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Dane

Tool and ethical changes in the past 30 years

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"He is also one of the guys who invented hard mixed climbing...along with Jeff Lowe and a host of others. Although Gordon would certainly call modern mixed cheating."

This is simply not true. in europe and in Scotland people were climbing hard shit for a while. and it was called just climbing.

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Guess you could argue that Bob. But when it comes to "modern mixed", which I would define by, torqueing and camming picks or hammers and hooking rock with the tools.....that has been a fairly recent invention as a primary method of climbing. So you would be wrong in your assumption.

 

Lowe, Smith and a whole host of others were certainly climbing very hard mixed well before that all started. But what we are doing now is not what anyone was doing 30 years ago in Scotland, the Alps or else where. Terros got the "new" sport started I suspect and replaceable picks made it possible on a broader scale.

 

Almost sadly there is little need these days to chop a step, chip a little ice, climb bare handed in sub zero weather, learn how to freeze a woolen mitten to cold rock or pound a long line of shitty pins in frozen cracks and turf. No, mixed aint what it use to be. "Hook and go" is a good thing in my mind. That is how A3 gets done now at M7 with less than half the original rack.

 

Which should point out the error in your comment.

 

Anyone that was actually there 30 years ago can point the differences.

Gordon Smith and Tobin Sorenson's line on the Jorasses in 1978 is a prefect example. No hooking to be had as they both considered it cheating. You either pulled on gear or you did not. One was "free" and the other aid back then.

 

Now we pull on gear (picks) as a matter of course and think nothing of it as we call it a "free" climb.

 

And as I pointed out what would have been considered aid climbing 30 years ago and not mixed, but "cheating" to repeat what Gordon Smith has called it.

 

So if you want to call it like it was, "climbing" was considered by definition "free climbing, "aid" was pulling up on anything, "French free" was pulling up on anything that was handy. And "mixed" was generally considered free climbing with crampons on.

 

Modern mixed isn't any of those but most closely resembles plain old aid with crampons and tools ..but just a bit faster to accomplish.

 

 

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you are splitting hair on names. "modern mixed" and "light and fast" was called alpine climbing in the 70's. Routes on Ben were climbed in the 70's, Point Zero was done in the 50's. Routes done in the 70's and 80's are graded now at M5, 6 or 7 (like Colin's and Steve's route on Robson). Who cares if if they hooked on not- they climbed without hanging on gear.

"modern mixed" and "light and fast" are just another hype without much substance. Climbers climbed like that long before internet was invented. Hype is nothing new- read "The art of suffering" by Kurtyka.

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Climbing a lot in the '70s were you? It isn't a sematics discussion as there was no version of "modern mixed" in the '70s, simply because the tools of the day would take litle abuse on ice and none on rock. It is however a style discussiion, and that is clearly new. Raphael was one that also pointed that out a few years ago in his AAC mixed article.

 

My point is "free" then, is not "free" now. I don't really care, but think the idea worthy of informed discussion. Gordon asked that I post the following for him. Hopefully he'll register and continue the conversation.

 

Gordon Smith sez:

 

Doodling around I came across a site called Cascade Climbers .com and a thread on ice climbing in which you say that I call hooking and torquing (ie 'modern mixed') cheating. I'm not a registered user so I can't comment ...perhaps you could reply for me.

 

I don't know about calling this issue 'cheating'. Ethics have changed. My issue is simply that the line dividing 'free' and 'aid' in Alpine and Scottish winter climbing has become very wishy washy ... Glassgowkiss seems to be arguing that hanging on gear jammed into rock and hanging on tools jammed into rock is qualitatively different. I am not saying that he is wrong, simply questioning the principles on which he bases that argument.

 

The problem for me surfaces when 'aid' is used in the old sense - and a route is graded A0 (or higher depending on the degree/difficulty of the aid) - and then 'freed' in the modern sense where in principle the modern free ascent may have employed far more in the way of bits of metal jammed in cracks/hooked over flakes than the traditional ascent. In other words an 'M' ascent is not necessarily a free ascent of a route...it is an M ascent! Neil Brodie commented on this with regards to an ascent of the Goussault where he hung out on a nut to look around a corner and then faced this issue of aid and free becoming very similar and proposing that the speed and competence of an ascent under prevailing conditions should be the criteria of style for an Alpine ascent rather than free or aid. It is a grey area. Bonatti criticises modern ascents of his old Bonatti/Gobbi route on the Eckpfeiler as 'cheating' - not being done in the same style as the original ascent. Marshall, in Scotland, certainly seems to think in a similar vein. I think they have a point, and I would love to do some of the old Scottish routes in the original style - then I would really feel like a hard-man!! No doubt I am too much of a wimp, however!

 

Another issue I noticed is the use of 'grade 6' in Scottish winter climbing. Under the old grading system there was no such thing as 'grade 6' - by definition. Under the old system the technical difficulty of individual pitches in a climb was not an issue - simply the seriousness of the climb as a whole on a scale of 1 for simple and straightforward through 5 for routes of the ultimate difficulty and/or seriousness. Thus a grade 4 could well be technically much harder than a grade 5 under the conditions usually found - but would be less serious over all because the length was short or the difficulties were not sustained, or it was very well protected etc. The point of a system such as this for Scottish winter climbing was (1) ice climbing varies so much that any grade must be taken with a large handful of salt and (2) grades that make no claim to technical precision together with rather undetailed route descriptions in the old guides preserved some semblance of the aura of doing a 'first ascent' - and, as Jimmy Marshall pointed out, every winter climb is a first ascent because conditions very so much. In my opinion routes such as Zero and Point Five, Orion Direct, Smith's Route should have been downgraded under the old system when 'front pointing' came in - these routes were no longer of the ultimate seriousness. When I first did Clean Sweep on Hell's Lum (grade VI,7) I wondered seriously to myself whether it should be graded 4 as it was rather short for a grade 5 .... and I am sure the same sort of thing applied to many graded routes in Scotland - some 4's were bloody hard!! Some 5's were pretty straightforward.

 

Grade 6 was introduced into Canadian ice climbing for the big frozen waterfall climbs that were being done in the 70's by the likes of Bugs McKeith and others. In principle there cannot be such a thing as a 'grade 6' in Scottish winter climbing under the old scheme...routes like the Shield Direct, Minus One Buttress etc were all originally graded 5 (or V) - they were routes of the ultimate seriousness of the day. Grade 6 only became a part of Scottish winter climbing grades when the system was completely revamped in the 90's (??? - I was long gone by then!!). The problem with the old system only surfaced when climbers wanted to compare themselves with each other - perhaps for egotistical reasons or for commercial reasons...they weren't grading the climbs to give subsequnt climbers an idea of what they were letting themselves in for so much as grading their own abilities with each other and with regards to 'tick lists'....which to me is a suspect criterion.

 

'nuff blether! Hope that you are getting out on the hill this winter!! Actually I don't. I hope that all the snow and ice thaws on all ice routes for ever and ever ... or at least until I get back to a place where I can try my hand at some more!!

 

Cheers

Gordon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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where did polish bob ever say that hanging on tools is different than hanging on protection? I don't think he said anything to that point. From what I read, all that he is saying is that people got up hard stuff a long time ago before people had fancy names for it. That people today stand on the shoulder of the people before them and can't really "invent" anything. We all learn things and techniques and styles from others so how can anyone be a sole creator of a style?

 

Well, maybe Gill could be such a man inventing "bouldering" as he was way out there, all alone. Maybe I am wrong as I am not a climbing historian.

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Maybe I should be more specific?

