Is using chockstone aid on trad routes?


Original Post
Jon Hartmann · · Ojai, CA · Joined Feb 2009 · Points: 1,120

OK, quick question.

 I was just climbing Sacker-Cracker in Yosemite the other day and when I got to the offwidth there was a chockstone that is been there a long time. Possibly at the first ascent of the route but I don't know that for sure at all.

I totally grabbed the chockstone to get up inside of the offwidth and I assume that everyone else does too although I might be wrong. 

So did I just cheat the climb? I'm just wondering at what point something like a chockstone on a route or a tree in the middle of the crack becomes technically a part of the route but also its it's being used as protection if it's the same as aiding. 

I realize in the long run it doesn't matter at all as long as I'm having fun on the route, but at the same time if that move of getting into the offwidth was intended to be done without using the chockstone then I feel like I'm missing part of the original nature of the climb that all the Stone Masters were possibly encountering. Any thoughts?

Jon Hartmann · · Ojai, CA · Joined Feb 2009 · Points: 1,120

Just to be clear I did not grab the sling, only the actual rock to get up into the offwidth. 

John Wilder · · Las Vegas, NV · Joined Feb 2004 · Points: 1,500

You did not cheat. Lots of climbs out there require grabbing a chockstone or two. 

Jon Hartmann · · Ojai, CA · Joined Feb 2009 · Points: 1,120

 Yeah I know that's true for example epinephrine in red rocks. The entire chimney is full of chockstones that you grab to get up. Another example is pitch 10 or so on Royal Arches in Yosemite, where are you totally grab a tree trunk to get up to the belay stance. I guess I was just wondering at what point does a rock that falls into a crack technically become part of the climb and at what point is it considered "off", if ever. Stupid pointless musing but I like to know other people's views on things like this. Especially OG climbers.

Jaren Watson · · Boise, Idaho · Joined May 2010 · Points: 1,195

Routes change. Holds break, stone gets polished, rocks fall and wedge in cracks.

We have to climb the routes as we find them. We don't exactly climb in Chuck Taylors anymore because we're trying to recreate the experience of the first ascenscionist.

Jon Hartmann · · Ojai, CA · Joined Feb 2009 · Points: 1,120

I actually cimb exclusively in leather boots with nails pounded into the soles.  Lol I agree though. 

eli poss · · Durango, Co · Joined May 2014 · Points: 136

The general consensus is that if it's natural then it's on. Chockstone, boulder, tree, whatever. 

Jon Hartmann · · Ojai, CA · Joined Feb 2009 · Points: 1,120

That's a hard and fast rule I can get behind.

David Kerkeslager · · Brooklyn, NY · Joined Jan 2017 · Points: 30
eli poss wrote:

The general consensus is that if it's natural then it's on. Chockstone, boulder, tree, whatever. 

Interesting. General consensus among people I've climbed with seems to be more like "If it's rock then it's on". So chockstone, boulder, would be on, but tree would not. I've been yelled at by many a belayer for my tree-grabbing antics. Not that I care. If the tree is sturdy and I'm not I grab the tree.

One reason to maybe not grab trees is LNT. While at Red Rock a tree tangled in my pack as I walked past and I accidentally uprooted the poor thing. I felt bad about it, but the roots were so shallow and the soil so loose that it didn't take much to pull the whole thing out unintentionally.

Chase D · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2015 · Points: 0
David Kerkeslager wrote:

Interesting. General consensus among people I've climbed with seems to be more like "If it's rock then it's on". So chockstone, boulder, would be on, but tree would not. I've been yelled at by many a belayer for my tree-grabbing antics. Not that I care. If the tree is sturdy and I'm not I grab the tree.

One reason to maybe not grab trees is LNT. While at Red Rock a tree tangled in my pack as I walked past and I accidentally uprooted the poor thing. I felt bad about it, but the roots were so shallow and the soil so loose that it didn't take much to pull the whole thing out unintentionally.

There are plenty of tree belays at red rock, these are commonly included in the route beta. Frogland is the first route that comes to mind. I agree with Eli that if it's natural, it's on

eli poss · · Durango, Co · Joined May 2014 · Points: 136

FWIW, I was also initially taught that trees are aid in this case of one climb where you can skip the crux by chimneying between the rock and a tree. That is more understandable why the tree might be off. But I remember about a week ago reading a thread where somebody asked if trees were on and I was surprised to see that the vast majority went with "natural=on".

I've certainly grabbed my fair share of trees, and I don't consider myself less of a climber because of it. I also know of climbs around here where the routes don't start until about 10 ft up and you have to climb a tree to get there. I like climbing trees. In fact, I climbed trees long before I ever climbed rocks. I used to climb a pine tree in my backyard about 50ish feet up until the branches started to get too thin.  

But in the end, there is no cheating, only dishonesty. Whether it's on or off is up to whoever you're spraying down to decide.

ViperScale · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Dec 2013 · Points: 165
David Kerkeslager wrote:

Interesting. General consensus among people I've climbed with seems to be more like "If it's rock then it's on". So chockstone, boulder, would be on, but tree would not. I've been yelled at by many a belayer for my tree-grabbing antics. Not that I care. If the tree is sturdy and I'm not I grab the tree.

One reason to maybe not grab trees is LNT. While at Red Rock a tree tangled in my pack as I walked past and I accidentally uprooted the poor thing. I felt bad about it, but the roots were so shallow and the soil so loose that it didn't take much to pull the whole thing out unintentionally.

Trees are something people generally try to avoid if they can but I are never really considered off on most routes. Someone posted a 5.14 route the other day where a tree was used on it... there are plenty of routes where the tree is a part of the classic route and is no longer there. Royal Arches in yosemite has the pitch that people talk about adding a log back in to replace the tree that was lost.

Here is a picture of the lost log that was used but fell down and people have talked about replacing.

1Eric Rhicard · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Feb 2006 · Points: 7,790

I try to avoid trees but sometimes it is hard to do. My thinking is that I am a rock climber not a tree climber. But do whatever you like.

Ted Pinson · · Chicago, IL · Joined Jul 2014 · Points: 45

Yeah, that raises a good point Viper: trees are much less permanent than rocks, so if everybody is constantly cranking on a particular one, it's not going to last and the route will change.  That's definitely happened at Devil's Lake...lots of routes that once had trees (and were named accordingly) that are now gone.  Doesn't score highly on the LNT index, but then if everyone is going to belay off of those same trees, it's somewhat inevitable.  I try to avoid trees whenever possible, but if it's the choice between grabbing a tree and taking a whip, I'll grab the damned tree.  Chockstones, on the other hand...are rocks.  Unless someone is intentionally jamming a chockstone in or bringing one up with them (would that count as chipping?), they're a part of the route.

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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