwing up on climbs tainting, as in your ascent was tainted. I always thought this term was perfect? These rules (you cant have games without rules) were established by the elite and where adhered to -maybe, sometimes, and certainly not always by trad climbers.  The problem with this ethic came about with the escalating standards and the normal pressures of life, and worse nowadays the thirst for harder routes and controversy in magazines and on the internet. Today a discussion will take place on the internet about Trad climbing by sports climbers, or idiots or both!
The inconvenience of complicated trad climbing often precludes enjoyment and that’s why people take short cuts. Probably every body takes short cuts but and it’s a very big but some of the great trad routes have been done from the ground. You only need to think of Yuji on Salathe with two falls! When you purposely put all the gear in a complicated and hard to protect trad route it’s called cheating! The amount of nonsense I have read recently about this is astounding! In Indian Creek and most of America the ethic for cracks is strict, you must place all your gear on lead or it’s not an ascent. Some people only pay lip service to this but strict ethics have been used (apart from practising on many of the trophy routes, think Cobra Crack and the Meltdown. Examples of hard to protect climbs are easy to find, in Britain full racks of 3 sets of friends plus wires makes the going very hard. A crucial hard to spot placement changes the grade of a climb dramatically. A heavy rack makes the climbing of strenuous routes very much harder. A big rack may weigh 8kgs!!!!!!!!!!!!!! The exclamation marks are for some people on internet forums who don’t understand that a rack can affect the grade of a route!!!!!!!!!!!!  Try a hard rout with 8kgs extra! JibĂ© and Raboutou used to say that 200grams used to affect how they climbed. I once did a hard offwidth in the desert on a tower with a big rack (8kgs) and collapsed on the summit for half an hour. Inconvenience is just that, its inconvenient. It’s fairly inconvenient to wait four years for the Olympics, or to wait for good powder or good ice, but that’s how it goes.
Many good climbers bend ethics or rules (I have numerous times) but if Trad climbing is to survive we need to at least pay lip service to placing gear. In Britain Mcleod places his gear on his final leads, many people do not, if you make the difference you will understand! And so why do you think he does that because it’s easier or harder? And yes it might be a little inconvenient to do a very hard trad route on Ben Nevis or use good ethics on El Cap but some people do, so please make the difference.

A few things the internet has got wrong!

They accept any old shit because it’s free!

Not checking!

Talking about stuff when you don’t know what you are talking about! This last one could be equally levelled at presidents of the USA.

I will leave you with something a bit more refreshing and upbeat but is on the same lines. There is a sport called Free Diving and in it, the Divers recognise different categories of dive, because lets face it they are different! So we have the most sensational which is the deepest dive but using weights, this draws the most interest, it isn’t the hardest, its just got the biggest numbers. Then we have another category which doesn’t use fins or a wet suit, this you might be tempted to think is purer, and I might be tempted to agree. So if you really want to be cheered up by human performance, click onto William Trubridge free diving the arch in Egypt. Notice there is a guy with tanks, Its 50 meters down, 33 meters across, and 50 meters up. Now that’s free.  And I’m off free diving now!