 

How about "REinvented hard mixed climbing"...

 

simply 'cuz it aint anything like mixed climbing has been up until even just a few years ago.

 

Jeff Lowe writes of seeing torqueing and hooking picks as a logical extension of climbing with tools. He was doing it back in the '70s by his own admission. His routes are clear testimony to his skills and less obviously the techniques he was adapting to during those early years.

 

Jim Bridwell specifically mentions hooking stone and "nuting" with a pick of a Forrest Serac Saber (over grown Terro) on the 1st ascent of the Moose Tooth with Stump in '81. "A deperate struggle insued at these overhangs. Ice axes and hammers became useless weapons against these fortifications. Forced onto tiny edges fro crampons and shaky pitons for handholds, I often used my ice tool picks as cliff hangers on rock edges or wedged in cracks, nut fashion." "Dance of the Woo Li Masters"

 

Hooking and using tools while aid climbing on "M routes" is obviously the norm today, with the tools, boots and crampons all developed specifically for modern mixed climbing. In '81 it was seen as a desperate set of circustances to get yourself out of a bad spot. There were few replaceable pic tools (Chacal and Forest Lifetime)then. None were 100% on ice, putting any of them on rock was a sure way to break a pick. Imagine using a fixed pick axe like the "Serac" in the same circumstances with no spare tools handy.

 

Great stuff but lets not try to pass it off as any type of climbing that was done as the norm in the past.

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just in case someone is wondering: i am not some anonymous troll. my real name is Robert Rogoz aka Polishbob

how come are you still trying this approach? reinvented- i think not. maybe improved at the most. the article you are referring to in AAJ by Rafal "Degrees of freedom" pretty much states that. i am in a process of filming a documentary with Rafal, hence i have a few hours of interviews with him, and he always points out the mastery of "old school". Rafal is a friend of my and i know him now for almost a decade and a half, and neither in his article nor in real life i have never heard him saying statements you suggest. If i am mistaken please please provide me with your sources, so we can verify the record.

styles change and evolve. they also become more defined. no i did not start climbing in the 70, but in 1980 for the record. therefor a lot what you are talking about i witnessed first hand. for instance- hanging from the tools in your harness while rigging the pro was an accepted practice. now it is not. however you have to remember that "redpoint" or "on sight" was not in a climbing vocabulary till about 1982/83. till that time you were just doing the routes, particularly on big alpine.

there are a lot of big routes from the 80's era, which are either repeated nor even attempted again. K2 South Face (Kukuczka/Piotrowski), G4 West face (Kurtyka/Schauer), Broad Peak traverse (Kukuczka/Kurtyka), Golden Pillar of Spantik (Fowler/Saunders) just to name a few. somehow i don't see a lineup of the teams under them. as the matter of fact on some of them bolts were added (Spantik) or fixed ropes were used (G4) later. Is that a progress?

simply 'cuz it aint anything like mixed climbing has been up until even just a few years ago
is just another bullshit statement posted on internet without merit. also americans were not in the forefront of the development, more like a minority compared to the other nations contributing to the development of climbing. they were a part of the "scene", but much, much smaller then you stated.

anyway- i am done with the topic, so don't expect more responses. imo you are stating a distorted picture without historical accuracy, full of hype and spin and you are not doing a community any service by doing so. before writing a bunch of "facts" maybe you should talk to characters and players involved.

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Just so there is no confusuion I was actually climbing in the early/mid '70s. With small things like a 1st ascent of the N. face of Temple and the 2nd of Super Coulior on Deltaform among others. So I do have some small personal idea of what was being done in Canada. And was certainly aware of what was being done elsewhere at the time.

 

 

You have made a number of comments that aren't accurate.

 

Here is just one easy example.

 

(I started climbing) in 1980 for the record. therefor a lot what you are talking about i witnessed first hand. for instance- hanging from the tools in your harness while rigging the pro was an accepted practice. now it is not

 

Don't know where you were but Bridalveil was done by Lowe and Weiss in '74, free and no hangs. By '77/'78 Grade 5+/6 ice was being done free, no hangs, in Canada and by '80 Nemisis and Weeping Pillar had been freed. By a few American's first and then the Canadian's. By the time you started climbing hanging on ice was lonnnnnnnnngg considered aid.

 

Easy enough to document that info.

 

There is nothing not done on the shoulders of those who climbed before us. Having been there at the start of waterfall ice climbing in Canada (Sniveling, Weeping Wall in '74 as early examples) I can make some rather accurate observations today as I continue to climb ice and mixed.

 

No argument that US climbers or Candians for that matter made little contribution to alpine or super alpine until the last 30 years. I would say that has changed little but I am no expert on that. Lots of very difficult climbs done by many alpinists from different countries over the years. Few land mark climbs were done by Americans but they can be pointed out in specific arenas.

 

But that isn't the original point of the post is it?

 

In the last 30 years things have changed a lot. Mixed climbing IS different, hence the new name... "M-climbing".

 

As Raphael Slawinski so succinctly put it, "From dry tooling to figure fours, M-climbing in the mountains is redefining the vision of what is climbable"

 

AAJ, 2002, "DEGREES OF FREEDOM" by Raphael Slawinski

 

Great article on the subject which describes the transitions to where we are now in m-climbing.

 

What many don't realise is that modern M-climbing has opened climbing on what I would now call "moderate terrain". Big mountains will always take more than new tools and techniques. But difficult technical terrain is now more managable because of the improvements in gear, techniques and yes, even our "new" ethics today.

 

 

 

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Don't know where you were but Bridalveil was done by Lowe and Weiss in '74, free and no hangs. By '77/'78 Grade 5+/6 ice was being done free, no hangs, in Canada and by '80 Nemisis and Weeping Pillar had been freed. By a few American's first and then the Canadian's. By the time you started climbing hanging on ice was lonnnnnnnnngg considered aid.

Maybe here, but not in Europe. It was climbers like François Damilano, Peroux (sp?) or Thierry Renau, who visited Canadian Rockies and brought this ethic to the old continent. Thats where the statement was from. But that did not happen till the mid 80's.

Just so there is no confusuion I was actually climbing in the early/mid '70s. With small things like a 1st ascent of the N. face of Temple and the 2nd of Super Coulior on Deltaform among others. So I do have some small personal idea of what was being done in Canada. And was certainly aware of what was being done elsewhere at the time.

Don't sink to the arguments of penis measurements. It's just lame and doesn't add you credibility.

now back to the main subject: as you Quote Rafal Slawinski:

From dry tooling to figure fours, M-climbing in the mountains is redefining the vision of what is climbable
, where do you see reinvented or invented? That's the whole point of argument: redefining not inventing. it's more then semantics. Two words and two different meanings.

Sorry to piss into your sandbox.

 

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Only dick measuring and hype is your attitude and thinking things haven't changed.

 

Being ignorant of the facts isn't pissing on me just showing your own inability to realise what has happened in tool advancement and differing ethics.

 

 

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Only dick measuring and hype is your attitude and thinking things haven't changed.

i did not include my climbing resume in my post, so are you talking about yourself then?

 

Being ignorant of the facts isn't pissing on me just showing your own inability to realise what has happened in tool advancement and differing ethics.

Grab a beer and relax. I pointed out to the difference in word meaning used by you in your post.

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Thanks for bringing up "Degrees of Freedom" Bob; good article. Slawinski says something about bolts and M-climbing, though, that I've never been able to understand, about bolts and hard climbing in general.

 

"...This brings us to the thorny issue of bolts. Much of the recent push into extreme technical difficulty in mixed climbing seems inconceivable without them..."

