Sunday, December 26, 2010

Bolt War of One

Even an adventure sports generalist, as Kurt describes himself, can only ski, ice climb and winter camp so long before the winter days away from rock climbing take their toll and the mind drifts to self-examination and the big questions. On the other hand, Kurt is not one to back away from climbing's tough issues: sticky rubber, chalk, swami belts, 11mm ropes and ovals on sport routes, hip belays and lycra are among the topics he has challenged us with over recent years.

In the following meditation, Kurt concludes a discussion he began in this blog in the comments section of the "Labor Day" post: a bolt war with himself. Following is the interior monologue of a man divided, except not.

A Bolt War of One
Kurt Krueger

I'm using the Royal Robbins first ascent principle (see his basic/advanced Rock Craft) where the person doing the first ascent gets to decide everything about the route. I already have used it to declare that all repeat ascents of my and Dwight's routes in Butte have to be done with a dog present. I now plan on using the principle for declaring a bolt war on the route Give and Take, which I opened to climbing earlier this year. Therefore I think I will chop the single bolt I placed on Give and Take. Then I think I will replace it. Of course, the bolt users won't know whose side to take since I will be on both sides. In fact, even I won't know who's side I'm on.

We are breaking new ground here. The anti-bolt climber could show support by skipping the bolt when they climb the route, though they would have to wait for the bolt to be replaced after it was chopped before being able to skip it as a demonstration of bolt-free solidarity.

On October 20th, following the September first ascent of Give and Take by Jesse and a Sept 24th comment by me, I posted this update in the "Labor Day" entry: "I just thought I'd mention I'm winning the Bolt War. I heard from a reliable source at the Missoulian that the estate of Joe Tasker and Peter Broadman are raising funds to send a couple of climbers to help chop the bolt. You know how the Brits are about bolts. I also heard from the Safe Bolting Association that they are willing to donate a second bolt if we want to break up the pitch with a hanging belay. Then we wouldn't have to chop the first bolt since it would be a belay bolt and not a protection bolt. Interesting idea and I will get back to you later. - Kurt"

This, of course, was fabricated, though it read well.

But as I thought more about bolt wars, I thought about the advantage I had with having my own bolt war. The number one advantage was instant communication. Usually after 2 or 3 weeks of chopping and replacing bolts the opposing parties might get together and then compromise. At that time, everyone agrees we have to "save the rock". Not having that problem - and since it's my bolt - I can use advance conflict resolution. I will also save the rock and make it easier on myself.

In the Fire era of the 1980s, Kurt displayed his staunch anti-bolting ethic by packing a pony keg to the crag (the limb weighed almost as much as the keg) and...

...securing it at a hanging belay. Not a single bolt was placed or clipped.

My bolt war will go like this: I will just put up a note at the base of the route for when the bolt has been "chopped and is not there." I won't chop it but you won't be able to use it. Then when I've "replaced the bolt" I will take down the note.

Be warned, however, that if we have people clipping the bolt when it is in its "chopped" state, I will fill up the hanger with a large nut and machine bolt. So please do the right thing: Read the note and adjust your ascent to match the route's ethics. I know you will.

To help you plan your trips, here is the schedule for the 2011 climbing season:

Bolt ChoppedBolt Replaced

On 6/30/2011 (my birthday) we will declare the bolt war over, and that Kurt Krueger has won. We will declare we have saved the rock. We will also declare that to pacify the trad climbing enthusiasts, in the future we'll have to bolt all climbs ground up. (Note: I'm not sure about this one - I'm going to have to talk to myself and get back to you - or me).

Kurt demonstrates a combination of strong pro-climbing-dog and pro-bolting ethics by employing his sturdy companions, Gracie and Bucky, to pack anchor chains to the crag. "Maximize your bolting efficiency and get as much hardware in as possible," might be his maxim

The next bolt war will be initiated by a climber with a split personality. That will make it much easier to kept track of things.

Coming attractions: I'm thinking of bringing my ice axe when we start working on "Because It's There." If it's February, I see no ethical issue. If it's June, well, I'll have to check with myself on that one too.

