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David_Parker

The origination of "trad" vs. "sport" climbers

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I think you both have pieces of it, but since humans are involved its a considerably more complicated situation. You could state that folks with a wilderness background tend to be trad climbers or that people who are introduced to the sport by gym rat friends tend to become sport climbers, but if you look around there are lots of exceptions. For example:

 

Todd Skinner, Wyoming boy with a backcountry upbringing, introduced to the sport by his Trad climbing dad, he's definitely a sport climber, but he's pushing that into an alpine arena.

 

Randy Leavit, he puts up sport climbs, but he also does damned hard routes on natural gear. Doesn't do any alpine climbing at all. What is he, aside from a better climber than most of us?

 

Jeff Lowe, a man with serious alpine and trad credentials, but what is this new fangled mixed stuff if its not cold bolt protected tool using sport climbing?

 

I'm sure you'll find similar connundrums among the less superstar population of this board. I learned trad back when there was no other way, but we were also rap bolting on small local crag in 1978. My buddy Galen and I have done a lot of alpine climbing together, but on a trip last fall to Spring Mountain in Eastern Oregon, I think the only gear we placed in 4 days of climbing was for anchors at the base. Which brings to mind a whole other question: if you place anchors at the base of a sport climb, are you really a sport climber? Anyway, for all that, I'd lump myself into the trad category, but that would probably make me the same as a Catholic who uses birth control and thinks the Pope is a little out of touch.

 

Good question though, thanks.

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I think the type of climbing someone "prefers" is pretty likely a combination of their personality and natural ability. I also think there is a difference between the type of climbing someone *prefers* and the type of climbing they actually do. And I think the latter is perhaps more where "where one starts climbing" comes into play. I haven't been climbing long enough to look at the big picture (in terms of where I've ended up), but I wouldn't categorize myself as primarily more of a sport or trad climber since I really love both. Those and whatever other types of climbing exist. [smile] [i wanted to write more, but I have to get back to work!]

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The whole Trad vs. Sport thing and usually defined is pretty much the construction of marketing types. I would say that a better distinction between trad and sport isn't wilderness v. gym, or bolts v. trad pro. but rather how they envision climbs. EG: a mutual friend of Off White and myself was around last summer and while he was here we pretty much climbed bolt protected routes. Yet he wouldn't get on any route that just ended in space. That is the route must have a logical/aesthetic finish (no lower off from a blank spot)or he wouldn't touch it. It didn't matter how fun the move would be. This to me pretty much sums up the real difference between sport and trad. climbing.

 

PP

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I started in the gym because I have never lived in a place with mountains all around me (before Seattle), and I wanted to build up strength and confidence before I started climbing "for real" outdoors. Going to the gym and toproping wasn't nearly as much fun (or as much climbing) as bouldering for a few hours in the gym. Eventually, I met some people with more experience and started going outdoors. Clipping bolts was first, since there's less to think about: you assume the pro is good. I wanted to do things safely and feel confident, so I took (well, am taking) it slow while learning to lead and to place gear. To some extent, I agree with Peter Puget's friend in that I find climbing with an aesthetic, naturally-defined goal more exciting than pulling on a few features and then lowering off. Multipitch trad routes and alpine climbing are so much more interesting than 80' of bolts. To me, sport climbing is a fun way to improve your strength and technical ability. An engaging puzzle, but not a demanding journey.

 

There will be some gym climbers who only identify with gym culture and sport climbing culture, and don't understand the appeal of getting into the mountains. To me, it's just a starting point.

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Hold on here...Off White, you just made a rational, reasonable post. Aren't those prohibited from this newsboard [Wink] .

 

Actually you made good points. Why bother categorizing everything? I would say a majority of climbers climb both (even though many won't admit to clipping bolts). I used to be a staunch anit-bolter but after spending five months in Mexico, where 95% of the climbing is either bolted or bouldering, I learned to appreciate the "sport" aspect more. It is a different animal but not completely...maybe a subspecies. I think there is a place for both as long as people have a respect for the wilderness and the aesthetics of the line.

