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mother_sheep


Mar 31, 2003, 7:08 AM
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"French Free"
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Since my climbing ability is not quite where I wish it was, I had to French Free the 5.11 pitch on Touchstone last week. Whether this technique is considered ethical or not, it got me up a section that was out of my league. Now that I've done it, I'd like to know where the term French Free comes from.


dekenstructor1


Mar 31, 2003, 7:16 AM
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isn't the term now "freedom free" as per congressional mandate

(j/k)


roughster


Mar 31, 2003, 7:20 AM
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Back when the French embraced bolting and sport climbing, we were still stuck in the Yo Yo / Hang Dogging is bad era. The French focused on dialing a route at any cost, which included grabbing quick draws when necessary while "working" a route.

It was a jab at the French and their ethics to call grabbing quick draws "French Free" because we were saying their ethics were so bad, that even if a french climber grabbed a quick draw on a RP attempt, they would still say it went "free". Whether or not the French actually claimed true RPs when people grabbed the draws, I don't believe was ever proven true.

Of course we have now progressed to the point that grabbing draws is a common occurance at every sport crag in the US on a daily basis while people are working routes. While the silly nature of the term is long since gone, the descriptive term "French Free" for grabbing draws and using them to get up routes has still stuck.


epic_ed


Mar 31, 2003, 9:02 AM
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And seeing how it is genreally an insult to the French about their ethics, the term "French Free" remains very appropriate. In fact we may just want to call it "French French Free."

(Apologies to Thomas, as the above is at least somewhat tounge-in-cheek).


tradlad


Mar 31, 2003, 9:28 AM
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You know, the above post by Roughster is one of the worst I've ever seen in terms of historical mis-information. "French Free" has nothing at all to do with the emergence of hangdogging and Sport Climbing in France, but arose long before the sport-climbing era (back in the 50s/early 60s, or perhaps earlier), when in many parts of Europe (especially France, and especially the Alps) free-climbing simply meant climbing without the use of aiders, and therefore included grabbing the gear for upward progress. American climbers on the other hand did make the free/aid distinction between not using the rope or gear at all for upward progress, and grabbing gear (although it was still murky, as with Ament's FFA's of Vertigo and Supremacy in Eldo), so the European/French method became known as "French-Free". Although I'm not sure who actually started using the term first, or widely.

And Roughster, "yo-yoing", which is a very distinct style from "hangdogging" was widely accepted in the United States during the time of which you speak.

Chad


dingus


Mar 31, 2003, 9:54 AM
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In reply to:
"French Free" has nothing at all to do with the emergence of hangdogging and Sport Climbing in France, but arose long before the sport-climbing era (back in the 50s/early 60s, or perhaps earlier), when in many parts of Europe (especially France, and especially the Alps) free-climbing simply meant climbing without the use of aiders, and therefore included grabbing the gear for upward progress.

Do you have any references you can point me to on this? I mean actual written usages of the term French Free in the context of which you speak. I'd like to better understand the historical context.

The emergence of french free in the sport climbing context, while not dimishing earlier claims on the origins of the term, is correct too, isn't it? We can quibble over when and where, but the current use of the term seems to come from the rise of sport climbing.

In reply to:
"yo-yoing", which is a very distinct style from "hangdogging" was widely accepted in the United States during the time of which you speak.

Yo-yoing "widely" accetped? I don't think so! At least, no more than any other of the ethical slides that began in those days and led directly to sport climbing. Yo-yoing was just one of many small steps on the slippery slope to today's multi-dimensional ethical landscape. Distinct from hang dogging, yes, but certainly from the same Family of Compromise!

At least in the rock climbing that I grew up in, yo-yoing was only widely accepted by those doing it! (and most of those people heartily sport climb now... french free and all!).

DMT


andy_lemon


Mar 31, 2003, 10:01 AM
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Tracy...

