Climbing Styles - Just Personal?

Supertopo Post, April 2008

Just for the record, the following quote from John's post is not from an article by Pat Ament as he indicates, but by me, Tom Higgins. It is from a 1969 AAJ article. Here is a link to my website for the complete article:

"On our last day in Tuolumne, Bob Kamps and I attempted what  looked like the "all time" route in the Meadows--the very center of Fairview's west face. Starting below a conspicuous roof and a series of small arches, we hoped to climb a steep crack system to the summit bowl. After four full pitches of fantastic climbing on flakes and knobs, we encountered an utterly blank 85" headwall. Utterly blank? As unlikely as this seems for Tuolumne, the wall would simply not go free. We had already used four bolts to protect 5.9 and 5.10 climbing immediately below, would four or five aid bolts now be appropriate? We pondered the situation and finally decided to go down. Here was a route more resistant than any we had previously encountered. Once on the ground, we discussed the free climbing tradition being established in Tuolumne and speculated that perhaps someday the headwall would go free. Then, to the car. Bob wondered if he had lost his camera, whether he would then be camera-shy. I ignored him and suggested we call our half-a-route The Abortion. He suggested we go home."

Indeed, I and partners turned back on many first ascent attempts, sometimes to leave a few bolts to nowhere never to be completed. Other times better or more determined climbers came along and got what we didn't complete (two examples at Pinnacles come to mind). We didn't mind. Failure was integral to the game, the price which made the successes all the more rich.

Another consideration here is the one Bachar makes - while climbs seem like personal and private events, they have more than ideological consequences for climbers holding to different style preferences, especially to young climbers on the rise investing the time and energy to try to better today's standards. For them, a big potential FA prize is now gone. Ye old "Tricksters and Traditionalists" makes this argument, as does a follow on piece, both at my site. It's why gun hunters let bow and arrow hunters go first in certain areas as the season begins, and why climbers in various areas have agreed informally to restrict rap bolting to certain cliffs, leaving other area open to those sticking to traditional styles. Of course, in some areas, such as Pinnacles National Monument, climbers have agreed to ground up only from now on, partly to stop the wrangling about styles and partly under the threat of regulation.

Another point of both style articles at my site is the importance of climbers coming to agreements on style differences. Climbers deserve better than the fuming of style clashes, as in this thread. The resulting tension makes for a constant nasty undercurrent eating away at the camaraderie of the sport. As well, the mix of styles muddies the interpretation of climbing history and achievements, as well as clear credit and attribution around first ascents. One way out, as the referenced style articles suggest, is attention to voluntary, area by area climbing organizations agreeing on bolting and more general climbing styles.
So, for those interested in more on these issues (hardly new, but never ending it seems) and suggestions for improvements, here you go: