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First Flatiron: Adding bolts at the p1 Tree


Original Post
Jeremy Bauman · · Lakewood, CO · Joined Feb 2009 · Points: 842

Went for a lap up the first the other day and the cumulative impact on the pitch one belay tree is really starting to show. It would be a real shame if we loved this iconic poor little tree to death.

My purpose with this post is to start a discussion regarding adding belay bolts next to the tree to prevent the tree from its eventual demise if left as is. While the "please don't rap from this tree" note is nice, I'm afraid it won't be effective long term.
As the same thing has been done all over Eldo, it seems the ethic of adding bolts to preserve common rap/belay trees has already been established nearby.

Bill Mustard · · Silt, CO · Joined Aug 2011 · Points: 76

Good ole F-Range problems. Down here in Silt I have to wade through city market bags to get to my chosspile. 

Martin le Roux · · Superior, CO · Joined Jul 2003 · Points: 301

Just in case you weren't aware of this, Boulder OSMP has a formal process for considering this type of proposal. See http://www.flatironsclimbing.org/fixed-hardware-application-process. One of their criteria for fixed anchors on existing routes is "the extent to which the anchor would improve the environment by, among other things: eliminating webbing or the use of trees", so it seems like it wouldn't be out of the question.

Tan B · · Lakewood, CO · Joined Jul 2017 · Points: 20

I'd be on board for this. That poor tree is getting worked.

Greg Miller · · Westminster, CO · Joined Jul 2012 · Points: 30

Considering there are cracks behind the belay stance that take cams quite nicely, do we really need bolts? Or are there that many people bailing off the first pitch of the first flatiron? To be honest, if they go in I'll definitely use them (if nothing else just to speed things up), I'm just not sure OSMP will see the need.

Greg Miller · · Westminster, CO · Joined Jul 2012 · Points: 30

Bump for the morning coffee crowd's opinions.

Tony B · · Around Boulder, CO · Joined Jan 2001 · Points: 23,322
Jeremy Bauman wrote: 
As the same thing has been done all over Eldo, it seems the ethic of adding bolts to preserve common rap/belay trees has already been established nearby.

"Don't equivocate" they say... "That's just a slippery slope argument" they say.

FWIW, I don't think that people bailing off of that tree is what wears on it.  It is probably just the everyday use.  Bleay, hang, add/remove anchor.  
I suspect that there is some wear owing simply to the human passage alone, never mind the anchors, but make no claim to know how much.

Yes, the cracks take perfectly good gear, but people are 'economical' with their time and do what is fast and easy for them, never mind the long term impacts.
While I'd like to say 'just don't use the tree' the fact remains that people will continue to do so.  Mind you, it has been used for that for 50+ years.

And the fact remains that if we add bolts here, then people will use it as an example to provide for the argument that more can/should be added elsewhere.
or maybe that is 'Just a slippery slope argument.'

I'm a bit conflicted about this one.  Anybody got a recent picture of the wear on that tree to spike my memory of how bad it is getting?

Jon Banks · · Longmont, CO · Joined Nov 2013 · Points: 158

Between the choice of cracks and a solid tree, people will always choose the tree. It is irresponsible to think that people will do otherwise. If the amount of traffic this route sees is killing the tree, bolts should absolutely be put in. 

Bruce Hildenbrand · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2003 · Points: 1,200

I don't understand how putting a sling around the tree for a belay anchor will damage it unless you are weighting the sling.  Sure, if you top rope off the anchor or belay directly through the anchor that would weight it, but why do that?  Maybe as other's have said upthread this is a lowest common denominator problem(aren't they all?), but with some respectful behavior you can still use the tree as an anchor and not damage it.  And then there is the gear option as well.

Mike Soucy · · Longmont, CO · Joined May 2006 · Points: 81

Since many folks up there are belaying directly off the anchor's master point, there is likely more weighting, hanging, etc. off that tree in recent years. It's located right on the edge where you have to weight it if belaying directly off of it.
I've been using that belay ledge for quite a while, and it seems as though the visible wear has accelerated in the last 5-7 years or so. Thanks to the OP for bringing this up, it's an interesting conversation. Given its height, we won't have people top roping the first pitch to worry about. And it could speed up the flow of traffic.
On a slightly related note, I've seen several old timers up there climbing the First with essentially no belay anchors at all, other than a strong seated brace or terrain belay. Not recommended for all, but could certainly speed things up and decrease our impact!

Greg Miller · · Westminster, CO · Joined Jul 2012 · Points: 30

Thought about it a little more. It is pretty hard to belay from there, even without anchoring on the tree, to either not put a foot on the tree to brace or to not have the rope running over the tree. Yes, an unweighted rope or lightly braced foot isn't going to do that much damage one time, but it's rare that a party doesn't at least do one of those, even if they don't anchor directly on it, and the 1st does see a LOT of traffic. That said, bolt placement to not have the rope running over the poor tree anyway is going to be an interesting problem.

