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Are sport climbs of a more moderate grade desirable?
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By Tom Hanson
Jan 2, 2007
Climber Drawing
It has been my observation that it is the routes of more moderate fifth class rating that are the most popular at any given sport crag.
Historically, it is the more experienced high end climbers who invest in a drill and equip routes for sport climbing.
This has caused a lack of sport climbs in the 5.4 to 5.9 range.
If routes in the 5.4 to 5.9 range were also bolted, do you feel that the return would be worth the investment?
Do you think that climbs of a lower grade would utilized?
Equipping routes with bolts is a public service perfomed by those willing to invest the time and money, however it is often ego driven or done to create a challenge for the climber who installs the bolts.
Has this left a selfish gap in the range of difficulty?'
Would it be of service to equip more moderate climbs with closely spaced bolts?
Often climbs of a lower grade tend to be run out, as those who bolt these routes feel so comfortable on the lower grades.
If low to mid fifth class routes were equipped with closely spaced bolts, do you feel that the investment would pay off?
Would these climbs be utilized by the climbing community?

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By Buff Johnson
Jan 2, 2007
smiley face
I'd agree to your posting questions. For examples, look at the Catslab in Clear Creek & some sections of N Table. Possibly also Red Rock Canyon OS in Col. Springs (I haven't been there, but maybe Stewart can offer his opinion on what he has done).

If we are addressing the urban sport crag environment; I think it'd be worth the investment installing easy to moderate bolted lines and establish them in a "laboratory-safe" manner so as to get more people interested in participating in climbing & access conservation.

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By Tom Hanson
Jan 2, 2007
Climber Drawing
Hi Mark,
Thank you for your response. I am going to give this post a couple of days to find out the general consensus.
As is common with all sport crags, Castlewood is quite top heavy in ratings with regard to its sport climbs:
Rating / Approx Number of Routes
5.6 / 1
5.8 / 1
5.9 / 5
5.10 / 37
5.11 / 45
5.12 / 27
5.13 / 2
As the chief culprit of this top heavy range at Castlewood, I am feeling a bit guilty. I had no part in the 5.6 or 5.8 either.
Now that I have grandkids who are beginning to express an interest in our sport, I have no climbs to take them on.
I know that many others deal with this same issue.
The nature of the rock and angle of the walls at Castlewood does not lend itself to a lot of easier routes, but there are definitely some good lines of this grade to be had.

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By Jeff Fiedler
Jan 2, 2007
Tom:

Thanks for the question. I'd definitely support your posting and Mark's response: moderate/easy, closely bolted routes would see a lot of use and be greatly appreciated. At most US sport areas I've climbed at the 7/8/9's are sparse and busy (if they even exist), but you can often get on your 10 and up of choice unless its a classic. So you end up with beginner/lower end climbers (like myself!) sketching on routes at their limit, often with groundfall potential. Yikes.

One of my best early climbing outings was in France, at a crag with dozens of well protected routes in the French 4-5 level. A fun and safe place to get my lead head and technique together. But you've basically got to climb trad to do that in the US.

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By Leo Paik
Administrator
From Westminster, Colorado
Jan 2, 2007
Tom Hanson wrote:
If routes in the 5.4 to 5.9 range were also bolted, do you feel that the return would be worth the investment?


Yes.

Tom Hanson wrote:
Do you think that climbs of a lower grade would utilized?


Yes.

Tom Hanson wrote:
Has this left a selfish gap in the range of difficulty?


No. However, it may be useful to poll folks before retrobolting established TRs.

Tom Hanson wrote:
Would it be of service to equip more moderate climbs with closely spaced bolts?


Yes.

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By Doug Hemken
Administrator
Jan 2, 2007
On Everleigh Club Crack.  Photo by Burt Lindquist.
You should put up NEW routes in the style you want to climb them in. There are no rules.

Retro/re-bolting should be negotiated with those who currently use the route ... and it may not always be obvious who has an interest in an existing route.

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By Kevin Craig
Jan 2, 2007
KC on Fields (medium).  Photo (c) Doug Shepherd
I would agree with what seems to be the consensus so far, i.e. yes, more sport climbs in the 5.4 - 5.9 range would be a good thing, a public service, help more people get involved in the sport, spread out the traffic (esp. TR traffic) and get used (probably a lot). I'm guessing that 5.6-5.9 would be the right range, but I could also be engaging in low-end-elitism ;^) by bumping the bottom up from 5.4 to 5.6. If cost is a barrier, I'd even be willing to kick in some bucks for the gear.

