Friday, February 10, 2012


Being an armchair climber this winter, I've been following a few of the main climbing forums like supertopo, mountain project and rockclimbing.  One particular thread about what to do when a mainly bolted route crosses or encounters some good gear placements made me realize how much things have changed since I started climbing in 1990.

For example, the other day I mentioned to a friend who was very active in the park in the 80's that a few of the popular Bear's Hump routes now had bolted belay stations.  He was rather shocked.  New expectations, among some climbers, that every route have bolted belays is quite a stretch from the period when people were glad to find a pin or two at a belay.

This diaspora is really noticeable when people start talking about what to do when a route that requires fixed protection encounters a section with gear placements.  A few local places south of border have started bolting next to gear placements.  The reported reasoning via general forums is that:
1. it is not safe to give someone an expectation that a route is entirely bolted and then place them in a situation where gear is required, resulting in an increased chance that people will run it out instead of backing off,
2.  some people hate bringing lots of unnecessary gear just for one or two placements,
3.  it just doesn't fit a sport route's character,
4.  since rigid rules are impossible, do what you want.

The polemic, framing anyone who thinks gear placements shouldn't be bolted as an extremist, is rather unfortunate.  Of course framing anyone who thinks a bolt next to a crappy gear placement in a sport area as an extremist is also wrong.  I just can't stand pathetically obvious amateur hour rhetoric (in the formal sense).

Because Waterton has no sport areas, mixed rock lines will always be present.  Never assume a bolted line can go just on draws without having confirmed this via a guidebook or someone whose done the route.  Historically Waterton has favoured fixed pins over bolts, despite how the security of pins is generally uncertain.  My personal opinion is that pins just fit the character of the gear around here much better than bolted KB cracks.  Others differ.

One thing an odd gear placement does do, is create much more work for the FA in setting a route.  Bolting around gear placements requires significant changes to ideal bolt locations throughout the entire route.  I can see why some people bemoan this, especially when it makes a whole sport line in a sport area feel off.  Luckily around here, gear is king, so the issue is moot.


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