Tricksters & Traditionalists Revisited: 2006

Article Index

Why Can't We Just Have Fun?

So why won't the style dispute calm down? Why does the debate turn ugly with name calling, route altering or protection removal? Why can't both camps stop sniping, especially where there are regulatory consequences? Why, in short, can't we just have "fun?"

Though it is hard to see through all the sparks, both camps in the style debate give highest merit for key elements of a traditional free ascent - protection along the way and lowering without rope rests to start over after no or few falls.13  In fact, the reason sportsters keep at their repeated attempts, falls, hangs, preplaced gear and the like is to get - finally - an ascent without tension and falls. Both camps agree, then, the closer to a traditional free ascent, the higher the merit.

So what's the problem? The camps argue not about the final product of a traditional free ascent, but how it is attained and the resulting merit. Because styles made acceptable by sport climbing vary so much today, it's hard to know how (never mind if) a traditional free ascent was achieved. Without knowing, it's also hard to assign merit to the route creators; to feel good about reading about latest achievements in magazines, journals, guidebooks and web sites; to hear from and honor the game leaders; in short, to enjoy the sport in all its dimensions. Akin to the steroid controversy in baseball, uncertain means sour the game.

The bundle of means to an end now undermining clarity fills an entire page of a recent magazine. Close to traditional coined in "Tricksters and Traditionalists" are "onsight" and "flash" for getting a climb first go without falls, tension, practice or previewing. However, outside of these styles are others practiced to get the coveted "free" ascent: