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By Austin Baird
From SLC, Utah
Dec 10, 2012
Me scaring years off my mom's life

Let me preface this by saying that I've done all my climbing out west and I've never really had to deal with access issues\landowner permissions\etc. so I don't have the perspective that others who DO deal with these issues have. That being said, I've followed the CT bolting controversy with a mixture of bemusement and confusion and I always enjoy watching people argue about Devil's Lake.

My question isn't about lines that go on gear but instead about the "TR instead of sport" ethic in certain places. If land owners don't allow bolts or if the lines go on gear, I understand why nobody would bolt. But why would climbers rather toprope routes (that can't go on gear and that COULD be bolted and led) than lead them? Is it sheerly out of respect for the local ethics\history? In these areas, is it even true that this is still the prevailing ethic or are new climbers just bullied into accepting the status quo? I just want someone to help me understand why climbers will willingly toprope when there could be leads to be had. (And please don't turn this into a flamefest about how everyone wants to "gridbolt" all your local secret crags. It's an honest question. I feel that toproping is an inferior style to leading (either trad or sport) and I would never choose to TR something if I felt like it could be led instead.)


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By J Q
Dec 10, 2012
Me again!

I choose to be a cabose but look where that got me.


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By Cale Hoopes
From Sammamish, WA
Dec 10, 2012
Profile Icon

I always top rope because it improves my gym climbing.


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By Matt N
From Santa Barbara, CA
Dec 10, 2012
OTL

Leading is an inferior style to soloing.


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By bearbreeder
Dec 10, 2012

Fear ... Whether justified or not

Its that simple ;)


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By Tim McCabe
Dec 10, 2012

Well this should be entertaining.

Not sure about Devils Lake, but the rock is similar to www.mountainproject.com/v/palisades-state-park/105874281 where I have climbed a fair bit when I lived in the midwest.

Some of my old climbing buddies did try to bolt one of the old TR's. They knew the rock was hard so they just tried a 1/4" bit to start. By the time the the battery was dead they had a slight dimple started. So clearly no sport climbs were going to be had.

Matt N says

"Leading is an inferior style to soloing."

Classic.

Austin if you think about it a lot of these TR areas are in the 40 foot range. If you place enough bolts to create a safe climb your basically always clipping over your head every few feet. Isn't that just a different kind of top rope.

bearbreeder says

"Fear ... Whether justified or not

Its that simple ;)"

For many that may be true. But its also just a lot more efficient to set up a TR and then just let everyone work the route.

Also there are usually several routes that can be worked off of one TR set up. I know you didn't want to hear grid bolt but when there's 4 routes that have been TR'd in a short section of cliff that's what you would end up with.


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By Gunkiemike
Dec 10, 2012

bearbreeder wrote:
Fear ... Whether justified or not Its that simple ;)


If the landowner doesn't want bolts installed, and it doesn't take gear, then it's TR or nothing.

It's THAT simple.


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By bearbreeder
Dec 10, 2012

Gunkiemike wrote:
If the landowner doesn't want bolts installed, and it doesn't take gear, then it's TR or nothing. It's THAT simple.


The OP said "could be bolted"

;)

Again ... Its fear, whether justified or not ... Its that simple =P


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By Unassigned User
Dec 10, 2012

it also has to do with time. Most people have a limited amount of time to get in the maximum amount of climbing. Do you want to lead 2 or three climbs in an afternoon or do you want to climb the same routes 5 or 6 times on toprope?

Not all of us quit work in the 70's to climb the same route 10,000 times.


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By Kenan
Dec 10, 2012
Shelf Rd

Yep, lots of entertainment ahead for sure...

One case I've seen where the "TR over bolts" argument is really pushed is when the routes are in areas heavily traveled by non-climbers / tourists / non-outdoor-folk. In such cases, (as the argument goes), the bolts could be perceived as an eye sore and could detract from the non-climber's experience. The specific example that pops into mind is when those young guys tried to bolt a route on a rock formation that is literally a few feet off the Glacier Gorge trail in RMNP. Boy, what a shit show. Bolts chopped, death threats made, etc, etc...

Now obviously the park is a historic trad climbing area and there are lots of old-schoolers around with very strong opinions on the topic. That's probably more in line with the response you wanted to hear (or troll up).

But for me the simple fact is that there are usually other people involved and the land is there for their enjoyment as well. So you should respect local consensus when there is one.


