Reflections On Styles

Article Index

How might route-descriptions include information about style? Perhaps one way to begin is to categorize and name the varieties of free-climbing styles, so that some common language might develop to convey style information. As I understand the varieties of new free-climbing styles (some are old styles, of course), they fall into the four aforementioned categories: pre-pro-tection, previewing, doctoring and sieging.
 
Pre-protection
Pre-protection involves controlling the difficulty of free-climbing by at least two distinct means. One is the placement of protection on rappel, before first climbing the route. The protection may be fixed, as in the case of a bolt, or removed by the last team member on a climb. Obviously this particular strategy, if unrevealed, puts uninformed, subsequent ascent parties at a disadvantage.

The second main pre-protection strategy involves aiding a section of a climb, then immediately freeing the section with all the protection in place - so-called 'aid-free' climbing. On blank rock, for example, a team may put in a few bolts by standing on each bolt to place the next. Once the bolts are in, the party free-climbs past them. There is a fine distinction between this type of climbing and the freeing of a bolt ladder first placed with only the intention of aid-climbing. But there is a difference: the one strategy consciously uses aid-climbing to make free-climbing possible, the other does not. Where the protection is by bolts, preprotection does not make subsequent ascents dangerous, but it does remove the opportunity for others to try a first ascent with fewer or no bolts. However, where aid-free climbing is done with nuts, which are removed by the last team member, then subsequent ascent parties are truly sand¬bagged if they have no information about the style of the ascent.