Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Ticked Off

Another Soft Rock hiatus.  It probably reflects where my climbing is these days: kind of aimless, wondering, opportunistic.  This time last year I’d climbed my six year project and was floating on a cloud of egotism, well into a productive winter of bouldering . This year I feel like I’ve not even got going yet.

In a bid to change things, yesterday I had a great day out circuiting with Rich in Strathnairn; my first time out in that direction for a long time, and my first day out with Rich this season.  Brin was pleasant enough and we managed a few problems between falling down holes and losing dogs, including the dubiously named Celebrity Leg Penis. Despite telling me he’s not had much form and not been training much, Rich still burnt me off on everything.  It’s good to know your place.  Farr was in much better nick with a cool breeze and, frankly, is a much nicer place to climb; far better and cleaner rock and fewer holes in the ground.  If only there was more of it.  As the light started to dip we raced up to Ruthven for a nightcap.    

Throughout the day, between falling off and throwing tennis balls for dogs, the conversation regularly turned to the increasingly evident impact of boulderers in bouldering areas and in particular the mortal sin of not brushing off tick marks.  It’s a funny old thing, and certainly something that seems to be increasing in frequency, both at the crags near me and everywhere else, and documented with righteous indignation in the brilliant Hall of Shame thread on UKB.

Fair enough, you might feel the need for a line of chalk pointing to where a cryptically camouflaged or hidden hold is, but not everyone does, and not everyone will use your sequence so might not even use that hold.  If it’s an obvious hold, what do you need a tick mark for?  And is a line 3 inches long really necessary? After considering all that, if you still need a tick mark, just brush it off when you leave.  It's not hard and we all carry a plethora of expensive brushes with us these days.

Brin: Remind me, where are those holds? (Photo: Rich Betts)
It’s hard to know exactly why it irks me so much, but I think it shows a massive lack of respect for whoever comes to the boulder after you, an assumption that they’re happy to climb in your mess and embodies a wider selfish attitude where the boulders and places we all love are just there to be consumed: leave your mark, move on to the next, repeat.  Is it a symptom of more climbers graduating from walls, swinging between brightly coloured blobs, into the real world where you need a bit more skill and experience to spot holds?  Maybe, but that doesn’t mean you can’t brush them off afterwards.

Ruthven: What is this even pointing to? (Photo: Murdoch Jamieson)
It’s something I know Rich wrestles with. Having co-authored a guide to one of the best but least-frequented bouldering areas in Britain, is he basically opening the door for the hordes to come and trash it? I guess it’s inevitable that the more people that come to an area, the greater the impact they’ll have, but by acting responsibly there’s really no reason why those impacts need to be significant and to impact on other’s future enjoyment. 

Torridon: That's a starting hold you can reach from the ground.(Photo: Rich Betts)
Last weekend I had 3 days in the Peak, at Stanage, the Roaches, Cratcliffe and Robin Hood’s Stride, and was appalled at the state that some people leave some of these boulders in – massive tick marks pointing to obvious holds that aren’t brushed off, excessive loose grains of chalk plastered on every conceivable hold (including the ones you really don’t need), yellow chalk stains everywhere and, inevitably, the signs of broken holds and erosion that come from climbing on wet rock.  If you then include the soil erosion under the landings and around the footpaths you’ve got to accept that a sport that’s been in existence for less than 40 years is starting to trash places that have been around for millennia.  Forget the annual furore about crampon scratches on a distant mountain crag, where's the anger about the state of our boulders?

1 comment:

moleo said...

I've joined your complaint brigade https://www.ukclimbing.com/forums/t.php?n=660886