Ryan Marsters · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jan 2011 · Points: 1,116

The tree is getting worked. It's probably too late to save it. Drill, baby, drill.

Robert Hall · · North Conway, NH · Joined Aug 2013 · Points: 17,137

The Gunks started doing this ( 10-15??) years ago and it has made a significant difference to the trees growing on the cliff. (Jeremy, maybe the Mohonk Preserve climbers who add/replace bolts have some hard data on this you can quote in the application. I'd contact Russ Clune.)  Up in the "still anti-bolt" Adirondacks on the Beer Wall's far end the trees are now dead or dying 20-30 feet back from the edge... at CT's Ragged Mtn. it's more like 50-60 ft back, although here even 40-50 years ago the tree line was 20-25 ft back from the cliff due to natural growth patterns, and some of the deforestation may be due to a major hiking trail crossing over the top of the cliff. (Yes, Virginia, often hikers have to step over top-rope slings that run back from the cliff edge 50 ft to the trees. )    

I think it's very reasonable to conclude that anchor bolts save trees.

Harumpfster Boondoggle · · Between yesterday and today. · Joined Apr 2018 · Points: 148

There is no question that properly positioned anchor bolts save trees.

If the route is popular enough people standing on trees, slinging them and (not inconsequential at all) disturbing the soil around the tree harm it.

These cliff side dwellers have tiny reservoirs of soil to hold needed moisture and the top most layers prevent deeper drying than otherwise positively affecting drought resistance. Virtually every tree that is used for an anchor or found on a climb starts losing soil and bark from hands and feet using it as a hold or ledge climbing past it. All of which shortens its life.

Properly placed bolts on another stance to eliminate continual standing on the tree or using it as an anchor/rope rubbing on it will greatly enhance its well being.

Tan B · · Lakewood, CO · Joined Jul 2017 · Points: 20
Greg Miller wrote: Thought about it a little more. It is pretty hard to belay from there, even without anchoring on the tree, to either not put a foot on the tree to brace or to not have the rope running over the tree. Yes, an unweighted rope or lightly braced foot isn't going to do that much damage one time, but it's rare that a party doesn't at least do one of those, even if they don't anchor directly on it, and the 1st does see a LOT of traffic. That said, bolt placement to not have the rope running over the poor tree anyway is going to be an interesting problem.

Exactly. There isn’t even a good place to sit and last time I went up, I just weighted against it.

Tony B · · Around Boulder, CO · Joined Jan 2001 · Points: 23,322
Harumpfster Boondoggle wrote: 
Properly placed bolts on another stance to eliminate continual standing on the tree or using it as an anchor/rope rubbing on it will greatly enhance its well being.

Which would most probably look like a directional out to the right to keep the rope off of it.
But again, we're presuming people use it correctly.
And keep that in mind that the people we are presently speaking of are loading an anchor around a tree on a 5.6 when there is gear available, so...

Long Ranger · · Boulder, CO · Joined Jan 2014 · Points: 316

I'd be for adding bolts - just write on the bolts, "P1 anchor (don't use the tree)" and people will get the idea ala the directions on the Third/Friday's Folly rap bolts.

Mark Rolofson · · Boulder, CO · Joined Jul 2010 · Points: 575

Lots of bolt anchors have added in Eldorado, especially on the West Ridge.  Many of climbs originally had a tree anchor.   I think putting anchor bolts on a popular route is a great idea, especially if it saves a tree.  Does it change the character of the climb? It doesn't effect the run-out nature of the route.  If anything it improves the climb.  Put it in the best spot to avoid standing right next to the tree.  Up 12 ft. may be good.  Can't say for sure, because I haven't been up there since 1986.

Tan B · · Lakewood, CO · Joined Jul 2017 · Points: 20
Mark Rolofson wrote: Lots of bolt anchors have added in Eldorado, especially on the West Ridge.  Many of climbs originally had a tree anchor.   I think putting anchor bolts on a popular route is a great idea, especially if it saves a tree.  Does it change the character of the climb? It doesn't effect the run-out nature of the route.  If anything it improves the climb.  Put it in the best spot to avoid standing right next to the tree.  Up 12 ft. may be good.  Can't say for sure, because I haven't been up there since 1986.
Verschneidung Dihedral is a good example of this.
Todd the Tangler · · Golden, CO · Joined May 2014 · Points: 50

I'll throw in a vote in favor. Luckily the anchors will be high enough it shouldn't turn the first pitch of the first into the first pitch of the Bastille...

Phil Lauffen · · Innsbruck, AT · Joined Jun 2008 · Points: 2,942

Seems like a worthy candidate. Save the trees!

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

Colorado
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