Adventure Projects is hiring a web engineer to join us in Boulder, CO
Mountain Project Logo

Why not put bolts vs pitons in Gunks?


Christopher Woodall · · Somerville, MA · Joined May 2015 · Points: 168
Matt Westlake wrote: Yea, I'm mostly thinking of the latter scenario. I climb in NC where the ground up approach is/was pretty common. I hear stories periodically about folks putting in bolts on the big slabs like Stone Mountain, Laurel Knob, and Whitesides around here and they sometimes include these tactics. I didn't start climbing until the early 2000s and don't go scouting out FAs so these are all secondhand for me. Thanks for the historical perspective on the prevailing ethics at the time in the Gunks.

I follow the distinction between free and aid, but my point still remains, unless the pro was completely removed prior to the free ascent it's not the same as what David was describing, where folks are bashing in all the pins on lead, which is all I really wanted to point out. You are right of course that the situation is complicated by the existence of aid lines and fixed pins from prior efforts that later go clean either an hour, a day, or years later (I'm making a distinction here between something that at the outset was viewed as an aid project versus something that was attempted but then the leader resorted to a point of aid).

The Gunks is a special place, I've only been able to make one visit but the ancient fixed tricams I found a couple routes still make me smile. Granted I wasn't keen on clipping them, but they certainly added to the ambiance and sense of age of the place none-the-less.

I bet some of those ancient fixed tricams are not so ancient...

Gunkiemike · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jul 2009 · Points: 2,800
Christopher Woodall wrote:

I bet some of those ancient fixed tricams are not so ancient...

Yea, really. If TRICAMS give a climber a "sense of age", I'd say they really need to bone up on climbing history.

Matt Westlake · · Durham, NC · Joined Jul 2009 · Points: 602

Well it may have been some other ancient fixed piece of metal but that was my first impression. It was hard to tell, being a corroded hunk of metal with no sling that had sort of merged with the rock.

And google tells me tricams were brought to market in 1981, which relative to the age of the Gunks is pretty young I suppose but is still closing on 40 years. I'm in my mid-40s so I'm not exactly a spring chicken myself.

Kedron Silsbee · · Munich · Joined Aug 2013 · Points: 0
Gunks Apps wrote: A good example of this is Fat City. Everyone who has clipped that pin has that moment indelibly etched in their minds. Gary Brown placed that pin on lead (What?!?!?!) then John Stannard went up and climbed through in 1968 ?!?!? It took me three visits to the Gunks to finally commit to that upper section. Not to be melodramatic but placing a bolt on Fat City would feel like permanently defacing some piece of artwork while at the same time robbing future generations from having the chance to experience the route pretty much the way climbers have for about 50 years.

Yeah, I totally get get that.  Clipping that pin is definitely on my "most memorable Gunks moments" lists.  So you would be in favor of replacing the pin with another pin until the rock becomes too scarred for that to be viable at which point climbing could well have evolved to the point that the concerns are sufficiently different for this to all be irrelevant?  I just wanted to make the point that unlike all these other climbs, doing nothing and letting the piton rust away will also prevent future climbers from experiencing the route in the same way.

Kedron Silsbee · · Munich · Joined Aug 2013 · Points: 0
rgold wrote: The arguments about replacing pitons with bolts are arguments of entitlement.  A 5.6 climber with only modest protections skills is entitled to good protection on Moonlight because at some point in the past other climbers (or a more competent version of a current climber) had that protection.  A climber on a formerly well-pitoned climb is entitled to the level of protection available to ascenders in the past.  

I wouldn't go so far as to say I am "entitled" to a PG-rated Fat City just because people in the past had it (and I now live thousands of miles away, so you can replace the pin with a hornet nest for all I care), but given how often I hear about the importance of preserving climbs in the style of the FA when people are opposing adding gear, I find it a little odd to hear the argument so thoroughly dismissed when it is brought up in the context of maintaining fixed gear.  

That said, I certainly agree that if I had to pick between sticky rubber and a solid pin there I'd definitely go with the sticky rubber...

Maybe the pin should be replaced with a 1/4 bolt with a Leeper hanger - protect the rock while keeping that stimulating level of uncertainty for future generations ;)
Jon Po · · Mahwah, NJ · Joined Oct 2013 · Points: 170

NO MORE GUNKS BOLTS! If i can't bolt my project, neither can you!! If someone is too scared to lead a climb without bolts, they should find another climb! LEAVE NO TRACE DAMNIT!!!

Gunks Apps · · New Paltz, NY · Joined Oct 2015 · Points: 235
Kedron Silsbee wrote:

Yeah, I totally get get that.  Clipping that pin is definitely on my "most memorable Gunks moments" lists.  So you would be in favor of replacing the pin with another pin until the rock becomes too scarred for that to be viable at which point climbing could well have evolved to the point that the concerns are sufficiently different for this to all be irrelevant?  I just wanted to make the point that unlike all these other climbs, doing nothing and letting the piton rust away will also prevent future climbers from experiencing the route in the same way.