Also yes, any retro-bolting should only be done with the consent of the FA'ist if they can be reached or by community consensus otherwise.

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By Tom Hanson
Jan 2, 2007
Climber Drawing
Leo wrote, “it may be useful to poll folks before retrobolting established TRs.”

Doug wrote, “Retro/re-bolting should be negotiated with those who currently use the route ... and it may not always be obvious who has an interest in an existing route.”

Kevin wrote, "Also yes, any retro-bolting should only be done with the consent of the FA'ist if they can be reached or by community consensus otherwise."

I thank you guys for your feedback. I would never consider adding bolts at a Castlewood area that is traditionally toperoped, like The Grocery Store Wall, or anything on the west rim for that matter.
When I began climbing at Castlewood, in the days before Shelf Road, back in the very early eighties, we used to toprope all kinds of lines that did not lend themselves to trad leads. It was after my first trip to Shelf that I realized the sport climbing potential at Castlewood. I bought a Bosch and started adding bolts to only those routes that we felt we had done the toprope first ascent of. On any routes that we were unsure of we sought out the first ascentionist (toprope) to see if we had their approval. We only received encouragement from the toprope pioneers on the few lines that we hadn't toproped first, to the best of our knowledge.
In compiling the Castlewood guidebook, I had to omit hundreds of pretty good toprope climbs in order to keep the book down to a size that could accept a staple binding.
I don't think that I am being too presumptuous when I say that it is unlikely that anyone has spent more time climbing at The Wood over the last twenty-five years than myself.
I am very familiar with what is getting climbed and what isn't.
I tend to think that it would be best to add the new moderate sport climbs to the crags where sport climbing is already established, mainly the east rim of the lower canyon and north rim of the upper canyon. There seems to be great potential for moderates between The C-Section (aka Hedgeclipper Area) and The Vulture Walls.
I think that this forum is a great opportunity to get input from others prior to submitting a formal request to the park staff.
I agree that it would be in the best interest of the climbing community to make every effort to receive as much input as possible before proceeding any further. Back in "the day" before the fixed anchor moratorium, we just bolted what we thought would be a quality line that offered us a challenge. Those days are gone and our selfishness led to routes more designed for higher level leaders, not with the entire community in mind.
It is not my intent to bolt naturally protectable lines either, and by this I don't mean lines that I would consider well protected traditionally, as many of the routes I am considering, I have climbed sans rope in the past. For example, if a 5.5 is bolted, it will not include bolts next to good gear placements. It will be bolted with closely spaced anchors so that a 5.5 leader will feel comfortable climbing at their 5.5 limit, without feeling run out.
But then again, I wouldn't want to omit that one bolt because there is a viable natural anchor on just one portion of the climb. If the route is described as a sport climb, I don't think it would be appropriate to lure someone with only a set of draws on to a route, only to find out that they can't protect a certain section because they only brought draws.
Well, now it sounds like I am opening the doors to a myriad of ethical debates here, which is good.

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By Old and Busted
From Centennial, CO
Jan 2, 2007
Stabby
Hello Tom
Mind if I play a little Devil's Advocate here?
(miscellaneous points in no particular order)

After about 2, maybe 3 5.5's or 6's, don't you think it might get a little boring? Honestly? I mean we're old n' fat now, but come on.

South of the C-Section to the Vulture Walls!?! After the SNAKE EPIC we had there a few years back? You would need to put up seasonal gates to close the area off from Sept. to Nov.

The basic nature of Castlewood being that easier stone tends to have multiple ledges. It'll take tons of bolts to keep these green-peas from breaking ankles.

Probably need to pop for the gated cold shuts at the anchors, these routes will attract lots of kids. Don't need any anchor/rope accidents (read Richards description for the 5.6 at Wendell).

You're going to attract kids. You could probably expect more vandalism like we had at the Projects Wall.

I can't say for sure, but I wouldn't expect a positive experience from the Authorities with your plan, regardless of how much sense it'd make. They no longer mention the permit process on their website.

Don't feel guilty about all the .11's and .12's We didn't choose to make them that way. That was simply what the line was. We picked out the lines primarily for aesthetic reasons; we could have contrived several hard lines, but difficulty alone was not the aim.

I'm all for whatever production you can get going here. Just offering some points to ponder.

