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Aid to Free Progression Thesis: Case Study Hallucinogen Wall
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By chris Kalous
Dec 3, 2011
Me

Got started on this over on a post about free beta for the Hallucinogen Wall and decided it warranted its own post. The other forum had the inevitable conservatives piping up about ground-up etc. and it got me thinking about this debate and led to this. Its a work in progress...it references the Hallucinogen,. but I think it has wider application. Its really long, probably only for the MP Forum hardcores.

Big Wall Aid Route to Free Route Natural Progression:

1. The climb gets put up as an aid climb. This both opens one door and closes another. The door is opened in that the route is there to be repeated, and eventually freed. A door gets closed in that it is stuck as an aid climb, both in that the protection is poor and our current ethic is such that for some reason a route is placed in prehistoric amber never to be changed again. In addition, the leap to freeing it is muddled in the vision of the route as an aid climb which slows the progression to free more than if the wall was blank and awaiting a free ascent. A 2nd ascent will codify and lock this route in if it is in fact a "classic" and making it more untouchable in terms of adding pro. Mini dust storms will ensue with repeats like grade debates, fixed gear debates, hammerless ascents, who added bolts, drilled hooks, etc. which can have the effect of creating renown and probably slowing down the free attempts even further.



2. Someone frees it by what Jim Erikson called "dubious means". He put forth (in an interview in the original version of CLIMB!) that most great achievements in climbing are done by flouting the ethics of the day, to which the conservatives will cry foul. However, if the achievement is truly great, it will quiet (most) critics, and incrementally change the standard ethics. This is why ethics mostly hobble furthering the sport because takes courage to say, "Fuck you, Royal Robbins, I'm going up there anyway." Case in point: the Warren Harding on the Nose, Jardine using friends to standardize 5.13, etc. However, The Hallucinogen has that funny blip of the dry tool ascent, which did not quite achieve the vision of greatness to become a standard. But now there has been two free ascents that involved heavy previewing and in at least one case, some pre-placed gear - accepted ethics but not truly "pure". Still, I think we can agree that both these ascents were pretty bad-ass- way more than just another party hooking up the thing (certainly a grand personal achievement, but hardly noteworthy as history).



3. The "masses" chip away at it. I don't mean chipping the rock (the aid climbers already took care of that) what I mean is that when someone has the vision to go beyond that door of "this is an aid climb" and free climb it by whatever means, then that door is swung wide for the rest of us to say "wait a minute, I climb 5.whatever, too, maybe I can try it". Case in point: the Hubers blowing the doors off the free climbing ethic on El Cap. The floodgates phenomenon is a testament to the vision of those who try it first, even if their style is bettered in subsequent ascents- case in point: Skinner and Piana freeing the Salathe, but never ground up, single push. Why not Lynn Hill, you ask? Well, she was just too beyond us sniveling masses for us to associate. That would be like seeing Superman fly by and thinking, "Shit, I'm gonna jump off this bridge and see if I can do that."

So now the Hallucinogen arrives in this era since the free ascent has been repeated- 2nd ascents are significant in pushing the door wider. Now people will be trying to free it for their own personal achievement without much media note, and maybe bettering the style in incremental ways such as single push, shorter time working it, removing pre-placed gear, etc.

And aid climbers will still be doing it- debating the real grade, clean, hammerless, etc. -but these debates are now irrelevant in the grand historical scheme. However, each subsequent free ascent will render the climb less and less a prize for aid climbers.

4. Ground up onsight, followed, philosophically, by a freesolo, and then a naked freesolo. While this is sort of a joke, right now the anticipation is palpable in Yosemite for the first freesolo of Free Rider. However, ground up onsight is the legitimate end point in style. Yet, there are ways to improve style: climbing past added bolts, not using obviously chipped holds, skipping a belay to link pitches, etc.

There are obviously plenty of great ascents that break this sequence, and I would argue that the more steps added to the process diminish from the significance of the following step. For example, leading a previously pinkpointed ascent while placing gear may be seen as a smaller step. Skipping steps makes the ascent relatively more significant. The Prophet on El Cap being an example of a direct to free Big Wall, but even they ended up compromising in a few places from the true ground up style. Yet, it remains as one of the great achievements in Big Wall free climbing (just repeated, BTW, bring on the masses- 5.13 R/X...maybe not?)