I'm pretty sure the pin that's in there now is the same one that was placed on the FA 50 years ago. It is a Lost Arrow under a section that stays quite dry unless it's pouring. If it gets replaced once, the scarring will be minimal and the next generation can decide what to do in the year 2068.

Steven Amter · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jan 2009 · Points: 40
rgold wrote: ...a persistent asymmetry in the demands for fixed protection.

Very well said.  Though I disagree that the argument necessarily stems from a sense of entitlement. 

SethG:  I reread your fantastic account of your mini-epic on Moonlight  on your Climb and Punishment blog site when your were a beginning leader, as well as a follow up ascent when he was a much stronger and more experienced leader.  I think it touches on a lot of the topics being discussed here, including how you were unprepared and in over your head, how you were unable to adequately protect it the first time, and how the climb left you both "both humbled and emboldened."  A  formative experience indeed..  
Dana Bartlett · · CO · Joined Nov 2003 · Points: 890

Contribute to the ASCA.

Kedron Silsbee · · Munich · Joined Aug 2013 · Points: 0
Gunks Apps wrote:

I'm pretty sure the pin that's in there now is the same one that was placed on the FA 50 years ago. It is a Lost Arrow under a section that stays quite dry unless it's pouring. If it gets replaced once, the scarring will be minimal and the next generation can decide what to do in the year 2068.

Sounds pretty reasonable.  I'll be thrilled if I still have a reason to care about that pin in 2068.

rgold · · Poughkeepsie, NY · Joined Feb 2008 · Points: 525
Gunks Apps wrote:

I'm pretty sure the pin that's in there now is the same one that was placed on the FA 50 years ago. It is a Lost Arrow under a section that stays quite dry unless it's pouring. If it gets replaced once, the scarring will be minimal and the next generation can decide what to do in the year 2068.

I'm pretty sure the original pin has been replaced, although the current one could be pretty old.  The original pin was an angle piton placed incorrectly (with the crack walls compressing the angle).  Gary was understandably in an extremely precarious position, and this was the best he could manage.  The way the pin was placed made it impossible to clip the eye, so you had to thread a sling though the eye and clip that.  Reaching out and fiddling a sling through the eye was memorable, even if it was not as desperate as placing the pin.

If the current pin is a lost arrow, then it isn't Gary's pin.  

My guess is the replacer did not duplicate Gary's feat.
SethG · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Aug 2009 · Points: 250
Steven Amter wrote:

Very well said.  Though I disagree that the argument necessarily stems from a sense of entitlement. 

SethG:  I reread your fantastic account of your mini-epic on Moonlight  on your Climb and Punishment blog site when your were a beginning leader, as well as a follow up ascent when he was a much stronger and more experienced leader.  I think it touches on a lot of the topics being discussed here, including how you were unprepared and in over your head, how you were unable to adequately protect it the first time, and how the climb left you both "both humbled and emboldened."  A  formative experience indeed..  

Thank you! 

Adrienne DiRosario · · Troy, NY · Joined Jan 2016 · Points: 0
rgold wrote:

I'm pretty sure the original pin has been replaced, although the current one could be pretty old.  The original pin was an angle piton placed incorrectly (with the crack walls compressing the angle).  Gary was understandably in an extremely precarious position, and this was the best he could manage.  The way the pin was placed made it impossible to clip the eye, so you had to thread a sling though the eye and clip that.  Reaching out and fiddling a sling through the eye was memorable, even if it was not as desperate as placing the pin.

If the current pin is a lost arrow, then it isn't Gary's pin.  

My guess is the replacer did not duplicate Gary's feat.

I could listen to rgold’s stories all day. 

Dana Bartlett · · CO · Joined Nov 2003 · Points: 890

My old partner B.R. was trying to clip the original pin, fiddling and stressing, and yelled down to his partner: "Who the hell put this this thing in?" A few beats later, he heard a voice from around the corner. someone on an adjacent climb: "Gary Brown placed that piton." It was, of course. John S.

David Kerkeslager · · New Paltz, NY · Joined Jan 2017 · Points: 124
Adrienne DiRosario wrote:

I could listen to rgold’s stories all day. 

I have an rgold story (second hand, so I apologize for mistakes in transmission):

This happened about 5 years ago. A friend of mine was working on a boulder problem right on the carriage road not far down from the Uberfall. They were engaged in the usual bouldering antics: pads, chalk, and yelling beta. An older gentleman comes up, and asks my friend, "What are you guys doing?" My friend kindly explains what bouldering is, and takes a few runs on the problem to demonstrate. Then the older gentleman says, "Mind if I try?" My friend was a bit concerned, saying later, "I was worried this guy was gonna fall and break his hip or something." But the older gentleman gets on the route in tennis shoes and cruises the route, much to the astonishment of the group of boulderers who had been working the route for about an hour. The older gentleman was, of course, Richard Goldstone, the first ascentionist of the boulder problem.

