Advice for trad first ascents?


Jake Jones · · Richmond, VA · Joined Jul 2011 · Points: 763
David Kerkeslager wrote:


I'm confident I can work out with the rangers whether climbing there is legal, but I'm wondering if there's any technical guidance on ascending a route for the first time on trad gear safely?


People will likely disagree with this, but this is step #1: "I'm confident I can work out with the rangers whether climbing there is legal".  If the rock was solid, I'd say go for it, but if you pull on something and end up trundling a large amount of rock and it does damage to local flora (that may or may not be rare/delicate- whatever) you could find yourself in a heap of trouble- and over what may not amount to little more than a choss heap.  IMO everything else is secondary until you find this out.

"I'm wondering if there's any technical guidance on ascending a route for the first time on trad gear safely?"  

Yes.  There is.  Part of that is knowing enough about rock types to determine A) what type of rock it is and B) if it's solid enough to withstand falls on gear.  Sometimes a tough thing to determine.  Personally, I would feel a bit sketchy, but I'm by no means an expert or a geologist.  Assuming you get clearance to climb, try bounce testing the shit out of some placements on the ground but be careful you're not going to dislodge a part of the wall.

If it was me, I'd TR it, check it out extensively, progressing incrementally.  But only after I got the go ahead to climb there.  YMMV.

Alex Bury · · Ojai, CA · Joined Jun 2012 · Points: 1,873
King Tut wrote:

Don't focus so much on how people are "wrong" and more on how they are "right" when trying to put to written word to their thoughts and knowledge and you will learn something.

What I assume is that you didn't sit down and sit down and talk to some of the people who have put up the cutting edge in Yosemite and how those routes were actually done. I also assume you haven't done the FA of cracks in Yosemite like I have done. You will find there really is no one that knows more about digging there than I do, for better or worse lol :).

The rare case is GU through dirt for "crags". For multi-pitch it is typically the rule because people gravitate to clean lines and find the munge well below their standard or they aid through it and free the pitch later.

But most single pitch testpieces are not clean lines, in my experience.

You seem pretty fixated on establishing your vast experience with FA's in the valley. I didn't see anyone question that. I certainly did not. Why so insecure? I actually appreciate that insight and experience.

Also, you should probably not get so defensive when people point out you are wrong or making assumptions. You do plenty of that yourself on this site.

King Tut · · Citrus Heights · Joined Aug 2012 · Points: 140

You can call it w/e ever you want Alex. 

And trust me, vast experience digging in the Valley is not much of an accolade or badge of honor lol. 

You point out your experience of one as me being "wrong". 

I point to my experience knowing more than most about FAs in CA, albeit less than some, and about how people did and do them.

Yea, people started at the bottom and went to the top of 5.7s BITD or w/e their obscure project was. All of the early "Mountain Climbing" was done ground up, sure.

But that is not how the majority of the free climbing testpieces of the 70's and beyond were done in the vast majority of cases. They were aided countless times before being freed if multi-pitch (leading to cleaning of the cracks) or they were cleaned by the FA party then led or some hardman may have battled some dirt the first time on the easy bits, but this idea that some crux cutting edge climbing was done through hummocks pretty much never happened.

This idea of "ground up only" purity is a myth.

Here, why don't I pop another bubble: Bachar moved the bolts on the Bachar -Yerian on rappel to engineer a better route violating his own ethos that protection bolts could only be placed on lead (per Werner Braun). Pretty sure it was Bachar and Kauk that rap cleaned Butterballs, which was then stolen by Henry Barber.

Our heroes have feet made of clay. Much of the ground up only mythos was self serving hypocrisy to save the FAs for a select few in the cool kids clique.

David Gibbs · · Ottawa, ON · Joined Aug 2010 · Points: 6
King Tut wrote:

But that is not how the majority of the free climbing testpieces of the 70's and beyond were done in the vast majority of cases. They were aided countless times before being freed if multi-pitch (leading to cleaning of the cracks) or they were cleaned by the FA party then led or some hardman may have battled some dirt the first time on the easy bits, but this idea that some crux cutting edge climbing was done through hummocks pretty much never happened.

King Tut, I don't think most of us are arguing that the "testpieces", that the "crux cutting edge" climbs were put up un-cleaned ground-up.

We're arguing that there are a lot of trad FAs put up that are done ground-up, uncleaned.  BUT these are not "cutting edge climbs".  

When we're saying "we've done a bunch of ground-up un-cleaned FAs" and we don't think we're unusual, we're not (generally) talking test-pieces for ourselves, or for climbing at the time.  

Walter Galli · · Sint Maarten · Joined Sep 2015 · Points: 1,096
David Kerkeslager wrote:

On a hike Wednesday in Northern PA I found a set of very nice cliffs, which was surprising because I had already scanned the area on Mountain Project and it hadn't turned anything up. The cliffs are about 40 feet tall and, at least in the area I explored, contained about 250 feet of curving cliffside, including a 50 ft long boulder that had split off the main cliff. The area is full of crumbly layered stone, but these cliffs are smooth and seem to be much harder, so my hypothesis is they were exposed when the surrounding soft rock was eroded away. Particularly of note are some ceilings which look super difficult.

