Thursday, February 21, 2013

Notes From The Choss Pile

Ethics: Keep the Chipsters In Brooklyn

One of my goals recently has been to keep Rock Cricket current.  And what's more current than a bunch of people sitting on computers bashing some asshole who got caught chipping holds in the Gunks?  NOTHING!

The Shawangunk Mountains - a place of natural beauty, miles of quartzite conglomerate cliffline and boulderfields, a bastion for traditional climbing ethics and history..oh, and really close to New York City and those gremlins in Jersey.  I digress..

It has been brought to the attention of the climbing community via an article and video posted on DPM earlier yesterday that someone has been chipping holds in the region.  Through various bits of evidence..
  1. Video footage of the individual's face
  2. Photos of the individual wearing the same clothing
  3. Previous suspicions/confirmations that said individual chips holds
..presented in forums on DeadPoint, Mountain Project, and SuperTopo, it has been determined (in my opinion, without a doubt), that this individual is none other than Ivan Greene - professional climber, musician, and guidebook author.  This whole scenario is fucked, all around.

Let's start with the difference between "cleaning" and "chipping" - CLEANING is something that every climber does to an extent.  This task can range from taking a wire brush to a lichenous new problem, to scrubbing off excess chalk on a starting hold.  Basically, you are removing some kind of grime from the rock that may inhibit you from climbing a certain line.  CHIPPING is when you deliberately bang away at the rock to form a hold that you will be able to use (whether it be crimp or jug).  Now the TRICKY GREY AREA is classifying the removal of loose holds.  I believe that if you are removing a lose flake that may pop off in your face or your belayer/partners, you are cleaning.  That is, if you are doing so with the sole intention of making the climb safe, and not hoping there's some magic crux-unlocking edge under that crusty old chunk of stone.  Some folks over on the message boards want to give old Ivan the benefit of the doubt, saying that he may have just been removing loose flakes under the the video, you decide.  (I have, he's manufacturing holds so he can send his proj.)

Next lets talk about other forms of defacing rock that may be deemed "just as bad"..HAMMER-PLACED AID GEAR - back in the day folks used to gain ground by pounding various metal devices into cracks, thus deforming the rock. Defacing nature?  Yes.  As bad as chipping?  Probably not.  It is unfortunate that by hammering up routes has permanently changed the climbs, but now we have free climbs like Serenity Crack - I know, hypocritical (maybe Ivan's new route is super classic..).  But wait, hear me out.  In the case of nailing up a route, they were doing so to pull on their gear (or as protection).  Not to deliberately alter holds so that they may be free climbed, these were the days of aid climbing boys, just make it to the top!  Also, "dirty" aid climbing was the well accepted practice of the time.  Chipping holds on a boulder so you can send, by todays standards, is light years away from being in the same league of public opinion.  Still, a very debatable subject for sure.

What about DRILLING HOLES FOR BOLTS?  Defacing nature?  Yes.  As bad as chipping? Definitely not.  Bolts are generally placed on climbs to safely (most of the time) protect a leader from injury. This certain type of climbing aid (in a free climb) is not meant to grab onto so as to advance up the rock, but to make sure you don't die.  Now is it worth digging holes in the rock and then pounding a metal scrap into said hole just so you can lead a climb? Debatable.  After all you could just toprope the route or sack up and solo it.  BUT, the free climbing challenge is still there, the rock holds are left as nature designed them. Not pocked by the marks of some hack with a chisel. To equate someone who bolts climbs, or even just clips draws is on par with a hold chipper, is ludicrous.

Now how does this whole chipping nonsense really effect us?  It looks bad for one.  It robs future climbers of potential natural lines  Most noteworthy, in my opinion, is the effect it can have on access.  This particular event was taking place on public land, but has probably taken place on Mohonk Preserve (private) land as well.  Neither is acceptable.  Land managers and climbers tend to not have the best of relationships in some areas (this is improving thanks to organizations like the Access Fund).  To add this kind of shenanigans into the mix could really screw things up.  One person's desire to climb a line should in no way be placed over the rights of other climbers to use an area.

Now what can be done?  Some of the tough guys on various forums kept proclaiming that the filmers should have confronted him during the act.  I would have liked for that to happen as well, but I don't blame them for not wanting to risk a physical altercation with a RedBull fueled midget with a hammer. Supposedly, said individuals have previously talked with Ivan about the subject.  He has apparently not changed his ways.  However, I think it was a good thing putting the video on the web.  The rabble got out their torches and pitchforks and went to town - very entertaining to say the least.  After the pages started adding up Rock & Ice even picked up the story.  Some productive posters even got together and emailed Edelrid (a sponsor of Ivan's), asking that they drop him.  THEY DID!  And with haste.  They claimed he had not been on the team for about a year as it were but took down his bio and photos all the same, as well as issued a statement.  The angry townspeople did some good! They were foaming at the mouth while doing so, but some good was done.  Let's see if any of this makes him change his ways.  Or at least keep others from following suit.

