Wear and Tear

The contrast was stark. The day before, we’d been climbing on cracks that had seen relatively little traffic. The edges were crisp, the face holds had incut to them and hadn’t been worn into sandy slopers by thousands of eager hands and feet. We weren’t at one of the “classic” walls, but the routes were certainly fun and worth doing.

The next day, we hit up one of the roadside crags, as we only had a couple hours before needing to head back to Colorado. Wow, what a difference. The cracks were almost polished, if such a thing is possible for Wingate, the dark varnish gone from countless climbers dragging their asses (quite literally) up the wall. Chocolate Corner? Not any more, maybe White Chocolate Corner, or at best Milk Chocolate Corner…

The wear and tear our use is dishing out on desert sandstone is not something new to me, but to see the opposite ends of the spectrum so clearly was a bit disturbing. It saddened me to think of the routes we had done the previous day, and how they could possibly suffer a similar fate. I thought about how their character might change, and what a shame it would be if at some point the experience became drastically different than it is right now.

I don’t know what the solution is to this “wear and tear,” or even if there is one. Thankfully, most of the walls in Indian Creek don’t sit right on the road, and don’t get worked over like Super Crack/Donnelly/Battle of the Bulge. I do know I don’t want everything to become another Incredible Hand Crack, which, after all this use, really isn’t that incredible. (I can only imagine what it was like to jam tight 2.5 Friends (good #1 Camalots) out that bulge). In fact, IHC is a route I’ll never climb again. I’ve done it a couple times, and personally I think everyone should get three lifetime ascents of it and then be done. Plus, there really are much better hand cracks out there, trust me.

Maybe some personal restraint is in order, to preserve the things we love. That and some strong legs, so you can walk to those walls that not many people go to, but that offer climbing that’s just as good, or maybe even better, than what you’ll find right next to the road.

7 Responses to Wear and Tear

  1. Personal restraint? Coming from the guy that climbed IHC 3 times and suggests that everyone do it? Kinda of odd. Besides your obvious hypocrisy I can’t fathom what you mean by “perhaps some personal restraint is in order to preserve the things we love.” Are you saying people shouldn’t climb these cracks so that in 30 years the next generation can add polish? Or should they not climb them either? If so what’s the point in preserving them?

    alex trabeck November 8, 2012 at 11:29 am
    • Alex,
      I’m sorry if it wasn’t clear that, I don’t have a clue what the solution is, but that we ARE loving some of these climbs to death.

      My point is that maybe if we put limits on ourselves, then we can preserve the routes as long as possible for future climbers. Sort of like conserving energy/fuel/land etc. Sure, we all want to do these climbs, but I’ve gladly given up climbing IHC ever again so that it’ll be just a little less worn for someone else who’s never done it before.

      Maybe this is all a moot point, as that thing is really going to suck once it’s the Incredible Butt Crack, and then no one will do it anyway.

      Oh, and I’ll take “Colors that end in ‘Urple'” for $800 please.

      BJ Sbarra November 8, 2012 at 12:13 pm
  2. i’ll take “he wasn’t inviting the whole world to climb the route, but anyone who happens to climb the route shouldn’t over stay their welcome” for $500.

    Kebert Xela

    Jim November 8, 2012 at 3:06 pm
  3. Yo Alex – read it a bit more carefully. BJ did not say that he climbed IHC three times (unless 3 is the new “couple”). BJ did NOT suggest everyone SHOULD climb it, he merely suggested that no one get more than three burns. Besides your obvious inability to comprehend written English, I think you should lay off the name calling until you can. Oh, and I will take “troll” for $600.

    Read it stupid November 8, 2012 at 3:59 pm
  4. Good points BJ. Stale accusations of hypocrisy always liven up my day 🙂

    peter beal November 8, 2012 at 4:15 pm
  5. BJ, I climbed for my first time recently at IC and was really surprised by how worn the routes were. Chocolate Corner and IHC especially. But youre right – what is the solution and does it really matter? For me – I didnt care that the sandstone was a bit polished and there were ass-drag marks all the way up the routes. I found those climbs to be what they were and climbed them as such. What I mean is – I dont care if a route is sandbagged a little due to being overworked or even if it’s been downgraded – it’s still an amazing place that’s fun to climb. I do understand your comments but for me the place was amazing. It’s not like there was graffiti and trash everywhere…which to me would have pointed to a larger problem.

    Matt Pierce November 15, 2012 at 9:00 am
  6. Another idea I’ve seen tossed around is adjusting attitudes about projecting. Consider the impact on the rock if you anticipate something like 10 or more tries to redpoint something. Ten tries is a lot; imagine if every person did that — putting gear in, falling, flailing, taking gear out, etc. The desert isn’t a limestone sport crag. Consider focusing more on onsights or projects that might only take a handful of tries, and build up to the harder ones.

    That’s the great thing about the creek — there are countless quality cracks of all sizes and grades, not just the one 5.13 or whatever. When one route kicks my butt, it’s easy to forget about it because I’m in crack heaven. I don’t completely forget it, though, and it’s great to come back later with more experience and hike it.

    D-Storm November 19, 2012 at 12:35 pm
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