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Forum: GLOBAL / Editorial / Trad ethics and mixed climbs Login in to contribute
Trad ethics and mixed climbs
OffLine 8a.nu
  2019-05-29 00:00:00    
The ethics in trad climbing is very strict. In order to make a valid ascent you are supposed to place all gear on lead. This means that you have to clean all gear after each try which especially makes overhanging routes very hard and time consuming to do.

In the late 70's, climbers started to rappell down in order to manually drill bolts and this sport climbing ethics came to USA in 1983 creating a big controversy. According to Wikipedia the term trad climbing was invented by Tom Higgins in 1984 with the definition that the gear should be placed on lead as it had been done traditionally.

Historically, routes where the FA were done hammering in pitons and even drilling bolts on lead where considered trad routes. The dilemma is of course that anybody repeating routes with fixed pitons and bolts will do it with pre-placed gear, aka not the best style in regards trad climbing. Another problem is also that hammering in pitons could be considered as chipping as once they are removed, often due rust, new holds have been created.

As a matter of a fact, it is said that Lynn Hill could take advantage of such holds for her small fingers as she did the FA of the Nose in 1993.

If fixed pitons are needed for safety reasons, it might be better to place a bolt and define the route as mixed. From a strict ethical perspective, any route with fixed pitons could be called mixed as they do not follow the trad ethics, i.e. all gear should be removed before the next try.
OffLine Mark Nauser
  2019-05-29 15:59:28    
I cannot believe I need to tell this to "climbing media", but a term "mixed route" is used in alpinism and covers a route that requires a combination of ice climbing and rock climbing generally using ice climbing equipment such as crampons and ice tools. At least find more original and less confusing name for your theories.
OffLine Jens Larssen
  2019-05-29 16:14:21    
So what do you call a route where the protection is a mix about trad gear and bolts. At least here in the nordic countries, where they are kind of popular, these routes are defined as mixed routes.
OffLine Mike Tomodo
  2019-05-29 16:30:40    
I also can't believe, both the usage of the term "mixed" (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mixed_climbing) and this bizarre idea that using pitons is not trad. Hell, of course it is. Pitons are mobile gear. Sometime you don't remove them, ok. Sometimes you also leave nuts in a route because they got stuck. Do you think the route is "mixed" after?
OffLine Jens Larssen
  2019-05-29 16:45:27    
The difference is that you normally hammer in the piton in order to make it a fixed protection similar to a bolt.

It is hard for me that you equal trad natural protection that you put in and take out after each try with pitons that could stay for 10+ years.
OffLine Mark Nauser
  2019-05-29 16:48:11    
In alps, we call partially bolted trad route a "partially bolted trad route". This indicates to potential climber that although he might find bolts on the route, he/she must still know trad techniques when making an ascent. Clear&precise.
OffLine Jens Larssen
  2019-05-29 17:21:57    
So it seems there are different definitions.

However, I think ”mix” is a better explenation compared to ”partially bolted trad route”, especially when described in the topo.
OffLine Mike Tomodo
  2019-05-29 17:28:25    
Always the same, why to discuss with you? Once again, "mixed" is already taken! Find another term if you don't like the proposed ones. Or do what you want.
OffLine JLH
  2019-05-29 18:13:19    
You cited Wikipedia, but missed that part:
"Traditional bolted face climbing means the bolts were placed on lead and/or with hand drills. The bolts tend to be much farther apart than sport climbs. For example, a trad bolted route may have bolts from 15–75 feet apart. A sport route may have bolts from 3–10 feet apart, similar to a rock climbing gym... However, protection bolts, pitons and pegs installed while lead climbing are also considered "traditional" as they were placed during the act of climbing from the ground-up rather than on rappel, especially in the context of granite slab climbing."

So, bolts are quite common in trad climbing, esp. in long routes (El cap...) and at anchors. Bolts (+pitons + stuck nuts ...) are considered fixed gear, which is not removed (and is mentioned in the topo). Usually they are put in at first ascent and stay there 'forever' (possibly replaced at the same position if they are rusted, but no new bolts are usually allowed).
OffLine Jens Larssen
  2019-05-29 18:55:18    
Yes but the pitons and bolts have to be placed on lead. I do not think Tomi Nytorp placed the piton on lead so it is based on Wikipedia not a trad route.
OffLine Guido Princess
  2019-05-29 19:54:53    
From the article
"Modern traditional climbs occasionally have fixed gear (pitons or bolts) in places where there are no opportunities to place adequate removable gear"

