50 Words For Disappointment

There’s obviously plenty of issues other than what a couple of elite rock climbers are doing down at the Red River Gorge to be more concerned about. Especially today! It’s Election Day, my homies.

The last two years of primaries have felt incredibly claustrophobic to me, like I’ve been crammed in a house with every member of this stupid, artless country, and today, just as the panic attacks and shortness of breath were becoming wildly contagious, they opened two doors on either end of the house—one leading to certain hellfire Armageddon and the other leading to a hopeful unknown. And now, we get to watch those who can’t see past the tips of their fat noses run headlong out the wrong door to their miserable fates.

Well, you know what I mean. Are they any more doomed than the spoiled idiots who decide they’d rather not go out either door, and just sit in the airtight house doing nothing and feeling good about it because it’s somehow making a “point”? The vanity of those don’t play the game but then complain about how much it sucks, as if their opinions still matter in the slightest, is unbelievable and I hope their inertia suffocates them.

Anyway, let’s move on. Or rather, back … to last Friday, when I got a message from my friend Joe Kinder about some bolts getting smashed on 50 Words for Pump, a route he was trying at the Red River Gorge. Hugh Loffler originally bolted the route years ago, and it was one of the Red’s best open projects for a long time until the 2007 Petzl RocTrip brought their international contingent of high-powered Euro Talent. Michael Fuselier made short work of the decade-old project, essentially climbing it in two days. He called the route 5.14c and the Red’s hardest.

Other Petzl athletes like Chris Sharma and Dani Andrada found a “variation” to the crux sequence by moving out right to better holds—in other words, they improved the route’s beta, making the line a bit easier. Moving out right, however, made two bolts difficult to clip, so Mike Doyle, the TMB (total-major beast) from Canada, drilled two bolts (with Loffler’s permission) to protect the right sequence, but did not remove the left bolts. After Fuselier, every subsequent redpointer has taken the right variation, and full 5.14c points, which some climbers see as disrespecting the purity and difficulty of the “original line.”

Indeed, what is “The Line”? Some might say that every Line in sport climbing is “contrived” since you need bolts to climb it. But for those who don’t still have their heads up the ass of the 1980s, The Line is actually defined by the Path of Least Resistance up one section of rock. Choosing not to take the easiest sequence up a wall reduces a rock climb to being an Eliminate, and therefore, an exercise in contrivance and lameness.

That’s why Loffler said that had he seen the better holds out right, he would’ve put the bolts over there.

On Friday, another friend of mine, Adam Taylor, took a hammer to the bolts out right, flattening them. Adam was also working on 50 Words for Pump, only he was trying to repeat the left sequence, the original path that Michael Fuselier took.

I must admit that Joe is a good friend of mine. Adam is also a friend, but I don’t know him as well as Joe. Adam is ridiculously strong and talented, and when he was out at Rifle this summer, I watched him nonchalantly put down hard routes like The Crew (5.14c) after holds had broken on it. He’s quiet and shy, and mostly keeps his opinions to himself, which is why I was so surprised to hear that he temporarily lost his mind and destroyed property that wasn’t his to make a point.

Unfortunately, this sort of behavior is nothing new in sport climbing. There’s an extensive history of climbers losing their minds and doing dumb things when easier sequences are found. There are too many examples to list them all—but threats have been made, rock has been altered, and no one has ever come off looking very good.

Those who think that another climber’s chosen path somehow diminishes or takes away from their own achievements are usually insecure, but it’s usually an unwarranted feeling.

For example, I eventually sent my project that I recently wrote about here. It was the one that I watched Daniel Woods absolutely crush within a couple of tries a few weeks ago. Daniel used a much-harder, less-refined sequence than I did because he’s a Total-Major-Beast. I, on the other hand, am a Total-Major-Gumby who used every kneebar and rest the route had to offer. Did we climb the same route? Technically, yes. Do I think that my redpoint puts me on the same level as Daniel Woods?

Are you fucking kidding me?

I sense that one underlying motive stoking this lame destruction is nothing more than resent for Joe Kinder, who is a well-sponsored climber. You can judge Joe for this if you want, but try to understand something: Promoting his ascents ishis job. It’s what he gets paid to do, because he is really good at it.

If you don’t think people should be paid to climb, that’s one thing. I don’t think people should work for oil companies that drill and rape pristine wilderness, but I’m not going to break their trucks so they can’t drive to work.

Anyway, that’s getting off topic. The point that I wish to end this eBlast with is that I think we should all feel pretty saddened over this anachronistic drama. If there’s anything that we learned from the angst-ridden, wobbling 1980s, it’s that anytime your Ego causes you to take a hammer or chisel to the rock, everyone loses. What’s so ironic is that Adam is one of those really gifted, nice climbers out there that you just never hear about. It’s sad that this one lapse in judgment is how he made a name for himself.

Karl Marx said, “History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce.” It would be lame if this new generation of sport climbers fell into the same ego-fueled pissing matches that defined the late 1980s.

But after all, this is only rock climbing, a happy farce compared to the harsh realities of this doomed world … especially if enough people run out the wrong door in today’s election. And if that happens, I’ll see you all in Hell.