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TR- Shangri-La, Sedona
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By Michael Sokoloff
From Spokane, WA
Nov 17, 2009

So let me start out by telling you about myself. I'm a climber of 20-years. With work I'm relegated to "weekend warrior" status. I'm pretty well-rounded but seem to gravitate towards enduro crack routes. I seek out pitches that are long and strenuous and require me to be on the rock for long periods of time. Naturally, I've found myself wandering the cliffs at Indian Creek where routes like this are numerous.

When I first climbed Shangri-La in Sedona last month, I knew I had found a multi-pitch line of classic crackclimbing which is arguably the best of its grade in N. AZ and in the same league as the classic multi-pitch trad lines like Astroman, Monkeyfinger, Cloud Tower, etc. I threw myself at it and had little trouble with all pitches except for the 12+ crux (imagine that) which I sent on my 3rd try.

After my redpoint, an idea came to me to link the first 3-pitches into one megapitch. It seemed reasonable to climb the 3-pitches (12a, 11c, 12+)into one with liberal use of slings and a 70 meter rope. I ate a Cliff Bar and then told a disbelieving Chuck what I intended on doing. I set off and linked the first pitch stem corner with the second pitch power layback and then skipped the hanging belay casting off into the crux. That day I fell at the technical crux bump off a nonexistent fingerlock. I came back a week later with Keith and was able to link it up clean. I was motivated to come back and do this linkup despite the arduous approach because this linkup epitomizes what I most enjoy in climbing.

I thought I was done with this route for a while until a recent sprayfest erupted on Mtn Proj:
www.mountainproject.com/v/arizona/sedona/lost_canyon/1061903>>>
Instead of jumping into the cyberspray, I began to think of the possibilities of whether the crux pitch was possible on trad gear. The 12+ crux is currently bolted and is basically a sport pitch with around 9-clips. It does follow a seam/crack the entire way and I'd read on another site that a climber whom I respect thought it would go without the bolts. When a few Mtn Proj members who I know are quite strong climbers lashed out quite negatively about the idea (remember toughguys?) I decided to just go up and try it.

Today I returned with Chuck, did a burn up the crux to preview the gear and determined that the gear was good the entire way. On my first trad redpoint attempt I was climbing scared and tentative and fell moving into what I consider the crux. I fell on a #0 BD which held and was backed up by another #0 BD a few inches lower. This route was going to go!

I was able to fire up and send it clean next try clipping none of the bolts. Chuck took some buttshots which should be posted soon. My gear was as follows:

1 #000 BD
2 #00 BD
6 #0 BD
1 blue Alien
1 green Alien
1 0.4 Camelot
1 0.5 Camelot
1 0.75 Camelot

Some thoughts on this ascent:
This was hardly a pure ascent. I'd redpointed the route previously and previewed the gear prior to trying to lead it. Being the weekend warrior that I am, this seemed like the most reasonable and safe way to lead a thin 12+ crack without the bolts. It was far from an onsight lead. That said, as far as I know it's the only ascent that did not use the protection bolts.

To answer some of the pundits claims, this crack took great albeit small gear. I never felt in danger of a bad fall. I don't think that placing gear bumps the grade up for a redpoint. This route would be an unbelievable onsight however. Hopefully some strong climber will weather the long approach and do it someday.

I have the utmost respect for the FFA team for this route! Finding this route must have taken amazing dedication and persistence. They climbed it in the style that they saw fit for the route and the time. They should be commended.

I will throw out the question of what should happen to the bolts on the crux pitch. This is essentially a bolted crack that can be lead safely and has been lead safely on at least one occasion. I'm not one to go out and chop others routes and have no intention of doing it here. My opinion here is that a route of this quality should be done in the best style possible. This is likely the best route of its type in N. AZ. Is a bolted crack the right thing even if it makes the route more accessible to more people? I pose this question to the climbers of N. AZ and anyone else who enjoys or is yet to enjoy this route.


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By Josh Janes
Nov 17, 2009

Michael Sokoloff wrote:
...To answer some of the pundits claims, this crack took great albeit small gear. I never felt in danger of a bad fall...


