I believe this to be a nice bit of AMerican climbing culture. The fact that it is done in a place famous for its rock etchings is really cool. No Allen, I don't subscribe to the idea that everyone should do this everyplace, but I think its pretty cool that its done here in the desert. One hundred years from now people will look at the walls and see Fremont culture, Ute culture, the odd cowboy culture, and then us.... thats kinda cool.
Sorry, I'm going to have to agree with Allen. Who is going to appoint themselves the judge of what is appropriate? When a graffiti artist that can send 5.12 puts up a new line, can they make a day-glo plaque complete with signature, right at the base? I for one don't think we can equate ourselves with the Ute or even old cowboys (although I look like one more and more each day)!
I think i would like a pose a question on this subject. Are these plaques simply a record of an event? human have a long history of recording events. in fact some of them, select paintings for example, are believed by sum to be beyond value. This act, recording, seams to be one of the more benign practices of humans that i am aware of. it in fact, has given us things like say, the internet. go figure!
is destroying these plaques not analogous with destroying books from you local library? or the cave paintings of the past? there are lots of examples. So, why would anyone think that they doing 'good' by destroying these things?
have you ever left rubber marks or chalk on the rock after a climb? have you ever gotten a first accent and named the line you sent? are these too vile practices?
If you are barefooted free soloist who refrains from using chalk and truly leaves no trace, or even stories of your climb, i suggest you enlighten us with you ethical perspective instead of disrespecting a benign tradition of climbers!
besides won't these plaques erode and end up back in the ocean anyways?
I make 'em use 'em love 'em. Our Wall plaques are some of the best, if I do say so myself.
You know, I just spent a month in europe, france and greece, and while I don't think we should adopt all practices - like painting names at the base- one thing I do appreciate about the euros is that they generally just don't worry about stupid shit like the existance of plaques, a bolt here or there, etc. They seem to understand that only children would think that what is accepted at one area is going to automatically be universally accepted at all areas. Thus they can climb in germany clipping knots one week, run it out on bolts in the verdon the next, and clip resort style sport bolts in Greece the next. If a route at Boux needs a glue and you don't like it (or more likely can't even sniff it, anyway) then what difference does it make in the grande sceme? That person who glued it usually knows better than to do that in the Verdon or in merry old england. And if they don't know better, then the community will censure that person swiftly enough to keep transgressions to a minimum (maybe through a blog like this one).
In general this attitude of just climbing without all the baggage may be why your average euro climbs harder than your average american- even on cracks after they spend a few days figuring it out - ie two brothers from Austria that blew the doors off Yosemite climbing a decade ago! More euros have freed el cap than americans to this day if you include free rider on that list. Probably because we are quibbling in the meadow about whether laybacking is a valid way to climb the monster offwidths or not while they are just doing the route.
Even in IC, we know better than to put out elaborate plaques in a visible area like supercrack. While the Wall is a far flung joint visited by only climbers, perfect for this sort of thing.
I also agree that even the Hong ones from the 80s already feel like cool artifacts. I was searching Harts Draw for routes and found some plaques from the 90s and I felt like indian jones trying to decipher the initials for clues to who put up the route "Hmmm. '5.13.'and 'S.C.' Who was climbing 5.13 in Indian Creek in the early 90s with the initials SC? I bet it was Caruthers!"
Hell, we think that Anasazi garbage pits are sacred. How funny would they think that was? "Mom, there is some idiot white guy from the future rooting around in our garbage again. He looks delicious. Should I kill him with my atl-atl?"
Well, it seems like at least the vocal majority, in your area is for these things. I guess it is your home turf and if you all seem to agree that this is an asthetic tradition that you need to keep, who am I to say. I would only ask that you refrain from this tradition when visiting my neck of the woods (Colorado), as I think a majority of the climbers here would not think so highly of this tradition. My .02cents
I guess I would like to see if some of the old hardcores that put up some of those routes in your area would agree, sounds like some of them (Hong) already do.
A few comments from the peanut gallery: I disagree that what is being done has anything to do with culture or history. Some of the analogies presented are beyond ridiculous. It is simply a practice so that potentially lost folks can figure out what climb they are standing in front of. Or very simply put, these are just freaking road signs. Nothing more.
What has been done is nothing new as it has been done in various ways at climbing areas in the USA. I have seen the name painted at the base of the climb, a plaque bolted at the base, seen tags on the first bolt, and yes even seen rocks etching. So this practice is nothing new, nor is the controversy. What is new is that these are pretty big in comparison to other signs that I have seen.
I find this practice to be a sign of the times (pun intended). New routes are going in and guide books are not being updated fast enough for some. But this is what I thought Mtn Project was all about: getting the word out and recording what is being done. Personally, a few good pictures are better than any sign. And in this day and age of digital cameras, getting a photo is pretty easy, even for the noob with a crappy cell phone.
That said, what folks are completely slipping over is that these are public lands. Some of which may be in Wilderness Areas or WSAs where impact should be minimized. Lands managers look pretty dimly on the public adding signs to lands under their management. And in some areas they look even more dimly on others who think they "own" the land and are adding their own signs. The BLM in Utah gets a little squirrelly about stuff like illegal signage and has spent some coin protecting their ability to regulate it. Climbers and their associated impacts have been under the eye of land managers for a long time. This practice is another impact that in my experience will not be looked on too favorably.
Personally, adding signs like this are just another step towards the sterilization of the adventure of climbing. Next thing ya know there will be a gear list carved on the back side.
Sign Sign everywhere a sign Blocking out the scenery breaking my mind ...
