Home/ Mountaineering/ Tuan's corner

On ethics

By Tuan


General ethics

There are additional points, which are for instance being honest about what you did and minimizing impact, but I don't consider them to be climbing ethics, but rather general behavior. Lying about your accomplishments in the mountains is just like lying about your accomplishments elsewhere. Littering is just unacceptable whether you are in the mountains or elsewhere. The same could be said of destroying without justification. Now comes the bolt issue.

About bolting

I think that the physical destruction caused by using reasonnably bolts are neglectible compared to the other sources of impact, especially those related to non-climbing activities (in which climbers have usually to engage, ie driving). To take two examples, there is more rock removed in the Yosemite Valley by pin scaring, or even cleaning loose rock, than by bolting, not to speak of the non-climbing stuff such as roads, turist activities, cables on Half-Dome and so on. Second, when you go at any crag in France, there is almost nothing original in the environment of the crag. Everything has been already modified by the action of man, to a much larger extend than drilling some tiny holes:

" Take all the bolts in the world and put them in a pile and it would not equal the impact of 1 road into a wild area." Mom and Pop park their wagon on the shoulder of the interstate and get out the binoculars to check out the mountains a few miles off. "What are those shiny spots on the rocks?" Pop wonders aloud as he cranks the binocs up to full magnification. "Geez, Ma, someone's gone and put some hardware in the rocks!" Meanwhile, 150 ft. up on the mountain, Jane Climber pauses to look at the scenery behaind her and thinks, "Damn those roads are on eyesore"

The destruction which is significant is not material: it has to do with the challenges of climbing.

|>... Oh, BTW,  being above all an alpine climber I have in fact no 
|> ethics other than reaching the summit by myself and staying alive.

> Talk about hard-core, you must go through a lot of partners in a good season

I meant "without exterior help". On roped or unroped climbs with partner(s) "exterior" means coming from someone else than partner(s). I consider the link with the partner extremely seriously, and this is why I often use the rope even if it is not optimal (so that we can share the danger :-)). Solos are the ultimate in terms of ethics because you do it litterally by yourself.

Yes, I used to climb with a lot of partners in a good season. Some are busy that that week-end, some have already done the route, some are not interested or able to climb it... I was a little surprised by the uniqueness of partner displayed by some people here. I see often in posts "my partner". I have never had a regular partner, just a partner for a particular climb (which does not mean that the only thing we share was the desire to do this climb). Someone with whom I have completed one significant route is already an old partner, and I don't see why you need to do tens of climbs together to get to know the other person sufficiently.

|> French-freeing a route is when you pull on every thing you can get your hands 
|> on (especially your pro) to get up a section.  It's a step below tradition
|> aid climbing, because you aren't standing in adiers.  However, you've given
|> up on climbing the rock and are now climbing on your gear. I guess it's called
|> French-freeing by Americans because we already consider them to be a bunch of
|> unethical climbers who chip holds, bolt every 4-5 feet, and bathe seasonally.
|> :-)  (Note:  If any French climbers out there take offence, go ahead, I don't
|> really care).

When I came to the US two years ago, I was surprised by this expression and I though it had something to do with the over-doing of climbing ethics that I sometimes witness here.

Now I realize that this expression has a historical relevance. Free climbing, as we know it now, was mostly inspired by american climbers, and in particular climbers from the Valley (although there was incredibly high level free climbing in parts of Europe such as Eastern Germany, and maybe UK). Before the 70's, using the (in-site) pitons to climb was a widely accepted practice not only in the Alps, but also at the crags. So yes, "french free" was the standard way to climb in the past. Things have of course changed, and at the crag, it is no longer the case, especially since bolting has eliminated the risk of falling. However, I still think that french free is a good technique in the mountains, and whenever I meet a piton on a long route up high, not only I will pull on it, but unless I have stood on it as well, I would not considered that I have made a good enough use of it.

View or add comments

Home/ Mountaineering/ Tuan's corner