Posted on: December 1, 2004

The Rules of Climbing

Regarding Jim Beyer's essay, "World's End" (Page 32), it has been widely accepted since the beginning of "rules" in climbing that the first ascensionist designates the style of the route. This includes the number of bolts used. Some people overbolt; some people underbolt; some don't bolt at all. Regardless, respecting a climber's bolt count respects the person who initially pioneered the path. Almost every aid climb on El Cap has been drilled on by subsequent parties. Why is it so difficult for climbers to have respect for other climbers?

On August 24, 2004, I flew from my home in Las Vegas to Fresno, California. My friend and climbing partner picked me up, drove me to his home, and we awoke early the next morning for the Wall of Early Morning Light, which we hoped to climb in a day. We began climbing at 6:24 a.m. with three gallons of water, eight energy bars, one jacket, two headlamps and the rack. We soon discovered chopped bolts on the first pitch, which made it much bolder than the original version. The hangers at the second anchor were hammered flat. A copperhead above had been beaten to weaken the wire but still allow it to appear "good." Numerous rivets in the next ten pitches had been erased with the hammer. We continued anyway, eventually drilling six rivets with a half-inch bit and no handle, depleting the stash of rivets I keep for emergencies in my chalkbag zipper pocket. We climbed all night by headlamp and reached the summit at dawn after twenty-seven continuous climbing hours. We had not made the route in a day due to the unforeseen hand of the vandal, but we did have one heck of an adventure and once again proved to ourselves that we could succeed in the face of adversity.


It saddens me to see others so trapped in belief systems that destruction and disrespect become justified. I would just say to our vandal and all others who find it justifiable to drill or chop others' routes, you don't need to destroy others to create yourself. If you don't like a route, don't climb it. If you can't climb a route, go down. Otherwise, have fun.

To Mr. Beyer, and to all the other vandals out there destroying routes, I say: you should join our club.

—Brian McCray, Las Vegas, Nevada

Editor's Note: On September 9-10, McCray and Ammon McNeely made the first one-day ascent of the Wall of Early Morning Light in 23:43.

French Fried

Although only 350 kilometers from the Kyrgyz capital of Bishkek, the approach to the Western Kokshall Tau takes two days via four-wheel-drive, over three high mountain passes, at least a dozen washed out bridges, too many potholes to count and three military checkpoints. Luck was on our side, and without incident my partner and I arrived. We had traveled to an end of the earth—but surprisingly we did not feel alone. A French military team from Chamonix had left ten days before, after a go on the north ridge of Pic Sabor, but their remains were still there. I knew it was they, because we found a large baggage label rolling in the dirt—along with enough cigarette butts to build a wall for a privy, candy wrappers, uncovered piles of shit... the list goes on.

Why do we as climbers put such value, spend so much time dreaming of pristine, untouched peaks, only to leave the kind of refuse that mars the landscape and makes it no different than more popular mountains and crags around the world? We self-promote the daring of our first ascents; why not hold court to our other actions?

It would not be fair to lay the weight of all that garbage on the French. The Komorova camp has been used by other expeditions and hunting parties in the past. In the last seven years the West Kokshall has gained popularity among Western climbers, yet it only takes a fraction of that time for us to do irreversible damage to the terrain we cherish and count among our deepest loves. Expeditions have only begun to tap the potential of this area. Let us not make the same obvious, detracting and disgusting mistakes that we have made in other mountain ranges: habituated bears in the Sierra, water tainted with human feces in the Cirque of the Towers, the base camp for the Ogre riddled with bolted boulders.

I come to remote mountains to relish the spirit of wild places. Give me tracks of Marco Polo sheep, a piece of chert from the crumbling moraine during the approach, bones from a dead bird. But spare me the goddamn French francs I pick up out of the dirt.

—Molly Loomis, Victor, Idaho

Friends in High Places

Just got A8. Nice. I especially like Steve House's coverage of the North Twin climb. Insightful.

One error: in his coverage of the Titan ("Mountain Profile: The Titan," Pages 22-39), Steve Bartlett says on Page 27, "Meanwhile, out in space, John Glenn piloted the Friendship 7 spacecraft on the first manned orbital mission." Well, No! Glenn flew on February 20, 1962. The Russian, Yuri Gagarin, had preceded you Americans by nearly a year, with the first manned orbital space flight on April 12, 1961. And Americans wonder why "others" sometimes resent them.... Perhaps patriotic myopia contributes?

—Don Serl, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

Editor's Note: Bartlett is British. But hey, what's the difference?

Boys Will Be Boys

I recently received my Six Pack (issues 1-6) of Alpinist. My girlfriend grabbed an issue and began flipping pages, quickly noting that inside every cover is a nugget of wisdom. But there are never any wise words to keep a boy from being a boy and getting himself into trouble.

Girlfriend: "Wow, look at this, every issue has a cool saying...."

Me: "Let me see that.... Oh, yeah, that is cool. Sort of like how you have to find the hidden bunny on the covers of Playboy."

(Insert scratching record sound.)

Girlfriend: "Huh? What do you mean?"

Me: "Oh yeah, on the cover of every Playboy is a hidden bunny logo—in the girl's hair, on her clothes, somewhere in the photo...."

No facial twitching, no screaming, just a blank face as she stared at me. Unsure whether I had just screwed up or brought us closer, I settled for the latter in a split-second of optimism. How cool was that? Talking porn with the girlfriend—albeit soft, airbrushed porn, but still, naked ladies—and she was okay with it!

And there it was, like a cracking sound in the ice as you dinnerplate and are about to barndoor onto one tool: the expression. Yes: disappointment.

Girlfriend: "And how would you know that?"

Me: "Um...there was this thing on TV...." (Think quick, you idiot). "Yeah, on cable...."

Girlfriend: "What channel? Are you watching porn on TV?"

Me: "No, no! See, I just was saying that...."

Girlfriend: "Whatever. You need to get out and climb more." (Insert scratching record sound.)

And just like that, we became closer after all.

—Andrew Kisslo, San Francisco, California

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