Sunday, April 27, 2008

One more project at Flagstaff

Yesterday in near perfect conditions I succeeded on a little problem at Flag I had been working on a little while. It starts just right of Hagan's Wall and joins the ramp on the right. When I got there this problem had a few tick marks on it but not on the holds that I used and in any case it doesn't really matter whether I got the "first" ascent or not. Anyway a bunch of tries on this very crimpy and insecure problem which I think is worth V10 and indicative of the remaining potential on the mountain.

The starting hold and the damage after sending...

Winding up for the first move.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

"Traditional Ethics" in Boulder Canyon

"Segal Extols Traditional Ethics in Boulder Canyon" is the headline at today as Matt Segal did the second free ascent of China Doll (13d/14a) in Dream Canyon. Not sure why this is noteworthy at this point but the last part of the article runs as follows:

"An ethical question that has emerged for Segal after traditionally freeing sport cracks is the removal of bolts. One day while Segal was working China Doll, Bob Horan, the original route's first ascensionist, was cragging in the area. They discussed chopping the bolts, and Horan agreed with Segal that they should be removed. Horan described how he had started working the route on traditional gear but later decided more people would climb it if he drilled bolts. Neither Horan nor Segal has immediate plans to chop China Doll's bolts, but both believe that doing so would speak a strong message to future generations: bolting cracks is unnecessary

Well... it would certainly send (speak?) a message of some kind which I'm guessing is if somebody, for whatever reason, maybe even working a route on toprope to wire the moves and gear, decides they have a different vision of what constitutes hard or dangerous climbing but doesn't have the vision to find their own climb to express it on, well they can vandalize a climb that is already established.

The Alpinist has long lauded traditional climbing over sport climbing and fair enough but to include a little note that appears to justify bolt removal is crossing the line from reportage to activism. Rock and Ice, perhaps trying to attract viewers to its remarkably weak website, even has a poll on the topic in their Forum section. Will we be reading soon about the route-that-should-be-chopped-of-the-month? And maybe the land managers will be interested in the revival of an old (and tired) controversy and close the canyon down to climbing for a while. Maybe...

It seems clear that many routes in Dream Canyon or Boulder Canyon in general could be top-roped first and then led clean or even led ground-up clean. But so what? And if removing hardware sends a message who is it being sent to exactly? There is not exactly a host of China Doll quality steep cracks waiting to be bolted in the canyon. Or anywhere else on the Front Range for that matter. Horan bolted the pitch because at the time he felt it was too hard and poorly protected to lead safely ground-up on gear and for most climbers it will always stay that way.

So congratulations to everyone who has bypassed the bolts on China Doll. Now it's time to stop picking through the scraps of the past and find an original climb that really sends a message about what it takes to be a great climber. It has been quite a while since that has happened along the Front Range. Tommy Caldwell's The Honeymoon's Over on the Diamond is a good benchmark from, oh, 2001 and still unrepeated... That's a second ascent that's been waiting a while. And by the way, there are a few bolts on it too. Are they really necessary? Any takers?

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Climbing Radio show at KGNU

Visit this link for an mp3 of the debut of Climbtalk, a climbing-oriented radio show at KGNU in Boulder.

Some interesting discussions, especially Christian arguing for the need for "restoration" of broken holds at Flagstaff. I'm not sure I actually agree with this idea but I can understand his motives.

The age of the participants in the show was a little old for discussing the contemporary scene, with Pat Ament, John Sherman, Malcolm Daly among the guests. Maybe a wee bit on the nostalgic side, especially from Pat Ament. But overall a good idea and I look forward to hearing more.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

OK so what is the U.S. equivalent to this? Seriously...

Margalef, Spain from Dani Andrada's blog

Here's what I'm reading, on and off, Wendell Berry's The Art of the Commonplace

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Spring is underway

Which means I've been exercising my forearms by pulling weeds in the backyard, not on holds. I've been working on a desperate traverse at CATS that's probably V13/14, linking 3 V10 sections. Hoping for the semester to wrap up soon as well.

On the climbing news front, little of interest since the Honnold free-solo of Moonlight. Kevin Jorgeson soloed the Fly at Rumney but, while impressive, had been done before. Probably a moratorium on news regarding that "route" until it's bouldered ground-up, preferably flashed. A female ascent would be great. Speaking of which, Alex Puccio looked very strong on Trice last weekend. Not too many American women have done confirmed V12 and she is certainly strong enough to take it a lot farther than that.

I went to the Denver Art Museum's Inspiring Impressionism show which is perhaps the best one I have seen there. Probably one of the finest selections of paintings that has been hung in the museum.

Photo Issue of Climbing Review

The new issue of Climbing arrived and of course it proclaims its carbon-neutral status. However should we take into account the decidedly non-carbon-neutral sport it chronicles? The environmental aspects of professional climbing with regard to expeditions, travel, etc., not to mention the entire industry seem ready for a new consideration. How many sponsored climbers are in Spain one week, California the next and off to France after that? "Exotic" destinations (if such things really exist in 2008) seem to be the flavor du jour and frankly are a little strange. An article by Bernd Zangerl, describing 3 weeks spent searching for boulders in Peru, which by the way are at almost 15000 feet, seemed kind of pointless in the end.

For those of us who actually somewhat work for a living, the question of how these climbers can afford to take weeks or months off at a time in an economy where the cost of housing, food, and transportation has been going through the roof constantly raises itself. Economically or environmentally, the nomadic lifestyle in 2008 isn't sustainable except by drawing on a big bank account somewhere.Are "professional climbers" really making that kind of money now?

Lastly a moratorium please on repetitive stories of life in Yosemite. The antics of young men with little money and too much time on their hands wear thin quickly.Tales of Camp 4 life and "dirtbag" lifestyles lived by otherwise unremarkable climbers are an established subgenre of literature that was getting old by 1980. John Long pretty much has staked out that territory.

Lastly, climbing photography has to go somewhere new. Co-opted, literally in the case of the printed magazines, by industry PR, photographers have served up variations on the same theme for about two decades now. Part of the problem is that "shooters" are no longer photographing something real but instead a media image of climbing that has fed on itself for a long time. Thus the likes of Tim Kemple, Corey Rich, Keith Ladzinski, and others of the newer generation recycle the images of Greg Epperson, Heinz Zak, and so on. The finger crack diagonal across the frame, the wide angle, etc. etc. has been seen and done before. Has climbing as a sport been over-photographed at this point?

Anyway the photos in this issue are literally squeezed out by cheesy ad after cheesy ad. Tommy Caldwell as Sergeant Rock for Powerbar is laughable for instance and the juxtaposition of an evocative picture in Wadi Rum and a full-page nutrition supplement ad is kind of sad...

By the way go here for an analysis of Powerbar's Protein Plus.

In closing, a word to John Bachar--enough with the F-Bombs. Just because your heinous soloing exploits (though not nearly as wild as Peter Croft's) take you to the edge, doesn't mean you need to swear like a sailor. Props to Matt Samet for filtering the potty mouth.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Moonlight Buttress Free Solo

I heard this afternoon that Moonlight Buttress in Zion had been free-soloed by Alex Honnold. Very impressive and very dangerous. 13a and much 12 on friable sandstone. No doubt Climbing will have more on this very soon.

My piece about climbing past 40 is up at FRB. You can find it here.

(I want to add that the source for the Moonlight Buttress story is very reliable but it is still unconfirmed by other sources.

For a topo of this incredible route go here.)