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.



Trent Hoover said...

Matt, very interesting post. I agree with you - any practices that damage the landscape, the rock, or the aesthetics of an area should be avoided at all costs. This is actually a very old debate - I'm surprised that there are still people like your anonymous spray-painter still around. It's like finding someone that thinks sport climbing is evil.

However, if you want to keep your secret areas secret, you shouldn't give so much info away on the internet. It only took me about 90 seconds on Google Earth to find the area you're talking about. (well, if might *NOT* be the same area, but I did find a decent-looking bouldering area just outside Duncan, which looked about 45 minutes walk up a hill... maybe it's a new area?)

Chris Rich said...

Fully agree... good on you for at least striking up the conversation with that egofest! It's hard to believe that anyone would be still doing stuff like that today, and than to have added the names just because others disagreed with your original actions...wow. Way to keep it cool, I sorta felt like slapping him silly just reading the post.

m. said...

It's not so much that the area is secret. I'd happily show you were it is. I won't however post directions on my blog or draw a map and post it here. I feel that word of mouth is better for the area. So if you want to go i'd explain it too you or anyone I see in person. There isn't proper parking or a legal trail that takes you to the boulders.

There's also a poll I put on the side of my blog. It's pretty simple and kind of stupid but hey I said I'd put one up when I was debating they guy.

Chris: you have no idea how mad I was. I was trying my very best not to start shouting and going to physical blows.

Trent Hoover said...

I read your post again, Matt, and it still seems bizarre. I can barely believe that you met a guy spraypainting boulders who actually thought he was doing anyone a favor! Too bad there wasn't a big group of you there to debate him - maybe he would have been more convinced that he was doing something that most climbers think is pretty reprehensible. Good luck in dealing with the aftermath! I hope you can get the paint off! Maybe you can get a few other local climbers involved to go up there and deal with the paint. Is paint easier to get off when its fresh or dried a bit? I wonder...

Anonymous said...

I was bouldering in Duncan the other day and noticed the arrows …they are about 2”,very subtle , hard to notice unless you are a climber and in my opinion those arrows
Will never be a concern to a landowners especially in comparison to all the landscaping and moss removal that goes on in the process to clean a boulder.
I personally like the arrows and I think it makes for better ‘game of bouldering’
…however and regardless …it would be interesting to know what really happened
in the forest that day.
I have talked to some people who been there and I hear a different story from the one presented by Matt.
I boulder on the island for a decade or so and I have never heard of this Matt person,
However the arrow painting individual is a well known and well liked local boulderer
Who have talked over a last year to many of us locals about the arrows and most of us
Either support him in doing so or we don’t really care so much…bottom line being his right if he cleans the line and climbs it he can paint an arrows if he wants …so only riff in the community being caused right now is the anger pollution by you Matt and you are not
A local …so I suggest to you:cool of, take some anger management classes and care
About your local community…
Cheers John

m. said...

Hi John,

I'm open to your responses and would love to debate this with you in person. It's funny that you say I need anger management when I debated this calmly and certainly friendly. I only got mad when the person writing the names said he wrote the names on the boulders to spite our mutual friend.

My version of the story is of course something that can be debated but there were a few other people there that can verify my story if needs be.

The person did say he wrote the names on a boulder to spite another climber which caused me to end the debate and actually leave because your well liked friend is actually quite a horrible person to do such a thing to his so-called friend.

A couple things that are true: the problem he wrote one of the names on wasn't even his first ascent.
The first ascent was actually climbed a few years ago by vince c.

Just because you clean a problem doesn't give you the right to claim ownership over the boulder or the whole community. You can like the arrows all you want but it also takes away from the experience for other climbers.

I pose this question to you John. What if when you climbed someone stood beside the boulder and shouted beta and information at you. You might find it annoying. This is how I feel about arrows. I know which way to climb. I don't need a road map. I bet you didn't either. You seem like a smart guy. Most times on climbs you go up.

I've been climbing in Duncan for over 11 years not to get into a pissing match or anything but I've never heard of you either. Haha just kidding I know you. Your the guy that loves vandalism and going against local ethics.

John? Or is this the yet unnamed boulder artist? Either way John, I don't like arrows 2" or 4". Funny how we're not talking about the 18" names written beside the arrows? No argument about that eh?

Ok I'm not famous and my name has no pull but in this blog everyone gets a say, even you with your annyonmous post. I'll keep your comment and I'll allow you to write whatever. But John if you want to have a real conversation send me an email truth_factory@yahoo.com and I'll happily debate this all day.

All kidding aside why would you want to impact another person's climb by forcing your views on them.

Anonymous said...

''why would you want to impact another person's climb by forcing your views on them.''

Matt, maybe you should take your own advice. Just a thought.

Something else for you to ponder: change can be a good thing and being afraid of it only brings you and other people down.


m. said...

Hi Maggie,

Thanks for commenting. I would say that you make a choice when come to this blog. You choose to read this no one forced you. When I go to the boulder I can't get away from the graffiti. The individual has forced his choice on everyone.

I know your relationship to the individual so nothing I say will most likely sway you. But change isn't good in this case. Look at the photos and ask yourself do we really need that? I think it's wrong true and would argue against anyone for it. But I haven't forced my views on anyone. I've just said it looks bad it's ego driven and quite frankly he has taken away from the joy of climbing with his actions.

Jason Barber said...

Ethics can vary from region to region. I'm an island boulderer and I'm in favour of the naming system at Duncan boulders.

Duncan boulders was not getting much traffic despite the amazing bouldering in the area. The small arrows and names have resulted in a duncan bouldering renaissance. There's better problems, landings, and trails due to the fella wielding the red pen.

Please note, the lettering is not done with a spray can, its more comparable to writing with a sharpie. Much less noticeable than tick marks or chalked up holds.

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James Macfarlane said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
james kanobi said...

Hi! I live in the area, and have been bouldering up the hill a couple of times. I'd really appreciate any knowledge you'd be willing to spare about where boulders can be found. I've been all around the main area, but i just want to make sure i have a good picture. Thanks!

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