Laws are like sausages. It’s best not to see them being made. The same needs to be said of new routes.
It’s often a lonely and thankless life, that is, being a developer, those tireless souls spending small fortunes on hangers and bolts and drill bits so the great unwashed—myself included—can simply arrive, park and rope-up without the slightest clue as to how the routes got there.
I’ve drilled bolts for new routes, but luckily I’ve always lived in places with a healthy amount of drill-happies. In truth, every crag should have a donation box, or canned-food drive, for its local developers. Perhaps we’d have less passive-aggressive runouts near the anchors and just one more bolt on the Friends and Family wall for your kid’s first lead. Should you want to thank your local developer, they’re typically seen warming up on your project.
Sausages are great when you’re taking them off the grill, but less romantic when your hands are bloody and the meat just isn’t filling the empty intestine casing the way the girl on the YouTube video did it. Putting up new routes can be ugly, and is one of the least understood disciplines of climbing, yet also one of the most contentious. Reason being—the ethics of new routing are vague and varied.
[Also Read Field Tested: Grivel G20 Plus]
Every five years or so, a major controversy erupts. This time, it is in Ten Sleep, a come-hither limestone area in Wyoming. The short: Consensus has it a developer was taking liberties, e.g., drilling pockets, chipping, forcing a line where it shouldn’t have been. Then, in the still of the night, 18 anonymous climbers filled in the offending pockets, removed bolts and padlocked others … I won’t be responsible for the spoiler. Ben Ramsey’s “Battle for Ten Sleep,” p. 58, will fill in the details for you.
Of course, there are myriad occasions when a climber barely leaves a trace. We still need to strive for that ideal. For such an adventure, read Calum Muskett’s “Far Out in Foula,” p. 50, about an exotic first ascent on a towering sea-cliff on the coast of Foula, Scotland, where, with fellow British tugger Dave MacLeod, Muskett must avoid not only crumbling, shit rock but vomit-spewing birds and oceanic gales … it’s all part of the “process.”
Climbing is hard enough without being dive-bombed by territorial birds, but climbing without all 10 digits takes it to a new level. Melissa Strong, an Estes Park climber and now restaurateur, recounts how she lost her fingers, not all of them, but a lot, one fateful morning while electric engraving wood for her new restaurant. The ups, downs, in-betweens—Melissa’s story is about struggle, creativity and how she found the will to keep climbing. We were proud to have Melissa join us at this year’s John Long Writing Symposium. Her “Life and Limb,” p. 44, a product of that clinic, is an inspirational read.
This issue of Rock and Ice is about ideas, trends and controversies. Author Tracy Ross outlines one evolution: the fastest people in the mountains are no longer strictly climbers, but a new breed of runner-climber. As she observes in “Speed,” p. 24, the shift didn’t happen overnight, but had been stewing for years. Denali, Aconcagua, the Matterhorn, Mont Blanc—the fastest known times are now safely in the hands of the new hybrid athlete.
Likely, you’ve heard of Kilian Jornet, the famed Spanish mountain runner, who has won, or established the course record, on mountain races around the world. But, in addition to being able to pace seven-minute miles uphill, for miles on end, he can climb 5.12, M8, WI 6. With a skill set like that, who can keep up? As it turns out, not many.