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By P. Sully
Dec 10, 2012
@ Grayson Highlands somewhere up near Rhody Gap

The more bolts you put in, the more climbers will show up.

If you are dealing with a crag on private land that has tenuous access, it is often best to not add bolted sport climbs. It will bring parking problems, more scrutiny, & hordes of gumbies.

I have seen some excellent local crags shut down for this very reason.

In my experience if you keep it trad and top rope routes that won't take gear, you will eliminate a lot of traffic.

This is also why I am an advocate for mixed routes, that in my opinion are trad routes with fixed gear only where necessary.


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By Bryan G
From San Jose
Dec 10, 2012
Puffy jackets and Happy Boulders

How about this...take a static line and tie an overhand loop on a bite every 5 feet or so. Then fix it at the top of the cliff. Walk back down to the base and lead the route, clipping the loops on the fixed rope for protection. You can even make the loops "runout" if you want to get way rad.


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By Jon Zucco
From Denver, CO
Dec 10, 2012
yaak crack Red Rock Canyon, NV

Bryan G wrote:
How about this...take a static line and tie an overhand loop on a bite every 5 feet or so. Then fix it at the top of the cliff. Walk back down to the base and lead the route, clipping the loops on the fixed rope for protection. You can even make the loops "runout" if you want to get way rad.


I like it.


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By Tim McCabe
Dec 10, 2012

Bryan G wrote:
How about this...take a static line and tie an overhand loop on a bite every 5 feet or so. Then fix it at the top of the cliff. Walk back down to the base and lead the route, clipping the loops on the fixed rope for protection. You can even make the loops "runout" if you want to get way rad.


Just another way of top roping.

If your going to go to the top before you climb back up why not just set up a TR and get on with it.

The other problem with this is it does nothing to satisfy the ego. And lets face it that has a lot to do with it.


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By Tradoholic
Dec 10, 2012

Sport climbing is just like top roping. The bolts are there to make it safe, right? Well, TR is the same thing. Granted, clipping some bolts along the way is a touch harder but not really by much and only enough to help blowhards love themselves more.
If you really want to climb in a "better style" then sack up and plug gear.


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By JCM
From Henderson, NV
Dec 11, 2012

The OP actually poses an intesting question; it is always nice when someone takes a step back and asks "why". I don't have a horse in this race, but I do have a few observations about the situation. A few notes to consider:

-Do realize that these TR-only crags are not the norm in the east. It is easy, from a western perspective, to sloppily generalize all of the Northeast as being the same. These TR crags are actually fairly few, and are essentially just the shitty local crags in the suburbs. Think Maryland, Connecticut, etc. I only bring this point up because you should not think that all eastern climbing is like this; much of it is tall, proud, and equal to anything in the west. These TR crags are the runt of the litter, but are all that is available is some rock-starved coastal states.

-These crags were developed long ago (like 1940s), so by the time sport climbing came along, the crags were fully developed, the guidebooks were out, and local customs were solidified. that sort of inertia--60 years of it by the time sport climbing was invented-- is really hard to break.

-If these crags were in the Front Range, they probably would have been developed as a mediocre beginners-sport climbing area at somepoint in the mid 1990s. North Table Mountain, in Golden, CO, would be a nearly perfect analouge. If these crags were in Utah, they would probably remain unbolted and unclimbed, since you have better stuff to climb on.

-These areas are mostly short and vertical, and grades are generally moderate. Yes, there are some hard routes, but there is much better climbing at the harder grades in other areas (like up in NH). Even if they were bolted, they would be pretty uninteresting as sport areas. They are generally frequented by gumbies and crusty geriatrics. Anyone sufficiently motivated to really want to lead these routes will probably just choose to climb elsewhere anyway. Serious climbers living in those states generally move away, either to the West or to more climber-friendly parts of the Northeast. I am one of these people; I started climbing in MD, and moved away as soon as I could.

-Those strong and motivated climbers who are stuck in MD, CT, etc. generally satisfy themselves by training at the gym (they have great gyms) and making long drives to good crags. Honestly, the gym has filled to role of local training crag in those states, and does so better than any of the shitty TR crags ever could, regardless of how many bolts you install. Again, those motivated to sport climb generally just go elsewhere.