If this is fairly objectively true, inform the first ascentionists and ask them as respectfully as possible if you can pull the bolts because those mo-fo's shouldn't be there in the first place! If they say "no," leave them alone: this climb is too beautiful to be the battlefield for a bolt war. If they say "yes," then get up there and do it (as long as you can do a good job and patch the holes). Maybe reuse the bolts by fixing the third pitch anchor as per my route description or return them to the FA party.

Nice job on the headpoint!


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By Chris Tatum
From Flagstaff, AZ
Nov 17, 2009

Strong work Mike! I heard you were heading down there to try it and I had no doubt you would pull it off. I haven’t climbed with you but you aren’t a reckless climber (hell you have a kid!)so I knew you had something there. Very exciting!

I guess my input would be this… I’m of two schools of thought when it comes to this discussion. On one hand, I agree with having super accessible and safe routes that everyone with the psyche and skills can at least go out and try. It makes climbing purely fun. Hell, I work at a climbing gym! But… on the other hand, I personally appreciate the more adventurous and “dangerous” routes above all. Routes that aren’t for everyone but only a select few. Not necessarily elitists but climbers that have the vision and have put in the time and effort to accomplish these feats… whether it is 5.8 or 5.12. Routes should be climbed in the best style possible! Whatever that is!

What to do about the bolts. Well, I am not one to go out and chop routes either. Ultimately the first ascentionist should have the final say… or a community as a whole, not an individual. To agree with Josh. If one of my routes with bolts got to see several rationalized, safe gear leads, I would be the first to go out and chop the bolts. Mike just pushed the envelope a little here and now we need to see some onsight attempts and ascents to see what the consensus says. I haven’t been on the route to see it in person. Maybe Mike has something here. That gear held. Mike is an very accomplished climber and if he says it goes relatively safe on gear then I believe him. This is not some reckless kid throwing himself at a route praying that the shitty gear stays in the rock while he moves past it! I guess what I’m saying is this route has a lot of grey area. The pitch is not a splitter finger crack… but as Mike proved, it has a lot of gear. He got 14 placements on a 80’ pitch!

This route has been on my tick list for years. Maybe when I am done recuperating from shoulder surgery I’ll go have a go at it! Northern Arizona has plenty of climbers capable of leading hard runout gear routes… especially when there is a clean fall! Come on guys and girls, let’s see a repeat!!! Ya!

-Chris


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By Michael Sokoloff
From Spokane, WA
Nov 17, 2009

Hey Josh

I'm not going to pull any bolts. I'm not even sure I'd know how. I figure that decision should be left to be decided by the predominance of opinion of AZ climbers (and climbers with lots of experience in AZ like yourself). In a matter of weeks I'll no longer be an AZ climber.

Thanks for the congrats Chris! When your back climbing I'll go up there with you anytime.


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By Red
From Arizona
Nov 18, 2009
Cobra Kai

Kick ass man! Good work!


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By markguycan
From flagstaff, az
Nov 18, 2009
at the local crag

Nice job Mike!
The bolts are there, as much as I dislike the idea of a bolted crack, I see no point in further damaging the rock. If Bloom, et al wishes and can remove the bolts & patch the holes effectively- so be it.
Otherwise: everyone will now know that the best style is on gear and to lead on the bolts is a somewhat less admirable accomplishment.


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By chuck claude
From Flagstaff, Az
Nov 18, 2009
First climb after knee surgery <br />

It was amazing to watch him.... I was partially apprehensive but also knew it could be done safely (and had known it since I did the route the first time with Lisa Appril). Following him, not only were his gear placements totally bomber, and for a wimp like me, you can supplement them with a few more BD 0 (green) C3's. For me, when I go back there, I fully intend to do it without the bolts since its a more beautiful line that way.

PS: The bolts on the 2nd pitch are totally unnecessary. When we were up there I skipped the first placement (blue C4 (0.3) under the roof) just below the first bolt and then a second bomber one just beside the second bolt.


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By Michael Sokoloff
From Spokane, WA
Nov 18, 2009

Pernell

I don't climb ice but will soon be moving to Washington where winter cragging is not as pleasant as here in AZ. Maybe I should start.

Chuck

Thanks again for going up there with me. Let me know when you want to go for the RP and I'll happily come along. We should all have dinner some night before we move.


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By Dean Hoffman
Nov 18, 2009

Well hell, I'm out of the loop for a month and look what happens! Damn, strong work. I guess you just need to lead the Equalizer and Pacing the Cage and you'll be able to leave town with a clear conscience! Hope to hook up with you before you make the move. Sorry I can't get out tomorrow with you, Will, and Mark. Hope you guys crank.