 

And, "...Part of the reason why bolts have become an issue in mixed climbing is that rising standards have expanded our notion of what is climbable. Where it used to be that climbable and protectable lines more or less coincided, the new dry tooling skills have expanded our notion of climbable terrain far beyond what may be naturally protected. Conversely, it is absurd to pretend that mixed climbing standards would have risen as high and as quickly as they have without wholesale acceptance of protection bolts..."

 

So, whether pushing the limits in M-climbing or rock climbing, the idea is to make hard moves without the risk of dying. Assuming I've got the premise correct, why the fuck not TR instead of placing bolts? The consequence of falling onto a bolt is about the same as falling on a top rope. Sure, leading is funner than following but if it's just about the moves why not TR? Or headpoint like them crazy Brits. And yeah, some cave routes would be pretty wacked to TR, but in general you could certainly reduce the hole count.

 

Anyway, what do you guys think?

 

Oh, for what it's worth, I have fun clipping bolts on occassion and don't climb hard.

 

-M

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don't expect more responses. imo you are stating a distorted picture without historical accuracy, full of hype and spin and you are not doing a community any service by doing so. before writing a bunch of "facts" maybe you should talk to characters and players involved.

 

It is suggested that I talk to "players involved". I mentioned two climbs I did in the early '70s, not my climbing resume. By most definitions, climbing then and now, has made me a "player". I offer my own 1st hand observations from climbing over the past 40 years. My opinions and comments are not based on interviews or 2nd hand info but personal experience. YMMV to the value of my "historical accuracy" of course.

 

Your climbing resume tells me if you can climb.....or not. The amount of time you have spent climbing over the years tells me much about your perspective on climbing history.

 

Tool and ethics have changed. As Marko (and Raphael) rightly point out bolts have made us all aware of the even more possibilities on mixed. Just as "working" and rap bolting has done to rock climbing.

 

This thread was about my observations of 30 plus years of changes in the "mixed world". My personal observation is that most recently those changes have indeed reinvented mixed. You want to stick with Raphael's definition as "redefinded" you certainly can. But Raphael's comments are also baised by his limited time in the sport ('89?) no matter how high his skill level.

 

Twight among others will certainly give a differing opinion on m-climbing and how it is related to mixed. Bonatti is definded by his own experiences as Gordon mentioned earlier.

 

Raphael has clearly stated his opinions of how much bolts have influenced modern M-climbing. (ytube) Even more history in the sport would quickly point out the new gear (clothing , boots, 'pons and tools) that has given us the possibility of taking advantage of the bolts and then climbing similar terrain with that confidence on natural pro.

 

Hafner and places like it are virtually out door m-climbing gyms. Nothing wrong with that imo if you have unlimited natural resources. I have seen popular rock climbing areas trashed more. Technical skills shoot up in any area where similar venues are available.

 

My original point was not to point at any opinion as right or wrong, but that climbing mixed, in the alpine or at the local crag has changed in a few short years...a lot.

 

Bolts?

 

Good question but already a dead debate imo. Happened 30 years ago ..."Bolt or not to Be" and it is the only way many m-climbs could be done safely. The standards raise in any case and then harder climbs get done on natural gear sooner.

 

Less dying is always a good thing. There will always be bold climbs and bold climbers pushing the limits. Bolts and new gear and changing ethics just make the limits of impossibility closer for all of us.

 

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"Degrees Of Freedom"

 

 

 

From dry tooling to figure fours, M-climbing in the mountains is redefining the vision of what’s a climbable line.

 

 

 

By Raphael Slawinski

 

First published in the American Alpine Journal 2002

 

 

 

“We cannot solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”--Albert Einstein

 

 

 

Mixed climbing has come a long way from its beginnings in mountaineering. The early mountaineer with his nailed boots “providing an equally good grip on rock and ice” (Heinrich Harrer, The White Spider, 1959) seems barely recognizable in the modern alpinist making rapid ascents of huge mixed walls from Alaska to the Himalaya. Certainly the pioneer seems to have little resemblance to the “M-climber” figure-fouring their way across an icy roof. In fact, aside from the fact that they both use some form of ice axes and crampons--and even this basic equipment is becoming increasingly specialized--do the alpine and M-climbers have anything in common? By recalling some milestone climbs, I will trace the evolution of mixed climbing into the multifaceted activity it has become.

 

 

 

The beginnings: Scots and north walls

 

 

 

“It was half superb rock-technique, half a toe-dance on the ice--a toe-dance above a perpendicular drop. [Heckmair] got a hold on the rock, a hold on the ice, bent himself double, uncoiled himself, the front points of his crampons moving ever upwards, boring into the ice.” --Heinrich Harrer referring to the first ascent of the north face of the Eiger, in 1938, The White Spider.

 

 

 

Mixed climbing as an activity practiced for its own sake originated in the early 1900s in Scotland. Seeking added challenge, Scottish mountaineers attempted summer rock routes in winter, a startlingly modern concept. Around the same time, the development of crampons (initially not adopted by the nailed-boot-shod Scots), helped inaugurate the golden north wall era in the Alps. On large alpine routes, mixed climbing was--and often still is--a means to an end, rather than an end in itself. Nonetheless alpine climbs of the 1930s, such as the north faces of the Eiger and of the Matterhorn, defined the state of the art in mixed climbing for decades to come due to of their unprecedented length, sustained difficulty, and fearsome commitment. Not until the 1960s were mixed climbing standards raised again, on routes such as the Orion Direct on Ben Nevis and the Bonatti-Zappelli on the Grand Pilier d’Angle of Mont Blanc. By the end of that decade existing equipment and technique had likely been pushed as far as was possible. For an advance to occur, both would have to be reinvented.

 

 

 

The interlude: Waterfall ice

 

 

 

“Apart from the loomingly obvious Cascade Icefall […], nothing was done until the full potential of modern ice climbing equipment was realized....”--Bugs McKeith, Canadian Alpine Journal, 1975.

 

 

 

The breakthrough came in the late 1960s with the introduction of the curved pick by Yvon Chouinard and the Terrordactyl’s radically drooped pick, by Hamish MacInnes. The new technology revolutionized ice climbing and paved the way for free-climbing on vertical ice. The revolution in ice climbing eventually would also alter mixed climbing beyond recognition. But ironically, the explosion of interest in waterfall ice initially distracted climbers from mixed climbing. By the early 1980s ice climbing, from being merely one of the techniques in the alpinist’s arsenal, had evolved into a full-blown technical art. The skills gained on waterfalls also gave rise to a whole new generation of alpine climbs. Slipstream in the Canadian Rockies blurred the distinction between waterfall ice and alpine climbing; the Moonflower Buttress in the Alaska Range applied the highest levels of ice climbing skill to a major alpine first ascent; and the list goes on. Waterfall ice climbing, though initially pursued for its own sake, ended up revolutionizing alpine climbing.

 

 

 

Ahead of their time: Mixed climbing in the 1970s

 

 

 

“Without the Terrordactyl, we’d still all be swinging.”--Duncan Ferguson, 2001.

