Tricksters & Traditionalists Revisited: 2006

Article Index

Once such committees are formed and meeting regularly, they may strive for constructive agreements serving the interests of both traditional and sport climbers. Certainly bolting will figure high on the agenda. Agreements about bolt versus natural anchors, retro-bolting of traditional routes and bolts near cracks may receive attention. More generally, agreements might center on "trad zones" where the rock will be left completely alone for those preferring to do ground up routes and attempts, with or without bolts. Perhaps attention also will focus on walls to be left for the future - no climb zones. Each area will decide for itself what issues are important and how to address them. After agreements are stuck, they need to be added to guidebook introductions, noticed on signs and brochures for an area and posted regularly on web sites.

Depending on local preference, severity of differences and threat of regulation, committees might address a few particular issues, e.g. bolting, or an array of issues comprehensively. Limited agreements might start on protection and anchor bolting. A more comprehensive approach might include setting standards for ascents to be included in area guidebooks and histories. Suppose, for example, a committee agrees to first ascent guidebook credit only for routes done on lead with no weighting of the rope except for descent to an unweighted stance or beginning of a pitch for another attempt (or for retreat, of course). Attempts are unlimited, but not use of tension - a less stringent but similar approach used in climbing competitions where no tension and only one attempt is allowed.21  Pre-placed protection (bolts or otherwise) might be allowed or not, depending on the cliff or wall area. Where cliffs are packed with routes, remaining opportunities scarce, tensions high between sportsters and trads, and land mangers hovering with regulation threats, committees might agree to stringent standards; elsewhere, less stringency might apply.

Agreements centered on style for guidebook credit will curtail squabbling about best first ascents deserving and undeserving of inclusion in the guide; or ambiguous, strained attempts at comparing the achievements of those climbing in different or unknown styles over time. As well, the associated problems of "grid" bolting, trails to everywhere, scrubbing and the like also are diminished with lowered incentives to climb everywhere by any means. The point is not whether the example approach above is too restrictive or infeasible. Each area can decide all the variables for themselves. The key point is the entire spectrum of style issues - first ascent credit, clear history, route preservation and environmental impacts - can be tackled by organization and agreement on standards for first free ascents in guidebooks.