Wednesday, 15 October 2008

The cleaning dilemma...


I mentioned in a previous post about some recent routes that inspired me being green and lichenous. In fact I might have mentioned it in other posts too. It can be a common theme with my more exploratory climbing - dealing with distinctly suboptimal conditions. On many rock types this can be easily tolerated: positive holds, good gear, space beneath your feet. On sandstone (e.g. Ravensheugh) and gritstone (e.g. Brimham) with their bold, smeary, rounded, frictional demands, it can be considerably more problematic. Do I really want to swing around into a committing rounded pod when it's bright green? Or teeter up a bold slab when it's covered with lichen?

I think not.

The issue being: I still want to do the routes. They still inspire me - great lines, great looking climbing. But they need cleaning. I.e. really need cleaning - bear in mind these are in areas somewhat distant from my home turf where I would hope the true locals might look after them a bit - although, grumbling aside, that's not really the point

The dilemma is: Do I bother to abseil down myself and clean them??

My previous initial reaction was: No. I don't want to blow the on-sight. I want to lead them ground-up, on-sight, no inspection, at the full level of challenge. Fair enough, I just have to wait to see if they get cleaned.

After return visits and routes getting dirtier not cleaner, my second reaction was: Yes, fuck it, fuck the on-sight, I've done enough, tackled enough challenges in recent years, I don't have anything to prove to myself, so clean and inspect away just to get them done. Fair enough, a pragmatic view.

But, as soon as I think that, my current reaction is: No, the challenge and the tick might not matter and can be easily sacrificed, but the experience can't: THAT is what it boils down to, that is what matters, and why ethics matter. On-sight describes a certain experience, a voyage of discovery, a journey into the unknown, and all the joys and pleasure and intrigue and fun and satisfaction that brings. Sure I can clean routes and do them, but I'm inspired by the routes because of what an on-sight would offer, and I'd lose that.

So...

As interesting as it was to have personal ethics confirmed by the importance of the experience and the pleasure it brings, the routes are still green and I'm still not climbing them. Arse!

However...

After a bit of musing, I think I have a solution. I go on a normal climbing day out, alternate routes and leads with a partner, but I sacrifice one of my leads for them abseiling and cleaning a route for me. E.g. they lead a route, I forfeit my lead and they clean a route, they lead a route, I lead the cleaned route. Seems like it would be fair enough with an open-minded partner....I'll get some stiff brushes in stock then...

4 comments:

La Mac said...

I was thinking, before I read to the end, that what you need is a willing belay bunny who can also abseil and clean the routes for you, but you seem to have got that far yourself.

If I was closer, I'd offer my services :D

Fiend said...

Well, not a belay bunny, no. Just a normal climbing partner who is up for thinking outside the box and helping me out. I'd give up some of my climbing time if they were cleaning for me...

I just hadn't thought about it so clearly before, in terms of swapping one of my leads for some cleaning time.

bonjoy said...

I have mulled over the same problem before. The trouble with the push for the onsight ethic and the general frowning upon wire brushing, is that some routes are filthy as a consequence. Cleaning a very green route with a plastic brush is stupidly hard work. Few people can be arses and the result is an only slightly less dirty route which soon goes back to it’s original state. Things which would help:
• More general encouragement for people to clean routes.
• Acceptance that in some circumstances light wire brushing with a welder’s style wire brush is the only practicable way to clean a route and does no greater damage then climbing itself.
• Root swapping with a friend. Ie you brush my route and I’ll brush yours.

Fiend said...

Ie you brush my route and I’ll brush yours.

*snort snort* ;)

Tell you what though, if you want to swap, I'll exchange some!

Yep totally agree with that. I also think fashion and honeypotting are part of it - people letting routes fall into disuse because Burbage Popular End is so much easier...

I also agree there is a world of difference between a full-on stiff wire brush, and welder's brush or brass suede brush. I think the general "no wirebrushing" policy on grit is sound because if it was not discouraged it would be totally abused, but in some circumstances you do need something tougher than plastic...