 

 

 

For most winter climbers of the 1970s and 80s, vertical ice was the end of the rainbow. The one place where mixed climbing continued to advance was Scotland. Duncan Ferguson recently commented to me that, “even though credit for much of the impetus for modern ice climbing has gone to Chouinard and his curved tools, I strongly feel that it is the Scots and MacInnes in particular and [his Terrordactyls] that ushered in the birth of modern mixed climbing.” Indeed modern mixed climbing in the Alps was not a native development, but arrived only when Rab Carrington and Al Rouse exported Scottish attitudes to establish their now classic route on the north face of the Aiguille des Pelerins in the winter of 1975. In North America Ferguson, who was years ahead of his time in his pursuit of mixed climbing, was likewise influenced by Scottish climbing: “I started ice climbing in about 1971.… After [a] short-lived fascination with steep and thick ice, I got frustrated with the clumsy and brutal nature of ice climbing.…” But it was only after reading about Scottish climbing, “that I sorted out what I wanted to do with my ice climbing--forget the ‘thick ice’ part of it and see how far I could go with a pair of Terrors and a new attitude and vision. A redefinition of what ‘ice climbing’ was…. Spent the entire rest of the season wandering around by myself and bouldering and traversing and soloing short mixed climbs. Rock climbs really, with a set of Terrors and crampons. Thin ice, snowed up rock, rock moves between patches of ice and pure rock.…” It would be over a decade before Ferguson’s redefinition of ice climbing would gain widespread acceptance.

 

 

 

Hard and fast: Alpine mixed climbing into the 1980s

 

 

 

“The wall was the ambition. The style became the obsession.”--Alex MacIntyre, Shisha Pangma: The alpine-style first ascent of the South-West Face, 1984.

 

 

 

“Winter alpinism is hard enough without the added dilemma of free-climbing ethics.”--Barry Blanchard, Climbing #117, 1989.

 

 

 

Perhaps because most alpine routes require some mixed climbing, the development of waterfall ice climbing had a more immediate impact on the sort of mixed ground being climbed in the mountains. It was only later that climbers began to seek out hard mixed ground at the crags. Thus in 1974 in the Canadian Rockies Jeff Lowe and Mike Weis applied the lessons learned on waterfall ice climbs such as the first ascent of Colorado’s Bridalveil Falls to set a new standard of mixed climbing difficulty on the Grand Central Couloir of Mt. Kitchener. On the crux pitch, “with only knifeblades between frozen blocks for protection, the climbing was extremely nerve-wracking. Seldom would the tools penetrate more than half an inch before meeting rock” (Jeff Lowe, Ice World, 1996). The bar was raised again in 1978, when Jim Logan and Mugs Stump made the first ascent of the Emperor Face of Mt. Robson. Typical of alpine climbing with its overriding emphasis on getting up, they had no qualms about resorting to aid, yet the runout nature of the climbing also required free-climbing at a high standard. For three days they surmounted pitch after pitch of difficult, poorly protected mixed climbing, with considerable exposure to objective hazards and scant possibility for retreat. On the final day Logan took eight hours to lead the crux pitch, “at first around a roof with all tied-off pins, then onto a tied-off screw, then a bit of ice climbing…. At the top of the pitch I ran out of piton placements and ice, and set off for 30 feet of rock climbing on overhanging loose snow-covered rock with no protection” (Jim Logan, Climbing #52, 1979). The Logan-Stump remains unrepeated to this day, a testament to its difficulty and seriousness.

 

 

 

In the Alps the north face of the Grandes Jorasses was a forcing point for advances in alpine mixed climbing. In 1975 Nick Colton and Alex MacIntyre climbed a line of icy runnels and chimneys on the right flank of the Walker Spur. While the Colton/MacIntyre also comprises difficult ice and rock climbing, the main difficulties are mixed. When it was first climbed, the route was undoubtedly one of the hardest of its kind in the world. The Grandes Jorasses remained at the forefront of alpine mixed climbing into the 1980s with a number of difficult new routes: the famous No Siesta in particular was likely ahead of its time. Established in 1986 by the Slovak climbers Stanislav Glejdura and Jan Porvaznik, it featured much thin vertical ice, and difficult free and aid climbing on often poor rock.

 

 

 

One of the first routes to bring a higher standard of mixed climbing difficulty to the greater ranges was the Infinite Spur of Mt. Foraker (5304 m) in the Alaska Range, established in 1977 by George Lowe and Michael Kennedy. In describing how they were motivated to attempt the route in pure alpine style in keeping with the new Alaskan idiom of “speed, commitment and technical competence,” Kennedy could have been writing today. They encountered much 60-degree ice and rock up to 5.9. The crux was three pitches of mixed climbing high on the route: “My mind was clear and surprisingly calm as I visualized the way ahead, keenly aware of the chalkboard-screech of crampons on rock, the rattling thud of an axe in too-thin ice, a sling on a frozen-in spike, the dull ring of a bad piton behind a loose block, calf muscles screaming for relief, choking spindrift in eyes, throat, down the neck” (Michael Kennedy, American Alpine Journal, 1978).

 

 

 

In the Himalaya, large and technical mixed faces were also beginning to be climbed in alpine style. To name but a few: the Hungo Face of Kwangde (6100 m) in 1982 by David Breashears and Jeff Lowe; the south face of Annapurna (8091 m) in 1984 by Nil Bohigas and Enric Lucas; the Golden Pillar of Spantik (7027 m) in 1987 by Mick Fowler and Victor Saunders; and the list goes on. The ultimate achievement in completely committed alpine mixed climbing was Voytek Kurtyka and Robert Schauer’s 1985 first ascent of the west face of Gasherbrum IV (7925 m). As described by Kurtyka, “the conditions on the face proved very difficult and dangerous.… Altogether, we climbed four pitches of [5.6]–two of them at 7100 and 7300 meters […] without a single belay point. The real nuisance was the very deep snow on the mixed ground through which we tunneled vertically…” (Voytek Kurtyka, American Alpine Journal, 1986). The compact rock and light rack meant that retreat was not an option. Finding the difficulties of the lower face greater than anticipated, and trapped by a multi-day storm on the upper face, they ran out of food and fuel. Reaching the summit ridge on the seventh day, they spent another three descending an unclimbed ridge.

 

 

 

Bolts and figure-fours: The M-revolution

 

 

 

“It appeared to us that ice climbers had reached the limit of technical difficulty. After all, water can only drop so vertically, and ice can only be so rotten before it can no longer support the weight of the climber. So what was to be next?”--Jeff Marshall, The Polar Circus No. 2, 1987.

 

 

 

“There are very, very few ice climbs in the world that are actually hard, but these mixed climbs, on the other hand, they were hard. You could pitch on them….”--Will Gadd, Rock and Ice #89, 1998.

 

 

 

Though mixed climbing had been going on in the mountains for decades, M-climbing, the new wave of technically extreme mixed climbing, grew chiefly out of waterfall ice climbing. Bored with the predictability of thick ice, climbers turned their attention to lines previously considered to be unformed. In 1991 in the Canadian Rockies Jeff Everett and Glenn Reisenhofer aided up a ropelength of rock to reach the hanging ice of Suffer Machine (200 m, WI5 A2); the following year in the Alps Jeff Lowe and Thierry Renault also used aid to connect the ice features on Blind Faith (400 m, WI6+ A2). Though initially such discontinuous ice smears were linked up with little regard for the style in which the rock was ascended, it nevertheless took a visionary attitude to even conceive of these mixed lines as potential routes. Lowe in particular was inspired by the possibilities and, with his 1994 ascent of Octopussy (20 m, M8) in Colorado’s infamous Vail amphitheatre, the style in which a mixed climb was accomplished returned to the fore with a vengeance.

 

 

 

“Let’s get real here. No one does a figure-four ice climbing.”--Karl Nagy, Canadian Alpine Journal, 1997.

 

 

 

“The third time, however, was magic. This time I did a second figure 4 immediately following the first one, which allowed me to get a good stick higher up with my right tool.”--Jeff Lowe, Ice World, 1996.

