Saturday, July 19, 2008

Some interesting Items

A few things to stir the pot here a bit while the Front Range bakes under the heat:

First, I recently encountered a boulderer working on the Automator in RMNP and in between burns, dousing the crux holds in rubbing alcohol. Personally I think if you're adding anything but chalk and effort you probably should be trying something else. Anyone know what's up with this practice? Seems to me it should be strongly discouraged. This climber was not a local.

Second, I noticed that the right start hold for Gang Bang seems covered in something that refuses to be brushed off. I heard from another climber that pof or resin may have been deployed in the area. Anyone else heard this?

Climbing Media Watch Item:

A lengthy interview on Climbing's website with and short article in the print issue by Matt Segal regarding his repeat of Mike Patz's gear-only ascent of China Doll (5.14a R). I have commented elsewhere on the non-newsworthiness of this ascent and the suspect journalistic aspects regarding its media placement in the Alpinist. It is disheartening to see it resurface in the pages of Climbing. I can only speculate that creating controversy is sometimes part of being a "professional" climber but I find it irksome that Segal is quoted as saying that there are a lot of climbs in Boulder that deserve to be chopped.

"C-note: (Caroline Treadway)
If you could chop the bolts on any climb, which would it be?
Matt: A lot of climbs in Boulder deserve chopping: China Doll, Deadline. I don't think there should be bolts on either of those routes."

It is ironic that the editorial " Why we don’t need to fight" in the most recent print issue of Cimbing, commenting on the recent deaths of Alan Nelson and Steve Dieckhoff, seemed to be aimed toward leaving this kind of rhetoric behind. Why Matt is talking like this is beyond me but I would like to ask his sponsor, The North Face, "How do you feel about your athletes advocating bolt removal in a public forum?"

Ironically for someone who went to Naropa University, where he studied Buddhism and double majored in Religious Studies and Eastern Psychology, here's a quote from the extended interview:

Matt: There's a line I really like in it, (from a TV show called "Weeds) "thugs don't have to say sorry." I'm over tiptoeing around people at the moment. Like right now, I'm gonna go in the Trident and not tiptoe, I'm gonna stomp and sh**, make a point.

And there you have it... Thugs be stompin’ at the Trident. Which, if you know the place, is actually pretty funny and I hope that’s Matt’s intention. However I would prefer to see more about climbs like Tommy Caldwell's incredible one day ascent of Magic Mushroom which is like climbing 20 China Dolls in a row. Maybe even from Mike Patz who actually first freed China Doll. Not to mention the many other climbers who are doing something new and not getting the coverage they deserve. Climbing is urging me to resubscribe but if this is where the magazine is headed then my subscription may have to lapse again,


Dan Levison said...

I couldn’t agree with you more Peter. I wrote letters (both published) to R&I and Climbing about the chopping of the bolts after the Patz send. Despite not being newsworthy, the elitist attitude displayed by the 24 year old Segal is disconcerting. Chopping the bolts would be a big mistake. The route would be re-bolted in a heartbeat. A guy with that much talent shouldn’t be “bottom feeding” second ascents anyway. He has the ability to do bigger and better things. I hope he leaves the route alone…

Chubblez said...

I think it's worth noting that Matt Segal just freed an all-trad FFA on Independence Pass, a 5.14a roof crack called the Orangutan Overhang. Looks very cool and a damned fine effort.

I still stand behind the editorial in the new Climbing -- I don't think any bolts should be chopped, starting up old squabbles and all that. It's not healthy for anyone. I agree with that.

I've asked our Webmaster to look into removing that question from Climbing's site, as it's not original editorial content generated by us.

chuffer said...

Good work Peter. Like I told you the other day, this is why I enjoy your blog. You'll come out and say what many others are thinking. Why do we have to get older to be wiser? For this reason, it is rare that I enjoy listening to much a 24 y.o. espouses.

A sign that I'm getting older? Maybe.

Anonymous said...

i am a local and i use rubbing alcohol to de-smeg holds. maybe not every burn but if the holds warrant it then i do. it cleans them and removes moisture, that's it. who's it hurting?

chuffer said...

I actually concur Ryan. Although this statement is not backed up by peer-reviewed research, rubbing alcohol is a fairly innocuous liquid that evaporates quickly. I'm fairly certain it's long term use will not have any deleterious effects on granite or gneiss, so de-schmeg away! Lots of people have used it in the Poudre and the Park. What's going on with Gangbang is something other than ethanol.

In my mind, a much bigger concern is the use of blowtorches during cold winter sessions where ice is present on problems. The FUF anyone?

Ryan Olson said...

Very well said Peter. I've always disliked the conflict between climbers who enjoy different styles. It is interesting to note that there is a "mixed route" on the Hallet Boulder in RMNP that was bolted (illegally?) by Matt Segal. One of the bolts is about one foot from a bomber #2 or #3 camalot placement. I don't disagree with the bolt, but it is inconsistent with Segal's "ethics." I think its great that you can kind of choose your own adventure on these routes. Climb it safely or climb it dangerously. You don't see Kevin Jorgesen or Jason Kehl yelling about chopping bolts, and these guys are often taking things a step further by eliminating the rope altogether.

Peter Beal said...

Thanks everyone for your comments. El Samet's defense of the editorial is welcome as Boulder Canyon has become a kind of battleground for B-team egoists ranting about bolts and soft grades instead of celebrating the wealth of excellent rock-climbing it offers literally in Boulder's backyard. I personally think the USFS should designate it a climbing park and foster better trails and access. Kudos to Dan for replacing the junk on Verve. A pity that the majority of ascents on that route will be top-roped first owing to the 80s bolting ethic.

