Five Things Friday – Climbing news round up – 22nd Feb


Back again with this week’s climbing news – big rock chipping problems in Ten Sleep Canyon, more crazy hard sends by Ondra, backwards leg beta from Ashima Shiraishi, sad news from Ben Hope and more.

1 – Route Manufacturing in Ten Sleep Canyon – Drilling, Chipping, Glueing

First up, some very controversial climbing news. In Ten Sleep Canyon, Wyoming there are over 600 bolted sport routes on the lush limestone walls with more going up regularly. One or two very eager newcomers to the area have been putting up new low to mid grade routes where previously it was thought that only much harder problems would be available.

New routes will often involve intense cleaning of the rock and foliage. In most areas the ethics are fairly straight forward – take down any loose rock that could cause injuries, clean foliage where it is OK and not endangered, and don’t shape, drill, chip, glue or in any way manufacture holds. Basically keep the climb as natural as possible without endangering climbers.

It is a well known secret that creating better holds by over-brushing and chipping has been common in the past. Even Fontainebleau has hundreds of classic problems that are the result of exact chipping. Sometimes rock glue like the type used to glue in bolts, commonly sikadur, is used to keep loose holds in place – for example when a good flake will see a lot of use. Even so most modern climbers and route setters prefer to keep things as close as possible to the original natural setting and frown upon any manufacturing for the sake of easier routes or filling any gaps between possible good lines.

In Ten Sleep, this has gone much further. In a recent facebook post, the Ten Sleep Canyon community has highlighted that many new climbs and even an entire area with 14 routes known as Funky Town consist of almost completely man made holds. The person responsible in this case has drilled into the rock to create finger pockets, filed down all sharp edges to the point of re-shaping the holds completely, and in some cases has been taking a piece of rock and glueing it to the wall to create an entirely new hold.

The damage has already been done and many locals and climber’s advocacy organisations including the Access Fund and Bighorn Climbers’ Coalition are looking not just to stop this continuing, but also “… that these crags of manufactured routes be removed from the walls and from guidebooks, to stop the encouragement and normalization of these practices.”

A lot of the newer routes are in the low to moderate grades. It has been argued that it increases the variety in the area and allows great possibilities and high star climbs on walls that may not have been used. Others point out that many of these areas have been scoped out over the years and left specifically for climbers pushing the grades. Many of these walls could have been excellent for higher grade climbers looking to establish their own routes and first ascents, and could have effectively blocked the future in hard climbing in this area.

It seems like this much publicity and support behind the stop will mean the end of these practices but some argue that as the routes are already open that there is no reason in closing them – as long as it is understood that this is not OK in the future. It does seems like the majority of the area, as well as national response, is against this. Hopefully the highlighting of this problem will cause a wider discussion that could halt anything like this happening in areas across the US.

2 – “Free Solo” Wins Best Documentary at BAFTA – Available to Watch Online

The BAFTAs given at the British Academy of Film and Television Arts are a very prestigious set of awards that cover more than just UK film and TV. Given this is such a big win for the amazing film, it seems more and more likely that “Free Solo” could take the Best Documentary at the upcoming Oscars. It also explains why Alex was in the UK recently and recreated the boulder problem from the Free Rider at VauxWall gym in London. Alex was also seen for the second time in a tuxedo that may get a lot more use.

This also coincides with the film being available on streaming services around the world and you can watch it now on Amazon.

3 – Adam Ondra Sends Neanderthal 9b After Eight YEARS

Ondra has been trying this beast of a problem since 2011, a rarity for the climber who has onsighted 9a problems more than once. Neanderthal was put up in Santa Linya, Spain by Chris Sharma in December 2009. It is an 115 move test piece that was only first repeated two months ago in 2018 by Jakob Schubert.

4 – Ashima Shiraishi Backwards Leg Beta on Devastator V12

Ashima Shiraishi with the weirdest solution to keeping tension in an overhung leg stem on Devastator V12 in Zion. Try at your own risk. Also manages to include the top 3 encouragement phrases “Sick”, “Tight”, and “Try Hard” in one video.

5 – Experienced Winter Climbers Andy Nisbet and Steve Perry Die on Ben Hope

News from UKClimbing tells of two very experienced winter climbers Andy Wisbet and and Steve Perry losing their lives just recently. The pair were very experienced climbers and mountaineers, Andy Wisbet having “…over 1000 new routes to his name”. Ben Hope is the most northerly “munro” – a peak in Scotland over 3,000 ft – and is a steep and challenging mountain even when not attempted in winter. David “Heavy” Whalley has written a great blog post in tribute to the two. Our condolences to the family and friends of these two well loved climbers.

More climbing news next week or read more from our last climbing news round up. Stay safe readers.

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