Whew! What do you think?


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By caughtinside
From Oakland CA
Dec 3, 2011

Good post. Still, there will always be detractors and nay sayers from any ascent not done ground up on sight. It's the same tired argument from years ago, no dogging or pre inspection.

The big free game seems to incorporate everything about climbing, which is pretty cool in my opinion. The guys doing it are very strong sport climbers, employing sport style tactics to make it go more efficiently. Headpointing pitches, etc. The best climbers are climbing smart and using every tool at their disposal to get the job done.

So I guess I'd have to conclude by saying that sport climbing is nei.. er, big wall free climbing.


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By BJ Sbarra
From Carbondale, CO
Dec 3, 2011
el guapo

I think you're either back in town or the weather in Italy really sucks right now...


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By PAS
Dec 3, 2011

Here are a few of my thoughts on this subject;
•The original route is authored in a style or discipline unique to the first ascend party. You can paint over an original, but it is not the same painting by the same artist.
•Variations on an aid route established by newer party, with newer party claiming free ascent of route by same name.
•Media hype on these projects seem to encourage competition by any means rather than the vision for a new route on new rock. I have a hard time with this because it is easier to do subsequent ascents than venture into the unknown.
• Differences in interpretation regarding the route and the skills utilized for the first ascent. I am aware of routes that require gear placements, bravery, and skill in some or all stretches of climbing on the route...if someone comes in and places bolts and removes the above elements is it really the same route? I consider all of these things in a route.
This post are thoughts and opinions. I am not claiming to have the answers and have only touched on a few points as food for thought.


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By Brent Apgar
From Out of the Loop
Dec 3, 2011
Me and Spearhead

Why not Lynn Hill, you ask? Well, she was just too beyond us sniveling masses for us to associate. That would be like seeing Superman fly by and thinking, "Shit, I'm gonna jump off this bridge and see if I can do that."

Just wanted to save that one for posterity... awesome.


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By Zappatista
Dec 3, 2011
Book me, officer.

Thought provoking. That makes it in the 99th percentile for MP posting, even if I don't agree with the conclusions drawn in all cases. Good thoughts, Chris. My personal feeling? The weather IS probably sucking over there-it is here...


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By jumping fish
Dec 29, 2011
tree climbing Love it.

So what kind of hooks will I need to bring and how many?


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By 1Eric Rhicard
Dec 29, 2011
It is a good sized roof. Photo: Jimbo

Thoughtful post. I was taught 35 years ago that aid was for things that could not be climbed free.

I think it is interesting that aid climbs are somehow sacred and cannot have pro added in order to free them. Upgrading pro (adding bolts) in order to make it reasonably safe to free climb is okay by me.

On the other hand the untouchable aspect has inspired climbers to step up and do impressive free ascents. I guess if climbers free it with the same pro as the aid folks used the first free climbers have raised the bar.

Should I do a terrifying aid hook route up a 5.10 face and tell everyone they cannot touch it?

If the people that come along and free it do it by adding bolts that is fine too, just not as impressive.

Do I care that an aid climb disappears because it can now be free climbed? No. hundreds if not thousands of aid climbs are now freed all over the world.

Those aid guys have tons of new rock they can aid! Go put up some new aid routes.


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By Yarp
Dec 29, 2011

There's so much hot air in this thread that it feels like August at my house this morning.

Before this discussion can really be had Chris, a definition of "style" must be agreed upon. In attempting to do this, you will then run into the same problem Persig did and will be forced to buy a shitty motorcycle and move to Missoula.

You shit talk aid climbing as if it has no legitimate place in the schema of the climbing world, while at the same time glorifying those that are pushing the standards of the day even though they might be using what some consider dubious means.

Who are you or anyone else to judge what is right or wrong about any style of climbing? Aid climbing standards have risen with the benefit of the technological advances that have raised the free standards as well. While your "progression" may apply to certain situations it certainly doesn't fit many, if not most.