 

Just my op on a very slow night at work.

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Let me define how I used to understand "trad" versus "sport". "Trad" referred to placing removable protection on lead, and on-sight, while climbing natural rock, whereas "sport" referred to ascending natural rock or artificial climbing surface, clipping pre-placed quick-draws for protection. But the term "sport climbing" has come to embrace both styles of placing protection and evolved to describe a relatively new recreational pursuit. This new "sport" is also referred to in my circle as "crag climbing". Alpine climbing, which is what I see others confusing with "trad" climbing, is more mountaineering oriented, and is what has been a popular recreational pursuit for decades.

 

I agree with the other posters here that how one chooses to spend his/her time in the outdoors is largely dependent upon geography, personality, and mentoring.

 

I was raised in Pennsylvania on fishing, camping, and hiking. By 10th grade, I joined a high school club and discovered rock climbing, and had the opportunity to climb with for the next several years. The family headed West four different summers packed in the Bradymobile for Yellowstone, Canadian Rockies, Wyoming, and even Washington. Once the mountains get in your blood, they never get out. I climbed rock and water ice because that's all I had. It was fun, and I still crag climb, because it keeps my skills sharp for the alpine arena. But, I really wanted to be climbing mountains. I moved west the first chance I got!

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It doesn't really matter what I say at this point. Most real adventure has been lost in the mountains... and it has been lost due to the lack of ethics of those who go to the mountains who have no real appreciation for them. I've never been to Los Angeles... because I always thought that Los Angeles would come to me. Dennis

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Does anyone suspect a correlation between where one starts climbing and the type of climbing (and ethics) they prefer? Some folks start out hiking because they enjoy the outdoors. They like being in the mountains and breathing fresh air. Eventually they begin to aspire to bagging peaks, which begins with scrambling up moderate slopes. Then they realize that more challenges come with the advent of roped climbing so they learn to rock climb. It's only natural that they see the merits of buying gear and learning the art of placing protection. Eventually they become "alpinists" and prefer the "traditional" style of climbing. On the other hand, some climbers prefer to take the fast route and start in climbing gyms. They perceive climbing as more of an athletic or gymnastic endeavor with serious consequences. They aspire to climbing the "numbers ladder" and prefer to climb at the crags and prefer to clip bolts, although are willing to place gear sometimes, but don't really like it. We call them "sport" climbers. So where/how did you start and how do you correlate your origination into climbing to who you've become and what your "ethics" are?

 

[ 06-15-2002, 12:06 PM: Message edited by: David Parker ]

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interesting topic for discussion [big Grin] I think alot of it has to do with who you learn from... not just where you learn. My first climb was (at Smith) with a woman who I have been friends with for a long time. She hiked a bunch, bagged some peaks etc. picked up rock climbing from a boy friend. They broke up, so she taught me how to climb. But along with the climbing she tought me the respect for the areas, and the out doors. So although I have not bagged any peaks [Wink] yet I feel like I was lucky enough to learn from someone who learned from someone who has an appritiation for the mountains.

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quote:

Originally posted by Peter Puget:

The whole Trad vs. Sport thing and usually defined is pretty much the construction of marketing types.

I dunno Petey. I agree with most of your post, but while I'd love to blame everything on marketing, the division in this country has been around at least since Alan Watts began applying Euro sport techniques to Smith, and the virus spread from there. Remember the old Kauk/Chapman fisticuffs back in the 80's over some route in the valley? Back then, marketing as an industry didn't really have its shit together with regard to climbing, it wasn't really identified as a market worth focusing the all seeing eye upon yet...