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By Christopher Jones
From Denver, Colorado
Jan 2, 2007
Climbing So Wild at Thunder Ridge photo by Kevin M...
I can understand a few 5.7 and 5.8 routes but do we really need a bunch of frickin bolts on 5.4 to 5.6. Go to the gym! Toprope or solo the 5.4 to 5.6 or better yet do some trad in that range. Skinner Mt. in the South Platte has two 5.5 trad routes that are great for beginners.

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By Buff Johnson
Jan 2, 2007
smiley face
Chris - I hear where you are coming from, but Tom is talking about an urban sport crag area; not really backcountry destination natural line climbing. What's the big deal with developing some slab routes that get some more climbers involved in the outdoors & park systems and keep top-wall impacts minimized with fixed-pro on the face?


Mike - I haven't seen vandalism from young climbers as a problem; they just want to get out and be kids and have a good time with their buds sending some routes. Haven't seen a problem with the skate park in Dvr either. So I'd say that developing these routes with fixed pro and getting the youth involved in an outdoor activity doesn't correlate with an increase in vandalism for our parks. Some of these kids get more fired up than the adults do about trashing land.

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By Old and Busted
From Centennial, CO
Jan 3, 2007
Stabby
Hey Mark,

I'm all for getting the kids out there, and I agree that the skate parks don't see alot of vandalism. But for some friggin reason there seems to be some DougCo locals who specifically like to trash CWood. Click on the Projects Wall page. And several of the grotto's out there are trash pits. Just kinda seems to be a Castlewood thing.

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By Tom Hanson
Jan 3, 2007
Climber Drawing
I'd like to relate some news of a pleasant nature.
The graffiti on The Projects Wall has been removed.

Back to the initial subject of this post.
I was not looking to add a slew of of 5.4's, 5.5's, 5.6's, etc.
Just, perhaps, one of each grade from about 5.5 on up.
The reason the existing lines at The Wood are so top heavy in grades is for several reasons, but mainly because the rock does not lend itself to quality lines at a grade much lower than 5.10
As Mike stated, most of the easier lines are quite ledgy and would require many bolts to prevent ankle breaking short falls.
Routes of this nature would certainly require a lot of experienced insight to make them as safe as possible. I feel that I am up to that task. Currently, I have only two or three lines in mind that are in the mid-fifth class range. Two of the three run diagonally and follow ledge systems, so it's not like climbing from ledge to ledge. Perhaps this is a moot point anyway, as it is really up to the bureaucrats when all is said and done.
I don't know if the posts about kids are hitting the mark. First off, I have seen many twenty to thirty year olds hangdogging on Entry Level 5.8 and Noodlers Nightmare 5.6. Moderate sport climbs will be utilized by many adults.
There are a lot of kids who can crank 5.13 these days.
I started climbing when I was twelve, long before the advent of bolted sport routes. Back in the early seventies there were no climbing gyms or school climbing programs. When I hit the crags as a twelve year old, there were never any kids my age climbing. I had to recruit my friends from school. It was because of the kind acceptance of my elders, who took me into the fold, that I was able to learn the sport, which has remained my passion for thirty-six years. I'd like to see todays kids get out from in front of the TV, Xbox and PS3. I don't think that kids who are rock climbers will vandalize their environment. It is my guess that the broken bottles and spray paint are from the brain dead high school partiers. If some climbing peers of these partiers start hanging at The Wood, then I would guess that they would police their own.

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By Stewart M. Green
Jan 3, 2007
Hi Tom:
I agree with most of the other posters...it would be a good thing for you to add some easier bolted routes so beginning climbers don't always have to always just TR stuff at Castlewood.

As Mark pointed out in the second post, I put up a number of easier routes at Red Rock Canyon in CSprings. And since those are the most traveled routes there, we've been looking around at putting up more easier bolted climbs at RRC. In meetings with the city of Colorado Springs Park and Rec Department prior to the park's opening, the city asked us to put up easier routes for folks to enjoy. The Garden of the Gods doesn't offer many easy low- to mid-5th class routes so there was a definite need in the Springs area for well-protected easy climbs for beginning leaders to cut their teeth on or for groups to hang out at.

Your observations that Castlewood, like most of the older sport areas like Shelf Road, had mostly harder bolted routes that were opened in the 80s and 90s are quite valid too. It has always been the high-end climbers that own a Bosch and are willing to buy the hardware and spend the time required to properly establish new lines, so of course they're going to want to do the toughies first...before someone else snags them. Brian Shelton and I put up most of Red Rocks' easy routes on the lead, which was not only fun but also gave most of those routes the feel of a bolted route at Garden of the Gods or South Platte with bolts drilled from stances and plenty of runouts to keep climbers amused.