 

 

 

With its pre-placed protection, redpointing tactics, and exotic moves, Octopussy signaled a radical departure in mixed climbing. Technically, it was by far the hardest mixed climb yet made. The easy access, reliable protection, and lack of objective hazards freed climbers to pursue pure technical difficulty. This was of course similar to what happened in rock climbing some 10 years earlier, when the acceptance of bolt protection paved the way for sport climbing and, ultimately, higher technical standards. Vail continued to be a crucible for M-climbing with Will Gadd’s 1997 first ascent of Amphibian (40 m, M9). Stevie Haston was at the cutting edge of M-climbing in the Alps, with routes like 009 (M8+) in 1997 and X-Files (M9+) in 1998. As the dry tooling craze took hold, mixed climbing began to look increasingly like rock climbing with axes and crampons. The athleticism of the new wave of M-climbing also attracted a new breed of participants, often superb rock climbers. With routes like Tomahawk (M11-) and Mission Impossible (M11) in the Alps, and Musashi (M12) in the Canadian Rockies, Robert Jasper, Mauro “Bubu” Bole, Ben Firth, and others are pushing dry tooling into a realm of previously unimagined technical difficulty. With the added catalyst of competition in the three-year-old Ice World Cup, the movement skills required for hard M-climbing have evolved far beyond the static positions of traditional mixed climbing: dynos, figure fours, heel hooks…. The equipment is evolving just as quickly: leashless tools, lightweight boots with integrated minimal crampons….

 

 

 

So what?

 

 

 

“The hype pretended that M7 or 8, or 12 for that matter, had never before been climbed until the current practitioners rap-bolted some overhanging choss heap, rehearsed it, climbed it, did photo shoots on it, and treated it as commerce.”--Mark Twight, Climbing #178, 1998.

 

 

 

“009 had a crux dyno on it that […] will, by its very nature, eliminate 98% of the old ice climbers.”--Stevie Haston, High #184, 1998.

 

 

 

Hard mixed climbing at the crags is nothing new. Scott Backes recently commented to me, “the routes at the crags [are] why I am able to go into the mountains and do what it is I do. I’ve been climbing at two 27-meter quarries since the 80s. The quest for pure difficulty mostly on top-rope has led me to know as well as can be known the limits of adhesion and made the routes done high over gear thinkable.…” What is new is the attention devoted to what before was considered mere practice. While some have deplored turning “ice climbing into sport climbing,” it is worth recalling that the 5.12, 5.13, and 5.14 barriers were not broken by mountaineers rock climbing on rainy days for something to do. They were broken by climbers single-mindedly pursuing pure technical difficulty for its own sake. Similarly, M8, M9, M10, and beyond were climbed only when climbers divorced mixed climbing from alpinism and started mixed climbing for mixed climbing’s sake. M-climbing has yet to approach the physical demands of the hardest rock climbs. But it has made a good start by jettisoning the traditionalist baggage of its mountaineering roots.

 

 

 

Nonetheless, one might question whether the pursuit of technical difficulty for its own sake is not missing the point. As Duncan Ferguson recently commented to me, “I strongly feel that the heart and soul of climbing, rock or ice or mixed, have to do with intimate adventure and challenges to the vision and spirit and are not necessarily fed by pure technical difficulty.” More pragmatically, one might question whether extreme M-antics at the crag have any relevance for what goes on in the alpine realm. Certainly, after spending time at an M-crag witnessing the dynos, the figure fours, the leashless tricks, it is hard to believe that any of it will ever be used in the mountains. But even if not all of these techniques find their way onto alpine routes (some of them already have), the main import of M-climbing might be in breaking down psychological barriers regarding what is and what is not climbable. To quote Ferguson again: “I see the move onto modern mixed climbs (bolt protected or not) as being a healthy part of the process of raising standards--of forcing new lines of VISION. The M12 [at the crag] directly translates into an ‘impossible’ M10 pitch way off the deck….” Or, as Mark Twight recently commented to me, “those mixed climbers participating at the highest levels of the discipline are too consumed by its demands to apply their skills in different arenas…. That said, ‘new wave’ mixed climbing must influence alpinism. Just as high levels of rock climbing ability obtained by sport climbing ‘stars’ raised overall standards for everyone, high levels of mixed climbing ability will raise the general level of every climber simply by existing.”

 

 

 

This brings us to the thorny issue of bolts. Much of the recent push into extreme technical difficulty in mixed climbing seems inconceivable without them. Yet they remain controversial, particularly in the mountains. In the words of a staunch traditionalist, “[bolts] do not require any weakness in the rock or any skill to place, and they destroy the traditional challenge of mountaineering” (Mick Fowler, American Alpine Journal, 2000). Whether one considers bolts to be justifiable, particularly in the mountains, hinges on what one believes constitutes a route. Mark Twight recently summarized the dilemma to me thus: “The person who chooses to bolt insists that because he can climb a particular passage, a route exists, regardless of the natural opportunities for protection…. The person who chooses not to bolt insists that a route does not exist simply because he can physically climb there, natural opportunities for protection must exist also if the climber has need of same.” Part of the reason why bolts have become an issue in mixed climbing is that rising standards have expanded our notion of what is climbable. Where it used to be that climbable and protectable lines more or less coincided, the new dry tooling skills have expanded our notion of climbable terrain far beyond what may be naturally protected. Conversely, it is absurd to pretend that mixed climbing standards would have risen as high and as quickly as they have without wholesale acceptance of protection bolts. Having said that, it would seem a pity if the challenge of mixed climbing were reduced to merely executing a sequence of difficult moves. As demonstrated by routes such as Robert Jasper’s 1998 Flying Circus (145 m, M10), which only used bolts at belays, truly hard mixed climbing and bolts are not always inseparable.

 

 

 

Another criticism often leveled at M-climbing is that, as Topher Donahue recently commented to me, “most modern ‘mixed’ climbs have maybe one true mixed move on them, the rest […] being dry tooling or ice climbing.” While this characterization of M-climbing is certainly accurate, I would argue that M-climbing has given us a new perspective from which to look at the mountains in winter. It is also a perspective that is more relevant for alpine climbing. Rock that because of adverse conditions cannot be “rock climbed” often presents the greatest difficulties on alpine routes. Dry tooling skill acquired on M-climbing testpieces adds an awesome weapon to the alpinist’s arsenal. From the new perspective, ice climbing, “true” mixed climbing, and dry tooling are all just different aspects of winter free-climbing.

 

 

 

Of course, unlike in rock climbing, the notion of “free” in mixed climbing is controversial. Mixed climbing involves the use of tools: whether or not leashes are used, one still brandishes a skyhook in each hand. To turn our backs on dry tooling and use our hands no matter what the conditions in the name of free-climbing seems a backward step, as dry tooling is an extremely effective winter climbing technique. But the use of tools does make it difficult to be dogmatic about free-climbing. (On the other hand, hazy though the free versus aid distinction might be in theory, attempting a sustained overhanging mixed route quickly makes clear the difference between relying on one’s axes, crampons, and skill alone, and making progress by resorting to aid climbing tactics where one can rest on the gear.) Ultimately, the stand one takes on such issues hinges on what is thought to be “good” style. In alpinism, a climb was traditionally considered to be in good style if it was executed with limited means and, generally, “… with little of the frigging around normally associated with a major […] ascent.” (Dave Cheesmond, The Polar Circus No. 1, 1986). However, remarkably little attention has been paid to free-climbing ethics: on large alpine routes such considerations have usually taken a back seat to simply getting up. But alpinists have traditionally placed limitations on themselves to prevent “the murder of the impossible.” If by placing a bolt one does not face up to the full “challenge of mountaineering,” so also by pulling on gear one evades that challenge. (Seen from this perspective bolts are not an absolute anathema but just one more crutch, such as aid climbing, that we occasionally lean on.) By borrowing from the strict free-climbing ethos of rock climbing, the new generation of M-climbers has the ability to redefine what constitutes good style in alpinism. And finally, whatever one’s stance on the importance of free-climbing ethics in mixed climbing, free climbing is almost always faster. And speed in alpine climbing is both good style and good sense.