-Land managment is actually a pretty major issue too. At most of these TR crags, you aren't allowed to bolt. Do remember that this is not the West, where you can mostly do as you please, but instead is the most densely populated part of the country. These crags are in tightly managed suburban parks. Climbing is generally allowed, since it has been going on for so long and has been grandfathered in. trying to get anything new through the bureaucracy that manages these parks is nearly impossible. At Great Falls, VA (another TR crag), there has been talk going back and forth for years about adding just a few bolts as top anchors to save trees. This has been just a boondoggle that the thought of railroading through a permit to put in hundreds of bolts for sport climbs is unthinkable.

-


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By Scott Sinner
From Mammoth Lakes, CA
Dec 11, 2012
Descending the B-S Col

I like how John Bachar referred to sport climbs as "invisible top ropes". And "Rap music, not bolts."


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By Austin Baird
From SLC, Utah
Dec 11, 2012
Me scaring years off my mom's life

Jon Moen wrote:
The OP actually... -


This response is EXACTLY what I wanted to understand. Thanks for the post!


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By MJMobes
From The land of steady habits
Dec 11, 2012
modern man

Jon Moen wrote:
The OP actually poses an intesting question; it is always nice when someone takes a step back and asks "why". .....these TR-only crags are not the norm in the east. ..... much of it is tall, proud, and equal to anything in the west. These TR crags are the runt of the litter, but are all that is available is some rock-starved coastal states. -These crags were developed long ago (like 1940s), so by the time sport climbing came along, the crags were fully developed, the guidebooks were out, and local customs were solidified. that sort of inertia--60 years of it by the time sport climbing was invented-- is really hard to break. -If these crags were in the Front Range, they probably would have been developed as a mediocre beginners-sport climbing area at somepoint in the mid 1990s. .... If these crags were in Utah, they would probably remain unbolted and unclimbed, since you have better stuff to climb on. -These areas are mostly short and vertical, and grades are generally moderate. Yes, there are some hard routes, but there is much better climbing at the harder grades in other areas (like up in NH). Even if they were bolted, they would be pretty uninteresting as sport areas. They are generally frequented by gumbies and crusty geriatrics. Anyone sufficiently motivated to really want to lead these routes will probably just choose to climb elsewhere anyway. Serious climbers living in those states generally move away, either to the West or to more climber-friendly parts of the Northeast. I am one of these people; I started climbing in MD, and moved away as soon as I could. -Those strong and motivated climbers who are stuck in MD, CT, etc. generally satisfy themselves by training at the gym (they have great gyms) and making long drives to good crags. Honestly, the gym has filled to role of local training crag in those states, and does so better than any of the shitty TR crags ever could, regardless of how many bolts you install. Again, those motivated to sport climb generally just go elsewhere. -Land managment is actually a pretty major issue too. At most of these TR crags, you aren't allowed to bolt. Do remember that this is not the West, where you can mostly do as you please, but instead is the most densely populated part of the country. These crags are in tightly managed suburban parks. Climbing is generally allowed, since it has been going on for so long and has been grandfathered in. trying to get anything new through the bureaucracy that manages these parks is nearly impossible. .........


-I would never compare MD to CT as far as rock goes, CTs worst crags are better than MDs best(Carderrock and Great Falls). I have lived in both places.

-MD has great gyms, CT has tiny OK gyms. you are right about the hard climbers mostly training in the gym instead of the rock.

-cliffs like these have been bolted in Utah, mostly in the last 15 years and they are fun. as you say though mostly easy to moderate but still fun as hell. I certainly would not want to lug all my top rope gear up to these cliffs to TR them!

-motivated CT climbers have gotten together and have started a movement("bowel" some might say ) so they dont have to drive to another state to climb in the style that they like.

-The cliffs in CT are not at all how you describe, they may seem boring, short and chossy after TRing here once or twice(10,000 times) but in all honesty 75% of the rock is perfect for bolts and what has bolts in it now is really really good and would be anywhere, even ColoRADo or Utar.

I love a good top rope sometimes but if it is all I ever did I would take up another sport/hobby like hiking or paddle board yoga.


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By Eric Engberg
Dec 11, 2012

bearbreeder wrote:
Fear ... Whether justified or not Its that simple ;)



Perfectly sums up why you would place a bolt.


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By MJMobes
From The land of steady habits
Dec 11, 2012
modern man

Eric Engberg wrote:
Perfectly sums up why you would place a bolt.


or place a cam/stopper


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By Morgan Patterson
Administrator
Dec 11, 2012
Stoked...