Saturday, December 4, 2010


The snow is deep, it's December and it's cold, conditions that make it easy to demotivate. So here's an article written by Michael Moore, reprinted by permission, plus a couple of pictures to remind us there's always psyche to be had, in climbing and in life.

Maurizio "Manolo" Zanolla
5.15a at Age 48 more...

The Middle Ages: Trying hard is all there is

The other day in the gym, I saw a guy wearing a shirt with a logo: "There is no trying in football. There is only success."

Understood as a motivating witticism for college kids, perhaps the statement stands, as long as you don't think about it too long. Should you - and I have - it's absurd.
Trying is all there is. Success surely might be the end result, but trying is the path. Earlier this year, I even thought of making my own T-shirt, one I could wear while climbing, lifting weights or mountain biking. I didn't do it, finally, but my shirt would have said this: "The Year of Trying Hard."

The reason I didn't need the shirt as a motivator was a magazine article I keep close at hand. It's a story about training for rock climbing, and it breaks down a variety of training programs, then makes some recommendations about how you should train given your age, which the magazine helpfully broke down by decades.

In my case, I went straight to the section dubbed "50s." The other sections, for folks in their 20s and 30s, had motivating headlines like "Strong as Ever" and "The Time to Send." When climbers use the word "send," we really mean ascend, as in succeeding on a route. Thus, the route is sent. But I will come back to that in a bit.

For the 50s, the headline read "Maintenance." The piece then went on at length about how our 50s are a time when our bodies begin to fail us. Yes, you can still perform at a high level, but success is often based on technique and wisdom rather than strength. So what you folks in your 50s should be doing is training to maintain your current level of fitness. Even that wouldn't be easy, the magazine suggested, as the body starts a precipitous rate of decline in the Middle Ages.

I was not amused. I'll be danged if I'm ready for maintenance, I thought. So I talked the article over with some of my climbing buddies, several in their 50s as well, and we decided we'd prove the magazine wrong. Thus, the Year of Trying Hard.

At first, I thought only in terms of climbing, and I set some goals for myself in terms of climbing grades I'd try to reach. But as I set to work on those goals, I found a sympathetic resonance in everything else I did. Some things were obvious, of course. Weightlifting helps with nearly everything, including climbing, so it made sense to push harder in the weight room. Mountain biking is great for cardio fitness, which never hurts when you're humping a 35-pound climbing pack a couple miles uphill to the crags. So I pushed the bike, putting in extra miles and elevation gain when I got the chance.

Although my fitness level was high, my "maintenance" body responded as the year moved on, rising to the challenge of harder climbs, longer rides, heavier weights. By summer's end, I was climbing at a level I hadn't achieved in nearly 30 years.

As my physical self prospered, I found my mind carried along. At work, I found myself thinking about sentences - their structure, their flow, their sound - more deeply. Could I "send" the story more fully? Outside the office, I found myself working harder on my friendships, an area where I have been historically slothful, expecting them to prosper simply because they exist. I found myself in conversations that dug down deep to the core of what it meant to climb in the mountains, to risk life and limb, to be a partner in such a serious undertaking.

To risk hyperbole, I found myself laid bare to myself. If I really tried, what was I capable of? What could I be better at? The answer, of course, was alarming but simple: everything.

A month ago, the job of city editor at this newspaper came open, right in the midst of the Year of Trying Hard. Truth be told, my work life as a reporter was good, inspiring and busy, but also manageable and easy going. To move up meant more responsibility, including the overwhelming responsibility for the workplace sanity of others. A part of me said, rather loudly, "Don't do it!"

But as I thought it over, I found myself once again looking at the climbing story that encouraged "maintenance."

Maybe there's a time when maintenance will be good enough. That time is not now. So here in the Year of Trying Hard, I welcomed the job like I welcomed harder climbs, with open arms and heart, mindful that life itself hangs in the balance.

Lee Sheftel
5.14a at Age 59 more...

Gray Thompson
Crushing at 70 more...