Critiques Of Tricksters And Traditionalists

Article Index

- regarding the comment, "easy for a granite slab climber to be so sanctimonious, dealing with low angle naturally clean rock, but for the New England climber ..." Yes, the article is a bit pissy, isn't it? I was rather mad back then, just as the likes of Henry Barber and Mark Twight are now (See Rock and Ice, "Style Issue," # 138, 2004). It's worth asking why the style debate is so contentious and continuous across generations, a point I hope perhaps to address in a future article on styles. But I take your point: the less pissy the better. Oh, as for climbing only low angle granite slabs in the ground up style I ascribed to in those days, not so. At Pinnacles National Monument in California, I carried out the same style on a number of first and first free ascents on vertical and overhanging, mungy, lose (cleaning was not an option) volcanic rock which may rival some in New England. Add bats flying in your face, dive-bombing falcons, hand drilling without looking up to avoid the tip off, and you have quite an adventure. And yes, I put in many days on steep sandstone in Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, wet English cliffs (machine nuts would you believe), junk piton Dolomites and in the Alps around Chamonix (a partner there threatened to pull me off if I didn't stop free climbing as it clouded up), all with the same climbing style. My mentor, Bob Kamps, would have it no other way. Mentors were very influential then. Imagine your partner beginning to pull you off for stepping or hanging on a bolt to rest - exactly what Frank Sacherer did to a young Tom Gerughty on the Crack of Despair in Yosemite. Bob was kinder to me, but the style lesson I got was clear: a few falls, no rope rests, reclimb to the high point, try again another day, ground up. And no dibs with tape or fixed ropes. Someone else always could get it while you're away - and did.

- regarding the comment, "the statement that prior to 1970 all routes were climbed in his so called traditional style is completely ridiculous," it rivals my overstatement in the article. To be exact, the article says, "Before 1970, there were few, if any tricksters; nearly all the routes were done in traditional style." Perhaps it should have been, "The great bulk or majority of routes ..." I still contend there was a sea change in styles around that time, just as the same post itself contends by going on, "The truth of the matter is, a rappel inspection ... hook ... hangdog ... are techniques allowing guys like ... to take the climbing world by storm in the early 1980's." Storm indeed -  exactly my point.