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.


  1. From the Edelrid bio page:

    Most immediately I am consumed with want to climb 3 projects here in my home climbing area the Gunks. It is fall here and the days are perfect. There is one line in particular that has seemed almost impossible for most of my climbing life up until about a month ago. Now it is very close to becoming a reality."

    Damn shame he pulled some crap like this. I suspect his project list just got significantly shorter on account of this video...

  2. Tar and feather! Let's try to get more comments here than on Mountain Project! Hahahaha.

  3. Headed to the Res this weekend, gonna turn Snooze Button into the most classic highball jughaul warmup that you ever did see. The Impossible Slab behind One Ton could also use some feet. Chipping for days.

  4. in my opinion, if a flake is obviously in danger of popping off and hurting someone it should be able to be popped with not much effort with a pry bar. if you are hammering full force and hacking at it for ten minutes....there was obviously nooo danger of it popping off in the near future. anyone who argues that he was cleaning should reconsider their own techniques.

  5. Gremlins from Jersey? You really are an idiot. Keep crushin' rock, but please be sure to leave some for the rest of us. (roll eyes)

  6. There are gremlins from Jejrsey..I saw one once at a White Castle. It poked its head out from between the buns and asked me if I liked the smell of the turnpike. I said "no".


Talk shit.