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By Josh Janes
Nov 18, 2009

Don't forget Kindness...!


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By Colin Cox
Nov 19, 2009
Moving into Pabst Trap on the One Wall.

I vote for leaving the bolts. I don't believe in preserving(retro-chopping) the route for only the bold elite to prove themselves on. If the gear being good and safe is the logic for removing the bolts, then using the same logic, why not add bolts to any existing trad route that has sketchy or no gear? Maybe add 5 bolts between each bolt on the Bachar Yerian(didn't some fool skip the bolts on this?Maybe we should take the bolts OUT), or maybe add some bolts to the crux of Jules Vern. The first-ascensionist gets to determine the style of life preservation. Climbing doesn't always have to be an attempt to improve style or one up the climbing community(not saying that you are Mike S). Shangri-La is a better route for more people with the bolts in place. Who's got that much tiny gear anyhow? Good ascent Mike.


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By manuel rangel
From Tempe, Arizona
Nov 19, 2009
Trying to redpoint The Ugly 11c; steeper than it looks and the rock is scary in spots but good enough.

Personally, I vote to leave the route as is. If you walk up to a crack line and sew it up; great, no questions. If you repeat a route that has bolts and find a newer more clever way to do it, maybe you're just plain stronger, good for you.

I haven't done it and would love to flail on it someday. The question I have for Michael, could you have walked up to it and climbed it with no bolts on it? If not, and you did it prior by using the bolts, then leave them there. Since when does the "community" own anything? I thought the FA did; did you call David and talk to him?

Great climbing Michael. Have fun in Washington.


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By Josh Janes
Nov 19, 2009

Colin Cox wrote:
...using the same logic, why not add bolts to any existing trad route that has sketchy or no gear? Maybe add 5 bolts between each bolt on the Bachar Yerian... or maybe add some bolts to the crux of Jules Verne.


Actually, this would be the exact opposite logic: The idea is to alter the rock as little as possible.

Colin Cox wrote:
The first-ascensionist gets to determine the style of life preservation. Climbing doesn't always have to be an attempt to improve style or one up the climbing community...


I have mixed feelings on this. I think the first ascensionists do have that right, but Mike has clearly stated, and demonstrated, that the climb is SAFE without the bolts. In my opinion, the adding of bolts to a protectable crack is not a judgement call but a mistake (I'm making no claims about the intentions of the FA party, just calling it like I see it given Mike's feedback). Removing the bolts would not be about one-upping people, it's about correcting a mistake.

Colin Cox wrote:
Shangri-La is a better route for more people with the bolts in place.


I totally disagree. Climbing gyms are better for more people with lots of bolts! There are plenty of safe climbs outdoors for most people. Shangri La apparently is one of them, even without the bolts (!) (although it's difficulty will keep novices away). The idea is to NOT DUMB DOWN the ROCK, DRILL HOLES in the ROCK, CHIP the ROCK, etcetera just because the masses don't own the gear, or have the skills to place the gear, or are too lazy to carry the gear. That goes for FA parties too.

The FA party does have some rights. For example, just next to Shangri La is "Smell My Finger," a fully bolted route that is also quite safe. I have no issue with this climb. It doesn't take clean gear. If the FA party wanted to make it bold, they could have placed far fewer bolts. That would be their right, but they chose to make it safe and that's totally cool with me.

What I do have issues with are bolts placed near good gear. This is an insult (perhaps unintentionally) to the rock, to future FA parties' intelligence and skill, and to the history of our sport and all those who came before.

Creating routes like this is not good for the masses. Rather than demand something from the climber who lacks the skill to place gear, it just says, "it's OK you can't place or don't own or don't want to hike in with a bunch of C3's... just bring your quickdraws". This has absolutely nothing to do with boldness or having fun and everything to do with lazy complacency.

Colin, I'm not trying to be ornery (I hope you don't take it that way!)... Hope you're well & hope the Peaks project is coming along!


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By manuel rangel
From Tempe, Arizona
Nov 19, 2009
Trying to redpoint The Ugly 11c; steeper than it looks and the rock is scary in spots but good enough.