For example: Beth Rodden "puts up" a 14b at Smith a few years ago. It took her fucking weeks of "working" it and she left a disgusting mess up in the Marsupials where she camped out while she was doing this "working" of her (sic) proj. She replaced every single bolt on the 1st pitch of this mediocre aid climb, which she accessed by rapping in from the top. Effectively turning what was a C3 pitch that required you to know what the fuck you were doing in those pin scars into a C1 spaid climb. The original 1/4 inchers in smith Tuft weren't that confidence inspiring the day they went in many moons ago and I certainly can understand her not wanting to fall on them but why isn't everyone up in arms that she retrobolted this line and ruined an aid climb? I've mentioned aiding this line to a few younger people and they roll their eye's at me saying isn't that a free climb now? Sure, if your last name is Rodden or Trotter. Since they've freed it now I guess I'm a fucking douche bag for wanting to aid it the same way it's been climbed for decades.

The magazines hailed her ascent of the 14b pin scars, from the untold number of filthy aid ascents, as earth shattering, ground breaking stuff. Nobody bitched about the mess she left behind or the amount of time, energy and resources she depleted in hang dogging the route into submission. Neh, quite the opposite. Words like revolutionary were used. Nothing but a huge crock of shit if you ask me.

I'm not old enough to be talking like a crusty old climber but this bullshit gym climbing mentality that the young'uns are taking to the rock is going to be the end of their new found "sport". Drilling a bunch of fucking holes in the rock and spinning a wrench while hanging on a rope is not exactly difficult aid climbing but without the employment of just those techniques many of these earth shattering "free" ascents would be nothing but wet dreams.

And who the hell came up with this idea of rock climbing as art? No matter how difficult and impressive the route may be I fail to see how anything but a huge pile of jizz was created from the self gratifying, ego stroking session that inevitably results from a new "Free" FA . A couple dudes, or dudettes perhaps, managed to slither up a piece of stone and if they did it in the "best style" possible they, theoretically, left no trace of themselves ever being there and then they can puke words like ethics, pure, bold etc. ad nauseum. Who really gives a hoot or a good god damn about such silly things?

If the ascent was achieved by any means less than barefoot and naked on sight and solo then that means they most likely left bolts, fixed gear, garbage, shit, blood, etc etc. which seems to me to be more destructive of the stone and natural environment rather than less. Well, perhaps not the blood. That's just beautiful to see smeared across the wall at a belay station.

We think too highly of ourselves as climbers and this game we play. We're really not as big of a deal to the rest of the world as we see our selves.

But don't let that keep you from having fun jerkin' off!


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By Ashley A
From Salt Lake City
Dec 29, 2011

Is there any el cap free route climbable without the pin scars? the prophet? just curious.


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By Yarp
Dec 29, 2011

johnL wrote:
Yarp, do I understand correctly, you are mad at Rodden because she replaced some bad bolts?


Eh, no John, but thanks for asking.

I personally don't give a shit about any and or all of it. I'm a terrible climber and have fun on dirty 5.7's. I enjoy aid, trad, alpine, long walks on the beach and I even occasionally clip a bolt, although that usually only happens when I'm at a belay. Because building a belay on gear has become soooooo difficult it's much more hip to just sink bolts for the anchor on your "trad" climb.

Usually though if I find myself clipping nice new shiny hardware it means I'm aiding someone else's "free" route that they salvaged from the disgusting dirtbag aid climbing segment of the population.


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By Glenn Schuler
From Monument, Co.
Dec 29, 2011
A grey fox skull wedged in a crack 100' up on a FA I was working on - don't see that every day...

Yarp wrote:
I personally don't give a shit about any and or all of it.


Of course, thats why you bothered typing a 10 paragraph rant, makes perfect sense.


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By Ray Pinpillage
From West Egg
Dec 29, 2011
Cleo's Needle

johnL wrote:
So what is it you're angry about? You sound angry.


His magazine subscription is almost up.


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By Yarp
Dec 29, 2011

johnL wrote:
So what is it you're angry about? You sound angry.


Not angry about anything but thanks for being concerned about my state of mental well being. Just throwing my 2 fifths of a nickle out there. Take it, leave it, flame it or ignore. I don't care which as long as you enjoy whatever it is you're doing.