One last thing..

After reading a post about someone wondering if the guidebook (I always thought it was a pretty shoddy one) he coauthored had any section on ethics, I decided to check it out (since I had the book in the same room).  Here's what Ivan and Marc Russo have to say concerning "Ethics and Understandings" in their book Bouldering in the Shawangunks (2nd edition):

"Keep it simple.  Leave the rocks the way they are.  No chipping, filling, sculpting, etc. of anything on the boulders.."

Practice what you preach.
He's not the first to chip holds.  But he's for sure an asshole.




Climbing Narc picked up the story now too.  Damn.  Another comments section is certainly blowing up as I type this hahahaha.

Climberism mentioned it as well in their "Here and There" post.

Outside Magazine has lead their coverage about the subject with a link to our post!  Super psyched that such a prestigious outfit took our write up into account.  I'm glad to see the support rallied upon the topic of altering rock.  It seems that the community as a whole has taken a stance on the subject.

Jamie Emerson's B3 Bouldering blog has a nice little writeup on the chipping news.  I like how he asks more questions than states facts or opinions - probably the way to take the subject from here.  Rather than fuel the fire (which our post may have), try to start a conversation about ethics in a rational manner.  Props to Jamie for this.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Photopost: Return to Rocktown

Rocktown, GARocktown, GARocktown, GARocktown, GARocktown, GARocktown, GA
Rocktown, GARocktown, GARocktown, GARocktown, GARocktown, GARocktown, GA
Rocktown, GARocktown, GARocktown, GA

At the end of last month Alex, Cal and I headed down south for a weeklong trip to Rocktown, GA.  I'll just say that during this adventure I was a lot less drunk, a lot less warm, and a lot less dry than the last time I was climbing in the southeast.  Despite all that, it was a great trip.

We arrived on Friday, a wash out.  There was a strange noise that seemed to be coming from a little past our site.  Picking up various implements of destruction we trudged off towards the strange moaning.  It was unsettling that the noise was in the direction of an area on the mountain called the "Rape Gap", not making that up, there are signs.  We concluded that the noise was coming from cows down in the valley (not a bear, or cries for help that our imaginations lead us to believe).  After the trip Alex did a little Google Earth re-con and confirmed the fact that there were indeed some bovine herds bellow the ridge.

The next few days were full of climbing, campfires, and eating excessive amounts of saltines (three failed attempts at the challenge over the duration of the trip - Cal, that bastard, told us it was SEVEN crackers).  On Monday night we drove down the mountain into LaFayette to sample one of their fine eateries..Los Gurrero's.  Super cheap, huge servings, some kind of velveeta cheese that scared Cal, awesome menu illustrations, FREE tortilla chips with homemade salsa, etc. etc.  BUT if you were planning on schwilling margs (which we were), it's a no go - no booze.  Other than that, two thumbs up if you're cheap and hungry.

Tuesday brought a mist that shrouded Pigeon Mountain in an eerie fog, as well as soaking the boulders.  To pass the time we sat around the fire trying to create things out of wood and flame.  Cal made a club. Alex was making some sort of device.  I got pissed off and probably started eating saltines.  Alex took off that night and the wind snapped one of my tent poles in half.  UP SIDE!  I came upon the important realization that I can fit my Organic Big Pad in my tent.  Just so you ladies out there know, I now have a luxury suite.

Cal and I headed to Chattanooga, TN on Wednesday to wait out the rain.  The next two days were prime.  We befriended a couple of guys during the week - Ben from Florida and Jeremy from Ohio. We knew it was time to wake up and climb when we heard Ben fire up his car - a gutted Honda Civic that he sleeps in that we dubbed the "Green Machine".  They were both crushers and all around nice dudes.  It happened that they even knew my good friend Eleanor from climbing at The Red.  I hope to one day run into "Psychadelic Ben" and "Captain Trips" again (they are unaware of these nicknames and I hope they do not take offense if they ever read this, we really liked them, I just can't help myself with creating stupid names for people/things).

Saturday looked like another rainy one so Cal and I packed up our things and headed north.  One last stop at Huddle House and we were out of Georgia.  The southeast has really captivated me in the last couple of months and I am seriously considering moving down to Chattanooga.  Who can hook me up with a job in the environmental sector?  Till next time.