Thursday, February 28, 2013

Chipping vs Cleaning

About a week ago a video was posted on and it has gotten a lot of attention and seems to be causing a bit of a kerfuffle. The video was taken surreptitiously and shows a climber using an assortment of tools to create a hold on what would otherwise be a blank roof. The climber in the video is clearly chipping as the tactics used can in no way be interpreted as “cleaning”.  Needless to say, people are riled up and there are hundreds of comments sparked by the video that run the gambit from hateful slander to actual support what is being done.

As a climber I am personally appalled by what I see in the video.  There are many that agree with me but there are also a surprising number that seem to excuse chipping as a necessary part of development.  Here are a few comments....

the "aftermath" pictures look like a professionally cleaned boulder problem to me. i see no artificial holds chiseled into the rock nor any evidence of holds being glued on.”

I have been out with climbers "developing" climbing areas all over the world and it always included a great deal of cleaning away loose flakes of rocks, sometimes of considerable size. Not a professional climber myself, i was always under the impression this serves to make the route more safe for the following climbers, not even for their personal benefit. Who wants to have a foothold break away while they are doing a tricky move, or have a huge flake of rock falling down on them?”

So can any route developer honestly tell me that they never enhanced a hold..."comfortized" especially developing out in west (Wyoming)? I think bouldering is different though.”

If you want harder climbs, chisel your own.”

This is the same tired sport/trad argument that's been going on for 40 years. This is what climbing has become. [climber] didn't invent cleaning routes. Most of your heroes cleaned or drilled routes.”

Protecting the interests of climbers by cleaning a route of debris and dangerous flakes is a function of development. Ask some real climbers.”

This video has brought the issue of chipping to the forefront and reignited the old debate of where one draws the line when cleaning new routes. As an active developer I understand the necessity of cleaning away debris and prying away loose rock but think it should be done minimally and without taking liberties to “create” something. I've walked away from amazing lines that almost go, left flexing flakes that don't pose a threat, and avoid beautiful boulders that are a bit chossy. I try not to tread into any “grey area” when developing but feel that many other developers today are taking it too far. The “grey area” between chipping and cleaning seems to have broadened so it now includes filing edges, gluing, comfortizing holds, and prying flakes with hairline cracks.  Over the last year I've had multiple conversations with climbers that defend practices I had previously assumed to be clearly manufacturing and I get the feeling more and more people are pushing the limits of “aggressive cleaning”. 

Most disconcerting to me is that the climbing community seems to have tacitly accepted the manufacturing of routes/problems.  Folks line up to climb obviously chipped/glued problems and there are many areas where the most popular climbs are blatantly modified. Those people manufacturing climbs aren't going to stop as long as the rest of the community continues to climb on their chipped/glued routes and tout them as top quality.  

I of course could go on and on discussing finer points of an issue pertaining to a pursuit that is pretty pointless in itself, but I won't do that. I'll spare those that have bothered to read this far and simply leave you with my favorite of the 300 or so comments I bothered to read.

It is a huge disservice to the our climbing community to turn this series of events into a circus. This can be so much more than that; a catalyst of awareness and positive change. We, as a cohesive unit, need to come to grips with the fact that this is happening, and it is not just being done by the one person in the video, but many more. We need to take this information and make a conscious effort to decide what our moral boundaries are, and then educate the climbers of the present and future about what is acceptable and not acceptable. This could be on a regional level, it could be on a national level, but either way the discussion needs to happen. Like it or not, our sport is growing, and we need to manage these sorts of things or our opportunity to climb outdoors will be put in serious jeopardy”

Amen to that.


I'd love to hear folks thoughts.  Also, there was a small article also on deadpoint about the issue that is worth the read for those interested in the discussion.  

Sunday, February 17, 2013

USA Wrap Up

My annual USA winter trip is officially wrapped up as I returned to Sweden yesterday. In many ways it has been a typical season as I made stops in familiar areas (Hueco, J-Tree, Malibu, Vegas) but it was the new places that made the climbing great this winter. I've now got two killer new sandstone areas (Roy and St George) and hopefully next winter I'll be spending the majority of my time exploring/brushing/climbing new boulders.

During my stay in the USA I also got to hang with friends and family throughout the southwest but I generally feel that I didn't get to spend enough time with most of them and there are so many folks I didn't get a chance to see at all.  Fortunately I'm never away from the States for that long and I'm already scheming my return sometime around Pie Festival.  Until then you can always come visit us in Sweden.

