Climbing Ethics

Article Index

Aside from omissions, Bruce Morris has given us lots of confusing discussions. For example, this statement makes no sense to me: "If good drill stances are passed up simply to make a route more committing, the crux moves, no matter how frightening, are never as hard as they might be if better protected." Following this logic, the lesser and lesser protection we use, the easier and easier crux moves become. Does anyone really subscribe to this logic? I have done several of the Yosemite face climbs Morris refers to as having "economical protection," such as Quicksilver. They seemed challenging to me just because the protection is sparse. More protection would make them easier, not harder. In England, poor protection even gets reflected in higher, not lower, ratings. Who really experiences the inverted reactions Morris claims can be found on the routes he names?

Here is another confusion, again relying on a kind of inverted perspective of things. Handjive is a route on Lembert Dome in Tuolumne. It was done by placing bolts on rappel, preprotected, as they say. When it was first done, it was an oddity in Tuolumne and I chopped the bolts hoping to nip a trend in the bud. I even lectured the first-ascent party about violating a long-standing tradition against such climbing styles. Bruce Morris tells us the bolts were replaced after I chopped them, again on rappel. Why? Not as a slap back at a self-righteous Tom Higgins, but as a "fitting memorial" to Tim Harrison of the first-ascent team, who was so "popular" and "self-reliant." Have I been on Pluto for the last few years or is there a very sorry irony here? Even if you feel preprotection is an acceptable form of selective cheating, do you use it to create a memorial to a self-reliant climber? Would all the self-reliant climbers wishing a memorial climb protected on rappel please step forward?

The same confusion is compounded elsewhere in the article. Morris tells us Vern Clevenger battled his way up Golden Bars with "persistence" and "grim determination," but ". . . no one will ever know whether he drilled all the bolts strictly on the lead." Why will no one know? If standing on bolts or putting them in on rappel creates fitting memorials, why won't we ever know how Golden Bars was done? Perhaps Bruce has stumbled upon the essential issue without knowing it—climbers "selectively cheating" have a very hard time justifying their actions, and they know it. They are reluctant to reveal the style of their ascent, even while loudly defending their styles in articles and discussions.