TRmasta wrote:
-I would never compare MD to CT as far as rock goes, CTs worst crags are better than MDs best(Carderrock and Great Falls). I have lived in both places. -MD has great gyms, CT has tiny OK gyms. you are right about the hard climbers mostly training in the gym instead of the rock. -cliffs like these have been bolted in Utah, mostly in the last 15 years and they are fun. as you say though mostly easy to moderate but still fun as hell. I certainly would not want to lug all my top rope gear up to these cliffs to TR them! -motivated CT climbers have gotten together and have started a movement("bowel" some might say ) so they dont have to drive to another state to climb in the style that they like. -The cliffs in CT are not at all how you describe, they may seem boring, short and chossy after TRing here once or twice(10,000 times) but in all honesty 75% of the rock is perfect for bolts and what has bolts in it now is really really good and would be anywhere, even ColoRADo or Utar. I love a good top rope sometimes but if it is all I ever did I would take up another sport/hobby like hiking or paddle board yoga.


Thanks... I was just hanging my head at where to begin responding and now I don't. For the OP - with regards to the CT bolting ethics thread it really comes down to questionable access. Most of the land that people climb on here in state is private land (very few), State, or town land. If you call the State and ask them for a list of state parks you are allowed to climb in they can't provide it. If you ask them which state parks have climbing bans they can't tell you. If you ask them about placing fixed gear, well good luck. The state park office may say yes while the HQ office in the capital Hartford will shuck some legal jargon at you. Given huge concerns about liablity it is much easier to say no then yes and ANY town or state lawyer will always say no over yes. I received permission from a Forest Warrden to place bolts in teh forest but when you ask in writing you don't get a response. Then there is the history factor... 90 years of climbing with the last two decades being overrun by a maniac. Most of the biggest and best lines in the state that would make great sport lines are in areas where climbing is prohibited but 'tolerated'. Places like Ragged Mountain have explicit no bolt or any other improvement clauses in their easement.

the only other main factor about why TR'ing is so popular is the fear thing that others have mentioned. Folks are just less adventurous back here and mostly looking for fun activities with their family and friends.


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By Forestvonsinkafinger
From Iowa
Dec 11, 2012

Bolting requires:
- Drill (a Bosch unless you have an ungodly amount of free time)
- Bolts and Hangers
- Permission

My guess is that the former are the main restrictions as climbers typically come from a pedigree other than Forbes or Buffett.

Thanks to all those that responsibly bolt asthetic lines for me to climb! And thanks too for my TR at Mississippi Palisades, where I probably wouldn't trust bolted lines anyway.


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By camhead
From Vandalia, Appalachia
Dec 11, 2012
You stay away from mah pig!

Aside from any stylistic questions about how valid or bold a toprope ascent is (and I do wish that our climbing culture recognized the validity of TR ascents a bit more than it does), the fact remains that most areas, sport or trad, are not that conducive to only toproping. They're either too steep, like the RRG or Maple, or too difficult to access clifftops (Smith Rock).

One thing that has not been mentioned here yet: toproping almost always will cause more environmental impact than bolting a route. The very nature of scrambling to the top of a cliff, bushwacking around looking for the top of your route, and tying off a tree is going to result in gullying, rockfall, erosion, and eventually dying trees. Heavily used toprope areas have damaged cliff tops and bases; heavily used sport areas will only have damaged cliff bases.

If you are just looking to climb a nice looking cliff in a lightly-traveled wilderness setting with the least amount of work, toproping is probably the way to go, and bolting it would just be silly or possibly illegal. But once you have a heavily used, popular crag, it is more responsible and even safer to bolt the routes and have everything approached from the ground up.


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By Morgan Patterson
Administrator
Dec 11, 2012
Stoked...

camhead wrote:
One thing that has not been mentioned here yet: toproping almost always will cause more environmental impact than bolting a route. The very nature of scrambling to the top of a cliff, bushwacking around looking for the top of your route, and tying off a tree is going to result in gullying, rockfall, erosion, and eventually dying trees. Heavily used toprope areas have damaged cliff tops and bases; heavily used sport areas will only have damaged cliff bases.


This is the new reality confronting CT. Problem is that most of the cliffs also have a VERY popular trail system at the top which needs to be addressed as well.


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By Eric Engberg
Dec 11, 2012

TRmasta wrote:
or place a cam/stopper



Believing that these are equivalent actions - even if you add "piton" to your list - is the fundamental issue. Some believe that these are equivalent actions. Some don't.


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