These definitions evolve over time. Are you really going to start all trad climbs mixed climbs even if they have a single fixed piece of gear? That seems crazy to me. If you are following such old school ethics, will you also start reporting all modern redpoints as pinkpoints? In the original defenition of a redpoint, you have to place all quickdraws on lead.
OffLine Jens Larssen
  2019-05-29 20:07:14    
I agree the definitions evolve over time. If anybody says he has done the first 9a trad and it includes fixed pitons that have been hammered in I will not report it as the hardest trad route in The World but the hardest mixed route or do you have a better suggestion?
OffLine Guido Princess
  2019-05-29 20:24:59    
Yes, as everyone else suggesting (but you keep ignoring), report it as "a trad route with preplaced gear".
If someone does a trad route, but has one pre placed cam at the crux, would you also report it as a mixed climb then?
OffLine Jens Larssen
  2019-05-29 20:47:56    
I think this is miss-leading. We can not compare placing nuts and cams with hammering in pitons. Preplaced trad gear is ok but preplaced fixed pitons is something totally different. In regards safety, well placed pitons are similar to bolts.

Let us say somebody put a two meter long sling on the piton and then clipped it twice. Would it still be at trad ascent?
OffLine Guido Princess
  2019-05-29 23:12:41    
"In regards safety, well placed pitons are similar to bolts."

I think at the end of the day, your misconception about this is going to be impossible to change. It probably comes from the fact that you have no experience climbing and falling on pitons. My suggestion to you would be, go out, find a piton, climb nice and high above it, and take some falls. Then come back here (if you are still alive that is).

Back over here in the real world, pitons are well known to be less reliable than cams and nuts, and should be backed up by a cam and a nut if possible. One major reason for this is that while with a cam and a nut, its easy to tell if its placed well, with a piton, its much less clear whether it will hold or simply fall out.

Even with a newly placed piton, you need to reinspect it after every climb just to make sure its still (hopefully) solid. A piton is a piece of aid climbing gear, to be hammered in and used immediately only for body weight. It is absolutely not meant to be fallen on repeatedly. Does that sound anything like a bolt to you?

But in the fake world inside your head, you hammer in a piton, and its as bobmer as a bolt, forever! But thats not the case. If pitons were safe and perfect and easily placed anywhere, then bolts would have never been invented!

But, as long as you don't actually understand how pitons work and where they stand compared to bolts (pitons - much less safe than bolts) and cams and nuts (pitons - also less safe than nuts and cams), you won't be able to understand why you are wrong.
OffLine Adam Brink
  2019-05-30 05:10:39    
Thank you Guido Princess for explaining it so well. Pitons do not make a sport climb.
OffLine Jens Larssen
  2019-05-30 07:00:08    
I know pitons that have been used for like 15 years regarded like a normal bolt. In sweden they are actually called ”bladbult”. Here in sweden i have never heard about a bladbult that has failed but this is possibly due to our rock quality. These are the pitons that actually is impossible to take out and these are the ones I think make a route mixed. Today you can buy pitons that can last for at least 20 years similar to a bolt.
OffLine Jens Larssen
  2019-05-30 07:17:05    
I just checked that Petzl even sella a 10 cm long piton which is called - Petzl Mixed Piton.

So it seems at least Petzl have the same opinion as me that such piton, refered as ”bladbult” in sweden, makes the route mixed.
OffLine Mark Nauser
  2019-05-30 07:28:29    
And again, the whole world uses term mixed climb for a route that requires a combination of ice climbing and rock climbing generally using ice climbing equipment such as crampons and ice tools. Maybe there is a problem with translation, but mixed climb is simply not the term to use - find another term for your theories.
OffLine Jens Larssen
  2019-05-30 08:14:56    
Petzl mixed pitons are used often on mixed rock climbing routes so it seems at least Petzl agrees with me.

I have also been told that on grit stone you are not allowed to hammer in pitons as they are not part of their trad climbing ethics. I totally agree on that. In areas where bolts are not allowed you should also say that pitons are not allowed.
OffLine Mark Nauser
  2019-05-30 08:46:11    
So let me get this straight - you are proposing that all climbing routes in alps where bolts are not allowed but pitons are, should now be climbed without using pitons? And if there are pitons used, those routes should now be called mixed routes?

What should we do next? Replace sun with LED lights?
OffLine Jens Larssen
  2019-05-30 09:13:21    
I am not proposing such ideas. I am just giving examples. However, I think when it comes to trad crags I think you should be very careful with pitons as they could destroy the rock.
OffLine Mark Nauser
  2019-05-30 12:00:32    
I think that's reasonable. Use of pitons should be limited if the rock allows other reliable methods of protection.

