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Rock Climbing : News : Ascents : Doug Robinson and Sean Jones Put Up New Line on S Face of Half Dome

Doug Robinson and Sean Jones Put Up New Line on S Face of Half Dome

Submitted by roninthorne on 2008-04-14 | Last Modified on 2008-05-22

Rating: 12345   Go Login to rate this article.   Vote: 1 | Comments: 6 | Views: 4528

by Michael Gray

While this line actually went up about eight months ago, the ascent was only recently reported in the "mainstream" climbing media. Rock and Ice puiblished Doug Robinson's account of the ascent in the article "The Better Half" ( a couple of weeks back. For those of you who, like myself, don't subscribe and rarely buy climbing magazines, and in an effort to forestall complaints that doesn't report on climbing news of any importance, I decided to post at least a few details, as well as a link to discussions on Supertopo, which in and of themselves are groundbreaking enough in the scope to have earned a story all their own on R&I online.

To save you the time of paging through all the assorted posts or going out to hunt for the mag, here's a bare-bones sketch of the tale: the route was bolted ground up trad style for its first half, with 10mm, two bolt anchors drilled from stances at belays. The upper half seemed promising, following a line of vert rib/dikes, but the ascent party decided to pre-inspect on a 900-foot single-line rap, just to be sure, breaking with a long tradition of no pre-inspection to bolting on Half Dome. Their descent revealed that the features ran out after 500 feet, and thus the line changed direction, with the FA party opting for safety over adventure, veering off to follow a "counter-intuitive" direction and rap-bolting the top sections.

More than a few of the climbing community's prominent members were unimpressed and, in some cases, outraged. Scott Cosgrove started a thread in open disbelief on Supertopo (linked above), where Werner Braun, John Bachar, John Long, Kurt Smith, and more than a few others weighed in with less than enthusiastic responses to the methods used. Supporters encouraged calm and compared the new line and controversy to Royal Robbins and the Dawn Wall (ancient history to most climbers on this site, but an important precedent/parallel, to be sure).

At this time, the line awaits a second ascent.


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I love the phrase "opting for safety over adventure" because that's exactly what happened. When you take the adventure out of climbing, especially on first ascents, then it is no longer climbing.

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I should add that since it is not clear that the route has been led from the ground in one single push that the route probably awaits it's true first ascent.

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"When you take the adventure out of climbing, especially on first ascents, then it is no longer climbing."

So toproping a problem, whether within your skills range or far beyond it, isn't climbing? Clipping a safely-bolted line for the pure fun of it isn't climbing? Placing perfect gear in an easy line isn't climbing? Bouldering over a crash pad, or with a spotter, isn't climbing?

Sorrry... bzzzzzt! Wrong. Let's hold the hypebole to a minimum, here, shall we? More than enough of that over in the Supertopo thread I finally gave up on at about post #334 or so. It may no longer fall within your code of ethics, Bruce, but it's still climbing. You're using hands and feet (or aid, or whatever) to ascend. That, at least in my own rather limited experience, is climbing. Pretty sure 99.9% of the climbers in the world, as well as those kibbitzers over at the Merriam-Webster's Dictionary site, would agree with me.

And since it isn't clear that it has been led in a single push, it isn't clear that it hasn't either, hmmmm?
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A magazine article published a few months after the ascent is argued about a few months later on another site, and nearly a year after the FA...
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"And since it isn't clear that it has been led in a single push, it isn't clear that it hasn't either, hmmmm?"

This is no longer "unclear" It's confirmed that it hasn't seen an ascent yet.
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Wow, I really don't miss climbing in the states much. Here we have a pieceof rock that has been seating over Yosemite Valley for ever and a day. A couple of climbers take initiative and put up a route. To make the route fun, they double check to make it will go and climbers condem them for it.

Funny, the route is hard enough that I doubt it will see a second ascent anytime soon anyways. Who knows, I might swing by and climb it just to see if it's good or not. Sounds like a nice line with minimal aid to me.

Once the bolts are placed, the way they were placed is irrelevant. I have put up numerous routes in Asia from the ground up on gear or bolting on lead only to come back later and rap bolt the line to make it a great route instead of a testament to my courage.

In many cases, I was terrified on the first ascent and only finished the elad because of the do or die nature of the line. I see nothing wrong with a first ascent person, placing the bolts anyway he or she sees fit.

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