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chuffer


Jun 4, 2005, 1:01 AM
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A thought about ethics
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I’d like to discuss some ethical issues that I see as a growing problem in the climbing community. I’m not talking about bolting, retro-bolting, trad vs. sport, or any of the other controversial topics being discussed so actively and angrily here and elsewhere. No, I’m talking about some simpler, low-key things - the ethical base, so to speak.

“Lowering from fixed gear,” I recently explained to a friend “is like walking into a sparkling clean house and failing to remove your shoes in the foyer. It’s disrespectful to the person that spent so much of their time making the house look that way. The same applies to climbing. By choosing to rappel from the top of a route, rather than lower, I am doing my best to respect the person that donated his time and financial resources to put the gear there in the first place. Not to mention helping to preserve that gear for many future parties.” This was the conversation I had with a friend of mine while spending a day at the local crag. This friend is a very strong and experienced sport climber who routinely on sights routes up to 5.12c. I was baffled that in four years of hard climbing outdoors my friend had never heard that it was impolite to lower from fixed gear. “I guess it makes sense,” he responded. I think that this story points to a larger and growing issue about a lack of baseline ethics among the young generation of climbers.

The climbing gym, I believe, has brought a new breed into our community. In the past it was a love of the outdoors that drew many of us to the cliffs. We wanted to be outside and climbing along with hiking, backpacking, etc was just another excuse. With the advent of the climbing gym, however, people that have no love of the outdoors are drawn to the sport for its power and gymnastic movement. They don’t necessarily want to be outside; they just want to be on the rock. This new generation might argue for hours about chipping and gluing holds, bolt spacing, or other issues they see as concerning the preservation of the rock. They don’t give a moments thought, however, to preserving the land around the cliff. The trails get wider by the week and new side trails around mud puddles or other “obstacles” spring up everywhere. Whole sections of the cliff base are completely trampled and devoid of vegetation in some of the more popular areas. Large steaming piles of Charmin covered pooh-pooh lay just off of the trail, the donor having made no effort to conceal his masterpiece. Boom boxes do not belong at the crags and your beer can will not burn up in the campground fire pit.

Truthfully I think it’s the land ethics, not climbing ethics that are potentially the most dangerous to the climbing community. When someone who does not climb is hiking around a crag they may or may not notice bolts. Let’s be honest – they’re not that apparent unless your looking for them. They will, however, notice all of the damage at the base of the cliff. They will notice the litter and pooh-pooh. They will see that we are not being good stewards of the land, and we have no problem completely destroying an area for nothing more than our own personal joy. Pretty soon they might begin to wonder why climbers should have a right to be there at all.

It’s just a thought.

Jeremy


drfelatio


Jun 4, 2005, 2:55 AM
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I couldn't agree with you more. Well put.

Lowering from fixed anchors is not only irresponsible and rude, it could also be potentially dangerous...in the long run. The anchors may not be hurt by the few times you lower off from them, but if hundreds of people do it over and over again you run into potential problems. A friend of mine likes to address this problem by saying, "They're called rap rings cause you rap from them. If you were supposed to lower off of them they would be called lowering off rings." Simple, easy to understand concepts here people. I guess the real problem is people are lazy and complacent. All the problems you mentioned--pooh on the trail, cans in the fire, lowering off fixed anchors, trash at the base of the cliff, etc.--all that is because people are too lazy to do things the way they were meant to be done.


Partner angry


Jun 4, 2005, 7:35 AM
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My favorite crag is shared by Wyo-Tech students (huhu, lets go muddin') and redneck who (I'm not kidding) like to shoot rocks. Then there are the endless church groups and high school partyers. Some (very few though) of the members of these previously mentioned groups climb, they are the voice by which we are heard. It's scary.

The forest service does not have the money to fix the damage caused by these assholes. They do however have the resources to put a "road closed" sign up. A few minutes of my life spent walking and I'm further from the engines, guns, and kids. It's a fair trade.

Even with that, climbers probably collect and carry out in excess of a ton of trash every year. Mostly broken glass but cans, bed frames, furniture, washer/dryers, bullet casings, an old Datsun, and about anything else you can think of. Yet we are still the heavy users of the land?

I'm 26 years old, I plan to be able to climb long into the future. I'm not sure that the younger generation (of which I am a part of, sadly) has these same plans. I follow a set of rules, very strict, yet I've had no trouble following them.

1) Only set up a tent when absolutely neccesary, sleeping in your vehicle is simpler and leaves no new footprint.
2) Use a stove to cook, build a fire infrequently and never do it if you have to create a new ring.
3) Frisbee's should stay on the road (I struggle with this, I need to take up hacky sack I think)
4) Carry everything out, find more if you can
5) Either drive straight through puddles or stop and walk.
6) The occasional scream is OK, constant yelling back and forth, divorce court climbing, screaming in fear, and Mountain Dew screaming is all totally intrusive and unacceptable.
7) I don't smoke, if my partners do I insist they pack out their butts, if they don't, I won't climb with them again.
8) Do a good deed. This one sucks but sometimes the best thing you can do is pull those rednecks out of the snowdrift. It's painful and I want to see them rot, but it looks good on us.
9) If you must use chalk, make at least a half hearted effort to brush it off the rock. This is the most noticeable form of litter a climber (sport or trad) can leave.

I'm not saying you have to do all this, and of course there are always exceptions, the underlying tone is to lower impact (even from others) and respect.


soil_gringo


Jun 4, 2005, 7:57 AM
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“Lowering from fixed gear,” I recently explained to a friend “is like walking into a sparkling clean house and failing to remove your shoes in the foyer. It’s disrespectful to the person that spent so much of their time making the house look that way. The same applies to climbing. By choosing to rappel from the top of a route, rather than lower, I am doing my best to respect the person that donated his time and financial resources to put the gear there in the first place. Not to mention helping to preserve that gear for many future parties.”

This is not a question of ethics, but of knowledge. It's not just common sense to think about such a detail. The overwhelming majority of people who lower and toprope through fixed anchor chains/rings are doing so because they don't know any better. You illucidate that point quite well in the next quote:

In reply to:
I was baffled that in four years of hard climbing outdoors my friend had never heard that it was impolite to lower from fixed gear. “I guess it makes sense,” he responded.

Bingo. It's your fault, not your friend's. Shame on you (and me) - for not effectively propagating this knowledge to your friend and any other newcomers to your crag. Plus, I wouldn't call it "impolite", but improper.

In reply to:
I think that this story points to a larger and growing issue about a lack of baseline ethics among the young generation of climbers.

Wrong. I think the "problem" you refer to in your rant stems from experienced climbers "in the know" that aren't taking enough initiative/action to inform newbies of proper procedure, behavior, and the importance of environmental stewardship.

I've seen countless incidents where "experienced" climbers would rather rant and scoff at parties who are somehow involved in improper behavior/procedure - than attempt to correct it by letting these folks know that what they are doing is improper. This attitude really burns me. Take a few minutes of your time and share your experience and knowledge with the less informed... waaaaay more productive for you and them.

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The trails get wider by the week and new side trails around mud puddles or other “obstacles” spring up everywhere. Whole sections of the cliff base are completely trampled and devoid of vegetation in some of the more popular areas. Large steaming piles of Charmin covered pooh-pooh lay just off of the trail, the donor having made no effort to conceal his masterpiece. Boom boxes do not belong at the crags and your beer can will not burn up in the campground fire pit.

Right, dude. It's up to you, and others to correct this...

Hook up with some experienced bolters. Install fixed anchors (with route author permission in all practical cases) on as many climbs as possible to minimize clifftop impact. Take a day and do some trail work (with the proper permission from any land management agency or land owner). Make an effort to consult with land management about possibly installing a latrine facility. Even just a porta-potty can help. Carry a bag with you and police the crag for garbage. You may not be able to make a huge difference in a few incidents of doing this, but you are setting an example which others _will_ take note of - and some will follow.

In reply to:
Truthfully I think it’s the land ethics, not climbing ethics that are potentially the most dangerous to the climbing community.

And I think it's childish attitudes such as those displayed by your post that pose a real danger to the climbing community. Be an adult. Approach parties that are engaging in improper or abrasive (like loud boomboxes) behaviors and give them the knowledge they need to make an informed decisions about their actions. You may make a friend or two, or possibly save someone from a future injury or bad situation.

I agree that a whole new breed of climbers are showing up at the crags. It's more important than ever then, that you and I make it a point to set good examples and share knowledge with these folks. They'll make sure to pass on the info to their friends. If the culture of the climbing community is important to you, I'd say it's way more productive to live it and share it than to rant about those folks that aren't.

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It’s just a thought.

Action speaks louder.


kalcario


Jun 4, 2005, 8:11 AM
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Top roping directly through the anchors is properly frowned on, but rappelling from half-rope length sport routes is generally considered by experienced climbers as an unacceptable trade off of gear preservation over safety. You'll notice John Long's "How To Sport Climb" series includes detailed diagrams on how to thread an anchor and lower off. There is simply too much more that can go wrong when rappelling vs. lowering to make rapping to preserve the anchors a viable alternative. When the anchors wear out, replace them. They're easier to fix than botched rappels/80' ground falls.


saxfiend


Jun 4, 2005, 8:37 AM
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And I think it's childish attitudes such as those displayed by your post that pose a real danger to the climbing community. Be an adult. Approach parties that are engaging in improper or abrasive (like loud boomboxes) behaviors and give them the knowledge they need to make an informed decisions about their actions. You may make a friend or two, or possibly save someone from a future injury or bad situation.
This was (for the most part) an excellent response -- I have been the beneficiary of a lot of advice and basic information about climbing from my more experienced friends. You're absolutely right that there's a lot of stuff (e.g., rapping instead of lowering) that's not intuitive.

I do think you could give OP the benefit of the doubt, however -- I wouldn't call it a "childish attitude." His heart's in the right place, and with your good advice to take action rather than rant, he can take it from there.

JL


saxfiend


Jun 4, 2005, 9:04 AM
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Top roping directly through the anchors is properly frowned on, but rappelling from half-rope length sport routes is generally considered by experienced climbers as an unacceptable trade off of gear preservation over safety.
Hmmmm . . . I know you speak from a lot more experience than me, but this is not the philosophy among the experienced people I climb with. We always rap when cleaning one-pitch sport climbs. It seems to me the real danger situation is in the transitions at the top -- from being on belay to being on personal anchor, then from personal anchor to on rap. Unless you plan on leaving gear (or have open shuts to work with), at least one of those transitions will always be in effect even if you lower.

I know that people say rappelling has the most potential for injury or death, but I don't see why it has to be. I was rappelling long before I started climbing (from my days in Ski Patrol), and I feel confident in my ability to do it safely. It's like anything else in climbing -- checking your harness, secure tie-in, belay device threaded correctly, etc. -- you have to pay attention to what you're doing and get it right every time if you want to stay alive.

JL


soil_gringo


Jun 4, 2005, 9:27 AM
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I do think you could give OP the benefit of the doubt, however -- I wouldn't call it a "childish attitude." His heart's in the right place...

You're right. I was starting to rant a bit myself. Sorry, Jeremy.

Cheers,
-Mike


asandh


Jun 4, 2005, 9:48 AM
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:)


dingus


Jun 4, 2005, 9:53 AM
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I lower directly from sport anchors far more often than rapping. Most of the newer sport routes in these parts have replaceable links intended for this purpose and the older one's with shuts and what have you are slowly being replaced.

The few routes I have set have anchors specifically intended to be lowered from.

After hundrds and hundres of rappels, including pig riding retreats from big walls, I prefer to minimize my exposure to things that can go wrong. Reworded, I hate rappelling. More frequent link replacement is a GOOD TRADE OFF.

And yes, I do anchor maintenance.

Top roping directly through the anchor is bad form though (even though many of us do it for the last member of the party from time to time).

New sport route anchors should be constructed so as to render the lower off point 'replaceable.' Whether the area style is to rap or not, the anchor will eventually need to be replaced.