In reply to:
Whether this technique is considered ethical or not

Hence the name, its ethical to the French. :lol:


mother_sheep


Mar 31, 2003, 10:09 AM
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Maybe I'm wrong by calling it French Free. I was referring to pulling on active protection, not bolts or pins. I'd clean a lower cam and then place it higher and then pull until I could reach the next piece.


wonderbread


Mar 31, 2003, 10:17 AM
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I think what you are describing is still french freeing Tracy, regardless of what type of gear you're pulling on. French Free is pulling on gear to make upward progress without pulling out the aiders, which would be full aiding. Just a little note also, french freeing has nothing to do with ethics, but instead it has to do with style. Ethics are what you do to the rock, while style is what you do on the rock.


rockprodigy


Mar 31, 2003, 10:41 AM
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Here we go again...people spouting off OPINIONS, rather than fact.

Roughster is wrong, Tradlad is right.

The reference is an article that Yvon Couinard wrote for the American Alpine Journal back in the 60's or 70's. It's reprinted in a Yosemite book I have at home (I'm not exactly sure of the book, but I think it's "The Vertical World of Yosemite" by Galen Rowell--old black and white book, any help?). The subject of the article is the advance in technical rock climbing skills by Californians where he makes the case that they are the best climbers in the world, noting that what europeans consider "free-climbing" is in fact aid climbing. I'm not sure if this article is the first time the term "french free" is used, but he does use the term and it definitely pre-dates the sport climbing era.


jt512


Mar 31, 2003, 10:54 AM
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Tracy, I always thought "French freeing" was pulling on any gear; ie, A0, aiding without stepping in aiders. BTW, I think the first 5.11 pitch of Touchstone is usually rated "5.11 or C1," so if you did it French free (C0) you are in the stylistic ballpark. IMO, you want to be solid on 5.11 before you try to free that pitch. I had what appeared to be an ideally placed red Alien blow out on that pitch.

-Jay


dingus


Mar 31, 2003, 10:59 AM
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In reply to:
Here we go again...people spouting off OPINIONS, rather than fact.

Roughster is wrong, Tradlad is right.

The reference is an article that Yvon Couinard wrote for the American Alpine Journal back in the 60's or 70's. It's reprinted in a Yosemite book I have at home (I'm not exactly sure of the book, but I think it's "The Vertical World of Yosemite" by Galen Rowell--old black and white book, any help?). The subject of the article is the advance in technical rock climbing skills by Californians where he makes the case that they are the best climbers in the world, noting that what europeans consider "free-climbing" is in fact aid climbing.

With respect to the opinions and underlying facts...

I happen to have the referenced article in front of me as I type this... it's called Modern Yosemite Climbing and was written for the AAJ when I was but 3 years old (1963)!

Anyway, there is no reference to "french free" in that article. THAT is a FACT. Which is why I asked for references. I don't doubt the deep origins of the term, but I remain skeptical that the exact term saw anything resembling wide use until the sport climbing era. Seeing the term employed in climbing literature is a sure indicator. So the request for references remains.

What Chouinard does say is: "In the Alps climbing is not called artificial until a stirrup is used. Free climbing in California means that artificial aid of any sort is not used, whether it be a sling around a knob of rock, a piton for a handhold, foothold or to rest on. After a piton is placed for afety, it may not be used for ain in climbing without changing the classification of the climb."

Of the many other interesting things Chouinard had to say, then in his youth, about Yosemite, this one in particular gives me chuckles. Speaking to the overall Yosemite climbing experience:

" The climbing as a whole is not very esthetic or enjoyable; it is merely difficult."

DMT


roughster


Mar 31, 2003, 3:35 PM
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I am not above being wrong, however I will stand by the idea that the modern use of "French Free" is used within the context of my post above.

It very well could have roots preceding the situation I describe, but the term as its used today stems from the sport climbing ethics the French developed well before we Americans did.


jt512


Mar 31, 2003, 3:55 PM
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In reply to:
Of the many other interesting things Chouinard had to say, then in his youth, about Yosemite, this one in particular gives me chuckles. Speaking to the overall Yosemite climbing experience:

" The climbing as a whole is not very esthetic or enjoyable..."