Most of the climbs would be sport climbs, but I'm not really stoked about doing a bunch of bolting yet. However, on the initial face there are two nice cracks. The one that interests me is a wide finger crack which runs from bottom nearly to the top, with a few supporting face holds around it. I'm thinking this might be within my capabilities as a trad lead and it might be a chance to get my first first ascent.

I'm confident I can work out with the rangers whether climbing there is legal, but I'm wondering if there's any technical guidance on ascending a route for the first time on trad gear safely?

Obviously choss is a big concern. My interest in this climb is particularly because the crack itself looks very solid and if I jam a bunch of cams in deep I'm pretty confident they'd hold. At least at ground level, the crack didn't crumble at all when I jammed in it. The face holds I tried are a mixed bag. The lasts 4 feet of the climb return to the crumbly rock that's typical of the area, but at 4 feet down there's a small ledge I can stand on and a 5inch thick tree I can sling that I think would catch a fall. I'm thinking I could walk up and use a broom at the top to knock off the most egregious loose rock before sending. I do however want to lead this without TRing it first. And of course all of this is dependent on me rehabbing my ankle injury and getting strong enough again to do the climb!

Did you ever trad climb before?

Tim Lutz · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Aug 2012 · Points: 0

ground up: Trad

top down: glorified sport

Jaren Watson · · Boise, Idaho · Joined May 2010 · Points: 1,150
Tim Lutz wrote:

ground up: Trad

top down: glorified sport

Ability to appreciate nuance: priceless 

Tim Lutz · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Aug 2012 · Points: 0

having ethics: priceless

Jaren Watson · · Boise, Idaho · Joined May 2010 · Points: 1,150

Maintaining a myopic hardline stance while  dismissing (albeit by implication) other worthy positions may be ethical, but it's neither commendable nor, very often, useful.

King Tut · · Citrus Heights · Joined Aug 2012 · Points: 140
Tim Lutz wrote:

having ethics: priceless

Holier than Thou climber drives 3 hours to crag shitting CO2 into atmosphere in car made from mining pits and exploited labor on road displacing thousands and thousands of tons of stone blasted from mountainside and thinks he is more pure because he has "ethics" yet is blind to the real lack thereof (we all share).

If you said "I do ground up to burn those limp wristed wankers in the parking lot" or to "pretend I'm climbing Mt. Everest" or so my "Father Figure would talk to me" it would be more honest.

:)

Tim Lutz · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Aug 2012 · Points: 0

did the Stonemasters from the Golden Age go 'top down'?

smh

King Tut · · Citrus Heights · Joined Aug 2012 · Points: 140
David Gibbs wrote:

King Tut, I don't think most of us are arguing that the "testpieces", that the "crux cutting edge" climbs were put up un-cleaned ground-up.

We're arguing that there are a lot of trad FAs put up that are done ground-up, uncleaned.  BUT these are not "cutting edge climbs".  

When we're saying "we've done a bunch of ground-up un-cleaned FAs" and we don't think we're unusual, we're not (generally) talking test-pieces for ourselves, or for climbing at the time.  

And I don't mean to suggest that you haven't done what you have stated.

My posts were in response to Ted Pinson's who suggested there was a strong "ground up" ethic in Yosemite which, while true for face climbs not needing cleaning, was rarely true for any of the famous hard crack routes.

The days of Royal and Liz Robbins doing the Nutcracker one afternoon through dirt are gone, all those routes have been done in the Valley and Meadows. But people are still doing new routes in the High Sierra Backcountry that can be done no other way than in the best Alpine style...but are rarely the combination of dirty and hard.

FAists mostly recognize that if a route isn't cleaned up it will never get a second ascent until enough time passes that it gets "rediscovered" by another would-be FA party.

If you want it to get done by others it has to be cleaned. 

If you are seeking only your own adventure, have at it. :)

David Gibbs · · Ottawa, ON · Joined Aug 2010 · Points: 6
King Tut wrote:

FAists mostly recognize that if a route isn't cleaned up it will never get a second ascent until enough time passes that it gets "rediscovered" by another would-be FA party.

If you want it to get done by others it has to be cleaned. 

If you are seeking only your own adventure, have at it. :)

Oh, absolutely, if it is going to get climbed again in any reasonable time, it needs to be cleaned.  I've gone back and cleaned some of the routes I did ground-up; others were an interesting adventure, but ended up not being worth the effort of cleaning.

Old lady H · · Boise, Idaho · Joined Aug 2015 · Points: 120

Well. We have one other option, if you are geologically patient, and prepared to be bold: one of our new routes locally is a crack climb, revealed when an entire face fell off! New rock!

Best, OLH

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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