Josh do you really think that's what David and Rodman were doing out there: thinking of the masses and dumbing down a route?

I like sedona rock. It is always changing. Just wait until a few folks get out and whip onto some teeny pro on the rock. It may hold as it did for Mike. And it may not.

I think the guys didn't make a mistake, they knew what they were doing.


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By Josh Janes
Nov 19, 2009

manuel rangel wrote:
Josh do you really think that's what David and Rodman were doing out there: thinking of the masses and dumbing down a route? I like sedona rock. It is always changing. Just wait until a few folks get out and whip onto some teeny pro on the rock. It may hold as it did for Mike. And it may not. I think the guys didn't make a mistake, they knew what they were doing.


I specifically said that I wasn't commenting on the FA party's intent, just that bolts near well-protected cracks are a mistake.

If you look at my original comments on the huge thread under one of my photos for Shangri La, I actually started off by arguing your exact point about the nature of the rock in Sedona and this route in particular.

It's been almost two years since I climbed Shangri La and my real intention here is not so much to comment on what, if anything, should be done about it, but rather to encourage people to challenge themselves to the highest standard of rock climbing and climb development possible.


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By bio
From mesa, az
Nov 19, 2009

Great climb Mike! I have to agree with Manny on the bolting issue here. I'm no supporter of unnecessary bolts but I say why further damage the rock/sandstone? The point about leading this on gear without having had previously led it on bolts is valid too. I say leave it alone. The FA invests time, blood, sweat, and money on putting a route up. If we change all routes to represent some ideal of ethics then all routes would end up being the same. Do we really want that?


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By Mike
From Phoenix
Nov 19, 2009
Doing the jump-across off The Mace.  I never get tired of this climb.  Photo by Wednesday Hugus.

1 vote for leave it as it is.


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By manuel rangel
From Tempe, Arizona
Nov 19, 2009
Trying to redpoint The Ugly 11c; steeper than it looks and the rock is scary in spots but good enough.

Josh, I agree with you that bolts near well-protected cracks are a mistake. I missed your "no comment" about the FA intent. Sorry.


Glad we agree about the rock and it's fragile nature.

I am in awe of Michael's accomplishment and think that we should all strive for a similar feeling. If I ever topped out on this thing without falling on a bolt, I'd feel great. If I ever lead it on gear only, I'd feel even better. Then I'd rap down and thank everyone that showed me the way. But I wouldn't change the route to suit my accomplishment.


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By Floater
From Flagstaff AZ
Nov 19, 2009

Just a little perspective folks.Shangri-La has a long history. It was put up as a clean aid route in 1996. The idea to make it a free c limb came from Corey Ellison of Tucson(formerly Flag). He also put up Smell My Finger. It was Corey that bolted pitch 3, he passed the project along to me and Rodman. We knew someday that someone very strong would lead it all on gear, but back then(1998) it wasn't going to be us. My opinion is that the bolts should stay and if you wish do not clip them. It's not like just anybody can get on the route, you still have to climb 12a tips to get to the business. Although the rock on the route is exceptional for Sedona, I agree with Manny, placements could blow in the future. Also 10 years ago we didn't have c3's, and hardly anyone was climbing hard in Sedona. For the time I believe the first ascent style was reasonable, but removing and filling holes will not do this beautiful route the justice it deserves. Amazing accomplishment Michael, my hat is off to you. I know not everyone agrees and that's cool, diversity of opinion helps climbing in general.


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By chuck claude
From Flagstaff, Az
Nov 19, 2009
First climb after knee surgery <br />

David,

Thanks for the history. I agree that C3's are pretty key since in SOME of the placements while the rock is bomber, a few are fairly shallow whereas an alien wouldn't fit which were the standard thing gear of 1999 (though Mike did use a couple of blue aliens). And I agree with Mike, you guys did proud just in finding the thing and then in the vision that it would go.

If anyone was bold it would have been Mike, since while many of us had the inkling that it would go on gear, he was the first one to successfully pony up and actually complete it. The rest of us have the benefit that not only does it go but its reasonably safe, which is a major hurdle.

As for the person asking who has that much thin gear, doing the first pitch you should take atleast 4 and as many as 6 blue aliens/ green (0) C3's so even if you do the route on bolts you are still taking that many pieces.


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By Colin Cox
Nov 19, 2009
Moving into Pabst Trap on the One Wall.

