Do traditions matter any more, or is the completion of the ascent the only goal?
After reading a Jens Larssen 8a article on old Font problems, it reminded me of the time before the internet and social media.
Messner and Habler did a free ascent of Everest without supplemental oxygen 1978. This was seen as the best form to ascend a mountain, yet there are numerous ascents from then to now with oxygen tanks, it seems that this tradition is long gone and forgotten.
Note: I believe that a valid mountain ascent needs to be without supplemental oxygen, as the pioneers Messner and Habler really set the bar on this one. However the fact that Everest is a financial gain for many, the style takes the backseat.
The use of heel spurs to gain and ascent are long gone, now we have the rampant usage of figure 4's and 9's to ascend routes. There are a few key climbers trying to eliminate this from a valid ascent, for reasons like; if you are in a F4, and you move out to a hold and miss it, you will still stay on the F4 tool side and you can repeat that move until you stick it. With NO F4, you would simply fail and fall off, just like a rock climb dyno or deadpoint.
Is this really an important topic worthy issue? For climbers who really want to keep the tradition of the best form to ascend, then for sure it is.
This is by no means saying those who do such are not good or accomplished climbers. It is simply stating that there are better forms for ascention. "Tooling" is not like rock climbing where the harder it gets the worse the hold become. The reality about drytooling regardless of ice is most end up being drilled or chipped out at some point. It is just not the same as rock climbing ... but still fun and crazy workout
Note: I am a proponent of the NO F4/9.
Is the usage of a rubberized knee pad the best way to ascend a route? Rifle Colorado and Sonora, California are both home to routes that have a rampant use of rubberized knee pad to ascend a route. There have been many climbers who have ascended these routes without rubberized knee pads, Alex Huber is one to note, and in the early 1990's on routes up to 14c, the top end of these two crags. So does this mean that he is just a freak/better climber, or that the routes can be done without the usage of rubberized knee pads, and should be done that way?
We as climbers have accepted the fact that shoes are rubber and the usage of climbing chalk, so is the use of rubberized knee pads just an extension of this thinking and tradition? Some climbers still climb barefoot, so would that mean that routes need to be ascended without shoes? Or is the usage of the "kneepad" similar to grabbing/weighting (without anyone else knowing) a draw just to get an ascent?
For example in bouldering is it okay to touch the ground/pad/spotter with your feet and continue?
Back to Huber, he really set the tone for this, some climbers said he was too strong, where they needed the "kneepad" to gain the ascent. Another example of this is Jim Karn (1990/91) doing all of American Fork Hell area in a week ... most of the locals said he was simply much stronger that he believed, yet Karn noted the routes seemed easy, and coming off a successful Buoux trip where numerous 14s went down. In 2015/2016, Alex Megos sends FRFM 9b in short work, along with most of the worlds 9's. We know he can run laps on mid 14 with ease, and send 9's in short work. Is he a freak of nature? Or just a person who trains to be the best he can be?
Note: I do not see or hear of "kneepads" for the top Euros? I maybe wrong on this?
Note: I am on the latter side of this concept. I believe that you can knee scumb without the "kneepad", simply climb the route with the tradition time honoured methods.
During this past summer we had some climbers from the Rifle area come up to Acephale, they certainly climbed well and seemed to enjoy the climbing and weather. We got to the discussion about kneepads and I of course let them know my thoughts. One of the replies was "then you didn't get on anything hard for you, if you did not use them". The reality is this is not about me, but I will note that back in the early 90's many of the testpieces went down without kneepads, Back then it just seemed like cheating ... not the kneebar itself but the rubberized pad.
Today we have SILENCE 9c and Adam Ondra has a rubberized knee pad ... So maybe I am out to pasture, like way out there?
It seems today that the NEW SCHOOL comp style is the way and gyms are now catering to this parkour style. I figure most will realize where I am on this, but is it good or bad for climbing on rock? I will as well not that Sean McColl trains for rock style but climbs compstyle ... this is where I think most gyms miss the rock style and go for mostly parkour compstyle. This comes back to the alpinist climber who slams and will not sport climb, mostly as they are at such a lesser level that the ego just can't deal. Yet the sport climber can if they wish move over and learn the alpinist skills and are already at a solid skill level that the climbing part is simple. So WTF does this mean? Well if McColl trained just for new school comps and did no training for actual rock, then he would not be climbing in the 9's as he has done (why the McColl focus? He is one of the top comp climbers and climbs 14d so 9a.) The Euros are very well versed in both, Ondra tops in comps and rock, and if you follow his training he is power based and extremely focused on movement. Megos is German power, like Gullich was, except he has the comp ability built in from his youth.
Sonnie Trotter is one of the few who are pureists, and he was a full on comp climber from the early 2000's. His horn gets touted a lot in the media, however he is a climbers climber. He simply does not just follow the rules of climbing, but seems to live by the traditions and style of climbing. He may well be out there for himself, but he is a climber and we all have egos, yet he seems to hold to the traditions and that to older climbers not just gets respect, but gives us hope that climbing can be true, even in this social media hyped up - red bulled up climbing community.
I will note that I miss the old days with Scott Milton, Todd Guyn and the legendary Joe Buszowski, and Levente Pinter (THE PUNTER), where we had the crags to ourselves and even though we may not have seen eye to eye on routes, we always kept the traditions and style pure. Our old training facility in Dale Robotham's basement in Calgary, where we had the 60 cave and the traverse wall that went 30/40/45/40/30 ... for about 40 ft of wall. Yep the early 90's, when training was in basements and steep was where it was at. The moonboard is the original cellar wall, and thank Sheffield and Moon/Moffat for that.
Many "Coaches" will say that technique is the best method for getting up a route. I however believe in the old school tradition of power, the stronger you are, the easier climbing is ... of course you still need to know how to move and read climbs, that's experience and time learning movement. Yet many top climbers had become that with their power level. Jim Karn, Jim Sandford (CDN), Levente Pinter, Todd Skinner, Boone Speed, Fred Nicole, Wolfgang Gullich, Gerhard Horhager, Alex Huber, Jerry Moffat, Ben Moon, Chris Sharma, Alex Megos, Adam Ondra. Sure there are more, and a lot of other great top elite climbers, but the above seem to be the power based climbers. They like(ed) short hard routes and really focused on that style. Today this still seems to hold true to the top elite. We are again hearing of 20m 9's. I will note again that I focused on this for many years, okay maybe still do, back in the 90's I had extremely good success on this style ... today I still try for that success, yet seem to be drawn to the 30+m routes of the RRG ... maybe Guyn and Milton's words have finally sunk in 26 years later? I am sure they would say no fricking way ... and they however are still much better skilled climbers ... they both move very well on most lengths and angles, and yes Milton climber harder so that sort of trumps the words.
I hope that todays climbers do not let go of the traditions and style, that they keep pushing for the next generation to have more to do and not less.