Ethics in bouldering


18 April 2007

Boulder ethics - 8a discussions

This is "the small Öckeröjump", 7A+. Eliminate the right hand crimper and you have "the great Öckeröjump", 7B. Is this really two boulders?

Bouldering ethics should be simpler than route ethics. Just walk around, find a boulder and top it out! However, in the hunt for grades and fame eliminations are becoming more common and the feeling of freedom is ruined by topo comments like  "Without healhook and the two crimpers on the left", "7C, static 8A", and so forth.

 In general, eliminations are great for training and playing around but they don't deserve a separate name and grade. This can be compared with variations that comprise an alternative (sit)-start or finish with an obvious and visible sequence. There is, however, no clear distinction between a boulder, a variation and an elimination. Bouldering is essentially about finding the easiest way up a natural boulder face and a variation is when there is an alternative "natural line" with a common start or finish that ads new sequences. If specific information is needed to understand an alternative start or top-out, we are normally talking about an elimination. 

 With regards to the scorecard all the above apply with the addition that we don't think that you should register both the original boulder and the variation. In this case you have to choose which one to include in the scorecard and put the other one in your loggbook. Like Paul Robinson (link) who has done an alternative and direct top-out to Mandala Direct, 8B+, which includes a new and harder top-out. This is a valid variation and he therefore chooses to give it a name and grade and put the original ascent in his loggbook.

 Most other ethical dilemmas in bouldering have to do with starting and spotting. Here are some examples of when green and red card is given - do you agree?

Green Card

Red Card
Touching the climber during a swing Feeling fingertips on back while in static position Any touch of hands during movement, even if it's the spotter's fault
Touching the pad during a swing No touch

If you touch the pad you cannot tick. It's impossible to know how much help you got from the touch

Padding up start
Using pads to reach the defined starting holds - I did it with two pads! Whenever you use extra pads just to improve your position or reach above the starting holds
Start move
Moving without aid from the ground or pad Ass-bouncing on pad, pushing with heals/elbows or jumping (unless specified) to ease the first move 

 Some further notes:

  • Chipping: What you can't remove with a steal brush should stay (unless something is very loose and dangerous).
  • Leaving tickmarks: When redpointing a boulder it is useful to create a Picasso in order to find the holds and mark your sequence. However, it is very important that your drawings are brushed away as to not confuse other climbers.
  • Bolts: If you use bolts when you train on a "boulder" you are actually aiming for soloing not bouldering. For an example, see The fly, a bouldery 9a route.
  • Long traverses: We think that long traverses are just traversing not bouldering and perhaps this should be in a separate climbing category? In the end, it should be all about finding and topping-out those natural lines. See separate article boulder routes.

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