If the gear is truly good and won't damage the rock, then perhaps it was a "mistake" to bolt this pitch too soon. It's good to have high ideals as a guide, it's just that rock climbing is an irrational activity with inherent and contrived danger, and has spawned a wide range of styles from gym climbing to big wall soloing. I don't think anyone is in a position to declare the proper way to establish a route, because our sport defies logic and reason. The idealistic assertion that "altering the rock" is a sacrilege to nature and history may be a rushed and purely human conclusion, just as bolting this pitch may be. I think we can all live with each others rock climbing choices considering none of us have any business being up there in the first place.


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By Michael Sokoloff
From Spokane, WA
Nov 20, 2009

After reflecting on this ascent and reading all the thoughtful posts from locals and nonlocals who love to climb in N. AZ, a couple thoughts come to mind.

First and foremost, thanks to David for doing the FFA and giving us an idea of how it all came about.

I agree with Manny's point about small gear in sandstone being suspect. For this reason I doubled up at the cruxes which all required small pro. I knew that a piece pulling was a possibility so I used two. In my perception, there are three cruxes on that pitch. Prior to the first crux I placed two #00 BD, second two #0 BD, third again two #0 BD. I think that most climbers (except for the elite ultra honed) will take multiple falls at any or all of these crux sections. Even though the rock is unusually solid for Sedona, I'm not sure this is a good thing for the rock or the safety of the climbers.

Good gear does exist on this pitch however. For example, at the level of the first bolt one could place any number of cams or wires from a great, restful stance. At the level of the 3rd bolt which is between cruxes there is a completely bomber 0.5 or 0.75 Camelot placement. Higher up where the nature of the climbing changes there are multiple placements ranging from #0 BD to #1 Camelot. The upper third of the route although strenuous and exciting will not likely see the number of falls that the lower section where these three cruxes are located does.

David mentioned that diversity in climbing is a good thing. N. AZ is a great example of that. We have full on trad crags (Forks), full on sport (Pit) and great crags which lie somewhere in between these two extremes. The Waterfall comes to mind as a crag where the trad/sport dichotomy has become somewhat obscured with multiple mixed bolt/gear routes.

One might jump to the conclusion that because I was able to lead this pitch on gear that I support removing all the bolts. This is not the case. I think my biggest issue with the third pitch of Shangli-La is not the presence of the bolts. I think it is bolted like a sportclimb when it does not need to be. I believe that this pitch would make a great mixed line. The thin cruxes could remain bolted and gear could be placed where it is solid. I do not think that this would increase the difficulty or danger of the pitch at all.

Reading through the previous posts it's evident that most favor leaving the route "as-is". I'm curious as to what you all think of removing select bolts to make it a mixed pitch. It is very important to me and I suspect many others to subject this route to high standards since it is on of the best we have in the region. At the same time we want it to remain accessible and most importantly safe for the climbers and the rock. As I've stated, I believe that no changes should be made without a consensus of opinions of local climbers.


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By KyleEdmondson
Nov 20, 2009

It would be absurd to pull those bolts. Shangri-La is a great route, probably our best. Pull those bolts and no one will do it, without extensive rehearsal from above. If you want to experience that, try Lost Horizons. As is, it is a safe, enjoyable climb. However, the thought of figuring out the crux sequence and taking repeated falls onto tiny placements would prohibit most from doing it (and I include the vast majority of us who have sent it).


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By Josh Janes
Nov 21, 2009

KyleEdmondson wrote:
It would be absurd to pull those bolts.


Kyle, didn't you once declare to me that you categorically refuse to place wires? ;)

KyleEdmonson wrote:
As is, it is a safe, enjoyable climb. However, the thought of figuring out the crux sequence and taking repeated falls onto tiny placements would prohibit most from doing it...


Without going up there and doing it again myself with an eye towards inspecting the quality of the rock and the placements, I'm not going to propose anything should be done to this climb. Indeed, after I originally did it and posted it on MP.com, I didn't think the bolts were superfluous. But Mike's ascent and comments send the message that it is safe and enjoyable without bolts. As far as that prohibiting climbers... well, what's wrong with that? Why does it have to be prohibitive and not "inspiring"? There are climbs I really want to do that I'm not ready for yet. Like the Bachar-Yerian. Does the bolting on that route prohibit me? No, it inspires me. It's not like I'm not having fun climbing because I won't get on the Bachar-Yerian right now.