Anyway, good luck with the permit process...

FLAG
By Doug Hemken
Administrator
Jan 3, 2007
On Everleigh Club Crack.  Photo by Burt Lindquist.
Tom Hanson wrote:
most of the easier lines are quite ledgy and would require many bolts to prevent ankle breaking short falls. Routes of this nature would certainly require a lot of experienced insight to make them as safe as possible. I feel that I am up to that task.


Trying to make a route safe for others can lead you to try to make a route fool-proof. And that's a loosing battle. People make foolish mistakes on sport routes, and people make foolish mistakes on trad routes.

I have a friend who used to make it a point to put up new routes that did not require even one piece of trad gear, because he didn't want anyone to be surprised part way up and get hurt. But that's the nature of rock climbing - things don't always turn out the way you imagined from the ground. After someone died for failing to clip in to an anchor properly two pitches up a spire that my friend had bolted, he began to realize that he couldn't try to take responsibility for everyone else's failures of judgment. (He still puts up bolts-only routes, but now I think it is for the better reason that he really enjoys the routes the way he creates them.)

Most everyone looks at a route before they start up, to judge whether it looks scary or do-able before they start up. If they don't, you can't help them anyway.

I'm all for easy bolted routes - not every route has to be a battle for your soul - and they are obviously popular. But I wouldn't try to over-think them. Let your sense of fun be your guide.

FLAG
By Rick Shull
Administrator
From Arcata, CA & Dyer,NV
Jan 3, 2007
Grip strength training, Nevada style.
Over here on the Redwood Coast I am working on a new area that will have a bunch of moderates. I have been encouraging climbers interested in routes of lower grades to help finance and participate in the bolting process. It is really rewarding to help an 5.8-5.9 climber learn the basics: selecting placements for solid rock, clipping, and clean falls and then let them go for the FA. I have had several newer climbers try to give me cash for bolts so they have more routes to do. Instead of taking the money I suggest that we split the cost and labor. This way, we get more routes as well as knowledgable climbers, not to mention a strong climbing community. The smile on the face of a new climber who has just pushed their "limit" on a new route is worth 10 "at my limit" redpoints any day.

FLAG
 
By Tom Hanson
Jan 3, 2007
Climber Drawing
Rick, That is cool. I am impressed with your attitude towards our sport and your fellow climbers. Keep up the good work!

FLAG
By chossmonkey
Nov 4, 2007
Tom Hanson wrote:
As the chief culprit of this top heavy range at Castlewood, I am feeling a bit guilty. I had no part in the 5.6 or 5.8 either. Now that I have grandkids who are beginning to express an interest in our sport, I have no climbs to take them on.

Why not take them out top roping or do some gear routes with them like you probably did when you were starting out?


I feel guilty too. I regret bolting many of the easier routes that I have. I feel in doing so I am partially to blame for the dumbed down, fast food nature of climbing today.

FLAG
By Rob Dillon
Nov 5, 2007
Sport climbs of high quality are desirable. If the line is good, go for it. Ledgy 4th-class junk with constant ankle-breaker potential? Leave it alone.

Since 'easy' sport climbs are neither physically nor mentally challenging, I would imagine that traffic on these climbs would be limited to those who truly find them rewarding in some way. For some, these routes would represent way stations en route to, um, bigger and better--or maybe just harder- things. For others, easy clip-ups may comprise the pinnacle of their ambition. These folks are undoubtedly underrepresented among bolters, and routes that suit them are lacking in many places as well. There's nothing wrong with the establishment of high-quality moderates in an area that has few of them.

I, for one, would not go overboard with this stuff. There is much to be said for the process of learning one's way through the grades, developing a strong lead head, and feeling the thrill of retaining mastery of one's movement in situations of consequence. This process cannot happen if one is merely clipping an escalating series of toprope anchors.

Put up a few good ones, assuage your guilty, elitist conscience, and move on.

FLAG
By JK1
From Lakewood, CO
Nov 5, 2007
I am happy to see this forum. I am an average climber in the grade you are talking about. I love to challenge myself on the sharp end but not to the extent of 5.10. I lead both moderate trad and sport but have a difficult time finding an area that has many such routes. Catslab was one of my favorite as well as the family areas due to the many choices as a moderate leader there were. Unfortunately Catslab is no longer an option. The boulderado is a great moderate trad area and I truly enjoy Elevenmile canyon. I have two kids that are learning to climb and this sport is a great family bonding time. I would support the decision to add routes in the 5.5-5.9 grade. Let me know if there is something I can get involved with to support or help the cause.