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By s.price
From PS,CO
Dec 29, 2011
 Morning Dew ,self portrait

Yarp, you never had a good thing to say. Do us all a favor and SHUT UP or say something worth saying.


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By Yarp
Dec 29, 2011

s.price wrote:
Yarp, you never had a good thing to say. Do us all a favor and SHUT UP or say something worth saying.


I guess that means you disagree with my opinion then? Or are you just too much of a moron to add something to the discussion so you attack me personally?


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By s.price
From PS,CO
Dec 29, 2011
 Morning Dew ,self portrait

Yarp wrote:
I guess that means you disagree with my opinion then? Or are you just too much of a moron to add something to the discussion so you attack me personally?

My point exactly!


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By Yarp
Dec 29, 2011

s.price wrote:
My point exactly!


So your point is that you're a moron, you have no opinion on the matter and you'd rather just insult me personally?

I'm confused.

Perhaps my argument was so rationally sound that I've single handedly reversed the progression and in the process left everyone speechless.

Weak sauce crowd in here today.


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By Ray Pinpillage
From West Egg
Dec 29, 2011
Cleo's Needle

Yarp wrote:
So your point is that you're a moron, you have no opinion on the matter and you'd rather just insult me personally? I'm confused. Perhaps my argument was so rationally sound that I've single handedly reversed the progression and in the process left everyone speechless. Weak sauce crowd in here today.


You didn't make an argument, you took ten paragraphs to say you don't care.


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By Yarp
Dec 29, 2011

Ray Pinpillage wrote:
You didn't make an argument, you took ten paragraphs to say you don't care.


No, see, you're wrong there Ray. I most certainly did argue a point of view. If you failed to grasp it, I would say that it has more to do with your reading comprehension skills than it does my abilities to elucidate my opinion. Of course I'm a moron and most of what I say is utter garbage. People are like that!

You've had ample opportunity to post an opinion on the OP's "thesis" but instead you've chose, twice now I might add, to instead attack me instead of my opinions.

Sorry if my words make you feel all icky inside.


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By Ray Pinpillage
From West Egg
Dec 29, 2011
Cleo's Needle

Yarp wrote:
Of course I'm a moron and most of what I say is utter garbage.


Agreed.


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By Yarp
Dec 29, 2011

Well played Ray!

It's interesting how so many people absolutely detest me because of what they bring with them when they read my posts.


Oh, and...did you have anything to add to the thread in regards to the issues the OP discusses or are you going to continue using junior high flaming techniques to show the world what a big meany I am?


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By the Oracle
From Delphi
Dec 29, 2011
mawiage

Thread Deraileur
Thread Deraileur


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By Glenn Schuler
From Monument, Co.
Dec 29, 2011
A grey fox skull wedged in a crack 100' up on a FA I was working on - don't see that every day...

Yarp boy, you ranting on about a .14b at Smith has absolutely nothing to do with with Chris's original post - Big wall aid climbs becoming free climbs and the process of it.

The only weak sauce crowd here is you.


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By s.price
From PS,CO
Dec 29, 2011
 Morning Dew ,self portrait

Good topic Chris. Progress,or the way it is achieved, will always bother a certain percentage of the populace. The motives and methods of this progress should be brought out into the light and debated. This progress and debate serve to strengthen the foundation of our sport, allowing us to determine what is ethically acceptable to the majority. And helping us to evolve those ethics, as the recent trad ascents of previously bolted routes and the single push ethic of the worlds leading alpinist are proving.

Those of us that remember the invention of cams and the bolt wars have experienced this evolution firsthand. Jim Erikson called it years ago and it will continue to ring true until nothing is left to climb.

Cannot agree with future free ascents diminishing the true aid climbers desire to repeat Hallucinogen.

Yarp, I don't despise you. Just get tired of your constant negativity. With eyes wide open we are truly humbled by what we don't know. Just Sayin!


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By Buff Johnson
Dec 29, 2011
smiley face

Maybe a more concise thesis statement would help.

I can't seem to find the overall statement of the OP other than a bunch of different types of climbing has occurred at one point in time, or another.


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