Re:additives for bouldering, I am unconvinced that land managers would be psyched to hear about climbers applying alcohol or pof to holds. Blowtorches, alcohol, pof, etc. are lousy substitutes for strength and patience. By the way I would like to know who built the fire on the boulder next to the Centaur. That's ugly and stupid and will be a long time washing away.

sock hands said...

peter: just two cents: the concept of using rubbing alcohol is to facilitate washing grease, rubber, and chalk off of holds. it is fairly common for climbers to do this on non-porous rock like the gneiss at rmnp. it is believed that when the alcohol quickly evaporates, it leaves no residue of its own.

for example: pure rubbing alcohol will clean popped zit grease off a mirror with out leaving any streaky mess. ha!

thus, i agree with chuffer and ryan that this practice is innocuous and is by no means comparable to the use of pof, resin, or a blowtorch.

if rubbing alcohol left residue, it seems unlikely that "liquid chalk" would work, which is [at its most basic] just a mix of rubbing alcohol and chalk.

please note that when i worked for an air-pollution monitoring company, we used high-grade rubbing alcohol to clean glassware and spectrometer? mirrors, which was acceptable by EPA protocol to produce consistant results since no residue would be present to bug the results. if rubbing alcohol left residue, it would not be an acceptable cleaning agent for these devices.

even more interesting is that now and then we would have to drive to canada to purchase "everclear" grain alcohol to clean the spectrometer mirrors for hard to remove debris... for the mormons, everclear is essentially mass-produced moonshine with an alcohol content of 99%.

so, i propose that climbers get some moonshine to their clean holds if rubbing alcohol is considered a contraband substance. !!

Peter Beal said...

I stand corrected then on the issue of climbing and alcohol but I think they still mix better when the one comes before the other.

chuffer said...

sockfeet ... possibly different proofs in different places, but the Everclear I'm familiar with is 190 proof or 95% Ethanol.

1 shot of that shiz is like 2.4 of anything else. kickstart your buzz today!

during college and high school, I proved the hypothesis that ingesting 2-3 shots would result in erratic behavior, blacking out and sleeping in strange places. I'll leave it at that.

sock hands said...

i took a straight gulp from a bottle and could not breathe, vomit, cough, or see straight for way too long. seriously. thought i was going to have to stab my self with a pen to open up the air passage. i believe it may be better to actually gulp rubbing alcohol than everclear.

never again.

wig said...

She did ask if you "could" chop the bolts. Which sort of implied that he actually couldn't.

I mean of course he could if he really wanted to. He could walk up there with a crowbar or whatever and yank em but to my knowledge those bolts are still all there and he didn't. I really just think he was saying that he thought those should have been gear routes to begin with. I'm sure any one of us would have said that about a route that's more accessible to our abilities... i think.

sock hands said...

i'd chop the bolts that hold gross reservoir up so we can climb at damnation again.

Peter Beal said...

While it's true that Matt didn't say he would chop said bolts, Boulder Canyon has long been a place where people have acted on their feelings both pro and anti-bolting. So I say don't feed the flames right now. A consensus might emerge at some point but I don't sense that Matt represents the Boulder climbing community. By the way thanks Matt S for removing those comments from the Climbing website

I would be a lot more inclined toward the "cleaning" of China Doll if there were a number of gear-only ground-up ascents,not sketchy headpoints done after days of top-rope rehearsal. Any number of routes could be chopped if they were worked on TR a bunch and then done without bolts. Back in the day, when I started climbing, rehearsing a route in that fashion was hardly "traditional" or good style. A question of priority I suppose.

Anonymous said...

Peter...BRILLIANT post. I read Matt's interview and was honestly blushing and embarrassed for the guy. Mountains are made from mole hills on this "China Doll Press". Big Deal!!! REALLY....There are WAY more newsworthy ascents than another 14a by another Less than impressive climber. (sorry) Boast about what needs to be boasted about. Bite your tongue when you want to sound off. I guess thats my 2 cents. Im glad you brought up the point...

Anonymous said...

A Brit recently "headpointed" (with rehearsal) the first 3 pitches of the BacharYerian w/o clipping all but one bolt on p3, and man, the die-hard traddies on SuperTopo were hyping the guy up like he was the Second Coming. The irony of it, though, sailed right over their heads - namely that his ascent proves that there is never any need to chop bolts, which of course is their knee-jerk response to any bolts they don't like. You can always have all the adventure and commitment you want on any route (like George the Brit did) - just don't clip the bolts and place sketchy gear instead, or free solo, and you can still be a hero regardless of whether it's bolted or not.

I also had to laugh when Ethan pulled off a one day, 3rd try ascent of the Path route at Lake Louise after Segal sprayed about taking Ethan there to "teach him how to trad climb", and which the hypemasters in the mags pumped up as some kind of quantum leap in the direction of the sport after Trotter chopped the bolts and relead it (complete with a full page picture of the hammer used to chop the bolts!). Funny how a cold dose of reality will suck the air out of someone's BS agenda-pushing...

Peter Beal said...

Thanks everyone for the feedback on this issue. I will continue to watch the way this kind of thing plays out in the climbing press.

It was remarkable to see what a really good climber can do with a so-called hard trad pitch like the Path. Ethan, who has redpointed 14d/15a and bouldered V14, would find little to slow him down on a 5.14 unless it was truly deadly. He got strong by sport climbing and bouldering and having a bunch of natural talent and fitness, not by trying to one-up people on local crags.