One size 'base ethics' don't exist, by the way.

DMT


chuffer


Jun 4, 2005, 10:50 AM
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I guess I should've left the anchor thing for a different time. I really didn't intend for it to be the focus of the post. The real meat of the post, I think, is don't cut new trails, pick up after yourself, leave your boombox at home, and generally keep your impact at the base to a minimum.

In reply to:
This is not a question of ethics, but of knowledge. It's not just common sense to think about such a detail. The overwhelming majority of people who lower and toprope through fixed anchor chains/rings are doing so because they don't know any better.

I agree. I'm not sure why you assume that I would not discuss the issue with them. In fact, as the story shows, I will always take the time to explain why I believe there is a better way. Some people are open to hearing it, others become defensive. No matter what happens it's out there for them to think about.

In reply to:
I've seen countless incidents where "experienced" climbers would rather rant and scoff at parties who are somehow involved in improper behavior/procedure - than attempt to correct it by letting these folks know that what they are doing is improper. This attitude really burns me. Take a few minutes of your time and share your experience and knowledge with the less informed... waaaaay more productive for you and them.

Again, I'm not sure why you assume I would not let them know.

In reply to:
Carry a bag with you and police the crag for garbage. You may not be able to make a huge difference in a few incidents of doing this, but you are setting an example which others _will_ take note of - and some will follow.

I always carry out my garbage, and as much of other peoples garbage as I can. I alway clean out my firepit, and usually a few others as well. Perhaps most importantly I teach my children to do the same.

In reply to:
And I think it's childish attitudes such as those displayed by your post that pose a real danger to the climbing community. Be an adult. Approach parties that are engaging in improper or abrasive (like loud boomboxes) behaviors and give them the knowledge they need to make an informed decisions about their actions. You may make a friend or two, or possibly save someone from a future injury or bad situation.

Re-reading my post again I'm still not sure which part you feel is childish. I guess that's the danger with internet forums, or any written form of communication. The reader is free to insert their own emphasis and tone, leaving them with a much different feeling than the author may have intended. I'm not trying to rant, I'm not trying to scold anyone. I'm just trying to get people thinking about how they might act when they're at the crag (or anywhere else outdoors for that matter).

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Action speaks louder.

With all respect, you have no idea what actions I might take.

In reply to:
You're right. I was starting to rant a bit myself. Sorry, Jeremy.

No problem. Discussion is almost always healthy.

Jeremy


chuffer


Jun 4, 2005, 10:59 AM
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One size 'base ethics' don't exist, by the way.

If your talking about climbing ethics then you're right. They vary widely from area to area. If your talking about how we conduct ourselves on the trails and around the crag then I disagree.

Jeremy


dingus


Jun 4, 2005, 11:11 AM
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In reply to:
In reply to:
One size 'base ethics' don't exist, by the way.

If your talking about climbing ethics then you're right. They vary widely from area to area. If your talking about how we conduct ourselves on the trails and around the crag then I disagree.

Jeremy

Hey man, I grew up in Dickson county.
Learned to climb on the crappy limestone bluffs around Nashville. Me and Jr Bishop put up a dozen or so routes on that nightmarishly loose bluff oppositew Ashland City on the Cumberland River in the last 70's and early 80's. Suicide routes back then, wouldln't be surprised if they've fallen down, lol. Someone needs to bolt em up.
So there!

Regarding trails and such... more properly considered etiquette than ethics. And even there you'll find some variance. For example, I know some people that will verbally chastise you if you carelessly step on a plant, any plant. I know others who gang bang tghe boulders with loud boom boxes and most others at those areas are not bothered by this behavior.

Basically, we should conduct ourselves in a manner that is considerate of others and in ways to get along?

Cheers Tennessee man
DMT


soil_gringo


Jun 4, 2005, 12:24 PM
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Again, I'm not sure why you assume I would not let them know.

