|By Tony Mayse|
Dec 8, 2010
With permission from my friend Chad I post this message.
If you are not aware, there's a bit of a controversy brewing in the Arkansas climbing community. The central issue is that some climbers are putting fixed chains on routes that were previously established without such niceties. By fixed chains, I'm referring to 10 inches of heavy chain link attached permanently to the bolt hangar on one end and to a carabiner on the terminal end. This amounts to a permanently fixed draw.
There are generally two reasons for this. First, on particularly steep routes, as in Kentucky's horizontal terrain, it can make it easier to clip. Second, you can conveniently climb grades beyond your onsight limits since you don't need to worry about leaving bail gear behind; you can just lower off of the fixed chain-draw.
Normally, the accepted community standard is that the first ascentionist gets to determine the style of a route. This rule is widely accepted. I personally think it's perhaps a bit too simple. For instance, it leaves room for people to free solo first ascents on grades well below their own climbing level. In this case, the rule fails because it allows folks who are climbing well to enforce their style on climbers of lower levels. I cite this example only to acknowledge that the community standard of the first ascent precedent is a nebulous and not always "good" way to determine what should and should not occur.
Acknowledging this, I will go beyond a mere restatement of the accepted "style of the first ascentionist" rights when saying that I absolutely, positively don't want to see chains hanging off of the many beautiful routes that I established in Arkansas. I put those routes up and I will remove any unsightly, and unnecessary, hardware I find on them. ( And don't try to tell me that I am stealing; I'm fairly certain that there's no such thing as property rights on things left in the woods. )
But, as I said, I will explain myself. Let's try to carry on like more like a community than members of oppositional political parties. My position starts from several key principles, that I would hope are shared by the majority of climbers. Please speak up if you disagree with these. 1) Climbing is better than other "sports" because it provides a spiritual and aesthetic satisfaction far beyond competition and personal glory. 2) Climbing takes place in the natural environment, and that environment is taking a frontal assault as the world rapidly overpopulates.
My logic is simple. The spiritual and aesthetic aspects of climbing are something special. They are not about convenience. They are not about numbers. They are the motivational soul that will keep you psyched and continue to nourish your soul throughout your life. If you run out of psych, you we're chasing numbers and ego. This is the energy that led me to hand paint my bolt hangers and anchors so that the beauty of the rock wouldn't be marred. When I see a couple pounds of raw chain hanging from each bolt, it is VERY hard to believe that the folks who installed that stuff are feeling the spiritual / aesthetic connection.
And this lead nicely back to point number 2. Climbing takes place in the natural environment. As the world overpopulates, the natural environment will become more and more damaged. Not just from industry and global warming, but from user impact. As we speak, climber areas ARE being closed due to heavy impact. This will only increase. Even if you are unconcerned with the spiritual and aesthetic, simple access to climbing demands that we focus on minimizing impact as much as possible. If we don't address this, access will be restricted at some point during our lifetimes. I'm only 40 years old, I fully intend to be sending for another 3 or 4 decades. Protecting access by minimizing impact should be the priority of every climber. Again, a couple pounds of chain hanging from every bolt is not the way to minimize impact.
I can see no other excuse for these fixed chains except convenience. If convenience outweighs your sense of spiritual and aesthetic reward, you'll run out of psyche long before you run out of life -- and that won't be fun. While it's easy to detect the ire in my words here, I hope it's also easy to detect my love for climbing. And if I have climbed with you, or even spoke with you about climbing, I think we both know that we share this love. I believe that we all know that climbing is better than other "pass times", and we should hold ourselves to the highest standards.