Now that I've returned home it's time to start working with the occasional outdoor climbing to remind myself why I leave every winter. The weather in Sweden doesn't usually entice a fair-weather climber like myself until late March but I will of course take the opportunities to get out.  It actually could be good to have a little forced break from climbing as the elbows got the post-winter ache and my hamstring (I tore it in early January) needs to heal.

While we wait for Spring to beckon in a regular climbing routine here in Sweden I'll try to use the break to edit some footage and sort some pictures.  So standby for more posts from the USA.  

Ahhhhhhhh, the life in the States.  

The Motherload served as my home and trusty (mostly) steed.  We'll miss her.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Dalton Wash

One of the new areas Isaac has developed near St George is Dalton Wash (it is actually located a couple miles outside the town of Virgin).  This area is smallish and offers mixed quality rock but a few of the problems are world-class.  Dalton Wash is also awesome for a guy climbing solo with a 3 year old as many of the boulders are within eyesight of the parking and I could climb without always having to drag Hammie along (A short session while Hammie eats breakfast?  Don't mind if I do).  I spent several days here repeating many of the classics and adding a few problems of my own.

Here are a few pictures from Dalton Wash

 Atlas is one of those problems that make an area and has already attracted quite a few folks to Dalton.  It was the first problem I tried when I went there and was so good I did it twice.  Pleasing movement and a good combination of thuggery and technique make this a worthy test-piece.  In this photo Seth tries to get a feel for the toe-hooks at the end of Atlas. 

Milford's Cubical is a good problem on one of the better boulders at Dalton.  This techy dihedral is one of 7 establish problem on a large boulder.

Casey on another great problem on the same boulder as Milford's Cubical.  This problem and the arete to the left are top-notch but I don't know what they are called.  Must dos if visiting Dalton. 

 Isaac cleaned this new problem above Atlas that proved to be pretty awesome.  It involved big toe-hooks a blind dyno, and a tooth like hold. After figuring the beta Isaac, Seth and myself did it in succession and I think the name was the Tooth of Death or something like that.

 Seth snags a jug and Isaac nearly gets booted in the face.  This problem actually evolved slightly during our session but the "new" holds are solid and make the ending a bit spicier.  I don't know the name of this one but it comes highly recommended.   

Siemay getting her mantle on at the top of Hourglass.

Friday, February 8, 2013

A New Winter Destination

Life in St George is awesome.  I came with very little expectations, simply hoping to climb some new problems and do some exploring but what I've discovered is a new winter home.  Moe's Valley is all most people think of regarding St George bouldering but it is just the tip of the iceberg.  The sandstone bouldering in this region is endless and the rock is of good/excellent quality (Moe's Valley is of lesser quality than other areas).  There are also no major access issues, a great local crew and a kindred spirit in local developer Isaac Caldierio.

I don't believe I'm overstating it when I say the only things keeping this region from being a proper winter destination is developmental work and spray.  During my brief time here I've done a good amount of running around and brushing and I wish we had more time.  Hammie and I were meant to stay a few more days but a small storm is pushing us toward Vegas for our last couple of climbing days before heading to NM and then Sweden.  I will certainly be coming back to St George and if I can have my way I'll be spending the next couple winters frolicking amongst the endless sandstone boulders.

 Those boulders are huge and they continue for miles.

 Isaac on one of the gems he established at a new area called Dalton Wash

 Just a few more boulders that need to be explored/cleaned

 One of the better problems I put up.  "Keep Me Out of the Mud" is techy on perfect rock. The sit start is still undone.

We never got around to trying this mega-project.  Amazing line on bullet rock.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Isaac slays a long-term project: Force of Nature is born

It takes some serious dedication to spend days trying a single project and the degree of elation/relief that comes with a send is often correlated to the time invested.  Knowing this I can only imagine the happy endorphins flowing though my friends body when a multi-year ordeal finally ended.  Isaac Caldiero spent in the neighbor of 60 days trying a project in Moe's Valley and I was fortunate enough to be there when he finally managed to pull off the send.  Force of Nature uses trickery and burl to climb out a low roof on slopers/edges and ends with a dyno to a jug.  All things considered it is a great problem and if the effort Isaac put in is any indication it is probably the hardest in Moe's.  Now Isaac can breath a sigh of relief and find another project to obsess over.

Here are a couple pictures.    

Isaac gearing up for the first big move to a decent edge.

Sticking the edge

Bad sloper intermediate before another slopey rail.

Set up for the crux dyno

Sending!  Unfortunately the photo doesn't capture how close Isaac was to falling.  There was a fair amount of shaking when he stuck this dyno.