Re-reading my post again I'm still not sure which part you feel is childish. I guess that's the danger with internet forums, or any written form of communication. The reader is free to insert their own emphasis and tone, leaving them with a much different feeling than the author may have intended. I'm not trying to rant, I'm not trying to scold anyone. I'm just trying to get people thinking about how they might act when they're at the crag (or anywhere else outdoors for that matter).

I don't usually post on these things, certainly not to respond to something such as your original post. Your original, however, struck a chord with me and for my own reasons I used it to vent some (misplaced) steam. I apologize for my thougtless comments. I have no valid excuse.


kalcario


Jun 4, 2005, 7:45 PM
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*I know that people say rappelling has the most potential for injury or death, but I don't see why it has to be. I was rappelling long before I started climbing (from my days in Ski Patrol), and I feel confident in my ability to do it safely. It's like anything else in climbing -- checking your harness, secure tie-in, belay device threaded correctly, etc. -- you have to pay attention to what you're doing and get it right every time if you want to stay alive.*

Except that if something objective happens, like rockfall, and beans you on the noggin while rapping, and you lose consciousness and/or momentary control of the rappel, you are in a much worse situation than if you were being lowered. Using a back-up rap device, like a prusik knot, simply creates a different but equally bad situation in case of loss of consciousness while rappelling, because now you're hanging unconscious, upside down, from a prusik knot 50' or whatever off the ground- now what? A partner lowering you (using a grigri, of course, in case he/she loses control of the lower) eliminates a lot of potential for error or bad consequences from objective hazard. Note that this applies to half-rope length sport routes - getting down from multi-pitch routes will always involve rappelling as a practical matter.


saxfiend


Jun 4, 2005, 8:11 PM
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Except that if something objective happens, like rockfall, and beans you on the noggin while rapping, and you lose consciousness and/or momentary control of the rappel, you are in a much worse situation than if you were being lowered.
That's a good point. It could be remedied by a fireman's belay, but as a practical matter, I rarely ask anyone to do that for me (maybe I should!). And like you say, it's a whole other (bad) ballgame if I'm using a prusik backup. Something to consider . . .

JL


fishbelly


Jun 4, 2005, 9:00 PM
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I actually had to think about it for a moment before I realized what you meant by lowering off of anchors. I have found people top roping through anchors that were nearly sawed in two.


zoebird


Jun 5, 2005, 1:08 AM
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i can't speak to the anchors issue, because i haven't gotten that far as i've only climbed outside once--with an experienced teacher from the gym that i go to.

that being said, i love being outside. i was drawn to rock climbing for rather esoteric reasons, and had no intention of climbing outside for a while, but i do my best to be outside as much as possible in at least 3 seasons (lots of hiking, mostly). so, i suppose that i don't qualify as one of those 'gym people who make it worse' or whatever.

similarly, i'm a carry-in, carry out kind of gal. Often, i carry out far more than i ever carried in--because i do trail clean up as i hike (or in the case of my climbing outting, climb). i know how to take care of my human waste and the requisite, minimal amounts of non-bleached, bio-degradable paper. I usually only carry in raw, organic foods that--if there is waste--it is compostable which i bury as i would my human waste. All else is supporting equipment that is carry-in, carry out.

i also carry in a second bag. this is basicly a cloth bag that i made to carry trash and recyclables that i'll find on the trail. I made my first of these while hiking in africa. there's a lot of trash on the trails there--let me tell you! when i came back to the states, i was surprised to see so much trash on major trails--as i am used to walking in lesser known areas/parks/trails--fewer people means less trash. Since i tend to hike with friends and they tend to pick active park areas, i'm likely to find all kinds of trash!

When i went rock climbing last sunday, i didn't find a terrible amount, but i'm always bothered by it--cigarette butts, beer cans (2 or 3), and empty cigarette packs (4 or 5). There was also a great deal of broken glass, and i was only able to remove a little bit of it during my time there--enough to make it relatively safe to wander around barefoot--which is probably my favorite way to hike.

in any case, i think that a lot of people love to protect the outdoors and want to be responsible stewards of their recreational (sacred) spaces.

just because i go to and started in a gym doesn't mean that i don't like to be outside either.


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