 

 

 

Into the Future

 

 

 

“I wanted one-arm pull-ups, big swings, speed, and see-through frozen lingerie.”--Stevie Haston, High #184, 1998.

 

 

 

“… I found myself back on the south face dry tooling some M5/6 pitches in the death zone at about 7600 meters.”--Tomaz Humar, American Alpine Journal, 2000

 

 

 

Andy Parkin and Mark Twight’s 1992 first ascent of Beyond Good and Evil on the north face of the Aiguille des Pelerins was an important milestone in alpine mixed climbing. They took 26 hours to climb 14 pitches of thin vertical ice and rock up to French 5+ and A3. As Twight recently commented to me, “when we started working on it […] there had not been many, if any, routes of that level of sustained difficulty combined with inobvious protection done in the Alps.” The route’s reputation kept it from being repeated until 1995, when taking advantage of good conditions Francois Damilano and Francois Marsigny made the second ascent. However, within the span of the few years since the route was first done, standards have risen to the point that the second ascent was quickly followed by further repeats, all parties completing the route in a day and dispensing with most of the aid. Even accounting for the fact that the original finish to the route is still rarely done, the quick transformation from feared testpiece to modern classic is remarkable nonetheless. Stevie Haston has also done much to bring hard mixed climbing to the mountains, with a strong emphasis on free climbing. His routes on the east face of Mont Blanc du Tacul, the 1994 Pinocchio (M6+) and the 1995 Scotch on the Rocks (M7), were both groundbreaking achievements. While they are not routes of the stature of No Siesta or even Beyond Good and Evil, they are nevertheless sustained multipitch offerings (around 350 meters in length) in an alpine setting, and they were established without bolts (in the case of Scotch, without pitons). In 1997, Robert Jasper added Vol de Nuit (M7+) to the right of Scotch, again climbing the route all free and without bolts. Each of these routes, when it was first done, represented a significant step forward in traditional (if not exactly alpine) mixed climbing. Yet within the span of a few seasons they had become trade routes, sometimes seeing multiple ascents within a single day--yet another stark proof of the rapidly rising skill levels. It is then perhaps surprising that a route like Vol de Nuit remains one of the hardest (quasi-)alpine mixed routes in the Alps. This is but one example of the striking disparity between technical standards at the crags and in the mountains.

 

 

 

In the Canadian Rockies, rising standards fostered on M-climbing testpieces are also having an impact on alpine mixed climbing. For instance when in 1996 Alex Lowe freed Troubled Dreams (150 m, M7) on the Terminator Wall, it was hailed as a major accomplishment. Lowe admitted to being “really pushed” on the crux, and the route went unrepeated. In 2000 Rob Owens, employing many of the new M-climbing techniques including figure fouring on lead above natural gear, added a direct start to Troubled Dreams called Stuck in the Middle. This more sustained variation quickly received several repeats but, tellingly, went nearly unreported. For the new wave of M-climbers, skilled in dry tooling, it was just another day out climbing. Dry tooling where a few years earlier climbers would have tried rock climbing and, failing that, resorted to aid, has also helped turn some alpine testpieces, like the Andromeda Strain, into trade routes. To some extent, a new generation of mixed climbs in the Canadian Rockies is blurring the distinction between M- and alpine climbing. In the past few years a number of long, quasi-alpine mixed routes have gone up, many of them the work of Dave Thomson. The combination of technical skill and bolt protection has redefined the vision of what constitutes a climbable line. One of the best of the new routes, Rocketman (350 m, M7+), situated in a high glacial cirque, has bolts protecting the technical cruxes yet the easier climbing is quite engaging. When I free-climbed the route in a long day, the effort and focus required were no less than on many alpine routes, and the technical difficulty significantly greater. In a more traditional vein Steve House, with his new routes like the 1999 M-16 (VI, WI7+ A2) on the east face of Howse Peak, and the 2001 Sans Blitz (V, WI7 5.5) on the east face of Mount Fay, has done much to bring higher standards to truly alpine routes.

 

 

 

Climbers are also taking the technical skills acquired at the crags to the greater ranges. In 1996 Jack Roberts and Jack Tackle established Pair of Jacks (M6 WI5) on the north face of Mt. Kennedy (4238 m) in the St. Elias Range with the explicit goal “… of establishing a difficult new standard of [mixed] climbing via a new route on a beautiful mountain” (Jack Roberts, Canadian Alpine Journal, 1997). Climbing in a hybrid of alpine and capsule styles they covered 36 pitches of hard mixed ground. Yet Roberts admits to misgivings about their tactics. He recently commented to me, “hauling of packs in a major way, and bivouacking in portaledges, this does not constitute alpine climbing.” Although an ascent dispensing with these would certainly have been in better style, the tactics used on Pair of Jacks probably represent a necessary step in the evolution of alpine mixed climbing. At some point, perhaps soon, climbers will be strong and fast enough to climb such routes in lightweight style. But when Pair of Jacks was first done, a heavier approach was likely instrumental in Roberts and Tackle getting up the route, and doing it almost entirely free. Significantly, a very strong team later attempted to repeat their route in a single push and failed.

 

 

 

Single push style was successfully applied by Scott Backes, Steve House, and Mark Twight on their 2000 ascent of the huge and technical Slovak Direct route (5.9 M6 WI6+) on the south face of Denali (6194 m). Inspired by Voytek Kurtyka’s concept of “night naked” climbing, they carried no bivi gear and blitzed the route in 60 hours of virtually non-stop climbing; the previous alpine-style ascent took a week. The following year Stephen Koch and Marko Prezelj upped the ante by climbing a new route on the southwest face of Denali in this style. They warmed up with the first free ascent of the Moonflower Buttress (M7?), accomplished in a 36-hour round trip from base camp. Moving on to Denali, they established Light Traveler (M8?) in 51 hours round trip from a high base camp, with Prezelj free-climbing the crux pitch on sight.

 

 

 

Modern mixed climbing standards are also making their way into the Himalaya. Many noteworthy climbs have been made; the few selected below merely illustrate the state of the art. In 1996 a strong French team, climbing in alpine style, climbed Extra Blue Sky on the north face of Kwangde beside the then unrepeated 1982 Breashears-Lowe route. The new route was described as steeper and harder than the north face of Les Droites. In 1997 Andrew Lindblade and Athol Whimp completed the much-attempted direct line on the north face of Thalay Sagar (6905 m). Their route, which involved thin ice up to WI5 and cold rock climbing up to 5.9, was also climbed in alpine style. The big news in 1999 was Tomaz Humar’s bold solo of a new route on south face of Dhaulagiri (8167 m) with mixed difficulties up to M7+.

