Sunday, 2 August 2009


Since I have started doing more sport climbing, I have started encountering British bolting on a more regular basis. Except there is nothing regular about it. British bolting is like the British weather that has forced me onto the bolts: Variable, unpredictable, unreliable, is frequently bollox and doesn't do what it promises.

Noticeably often it's not sport climbing in the truest sense, but dodgy-clip-stick-reliant-badly-positioned-mixed-semi-sport-climbing-semi-aid-climbing-relics. Partly due to our trad-orientated heritage but seemingly partly due to the archaic, insular, and sometimes downright cretinous attitudes that perpetuate and promote a heritage that is no longer suitable for that genre of climbing.

It's simple: when I, or indeed most people, choose to go sport climbing, we want to go sport climbing. If we wanted bold climbing with dodgy fall potential, we'd go trad climbing. If we wanted mixed climbing with long run-outs above bolts, we'd go slate climbing (well, the slate climbing that hasn't been retro/grid-bolted to fuck - now there's a more worthy target for the "sport climbing traditionalists"). If we wanted varied and weirdly spaced fixed protection, we'd go on some trad limestone.

But if we want sport, we want sport. That doesn't imply, as some people like to transparently foolishly extrapolate, grid-bolting, over-bolting, adding dozens of bolts to everything, regular bolting on the easiest ground etc etc. There are some modern overbolted routes around and these could do with a few bolts removed just as much as some of the relics from the 80s could do with a few bolts adding. But what it does imply is sensible, proper bolting. Bolts that are well spaced, that don't require clip-sticks unless they're impossible to clip otherwise, that are clipped high from resting jugs, that don't encourage ground-fall potential from clipping nor single bolt failure. As I say, it's simple, sport that feels like sport. Almost invariably, every example of shoddy bolting I've come across, could be fixed by adding merely one or two bolts, and rearranging one or two. It might be impractical at the moment, but it's by no means excessive or unreasonable.

And yes, I understand bolting requires a lot of effort, I am grateful to all those involved - particularly those bolt well. And I will donate to bolt funds when their effects trickle down to my lowly level and I see an effect on the climbs I'm interested in.

In the meantime, my friends with clipsticks and my trad climbing heritage gets me through these inconveniences - but they shouldn't have to.

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