The lesson from this debate should be that trad ethics is not the same in all areas and that first and foremost one should respect local ethics. Climbing in alps is not the same as climbing in Sweden, and UK/US trad ethics is different than trad ethics in Dolomites, for example, and we should all consider this.
OffLine Jens Larssen
  2019-05-30 12:34:31    
I agree but when it comes to reporting hard core "trad" routes also with pitons, we will say they are mixed and not compare them with the hardest trad routes in the world.
OffLine JLH
  2019-05-30 12:37:12    
Good point, Mark. Words have different meaning in different parts. E.g. 'sport climbing' in Italy or Slovenia has different meaning than in UK/US.

In Alps there are 2 types of climbs: sport and classic (which may also be called traditional, but probably not so common). While 'sport' gives full info, what protection you may expect, classic climbs may be very different, i.e. from no protection, to partly pre-protected by bolts (at anchors or elsewhere) or pitons. You just look in the topo to see what to expect and what type of gear you must take with you.

No need for new word for partly protected climbs. If there is no in-situ gear and you should only use removable protection (nuts, cams...), there is already word for that -- clean climbing.
OffLine Mark Nauser
  2019-05-30 14:32:09    
@Jens: Sure, we can call trad routes with preplaced gear IN SWEDEN mixed routes, if that's your wish.

In alps, however, we will not call such routes mixed routes as this would be inappropriate and wrong. Mixed route in alps area means a route that requires a combination of ice climbing and rock climbing generally using ice climbing equipment such as crampons and ice tools.
OffLine Jens Larssen
  2019-05-30 14:52:32    
As I have said, I am fine with that but when it comes to hard core routes I will call them mixed if the have fixed pitions like the ”Petzl mixed piton”.
OffLine Mark Nauser
  2019-05-30 15:01:06    
So you are proposing to apply Swedish local ethics and Swedish local wording to the whole world? This is not ethical and shows big disrespect to the sport.
OffLine Jens Larssen
  2019-05-30 15:43:27    
I think it would be disrespectful to all the guys having done an 8c+ trad ascent to call a 9a with ten pitons the world’s hardest trad route. According to the ethics the gear should be placed on lead to be a trad route. If you rappell down and place the gear you do not follow the traditional ethics.
OffLine Mark Nauser
  2019-05-30 17:39:36    
Yes, that's why such an ascent is called an ascent of trad route using pre-placed gear for protection.

But to say such an ascent is a mixed ascent is inappropriate, disrespectful and wrong. Mixed route means a route that requires a combination of ice climbing and rock climbing generally using ice climbing equipment such as crampons and ice tools.
OffLine Joe Crotty
  2019-05-30 17:55:46    
In the US the term "mixed" can be both a rock climb with bolts and traditional gear and an alpine climb (i.e., both short and long) that requires both ice and rock techniques to ascend. When climbers in the US talk about areas and routes it's almost always immediately obvious what contextual meaning of "mixed" applies (i.e., rock or alpine).

Interestingly, most rock climbing areas include routes that have a combination of pins and natural protection but oddly the routes are not considered "mixed." It's only when there is bolt(s) and natural protection are they then referred to as "mixed."
OffLine Guido Princess
  2019-05-30 18:16:53    
"I think it would be disrespectful to all the guys having done an 8c+ trad ascent to call a 9a with ten pitons the world’s hardest trad route"

You keep using this example, and everyone keeps telling you its wrong. But, once again:

You cannot just hammer a piton anywhere like a bolt. It has to go into a constriction, facing the right way. To find a 9a route with 10 solid pitons would be very, very rare. 99.99% of the time, if you hammered in 10 pitons into any route and tried to project it, many of them would fall out and you would die.

I think someone sending a 9a on 10 pitons and no bolts would be huge news, and it would be a badass climbs in terms of danger. This will probably never be done because its too dangerous. If you did find such a climb, you would probably use more nuts and cams instead of pitons because they are safer and more reliable than pitons.

Jens - how many times have you fallen on a piton? Would you let your child lead a climb if I replaced all the bolts with pitons? Why don't you ask some 9a climbers what they would think about projecting a climb if all their bolts were replaced with pitons?
OffLine Henning Wang
  2019-05-31 20:25:26    
Sweden is obviously not a very alpine country, and I`m guessing based on Jens comments here that he has never done any alpine climbing. He is however half right about how the word mixed is used in scandinavia. Half right as in it is actually used as Joe says it is used in the states. To clearify, the word mixed is used for both pure rock climbs with a mix of bolts and traditional gear, AND alpine climbs with a mix of rock and ice.