Compared to where, Stoney Point? What was he thinking?

-Jay


tradlad


Mar 31, 2003, 7:31 PM
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I don't have the time to try and track down a bunch of references and I doubt that many exist. I do know what I've read in a number of different places. I would'nt expect a slang, potentially derogatory sounding term to appear in much of the climbing lit (at least American) of the time, which was focused on the 'great heights' that Americans were attaining.

The first poster wanted to know where the term comes from, and it is simply incorrect to says that it comes from the French Sport-Climbing revolution, whether or not that brought the term into wide usage. What I find odd is that whenever I hear people use this term, they are invariable using it to describe a 'trad' pitch that was too hard for them, often on a long route where speed or fatigue was an important consideration. I don't know that I've ever hear people use this term when talking about Sport-Climbing (and despite my username, I have a lot of friends who nearly exclusively climbs sport--I climb it myself somtimes). In this sense the term is certainly consistent with its origin, refering mainly to long routes in the Alps of the 40s, 50s, etc. I think the French actally had a word for this themselves, translating into something like "nail pull".

So anyways, I'd have to disagree that it's current use stems from the rise of Sport-Climbing in France (or elsewhere), and of sport ethics.

As far as yo-yoing...I think it was fairly widely accepted, at least among the elite of the sport, in the 1970s--long before hangdogging became accepted. Kauk, Bachar, Steve Wuncsh especially (e.g. Supercrack in the Gunks, etc.), even Jim Erickson, the "purest" of all--Erickson and Ferguson, on their famous FFA of the Naked Edge in '71 used yo-yoing to free at least the 4th pitch, if not more. References to these are many (see the new edition of Climb!, for some--in fact I think Jeff Achey the author explicitly states and discusses how yo-yoing was an acceptable style in attempts to free routes--if you really want the exact page I suppose I could drudge it up). The 'elite' OTOH only began to practice 'dogging in the late 70s, and it certainly was not widely accepted at all until sometime probably in the early 80s.

Chad


roughster


Mar 31, 2003, 9:34 PM
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You know, the above post by Roughster is one of the worst I've ever seen in terms of historical mis-information. "French Free" has nothing at all to do with the emergence of hangdogging and Sport Climbing in France

and then

I don't have the time to try and track down a bunch of references and I doubt that many exist. I do know what I've read in a number of different places.

Seems kind of harsh from someone who can't or doesn't want to come up with any justification for the stance. I am not saying I account for the origin, but the term became wide spread because of the sport climbing revolution. If you want to speak in such a definitive and derogatory manner maybe you should back it up with something more than, I think I read it somewhere...

To say that French Free is only used to describe Trad pitches is more grossly mis-information than anything I said above.

If your going to try and be the resident expert, at least try to bring some proof to the table instead of just critiquing others.


duskerhu


Apr 1, 2003, 12:24 AM
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Hmmm, I thought roughster's explanation was relatively well put. Maybe he doesn't have all the actual facts 100% complete, but he does have the general idea correct.

In reply to:
I don't have the time to try and track down a bunch of references and I doubt that many exist. I do know what I've read in a number of different places. I would'nt expect a slang, potentially derogatory sounding term to appear in much of the climbing lit (at least American) of the time, which was focused on the 'great heights' that Americans were attaining.

Seams ironic that you "know what [you've] read in a number of different places" but as far as references, "[you] doubt that many exist."

Strange that you've read it in so many places and doubt that many references exist, all in the same thought. :lol:

duskerhu


fishypete


Apr 1, 2003, 1:03 AM
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I too can distinctly remember descriptions saying that "French free" was originally used to describe the European (alps) convention, in which pulling on pieces, without using aiders, was still called free climbing.

Thus the origins of this term were certainly back in the 50's/60's. Of course todays usage has developed quite a bit from its original beginnings.

Whilst I cant say for sure where I saw the original references, if I was going to spend the time, I would start in "Camp 4" by Roper, where the article might be referenced (as I think this topic is discussed in there somewhere).

Cheers

Fishy.

EDIT: I didn’t have much time, but I quickly looked in Camp 4 by Roper.

On page 167 Roper discusses the Chouinard article “Modern Yosemite Climbing” that appeared in the 1963 AAJ (as referenced by Dingus earlier in this thread).

Roper describes Chouinard as the first to write about the “Valley climber’s definition of free climbing” and cites the article:

“[It] means that artificial aid of any sort is not used…”

Roper goes on to say:

“[Chouinard] was referring to the Continental (not British) habit of hanging onto pitons, or stepping on them, and calling this “free”….In other words, a French climber, for example, might hang onto a carabiner at a tough spot and still call the route “free” ”.

Roper doesn’t use the exact terminology “French-free” at any point, but does use the French as an example of this “Continental” habit, which seems to me to indicate that the association had been made.

You can all draw your own conclusions, as this doesn’t definitively answer the question at hand; when was the term "French-free" first used.

It appears to me that the concept started in the 50's/60's in an aid setting, and then evolved to todays use with the increase in sport climbing.

It also seems logical that sport climbers in Continental Europe in the 70's would have adopted the existing definition of free climbing in their area at the time, which had been established for some time and didn't exclude pulling or standing on pitons.

Cant we ask some people with experience in the 60's scene? jgill? Marcel?


tradlad


Apr 2, 2003, 11:30 AM
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Roughster: the original question was "where does the term French Free come from?", not "how did the the term become widely popular" (and I have my doubts if your explanation for that is correct-it isn't as though you've given us and "references", but whatever). So I called that gross historical mis-information. Maybe I was being too harsh. I'm not the resident expert, but there are quite a few others who've apparently read some of the same sources I have.

I did not say that "French Free" is only used to describe trad pitches. I said that in my experience, it has nearly always been used in the context of trad. No mis-information there whatsoever: I'm not lying about what I've experienced. I would be interested to hear the contexts of how others have used or heard this term used, especially people who were climbing back in the 60s.


duskerhu: Not sure what to say to your post, except that "number of different places" does not at all equal "many". For example, I've read many climbing magazines over the years, which is probably where I enountered most of the references I'm thinking of. Of course, I don't remember which magazines I may have read these references in, and more to the point, I don't have access to most of the magazines I've read. I believe i've enountered the term elsewhere as well but it certainly doesn't occur often in climbing lit, and that includes modern day climbing lit (even though the term is fairly widely used today).

To your first comment, I would say that Roughster doesn't have the general idea correct at all, because the question was "where does the term come from". Now, if indeed the rise of sport climbing, starting in France was what popularized this term (which myself I tend to doubt, but I'm not sure), then that is certainly something interesting to add, but to say that same context is the origin of the term is completely inaccurate.

Chad


roughster


Apr 2, 2003, 1:50 PM
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In reply to:
Roughster: the original question was "where does the term French Free come from?", not "how did the the term become widely popular" (and I have my doubts if your explanation for that is correct-it isn't as though you've given us and "references", but whatever). So I called that gross historical mis-information. Maybe I was being too harsh. I'm not the resident expert, but there are quite a few others who've apparently read some of the same sources I have.

I did not say that "French Free" is only used to describe trad pitches. I said that in my experience, it has nearly always been used in the context of trad. No mis-information there whatsoever: I'm not lying about what I've experienced. I would be interested to hear the contexts of how others have used or heard this term used, especially people who were climbing back in the 60s.

To your first comment, I would say that Roughster doesn't have the general idea correct at all, because the question was "where does the term come from". Now, if indeed the rise of sport climbing, starting in France was what popularized this term (which myself I tend to doubt, but I'm not sure), then that is certainly something interesting to add, but to say that same context is the origin of the term is completely inaccurate.

Chad

Your experiences are "not lying", while mine are "gross mis-information" strange :?: :?: :?:

As for references, well I have also read it in magazines (road trip favorite past time is local libraries with Climbing/Rock and Ice collections) but there are others.

Are you familiar with Tuan? If not, click here:

http://www.terragalleria.com/...fo/perso/ethics.html

Specifically notice:

In reply to:
|> French-freeing a route is when you pull on every thing you can get your hands
|> on (especially your pro) to get up a section. It's a step below tradition
|> aid climbing, because you aren't standing in adiers. However, you've given
|> up on climbing the rock and are now climbing on your gear. I guess it's called
|> French-freeing by Americans because we already consider them to be a bunch of
|> unethical climbers who chip holds, bolt every 4-5 feet, and bathe seasonally.
|> :-) (Note: If any French climbers out there take offence, go ahead, I don't
|> really care).

and later in the same page:

In reply to:
Now I realize that this expression has a historical relevance. Free climbing, as we know it now, was mostly inspired by american climbers, and in particular climbers from the Valley (although there was incredibly high level free climbing in parts of Europe such as Eastern Germany, and maybe UK). Before the 70's, using the (in-site) pitons to climb was a widely accepted practice not only in the Alps, but also at the crags. So yes, "french free" was the standard way to climb in the past. Things have of course changed, and at the crag, it is no longer the case, especially since bolting has eliminated the risk of falling. However, I still think that french free is a good technique in the mountains, and whenever I meet a piton on a long route up high, not only I will pull on it, but unless I have stood on it as well, I would not considered that I have made a good enough use of it.

As you can see from both commentaries, it has links to "ethics" (the premise of my original post) as well as links to cragging and alpine routes.

You were saying......


cloudbreak


Apr 2, 2003, 1:56 PM
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Nicely said Aaron!!! :D


tradlad


Apr 2, 2003, 7:45 PM
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Aaron I must say I think you're completely missing my basic point. I'm not saying that you are wrong in stating that the French Sport climbing revolution popularized the term "french-free" (although, as I said, I have my doubts, but I don't know the truth of it). However, in your first reply to this thread, you answered as though that was where the term originated. But, that simply isn't true, so that constitutes mis-information. My saying that I'm "not lying" was specifically in reference to a different issue (or sub-issue, I suppose)--the context that I've heard the term used in today. I haven't given any mis-informatyion in this thread. I've simply stated where the term came from, spoken about my personal experiences, and expressed my doubts as to whether the term was truly popularized by the French Revolution. Ahem, make that the French *Sport-Climbing* Revolution. As I said, I spoke too harshly in my intial response to your post, but I still stand by my basic points.

I don't know why you quoted Tuan's site...I have purposefully not drawn in any internet refernces into this, although I've certainly read various passages that supported my claims here and there (yes, I searched Google and rec.climbing). Hell, the guy even says that "french-free" was the standard way to climb in the (pre-70s) past (in Europe), so if anything he supports my claims just as much as yours. In you first quote from that site, it's clear that he doesn't know where the term comes from, but is just making an educated guess.

Internet refs can be pretty fickle...consider now that anyone having this argument elsewhere (heaven forbid) could now search the net and quote either of us to back whatever side they're arguing up.

Chad


climbhigher


Apr 3, 2003, 6:41 PM
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Hey Tracy, That 5.11 section is extremly stout and Continous. Most people full on aid it. Did you and your partner free the next 5.10 pitch??? As for where the term "French Free" came from, I really don't know????


mother_sheep


Apr 4, 2003, 8:03 AM
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climbhigher, yep my partner freed both pitches. I was pretty impressed to say the least.


climbhigher


Apr 4, 2003, 10:43 AM
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Kick ass!!!! Did you guys sleep on the ledge or do it in a day??? Did you two fix any pitches???? When My partner and I did it, We did mostly aiding up to the ledge where most people bivi and then free climbed the rest. The cool thing was we managed to do the whole route in 5hrs without fixing. Would love to go back and free those bottom pitches since i believe i am a better free climber now. CHEERS, Chris.

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