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First I was a hiker than a peak bagger that turned into mountaineering solo than came sport climbing and trad climbing at about the same time

after a couple years the winters became too long so into the gym I went and sometimes I will just party and boulder with friends. So now if it is vertical and especialy if it is steep I don't care what style or ethics I will reach up and pull down hard. And to you all, if you climbed as much as you spray you would be climbing harder and haveing alot more fun. [sleep]

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I started on trad, and I was pretty anti-sport for many years, I even spewed that whole "aesthetics" crap that I no longer adhere to. Then I actually climbed sport for the first time in the SD Needles and "discovered" it for myself. I've since moved on to mountaineering as well. I enjoy it all, but just tonight I was telling someone that even after ten years of climbing, I'm still pretty crummy. I've no desire to play the numbers game, enjoying long easy alpine routes, though I'd hardly identify with any particular label. I hated the gym for years for the contrived nature of the climbing and the plasticity. Then I climbed in a gym that was lead only, and I loved it. But really, like a lot of you (I'm happy to hear), I like it all, though *maybe* I derive the most pleasure from easy trad because that was my first exposure to climbing. On the other hand, if you asked me to hang up my rack in favor of only climbing sport in France forever, I could probably do it.

 

As much as it may be about how you started, it's also about the experience you have in each type of climbing.

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Off White,

 

Hmmm, Randy Leavit doesn't do any alpine stuff at all? Maybe that's why he only made it to 7,500 meters on Gasherbrum IV.

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I own a toothbrush, crash pad, power drill, full rack, 200 pitons and have 8 pairs of rockshoes, of which 4 are slippers. I worked in a gym for a year. Am I trad or sport? Somebody tell me quick so I know who to hate [Roll Eyes]

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And you've established both sport routes and alpine climbs. I really feel that self-loathing is your best bet.... [Razz]

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quote:

Originally posted by Off White:

And you've established both sport routes and alpine climbs. I really feel that self-loathing is your best bet....
[Razz]

I have never established a pure sport climb. They all have at least one gear placement somewhere.

 

Placing a $5.00 bolt next to a crack that I already have the gear to fit is a waste of $5.00 I could otherwise spend on beer. [big Drink]

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Off White,

 

I did not mean to imply you were a doof. I was just being cheeky.

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quote:

Originally posted by Dru:

I have
never
established a pure sport climb. They all have at least one gear placement somewhere.

See how easy that was to clarify things for you? From the vehemence of your statement, you're trad baby. Now you've just got to work on the bile. Or not, I guess there is plenty of that to go around all ready [Roll Eyes]

 

Oh, and Dan, I called myself the doof, no offense taken. If you can't laugh at yourself, well, then where's the fun in that? [big Grin]

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It's like playing chess or checkers. They are played on the same looking board and both require strategy but are different games. Trad just happens to be my favorite cause you get to play with alot more cool toys than sport climbers. Oh, and you don't have to wear striped lycra either. [hell no]

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quote:

Originally posted by Dennis Harmon:

It doesn't really matter what I say at this point. Most real adventure has been lost in the mountains... Dennis

Depressing attitude, Dennis. Adventure is definately still out there; if a person wants it.

A climber can acctually choose to NOT read every guide book and route discription availible; can wait for freshies so that the trudge line is not apparent, look for less traveled areas (they are still around, but don't have guides).

 

Hell, there is grade five virgin rock in the NW. But most people want a guide book and a short approach, not adventure. A climber can even choose to give up plastic clothes, sticky rubber, batteries and zip lock bags...talk about adventure. It is the attitude.

 

Personally, I go for the fun. I like my quality gear and my full size Bronco that can get me and my shit as close as possible to the climb. I really like the fact that I climb 100 peaks a year and still am a good father, unlike CE Rusk who may have climbed 3 peaks a year and was gone for months at a time. I admire the early pioneers, but don't envy them.

 

I don't like bolts in wild areas, litter in the form of summit registers and mass rappel slings; they both take away adventure. But IMO what is even worse is chalk and cairns.

 

Attitude is the real issue. Trad (or alpine) versus sport; again attitude. I suspect that the term "trad" ( rhymes with RAD ) was coined by some geezer wanting to feel "cool" and boost his ego in front of sporties that could climb a harder letter grade than him but were afraid of run outs.

 

It's really all symantic bullshit anyway. Have fun , don't ruin the experience for others, get out there and climb, don't read to many guides...and kick over a cairn for me some day.

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