Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Duncan Debate


This past week I was over on the island doing some family stuff. Mostly eating, drinking and laughing it up. However I did manage to sneak up to Duncan for a day of sandstone bouldering in one of the hidden gems on the island.

Seriously I'd tell you where it is but you have to cross private property and well you could screw it up so I can't go back. That and it's a 45 minute hike up hill. You'd be too lazy to go there anyways.

Ok, where was I. Oh yes, bouldering in Duncan. Janelle and I hiked up to the boulders to meet up with some friends for a fun day of sandstone bouldering. I don't have many projects up there but I'm always psyched to repeat stuff and just enjoy myself.

While climbing up there I came across a few new boulder problems. What was interesting about the new problems was that they had arrows drawn on them and written names on the boulders.

My first instinct was graffiti and the disappointment that a climber would do something that was destructive to a climbing area I love.

The arrows were around four inches long and there was 4 of them pointing in varying directions. The name was about a foot and half wide and written in red.

I found out that one of the people who had written the names and drawn the arrows was in the forest that day. It felt pretty weird broaching the subject. I didn't want to get super confrontational. But I was feeling really upset about this new ethic. So I asked the individual to have a discussion about the arrows and names. He was receptive and I asked him why he would draw arrows and write the names on the problems. He had two main reasons; 1) he felt that this was a way to make the forest his own and 2) he thought this would prevent boulders from growing over.

Well both these reasons didn't seem like valid reasons to graffiti the boulders and make an eye sore. To his first point I said that no one owns these boulders or lands that he was trying to make ours and by painting on the boulders he would expose our user group as a destructive force in an already fragile climbing area. The main problem with the Duncan bouldering area is that it requires that the boulderers cross private property. Access to the boulders can easily be restricted by the local land owners. I imagine that they would be disappointed to see names and arrows all over the boulders above their land.

To his second point I argued that arrows and names aren't going to prevent regrowth at all. Quality of the problems will prevent regrowth. People climb the good problems and forget about the crappy ones. Same thing happens in Squamish all the time.

One of the problems that had a name on it I climbed and proceeded to add a lower start to. Now do I place a lower arrow? And write a name lower down to show that I've added a harder lower variation? What if someone else finds an even lower variation? Secondly what was funny was the problem I later found out had been climbed ten years earlier and had just regrown. So the name is incorrect on the boulder. All these factors alone seem like reasons not to write names and arrows.

I believe writing the name on the boulder is quite ego driven. You want people to know you did the problem, you want them to see you've climbed it and that the name is given and written permanently. Has climbing ever been helped by knowing the name of a problem? Is the grade the next thing to added? Different colours to highlight feet and hands?

Imagine a boulder that has 20 problems on it? Squamish has a few with that many. What is it going to look like with names painted all over the rock?

No amount of reasoning seemed to be getting through to this individual. He thought he was right and nothing I said seemed to matter. I said we'd been climbing in this area for 12 years and got on just fine without names and arrows. He being a new climber to the area should respect the local ethic. Again he didn't seem to care.

The fact that his actions could cause a large split in the climbing community didn't seem to matter either. The more I debated the more I realized that he wasn't going to change his mind. He said he had this debate with others and based on their disagreements towards arrows he decided to write the names as well.

I didn't have anything more to say after that. I felt like he was a destructive force and a detriment to the community as a whole. To write the names large and bold out of spite was a person I couldn't reason with.

It put a huge damper on an otherwise fun day of bouldering. I won't name names on this blog but I hope the person out there writing names and drawing arrows leaves Duncan alone. I feel the the solution will be to bring graffiti remover next time I head up to the boulders to remove all trace of this ego driven nonsense.

Sorry for a downer post. I promise next time to be all circuits and harder ascents.


Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The Ten Commandments of Bouldering Etiquette

  1. Thou shall not Gang Bang a boulder problem.*
  2. Thou shall leave a bouldering area better then you found it.
  3. Thou shall only listen to music with headphones.
  4. Thou shall brush off your excessive chalk and ticks.
  5. Thou shall stay on designated trails.
  6. Thou shall give attentive spots.
  7. Thou shall not brag or spray excessively.
  8. Thou shall keep your language and tone to a reasonable level.
  9. Thou shall think of the area more than yourself.
  10. Thou shall control your animal's behaviour.
*** Gang bang -- To show up to a boulder problem in a large group and proceed to attack the boulder with no respect for the boulder or anyone else trying it. A classic gang bang move is to steam roll a small group with a larger one finally forcing the small group to leave due to the loud obnoxious behaviour. Usually gang bangers don't brush or clean feet between tries. Gang bangers often have one or two climbers who have climbed the problem before who either sit to the side spraying about past glory or trying to climb said boulder with street shoes.