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Ethical Debate: Traversi versus Blowtorch

“Don’t blowtorch the holds!” Or at least that’s what Carlo Traversi has been hearing lately after being shown in a film using a blowtorch to dry some wet granite holds in Sweden.

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“Don’t blowtorch the holds!” Or at least that’s what Carlo Traversi has been hearing lately after being shown in a film using a blowtorch to dry some wet granite holds in Sweden.“It is definitely very interesting to me that this particular occurrence has just now turned into such a big issue,” wrote Traversi in an e-mail to Rock and Ice. “I’ve seen blowtorches used in the past, both in films and out in the world and I’ve never heard anyone condemn the use of them.”

The incident occurred on the granite boulders of Vastervick, and was made public in a Bearcam Media video (see video below).

One viewer commented beneath the video: “No one should blowtorch any rock. No matter the type it still expands and contracts under extreme heat and will eventually break. And a high profile sponsored climber should be smart enough to know this and also that by doing so he will make others think it’s ok to do so, too.”

This isn’t the first time blowtorching has been depicted in climbing media. For example, Peter Mortimer’s film First Ascent shows the crack-master Didier Berthod using a blowtorch to dry the Cobra Crack (5.14). Yet, no ethical debate ensued.

“Blowtorching Cobra Crack is an excellent example,” wrote Traversi. “I think the effect on rock is the same in that situation as it would be anywhere else. Perhaps the particular way it was filmed and the way the audience received the idea this time around was much different.”

Traversi chimed in on his blog and apologized for the incident, stating, “It is most certainly not worth damaging rock just to get an extra day of climbing.”

The post gained the attention of 8a.nu and the debate continued. Interestingly, the founder of 8a.nu, Jens Larssen, expressed his own opinion on the matter writing, “As we are talking Swedish granite and temperature it is very important to stress that a blow torch normally does not make the granite go from 0 to 100 degrees or so. In fact, the guys I have been talking to say that maybe the temperature gets to 37 degrees as a maximum but normally the temperature does not change.”

He added, “Previously I have been talking to an expert who said that he did not see any risk at all on granite based on how we used a blow torch. Nevertheless, it is of course good to spread this info so anyone who is desperate for some dry granite can use the blowtorch as smooth as possible. For other rock I do not have any experience.”

Despite the Larssen’s assurance that blowtorching granite is acceptable, others remain obstinate that blowtorching holds is a form of defacing the rock. Traversi himself has come to this conclusion.

“I’ve heard countless explanations favoring both sides,” he writes. “Regardless, moving forward, anything that could have a potentially detrimental effect on the rock should be avoided.”

What do you think? Please comment below.

Here’s the video by Bearcam Media featuring Vastervick Bouldering

Vastervik Bouldering from Bearcam Media on Vimeo.

Photo courtesy of Carlo Traversi.