Climbing Ethics

Article Index

Bruce Morris tells us Piece de Resistance is "one of Vern Clevenger's best routes." We are told, "Where Higgins and Kamps had met defeat, Clevenger and Harrington eventually prevailed." I don't routinely call routes "mine," nor do I think Piece de Resistance is Clevenger's route. I suspect Vern Clevenger doesn't feel the route is "his" either. But the main point and serious omission relates to who did the first ascent. Vern Clevenger and Bob Harrington did not do the first ascent of Piece de Resistance. Tom Higgins and Clevenger did.

Obviously, Bruce Morris has made another omission about Piece de Resistance, this one interpretive. For years, when the route repelled attempts, it underscored the climbing style of the 1970s: if aid bolts were necessary, turn back. Leave it for later. For others. Or, for never. Morris has chosen to ignore the significance of Resistance, as well as the entire ethical tradition behind its development.

When the article moves from discussion of specific routes to a discussion of style, the omissions about traditional style are even more apparent. Again, writing about Tuolumne, "Here, at the present moment, and for many years past, aesthetic considerations have displaced most questions of style ... the goal has remained ... a line of technical difficulty at almost any price." Shouldn't readers be told about the many aesthetic routes done when and where it mattered how they were done? For at least a decade in Tuolumne, fabulous routes were created without aid, previewing, preprotection or what Morris calls "selective cheating." Readers should know not only a different and earlier style once existed, but what routes represent the style, who did them, and why the style once prevailed. Morris also might have mentioned some of the younger generation who even today create aesthetic routes without "selective cheating."