Monday, July 12, 2010

Chaos Theory

Lots of high-altitude hiking this week. After doing Gang Bang Arete, I decided a change of scenery was in order. Unfortunately Boulder got rained out on Wednesday so it was off to the Spot and a good session there, doing more 5-spots in one session than I have done for a while. I felt reasonably rested by Friday so this time I headed up to Upper Chaos. I really wanted to look at Barbed Wire Beard and Golden Rows of Flows and get a better look around up there. After an epic boulder-hopping hike with two crashpads, I found myself at the base of Pterodactyl, an amazing looking V12, but also a sign I had gone a bit too high so I dropped down and made my way to the meadow. After bumbling around a bit, I managed to orient myself properly and found Barbed Wire  and also two crash pads. Uh-oh moral dilemma time here. But actually I didn't think too much about it. Opting to be a hypocrite and also preserve my back and head I moved them to the base of the El Jorge Boulder to try to the right problem. Right around this time Ryan Y from Boulder showed up so now the landing was pretty safe. After some intense inspection, I tried R El Jorge and flashed it.

I was quite surprised to do this, especially as it had taken me at least a week of serious attempts and literally dozens of  tries to do GBA, rated V8 and only one try to do R El Jorge, rated by many at V9. While I put it down as V9 on my 8a scorecard (hypocrite again, I know), really V6 would be appropriate, V7 tops, if I judged by how it felt. Then I wanted to try Golden Rows of Flows. This is essentially a two move problem, hitting a very small edge LH off a sloping undercling and grabbing a decent edge from there. Stepping off the ground felt pretty easy and within a few goes I was hitting the crimp. After some frustrating attempts, including slipping off both holds simultaneously, I stuck the crimp and did the rest of the problem. This presented another dilemma. Again if GBA took numerous attempts and days and GRF took about 45 minutes and maybe 10 tries, should it be given V7? Grades. Sigh...

Sunday I went up to Upper Chaos again on a very quick trip to try to do Barbed Wire Beard. This is essentially a nice v3 traverse into a hard V10. Very cool thin edges and a crux near the very end. Lots of rain, a bit of wind and thunder; it was feeling like October up there. I was under a tight time deadline here, made worse by a twenty-minute rain-induced timeout on the hike through the big talus. When I got to the problem, there was water dripping down it and things were not encouraging. Even a paper towel stuffed in the good keyhole slot couldn't keep it dry. The hoped-for quick send was not to be. But I did most of the moves quickly and hope to be back up there when I return from a vacation trip to the East Coast.

So back to the stashed pads. Someone commented in a previous post, and obviously the gossip train rolls quick in Boulder, that I had used the two stashed pads (by the end of the week, the word will be I used four and I will have left my own up there as well) and hence was "all talk." This is a tough call, and related to some issues that I had recently been discussing with Jamie Emerson. Jamie urged me to moderate my comments and tone and after some consideration, I have agreed with this approach. To be doctrinaire on the point is to be unrealistic. If you are alone up there and can add to the safety margin, would you be a hypocrite for using stashed pads after you had denounced their use? Sure, why not but then again so what? Does carrying two of them up there with you offset the sin? Maybe, in part. But the truth is they are up there, just like the many improved landings, and it is common sense to go ahead and use them, unless you are really trying to make a point. I have tried to make my point already by carrying more than most other boulderers ever will. Will I rely on their presence? No. Will I haul them out of there? Again, no. It is far too much effort with the load I already am bringing up and will only annoy people I know who they may belong to and who do rely on them. I am not going to play law enforcement on this issue. If this makes me inconsistent and a hypocrite, I will just have to try to live with myself. I know that a. I am not stashing pads myself and b. I am carrying far more up there than others. If you have constructive comments on how to resolve this point, please feel free to contribute.


Anonymous said...

Let's be clear that I did not advocate anyone stashing pads, and that the emphasis of my message was that posting photos of stashers was not beneficial.

Peter Beal said...

Absolutely agreed on that point. Apologies if there was any indication of said advocacy in my post. I have decided that further confrontation on the issue is a waste of everyone's time and potentially counterproductive.

Anonymous said...

Why is it a waste of time? If no one say's so, then the community (or larger climbing world) will think it is OK. Yet it is not.

Is it not against Park rules?

As for your dilemma, I would say it is just fine to use them. Obviously they were "donated" to the area, and can be freely used. I understand not taking them down, you already are carrying enough. However, if you ever just go hiking or exploring for new/more boulders and find stashed pads, then take them down.

Peter Beal said...

By confrontation, I mean naming names or otherwise identifying users/stashers/locations. We'll see what else turns up though. Thanks for the opinion on using them/taking them down. It would be nice if there was more unanimity on this topic.

forecaster said...

it sounds like more gym thought being taken outside. there will never be unity on the topic because climbers do what they want until they lose access. sorry to sound so dire, but it seems to be the case more often than not. i hope that more people will carry their pads out in the future. this sounds like an issue just waiting for the rangers to resolve.

Anonymous said...

What will the rangers says about this?

"Mt. Evans and more specifically, Lincoln Lake has just become the most popular bouldering area in the world! Well, it seems that way at least. The past few weeks up there have been nuts. Tons of people, DOGS, non climbers “poking around”, and lots of FA’s."

"I made a visit with Max and Ryan a few days ago and built some landings and established an easy V1 and a very sharp, crimpy face I called Cutlass (V10)."

"After moving over 2000 lbs of rocks (seriously) to make a good landing out of the chaotic choss slope, we laid siege to the arete project."

"It felt very hard and it is a bit height dependent if you climb it in the style that I did but I would love someone to go up there and repeat it. Especially since I build a perfect landing…"

Anonymous said...

I think it is your choice to or not to take the pads down. Under the same conditions I would have more than likely done the same. That said it is NOT okay to leave your pads up there. If problems cannot be done because there are not enough pads go climbing with people who will lay their pads down for you. Climbing, especially boudering (and especially in CO with its many but small areas), requires more of a sacrifice of time on the part of pad-haulers and spotters. This is a boundary in our sport and only as a community will we avoid the damage caused by individuals putting their own goals above the larger community. For a long time some of the most classic boulders we have today were looked at and turned away from because of their landings (e.g. The French Tickler). I am all for one doing things safely but that does not have to come at the cost of stashing your pads. I will be up in the Park this weekend and pending a trip to Upper I will take out what pads I can carry. If yours are among them give me a shout and I will get them back to you.

Addressing "playing law enforcement" as "annoying" at best (?) is untenable to me. If we have ethics we have to stand by them or else we have nothing. Furthermore, the climbing community MUST police itself or else risk access to areas. Anyone remember the P-Code from American cinema's early days? It was annoying and stupid, but it worked keeping the government for regulating the film industry. I'm willing to be "annoying" if it means I can help keep those areas open (even for the pad stashers).

Peter I hope this comment might help give a vision of what bouldering in the alpine environment entails and I would love to hear other ideas about what can be done better. I am all for pad containers, but short of that I think we should be hiking our pads in and out of our climbing areas. I furthermore do not mean this to be antagonistic and hope this post finds you well. Feel free to contact me personally if you have any questions or concerns.

Thomas Camillieri

Peter Beal said...

Hi Thomas, thanks for the comment. For the record, I have never stashed and will never stash pads so you won't find any of mine at Upper. I do think it is appropriate to remove them as you see fit.

Anonymous said...

-Tom, I couldn't have said it any better myself. It certainly gives me hope to see such a civilized discourse on the subject and I can only hope that this issue is put to bed before our access to the alpine areas we love falls into jeopardy. During my last trip to Upper Chaos I found two stashed pads (without really looking), but lacked the means to hike them out. I'll be bringing straps up with me next time and hiking out all of the pads I can carry; I will continue to do so on subsequent visits.

Owen Alexander

Anonymous said...

Am I missing something? In the post you wrote:

Someone commented in a previous post, and obviously the gossip train rolls quick in Boulder, that I had used the two stashed pads (by the end of the week, it will be four and I will have left my own up there as well) and hence was "all talk."

Um I guess I took this to mean that you left your pads up there.


Peter Beal said...

That sentence was to indicate how already people were making up stuff ("gossip train" about what had happened. The two stashed pads were someone elses'. That was the first time I had been to Upper in two years at least.

Anonymous said...


I am wondering what your thoughts are to JE and JG's responses (on B3) about this pad stashing and landscaping? I find his response and JG's a little naive and of poor form. Just saying to "keep it on the down low and to watch the public nature of one's comments" does not seem to be very mindful of the situation.

I bring it up here because it seems readers of JE and JG's blogs are not concerned with the landscaping, stashing of pads, trash, dogs (in a wilderness area), etc. I don't see how Lincoln Lake, Evans, and the Park are not going to be eventually shut down. The new trail to Lincoln will surely not be endorsed by the rangers. The landscaping of hundreds of landings directly detracts from the wilderness experience - the prime objective of the Park and Evans.

Why is it that these "big names" seem to not really care about this? As B3 said, "There are no access concerns as far as i know. It’s public land and with all the talus it’s hard to have an impact. Lincoln lake has been visited for years by climbers and non-climbers alike. The rangers weren’t happy about the social trail that was constructed to Area A, which was built by climbers. I don’t know that they would approve of cairns." This seems short-sighted. Chaos is nothing like it was 10 years ago - boulderers have had a massive impact there - in the talus. Why do they/we keep thinking in the short term? People have been climbing at LL for years because they respected the wilderness area and did not construct a gym environment.

Thoughts? Why not go fully public? Otherwise, it presents the view to readers that these are minor issues and basically "OK."

Peter Beal said...

At this point I am not going to comment on my thoughts about this as I am talking with the various parties concerned.