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By Ternes
From Littleton, Co
Nov 5, 2007
Me in Rampart Range where there is absolutely posi...
tom. wondering how this is coming along. id like to see some moderates at the wood definatly, as i do bring many a new climber here. off the top of my head i can think of zuccini on grocery store wall as a possibility for you. it follows the ramp but possibilities for trad gear is little to none (and pieces are small) so its not a great route to teach people on, but on top rope the risk of a swing is also a factor, so thats also something i consider. as the grocery store wall is also the wall with the lowest average grades, i was thinking if climbs like this were to be bolted this would be the place. anyway good luck with your mission, if anyone can make the wood better im sure its you. ill even pitch for some bolts if your plan comes together

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By Tyler Bowser
From Red River
Nov 5, 2007
Check out northern New Mexico, Mallette Canyon and Roadside Distraction.

FLAG
By Aerili
From Salt Lake City, UT
Nov 6, 2007
The West Desert...it's not just for climbing, suck...
When I first started climbing a lot outdoors, I did so with a group of sport climbers who warmed up on 10s and 11s and then worked 11s and 12s for the day. I ended up doing little but TRing 10s and 11s most of the time that were too hard for me and getting little lead experience (duh).

Eventually the group broke apart to some degree and I started to dislike the social aspect of the remaining company I continued to climb with (not to mention I wanted to learn how to crack climb), so I found new partners. The group was composed of a mix of experienced climbers and newer climbers. This gave me a chance to climb a lot more moderates as well as put up a lot of the routes since some of the other climbers needed me to. The fact of the matter was that this secondary climbing experience gave me far more in terms of physical technique and mental training than I ever got with the first group and I feel I became a much better climber in the long run as I approached leading and following higher grades.

Entry level climbers need entry level routes to learn technique and train their lead heads on. (This doesn't mean they have to be overbolted, however.) Yes, I do think most route setters look for lines they themselves wish to climb, rather than with a mind for the community as a whole. I guess this is their prerogative, but I just want to say that I think bolting more quality moderates is a great idea (anywhere!).

P.S. I'm not sure I understand the post from the individual who feels his moderate routes were "dumbing down" the sport. Unless they were crap lines with bad bolting, I definitely disagree. This sounds like the classic case of the "expert" unable to see eye level again with the novice.

P.P.S. Quality moderates CAN be had--where I live, I think most of the lines at Arizona's Ridgeline area on Mt Lemmon are all quite good, not to mention there are a few nice moderates in Arizona's Jack's Canyon and some in various areas of Queen Creek.

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By Stone Nude
Nov 12, 2007
When dumb people have disposable income, hilarity ...
Recent cliffs popping up here in RRC seem to be either moderate or extreme, not too much middle ground. That's cool cause we already have a lot of middle ground here.

I've noticed that our local benefactors of anchors on easy routes have been making things tough. Perhaps all we really need are about 2 cliffs with 4-6 routes from 5.4 to 5.7 with a short approach, and then some kind of inertia will be reached?

A local told me a while ago that "there will be no more Prince of Darkness' put up in RRC now, and there shouldn't be." I remember being sorely tempted to prove him wrong. For those of you who've climbed at Red Rock, what would you think about a fully bolted 5.4 sport climb with 2000 feet of easy face up one of the big sandstone mountains here? We're talking 300 bolts or so, definitely still some loose rock (inevitable), and lines of climbers who seek the grade first, not the quality? Or are we ok with having cat in the hat, crimson chrysalis, and leaving it at that, and assuming that most climbers competent to get themselves three digits off the ground and back again will climb 5.7 solidly at some point on gear, and let natural lines be predominant? Interested to hear some opinions. I might be able to afford the bolts next year.

FLAG
 
By M.Morley
Administrator
From Sacramento, CA
Nov 12, 2007
8-21-09
Killis Howard wrote:
what would you think about a fully bolted 5.4 sport climb with 2000 feet of easy face up one of the big sandstone mountains here? We're talking 300 bolts or so...

In a word, disgusted.

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By Richard Radcliffe
From Louisville, CO
Nov 13, 2007
The focus should be less on the grade and more on the quality of the line. Don't put in 5.4's or 5.6's or 5.9's or 5.12's just for the sake of having bolted climbs at those grades. If it's a quality line (that lacks natural gear, of course), put in a few bolts. But to bolt easier lines just to placate the masses... That just doesn't make sense to me.

FLAG


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