So I jumped on the fence and yelled ...
Hey! what gives you the right ...
If God was here, he'd tell you to your face, man you're some kinda sinner ...
Agreed. And the moment the Monticello BLM (reasonable people, in my experience) says "What's with the plaques?", I would advocate a wholesale destruction of them. Considering they would have to drive up a road that is carved from the cliff to get to a hole in the earth that runs deeper than I had the balls to go, and they would have to step over rotting equipment and a tailings pile to see that hole, all within sight of the approach to the wall, I don't really see them ever concerning themselves with the plaques. (They don't give a rats ass about the anchors by the way- just ask them). Again, I must reiterate, that even a plaque like the one above will be barely decipherable in a few years, unless its tucked away from the elements - only noticeable to those who come right up to the base of the route looking for said plaque. Less noticeable- usually- than the anchor. (Although I must commend all but one of the Wall developers for using anchors of the lowest visibility).
As for the adventure in climbing thing. Who goes to the creek for adventure? Only sort of kidding. But my original point remains, there are adventure climbing areas, and there are non-adventure climbing areas. And some in between. We know the difference. Certain things happen at one but not the other. We are not children who want everything black and white, are we? Not all climbing has always been about adventure, anyway. There are many reasons to climb and that is only one of them. With the invention of cams, Indian Creek became sport climbing - pure and simple- its actually easier in many ways 'cause you never even have to make it to the next bolt before you say "TAKE!" and slither onto the rope.
Notice that plaques do not generally appear at the base of tower routes- AKA adventure climbing! (now somebody is going to write "wait wait, I saw one one time at the base of jiggly wanker tower" which is why I said 'generally')
I don't really see how a plaque at the base of a route ruins adventure, anyway. Who really just picks random cracks to climb? Doesn't seeing the anchor ruin the adventure, too, in some esoteric philisophical way that has absolutely nothing to do with real life? Or chalk? Or a footprint? Come on. That's what I mean by ethical baggage.
You can always make it more adventurous by degrees by eschewing the guidebook, cams, shoes, ropes, or whatever. I know guys that climb in swamis so the thought of falling is a little more poignant. Or still climb in bare feet. Even tape or no tape can be a way to get your own little adventure points. Hey, how 'bout only doing new routes? There are plenty left, let me tell you.
Maybe plaques are about pride and ego, but what's wrong with that? Those two things drive climbing. Damn it, they drive most activities that are difficult, uncomfortable, or unpaid...like posting your opinions on a blog, for instance. Climbers are egomaniacs, or else we'd use all that time and effort to help people- which climbing doesn't- not even a little.
By the way, a buddy alerted me to this thread because my friends and I are probably guilty of starting the big gay plaque attack at the Wall because of the elaborate ones we created after the first 6 routes went in the book. Me and my friends Jim and Rebecca just enjoyed making them look cool. That's it. No big ethical cunundrum there. Just a little arts and crafts in the sun after spending our time, effort, and cold cash to put up some routes for ya'll to climb.
MMMmmm, my ego feels all warm and fuzzy right now. I think I will go and stare in the mirror for a while.
"beyond ridiculous"???? I think you are referring to me and I would very much like to here you explain how, in 100 years, rock climbers route names on rocks would be viewed beyond ridiculous when compared to cowboys, Indians, and settlers carving their 'whatever' on the rock.
I guess everyone has valid opinions. My sugestion would be to put a small metal naming plate at the first bolt. Then it's not offensive to the people that dislike the larger signs at the bottom but yet there is no doubt as to the name of the route. my 2 cents.
Then put it on the anchors...I'm new and I've only climbed locally but the discussion was passed on to a blog I contribute to. I like to know the routes names and ratings but it doesn't make much difference to me how they're marked or not marked. I appreciate the work that was put into developing the routes. If it's on an anchor or bolt it's attached to something already in place which seems like a compromise between the two.
I think anyone opposed to them may not have seen how much rock is out west...and what difference does it make if they are there? Who can some kind of grievous injury? Perhaps only someone who needs to get a life.
Any of you visited Delicate Arch, to see all the people who have generously signed it? This kind of thing can get out of hand quickly, 1000 years ago there were only a handful of Anasazi in the whole state cutting petroglyphs.
I'm still pretty peeved at the mostly single-handed plaque destruction from, by the hands of a climber who lived at the time in SW Colorado. He did *not* make a lot of friends after that. At the time, the (best available published) guidebook was quite hazy, and having some "landmark" plaques made the crag both easier to navigate, and gave some sense of history. For example: a plaque as simple as "SH 1988" would mean you should probably bring thin hands gear.
I've put up some new routes in Indian Creek, and the anchors we left we very hard to spot from the ground. I would not be surprised if I went back, and there was now an anchor at 100' and beta online for the "new" route. A simple, 4" square plaque (they really don't stand out) could possibly prevent this.
By Andrew Gram Administrator From: Salt Lake City, UT Jun 12, 2008
I don't see the big deal in etching a plaque on a loose chunk of rock at the base of a route. I mean, come on, its a small loose chunk of rock - not any kind of permanent installation, and small loose chunks of rock are not a rare commodity in the desert.
Good point! You see how fun plaques can be? Now I am really curious about that route. Unfortunately, Caruthers is dead, R.I.P., so now there may or may not be this cool monument to him sitting out in Harts draw?! Man, I love plaques even more now! I'd love to ask Carson about it, too.
This is a great thread, by the way. Nobody really got angry or started name calling. Just more fun, good debate.