So that's the story of when my friend explained bouldering to Richard Goldstone while standing in front of the Goldstone Traverse.
Alicia Sokolowski · · Brooklyn, NY · Joined Aug 2010 · Points: 1,095
David Kerkeslager wrote:

I have an rgold story (second hand, so I apologize for mistakes in transmission):

This happened about 5 years ago. A friend of mine was working on a boulder problem right on the carriage road not far down from the Uberfall. They were engaged in the usual bouldering antics: pads, chalk, and yelling beta. An older gentleman comes up, and asks my friend, "What are you guys doing?" My friend kindly explains what bouldering is, and takes a few runs on the problem to demonstrate. Then the older gentleman says, "Mind if I try?" My friend was a bit concerned, saying later, "I was worried this guy was gonna fall and break his hip or something." But the older gentleman gets on the route in tennis shoes and cruises the route, much to the astonishment of the group of boulderers who had been working the route for about an hour. The older gentleman was, of course, Richard Goldstone, the first ascentionist of the boulder problem (the Goldstone Traverse).

So that's the story of when my friend explained bouldering to rgold in front of one of his well-known boulder problems.

This is 100% rgold gold!  Thank you for sharing.

B. L. · · New York, NY · Joined May 2015 · Points: 54
rgold wrote: The arguments about replacing pitons with bolts are arguments of entitlement.  A 5.6 climber with only modest protections skills is entitled to good protection on Moonlight because at some point in the past other climbers (or a more competent version of a current climber) had that protection.  A climber on a formerly well-pitoned climb is entitled to the level of protection available to ascenders in the past.  Besides the intrinsic selfishness of such arguments, there is absolutely no end to the range of entitlements that are easily justified by exactly the same types of claims.  Moreover, arguments about past “advantages” are weakened by the fact that modern climbers have far better gear in every respect.  The idea that it is somehow “not fair” that earlier climbers had this or that fixed pro doesn’t ever seem to be coupled with the enormous advantages the modern climber gets to deploy.

I think it's often more a case of genuine confusion than a feeling of entitlement by less experienced climbers.. certainly in my case. Pitons are mentioned frequently in the route descriptions and I think it's natural to wonder why they are so commonly clipped - and sometimes recommended to clip if they are possibly junk (v. hard to tell).. and as the area is so popular.. if they are featured in the route description as anything other than ancient route markers to show the way.. why not replace them with more modern and reliable alternatives. So far the main answer seems to be that a lot of people just don't want fixed pro at all in the Gunks (though I know a lot are thrilled there is a bolted anchor initiative - myself included). I know there are other answers as well.. my point is it's natural to wonder without necessarily feeling entitled. I think a lot of areas would be ok with just replacing crappy fixed pro. In the Gunks there is massive resistance to that.. yet it remains as a sort of on-route semi-functional antique. It's interesting for sure.. and it's natural to wonder about it as a new or newish leader.

For what it's worth.. I don't think Moonlight needs fixed pro.

Live Perched · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Sep 2016 · Points: 0

What happens to these stories after the pins are removed?

Thanks all for sharing...the best part of this thread.

(There is some desert story telling on the AZ/NM forum related to the Tucson Mountains in a recent thread. Also pretty cool.)

Live Perched · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Sep 2016 · Points: 0

On Moonlight, three data points and three questions:

1) Todd Swain writes that a bolt was chopped near the crux shortly after the first ascent.  2) Dick Williams notes the bolt as well.

3) @firstpersonbeta posted a video of the second pitch on youtube in Sept. 2017: Moonlight @firstpersonbeta  @firstpersonbeta slings a small shrub tree (1:49) for first protection, clips the Pin at 5:05 and sort janks a nut at 5:40.  He passes the crux and then places gear at 9:17.   Having watched many of firstpersonbeta videos, I can guess that he might have been able to place a #4 at 0:24 but did not because it would be too low protect any but an immediate fall and might have passed a placement at 3:30 due to rock being loose or because he had just slung the tree.  As @firstpersonbeta climbed it, I would think he is totally dependent on the nut and Gary's Pin before the crux to keep him of the ledge if he fell because that tree is not going to hold under a grown man's weight and may not be high enough to keep him off the ledge anyway.  

If the Pin is no longer considered safe, than how is this climb still PG as stated by Swain and implied by the Gunks App which is silent (my understanding is no pro rating explicitly stated in Gunks App means G or PG) on the protection rating?  

Two more questions:
Who chopped the bolt and why?

Is there more gear available than @firstpersonbeta used?
 

rgold · · Poughkeepsie, NY · Joined Feb 2008 · Points: 525

It isn't Gary's pin; you are conflating the discussions of Moonlight and Fat City, but no one can really tell for sure how good any fixed pin is.

FPB could have placed more pro besides that one nut, which however looks excellent to the extent you can tell such things from the video.  There are also opportunities for gear before the pin and after the shrub if one doesn't want to be totally dependent on the nearby placements at the crux.  

The PG rating represents what is possible to arrange, not what any one person chooses to place.  Climbers who are confident continually make do with less gear than required to realize the protection rating.

FPB appears to make a serious error in clipping the pin: the carabiner on the pin looks as if it is going to be loaded over the edge below the pin.  A sling should have been threaded through the eye in this situation, if the reality agrees with what seems to be true in the image here.

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

Post a Reply to "Why not put bolts vs pitons in Gunks?"
in the Northeastern States

Log In to Reply