I learned to climb in Eldorado Canyon, so yeah, I'm biased. That place was the birthplace of clean climbing in America... In the 1960's Jim Erikson and Duncan Ferguson debated late into the night the future of climbing and eventually reached a decision to throw away all their pitons. All the other local climbers thought they were crazy, but indeed, their forward thinking changed climbing forever.

Just two weeks ago I went out to Eldo and began working on Superfly. What a joy to be able to do a bouldery, difficult pitch that doesn't have a single piece of fixed gear, and, despite the R rating, is extremely safe in all the difficult sections. Sure, you have to place a wire on this pitch, and that's going to turn certain climbers off... But you can drive a short ways to Rifle and climb 12d's that are totally safe and fully bolted (out of necessity). Many, many climbers in the area capable of climbing the grade can be found doing both! NO ONE argues that it should be/have been bolted to make it more enjoyable or to open it up to more people.

I just think that FA parties need to think more about what they are doing with respect to future ascentionists and preserving the resource for those ascentionists. David Bloom's post sheds some light on this. Corey Ellison bolted it originally. Unfortunately we don't know why he chose to bolt it the way he did.

Possible reasons:

1) The trad gear to protect it didn't exist at the time and he wanted the climb to be safe.
2) The placements seemed fragile and falling on gear might blow out the placements & destroy the feature.
3) He honestly thought that the placements weren't as good as Mike has made them out to be and he wanted to create a safe climb.
4) It was too hard for him to climb as a trad route.
5) He wanted for more people to get on the route knowing that many people are willing to get on a bolted 12+ and few are willing to get on a 12+ protected by thin trad gear.

I think the first three reasons are fine reasons to bolt the route. The last two reasons, however, I think, are lacking vision. Unfortunately we don't know what motivated Ellison, but as it turns out he had to hand the project over to Rodman and Bloom. I can understand why they, anxious to get the FFA of such a sweet line and grateful for the opportunity, would go up there, climb it exactly the way it was, and then walk away with the knowledge that one day it would be done completely trad (a la Mike Sokoloff).

If this was some lame little route on Mt. Elden no one would be arguing anything, but since this is likely the best multipitch climb in all of Northern Arizona, it makes sense. This piece of rock is truly world-class, but, perhaps the bolting is not. In my experience, Northern Arizona seems to sit "under the radar" and doesn't receive attention from the greater climbing community. Personally I think that's a great thing! But at the same time, why not create routes with the highest standards and the greatest vision possible... so when a visiting climber like myself shows up, they'll say, "wow, those Arizona climbers are inspiring and visionary," (as I've commented on all those new routes at the Waterfall) and not, "wow, those Arizona climbers throw bolts in like they're going out of style".


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By Colin Cox
Nov 22, 2009
Moving into Pabst Trap on the One Wall.

Thanks Josh, your points and vision are clear. Allow me to take them one step further. For a true "completely trad" ascent of Shangri-La, all bolts, including the anchor bolts, should be avoided and perhaps removed. It is only a lack of vision of what is possible that has resulted in ANY bolts being placed, for belay anchors, rappel anchors, and climbing protection(next to a crack or not). How would one get off Shangri-La if there were no anchor bolts? Those with the purist vision would lead the route with gear only(or perhaps just knotted cordalette so that metals would not need to be blasted from Mother Earth to make cams), and to descend the purist would then base jump or down climb the same or another route. Think of the inspiration!

Perhaps Shangri-La can be improved, but even removing all the protection bolts on P3 would not fulfill the vision Josh describes,... it's really just another shade of gray.

Excellent thoughts Josh, for the most part I think we are in agreement, however it's in my nature to play the "mystery's advocate", so I rarely settle on any preached conclusions about anything. The "lame route on Mt.Elden" comment was a bit of an insult, but I understand what you really mean and I'm not bothered.

Huh...I think I hear the rocks laughing. I'd better go join them.


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By CO_Michael
Nov 22, 2009
Mexico roadside rocks

Josh Janes wrote:
....this was some lame little route on Mt. Elden no one would be arguing anything....



Hmmm, not quite so Josh.

www.mountainproject.com/v/arizona__new_mexico/disturbing_act>>>


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