The Petzl Mixed Piton obviously referes to the latter (mixed as in ice and rock) seeing as Petzl is french and the alp use of the term mixed is pretty clear if what Mark is arguing is any indication. Furthermore pitons are great for winterclimbing and are widly used there, but perhaps not so much anymore on pure rock climbs as clean-aid has become more the norm on aidclimbs, and few seem to be into putting up new aid climbs today compared to 20+ years ago.

I will also vouch for what Guido is saying having personally fallen aidclimbing into 3 pitons that all ripped to end up half a meter of a ledge stopped by a good nut. A good piton can obviously be good, but so can a nut or a cam. It can be preplaced much the same as any tradgear, or it can be placed on lead with an iceaxe or a hammer. It can also be removed with the same hammer/iceaxe.
No trad gear, piton included, can compare to a bolt. All tradgear require some sort of feature to be placed in, basicaly putting them where the rock dictates, the placement only as good as the rock allowes, where as a bolt can be where you want it to be and will always be good if the guy/girl placing it have any clue what they are doing. That is a huge difference.

In Scandinavia Jens mixed is clearly defined as either an alpine/winter pitch/route with a mix of ice and rock, or as a singlepitch rockclimb with a mix of bolts and tradgear.
Mixed routes, the single pitch rock variation, quite common before when people were still hand-drilling bolts, and later when they had little money and paid for their own bolts.

In both cases they wanted to place as few as possible, using tradgear whenever possible, creating the consept of a rockclimb with a mix of protection. In the same period most climbers also climbed bigwalls and mountains and had, and knew how to place, tradgear.

Most of these routes have now been rebolted, basicaly been given bolts where they before used gear, or have been abandoned and forgoten. A few classics remain as a reminder of how it used to be, but in some places, like for example in the Grampians and on it´s famous Taipan Wall, the mixed style of protection is still very much alive.
OffLine Marcel Heemskerk
  2019-06-01 23:35:27    
@Jens, you have clearly not informed yourself well enough. Pitons are not the same everywhere...

In the Swiss Alps, the pitons were made of hard steel. You hammer them in and leave them there. Hammering in takes quite some time, damages the rock, and pitons can stay reliable for years.

In the USA, ethics were: leave no trace. So the pitons were made of softer steel. If you hammer these in they follow the form of the crack. They are much easier to place. Lead climber places them on lead (!) and second climber takes them out again (!). The idea was to leave no trace, however you can imagine that after several pitons being hammered in and out, the crack will be damaged. That is why you find “pin scars” in the USA, and *not* in Europe. I would not like to take a lead fall in an american style piton!

And about reporting ascents... Don’t introduce confusing terminology. If you yourself climb a trad route with pitons you can call it however you like, but when world class ascents take place, precision in reporting is key. Don’t say, “he did 9a trad in XXX style”, but say “he did 9a trad placing all gear himself, and using fixed gear on crux #2. in crux#1 he skipped the rusty old piton which was placed years ago by an aid climber”.

Tell it how it is, and don’t try to invents new words for every style combination.
OffLine Chalk Norris
  2019-06-03 13:03:45    
Hey Jens, did you mean the petzle mixte piton? If yes I guess the Name Comes from the hardness of the steel which is "in the middle" between hard and soft.

(Conforms to the shape of the crack (semi-hardened steel, not heat-treated)

OffLine Jens Larssen
  2019-06-03 16:36:03    
I think the way forward is to say how it is which was not done by the other websites.

In general, very few climbers report in detail and this makes it more difficult. In regards skipping the rusty old piton, this is the perfect example of the difficulty.

Let us assume the FA was done 5 years ago with a piton. I do not think we should report it as a clean ascent if the piton was not used as the climber could have done it. It is like saying somebody did a clean ascent of a bolted route just because he did it without the bolts.

It is impossible to do a full research in regards each piton. I think once a hard core route has a piton I will not compare it to the hardest trad routes in the world but compare it to the hardest "mixed" route in the world in order for everyone to understand it better. I think it is quite clear that we are not reporting an ascent with mixed ice :)
OffLine Guido Princess
  2019-06-03 20:26:46    
Nope - these are trad ascents with pre placed gear. Just like if you do a trad climb with a fixed cam or a fixed nut.
OffLine Sune Hermit
  2019-06-07 09:59:06    
I find it mildly puzzling why you guys bother to discuss anything with Jens. He has never - in over 20 years or running 81.nu - accepted that he was wrong, or even not precise, and he has never changed his oppinion.
What on Earth makes you think he will do it this time?