 

 

 

A direct comparison of the difficulties of crag and Himalayan mixed routes is of course highly problematical. A more meaningful assessment of the evolution of standards in Himalayan mixed climbing is provided by the recent repeats of some of the testpieces of the 1980s, and it would appear that even the repeat ascents have done little to lessen their reputations. Thus in 2000 a strong international foursome made the second ascent of the 1987 Fowler-Saunders route on Spantik. Describing the difficult and poorly protected mixed climbing they encountered, one of the members of the team wrote: “The moves, which years ago I would have dared to execute only if protected at least at waist level, were dainty in spite of the rare air and protection” (Marko Prezelj, American Alpine Journal, 2001). In 2001 the 1982 Breashears-Lowe route on Kwangde finally received a second ascent. The second ascent party took six days for the round trip, the same as the first, and avoided the thin ice crux of the original route. While today there is undoubtedly a broader base of alpinists climbing at a high standard, the Himalayan testpieces of the 1980s were so far ahead of their time that arguably they have yet to be surpassed.

 

 

 

In spite of the great advances in mixed climbing made over the last quarter of a century, one is struck by how slowly the technical standards in the mountains advance relative to standards at the crags. Whereas in the 1970s mixed-climbing standards did not appreciably differ between crag and mountain routes, today the gap between them has grown to such an extent that they almost appear to be different disciplines. While on the one hand this points to the immense possibilities for applying M-climbing techniques to the mountains, it also underscores the degree to which the high standards of M-climbing rely on a controlled crag environment. While the gap between the two is likely to grow, perhaps the rising standards at the crags will contribute to a corresponding rise in the alpine realm.

 

 

 

Ultimately, the ideal in alpine climbing has always been one of doing more with less. Aiding, bolting, fixing, jumaring, and hauling are often necessary taints, but taints nonetheless. Just as the development of ice climbing gave climbers the skills to create new alpine testpieces and turn old ones into trade routes, so the greatest contribution of M-climbing may be to give climbers the physical and technical means to reduce a major ascent to simply climbing. In fact, I believe that this process is already well under way.

 

 

 

While I have tried to plug the many gaps in my knowledge of mixed climbing throughout the world by extensive reading, in the end there is no substitute for first-hand experience. Thus I want to thank Scott Backes, Topher Donahue, Ben Firth, Will Gadd, and Jared Ogden for sharing their insights into mixed climbing. I particularly want to thank Aljaz Anderle, Duncan Ferguson, Jack Roberts, and Mark Twight for taking the time to answer my questions; Tom McMillan for suggesting the title; and Scott Semple for many thought-provoking exchanges and for suggesting the opening quote."

 

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Dear All,

 

Allow me to add a few comments based on first hand knowledge. A couple of things can be said about the contributions made by Dane Burns to this really interesting thread. One is he really does have an authentic perspective to offer. I can attest from first hand interactions and some climbing with him, that Dane Burns has been an active climber since the early 1970s and has remained so since then. Frequently during this decades long interval he was climbing stout and committing routes.

Also, he has since that time been a person who does a fair amount of "homework" to back up his statements. One small case in point. There was a time in the 1970s when Dane had an apartment in Coeur d' Alene, Idaho. One routine day after some local cragging one or two of us were over at his apartment. I was a poor college student at the time and thought I was doing good to buy the monthly issue of Mountain Magazine (now defunct), and occasionally Off Belay Magazine, etc., in order to keep up. That evening at Dane's apartment, while sitting around "shooting the breeze," my jaw dropped at the "mountains" of climbing related magazines, journal articles, books, etc., which Dane had already amasssed--and intelligently read. He was and remains a real "student" of climbing.

I raise these two points (long term involvement with climbing, and perchance for in-depth reading and research) with respect to Dane, not to force others to agree with him, but to offer to others, that he does bring a measure of sincerity, documentation, and authenticity to his comments.

 

Cheers and safe climbing to all,

 

Bob Loomis, Spokane, Washington

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Dane: A couple of corrections -

 

1) Tobin and I used aid on our route on the Grandes Jorasses (A0 - a minimal amount of aid = we pulled or rested on 6 pegs or nuts in 1200m = I'd forgotten that when I wrote the post you opened the thread with).

 

2) I certainly had nothing to do with the invention of modern mixed climbing. The mixed climbing that I did was entirely within the tradition of the East Coast Scots like Tom Patey and Bill Brooker, Greg Strange etc etc. Climbing on powder snow covered rock with crampons, clearing snow from rock holds, sticking mitted fingers, or bare fingers with the Dachsteins hanging from their wrist strings into cracks, using the axe-pick in thick ice, thin ice, plates of thin ice or frozen turf. Relying greatly on footwork even on the steepest ground we climbed.

 

I would also second the motion that Dane does hold well researched opinions, including extensive personal experience (much greater than mine - I only climbed in Scotland and the alps from 1974 -> 1978/79). Whether I agree with them or not is immaterial. His opinions have immense value in any historical discussion.

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Hey it is climbing, wouldn't be any fun if we all agreed!

 

When I use the word "reinvented" it wasn't without some thought.

 

Who made that change and when is speculation on everyone's part. I know from my own experience that at times people were climbing things that seemed giant leaps from what was commonly being done.

 

I am the first to admit the majority of those "leaps" have been the imagination of the climbers involved and not the gear. Buggs comes to mind adding slings to Terros for cold hard ice. Lowe and Weiss on Bridalviel is another. Technically harder than what most could yet envision. Nothing similar in size and committment had been done before on water ice. When the Canadians, the small group of local ex pats, and visiting Americans started getting out in the Canadian winter things were about to change very quickly.

 

Duncan Ferguson:

.…” But it was only after reading about Scottish climbing, “that I sorted out what I wanted to do with my ice climbing--forget the ‘thick ice’ part of it and see how far I could go with a pair of Terrors and a new attitude and vision. A redefinition of what ‘ice climbing’ was…. Spent the entire rest of the season wandering around by myself and bouldering and traversing and soloing short mixed climbs. Rock climbs really, with a set of Terrors and crampons. Thin ice, snowed up rock, rock moves between patches of ice and pure rock.…”

 

 

Ferguson's word, "redefinition". And I think rightfully gives credit to the McInnes and his Terro for our current "mixed climbing". The Terro is also the basis for the tools we now climb ice with. In my mind there is not question it wasn't Chouinard who "invented" modern ice climbing but the Scots and the Terro.

 

 

“Without the Terrordactyl, we’d still all be swinging.”--Duncan Ferguson, 2001.

 

Duncan Ferguson again: “even though credit for much of the impetus for modern ice climbing has gone to Chouinard and his curved tools, I strongly feel that it is the Scots and MacInnes in particular and [his Terrordactyls] that ushered in the birth of modern mixed climbing.”

 

Take that comment a step further. Water fall ice climbing at the WI3 level and a bit more can easily be done with Chouinard's curved tools. Taken farther yet by experinced climbers with the skills and strength to match and WI5 did get done on occasion. But WI6 and even WI7 generally waited for hooked tools and the accumalative skills. By the time we were introduced to the "m grades" curved tools were long dead for technical climbing and everyone was climbing on reverse curved, hooking picks.

 

Pure water ice climbing has changed little in the past 35 years. If you climbed with a Terro originally switching to a Nomic would be easy, natural really, and it would make your climbing just that much easier. Suddendly WI5 is going to feel more like WI4 and even stuff that once was WI6+ R might well be "just" WI5 now if my own experince is any indication of the grade "changes".

 

Of course the newest ice screws have a lot to do with the R rating. But warm stretchy clothing, lwt weight boots, mono points, big clearence, and most importantly leashless tools make a huge difference.

 

But ice climbing is still "just" ice climbing. Nothing really new there other than the grades have moved about a bit.

 

But mixed? Wasn't long ago climbing 5.10 on sight, in mtn boots and crampons was the realm of a very few. Climbing at that level would mean you generally climbed 5.11 trad in shoes on a sunny day. Add a pack, big boots, crampons and shitty rock generally scared the "lookie loos" away. It was a serious sport. Leaders didn't generally fall and get to tell the story or get to try it again.

 

Today? Not the same sport. Gyms, bolts and most importantly tools that are designed for and able to take dry tooling and torqes are the norm. Climbers are stronger and smarter. But the tools and what we accept as the ethical norm today allows us to pull on any wall. M5/M6 (5.9/5.10) is now a trivial M-grade in the mtns when you consider current technical standards. Modern leashless tools not only allow you to use the tool as a "sky hook" but correctly fitted, it is a TCU through a medium size cam, a good thin hand to full hand jam, and works as a decent nut to pull up on from 1/4" to over an inch all usable for BOTH hands on one tool.

 

Raphael again, "Dry tooling where a few years earlier climbers would have tried rock climbing and, failing that, resorted to aid, has also helped turn some alpine testpieces, like the Andromeda Strain, into trade routes. To some extent, a new generation of mixed climbs in the Canadian Rockies is blurring the distinction between M- and alpine climbing."

 

"to some extent?" Raphael's article is 7 years old and already out of date. Just as ice climbing changed radically in the mid '70s mixed has as well in the first decade of this century.

 

A-Strain is now regularly done as "crag" climb, car to car @ M5/6 AI4 with great pro. This rating is from a recent winter ascent in terrible, dry conditions.

 

A-strain was originally rated as a V 5.9 A2 WI4, as a 2 day summer climb and state of the art in '83 after years of attempts.

 

Most of the great Canadian North faces have fallen to similar tactics, time and grade changes.

 

We are all using the M-grades now for mixed. I think we should acknowledge that beyond a new grading system, somewhere along the line the mixed climbing game changed. My take is that change occured the moment we had picks that you could torque in a crack with full body weight or do a stein pull on.

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who ever posted that if you have never placed 15 screws in a pitch means you have never done WI 5 or climbed strange ice is way off

 

 

 

The route is in standard Nemesis shape, not as hard as it gets, nor as easy. We climbed the route in one 73 meter pitch (my second had to climb up on the ice for 3 meters so I could get to the bolts having placed all my 16 screws on lead), and a second pitch of 65 meters.

 

Happy trails

 

 

Barry Blanchard

UIAGM/IFMGA Mountain Guide

Yamnuska Mountain Adventures

 

Saw it on MCR and I was reminded about this post

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Dane says:"Less dying is always a good thing. There will always be bold climbs and bold climbers pushing the limits. Bolts and new gear and changing ethics just make the limits of impossibility closer for all of us."

 

I agree with Dane.

Clearly tool and gear design has impacted climbing ease regardless of ethics at all difficulty levels. Even the better clothing and training knowledge has helped us climb with ease what was once thought of as hardman terrain.

 

Few ice climbers who started in the past 5 years (or even 10yrs) know of the days of guaranteed knuckle-bashing pain and the fear of having to place a screw that took perhaps as long as 5 minutes to place while hanging out on overhanging ice and knowing that the screw, which you paid dearly for physically, may not do you any good in the event of a fall.

For those leaders who hung from tethers to place screws, in effect resting, and then continuing "free", I'd argue that they were not freeing the routes but it was an accepted ethic at the time and necessary for many to stay safe.

Once a bent-shaft tool design hit the masses in the mid-90's, leaders suddenly were able to lead almost a grade harder with better clearance at bulges and a more relaxed grip position. Screws got better around the same time and now have become absurdly easy in comparison.

Prior to the bent-shaft tool, a small percentage of people were leading WI5/5+ or even M6 at that time. Now it's an everyday event, especially as routes get pegged out and easier with the increased traffic the sport has seen.

Lowe may not have invented mixed-climbing but he certainly inspired a lot of people to give it a try.

 

Sure, leashes are a trade-off on ice. Easier mentally because of the safety margin if you become pumped and you're on something you don't have the fitness or experience level or mental discipline for. On mixed climbs, especially bolted, it's a no-brainer. Leashless is easier.

 

Leashes or not, do what lets you have more fun.

 

 

 

 

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"The Forrest hammer you show? Maybe, as a third tool if they took it at all....

 

Also the WI6 finish on Slipstream that is often stated as "never repeated" might not have been WI6 after all and certainly wasn't for us. Gary and I did some vertical ice at the end of Slipstream but nothing remotely WI6. If John said it was WI6 I have no doubt it was. Just wasn't there the next winter and looking back I never heard John tell any one it was WI6.

 

...........JL's tools? Could well have been a hammer John took on Slipstream, only Elzinga knows today."

 

Had a fairly lenghty conversation with Jim Elzinga today....he is still out climbing WI6 when he isn't working.

 

Jim varified that they used Forrest Serac Sabers that they had cut down and modified the picks on for Slipstream. Also Jim was just as surprised as anyone on the description in Joe Josephson's ice guide of the unrepeated "ferocious pillar of water ice" on the "Lauchlan Direct Finish". John and Jim intentionally climbed the serac barrier but there was no water ice there when they were on the climb. Nor was there any water ice there (at the Serac barrier) on their return trips (Elzinga was the main cameraman on the Slipstream film made with helicopter support).

 

In the interview (4/08/09) Jim said, "We intentionally decided to free climb directly over the Serac barrier from the very start. We ended up prolonging the end of the climb by bivying at the base of the ice cliff instead of easily finishing the climb the 2nd day. We added one more hard pitch the next morning and summited. The whole idea was to create a climb as classic and as memorable as Polar Circus".

 

Carlos and Dick Renshaw did the 3rd ascent. Gary Silver and I did the 2nd. Gary and I weren't looking for Dragons at the end of our climb. We took the natural line at the end of the climb...and there was some steep ice involved. But nothing that resembled WI6. (remember seracs change season to season) My impression is that the 3rd ascent did the same as we did.....just a week later. "Unrepeated direct finish"? I've just recently seen the Slipstream film again and the "direct finish" that was done after rapping down from the summit of Snowdome. We (2nd ascent) did not make a effort to go far left of the natural line or climb any more the the serac than required. But I do believe after conversations with both Elzinga and Lauchlan we (2nd and 3rd ascents) followed the same line as the first ascent party. There was no water ice on the Serac in any of the first three ascents.

 

Turns out while most of the filming was actually done by Elzinga and Albi Sole, editing was done by Windy Wacko Productions. The first version of the film the climbers involved saw, was the end product. Which is how Dave McNab got credited along with John Lauchlan on the 1st ascent of Slipstream, instead of the truth which was actually Lauchlan and Elzinga on the 1st ascent.

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Hi,

I am trying to find out what ice axes were used by Jeff Lowe and Mike Weiss on their first ascent to Bridalveil falls in 74. Does anyone know?

 

Thank you

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From Jeff Lowe's "Ice World": "Using 70cm bamboo-shafted Chouinard axes and prototype Snargs my brother Greg had made specially for us, Mike and I free-climbed through the brittle bulges,insubstantial pillars, and numerous overhangs. In the conditions of the first ascent, and climbed free, the route was WI6+."

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Editted for bad info.....better info coming hopefully

 

Dave's quote from "Ice World" is accurate as far as it goes.

Details to follow.

 

At least ..."some" 70cm bamboo axes with leashes, Snargs (unthreaded BTW), strap on crampons in leather boots.

 

Weiss also used that a bamboo 70cm axe Chouinard , leashless, on the 2nd ascent of the Ames Ice Hose.

Edited by Dane

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