Soapbox Derby

My housemates Climber Magazine came whilst he was away at the BMC sea cliff meet. So I opened it up, and managed to flick through in a matter of minutes, however I was intrigued about one article by Martin Kocsis who writes the BMC feature the Sharp End in the mag. He had been researching about the fixed gear debate on UKC, and I was interested to see what he had made of the debate.

Now I like Martin, he is often seen around the village, and he does a lot of great work for the BMC. However I felt that this latest piece was whilst well thought out, actually didn’t reflect the arguments he got from many people on the forums, and for that matter it did not reflect my thoughts or the thoughts of many people I climb with either.

So I have decided to get on my slightly smaller and less well distributed soapbox. Now Martin argues about a lower off in some grit quarry being poor. Which to be honest sounds pretty bad, but here’s the thing, I don’t care because I don’t know enough about the actual lower off to offer an opinion. However why not replace them with new pegs, rather than go down Martin’s suggestion of a bolt belay.

However I got very upset with martin over the Castell Helen abseil point, and will continue to defend the current situation. Yes it might be an ‘Ugly’ collection of pegs and tat. But it is totally functional, and if you have half an once of climbing knowledge you can add to that insitu situation with one or two wires.

Sure two bolts might be a cleaner solution, but the tat is only visible by people who are actually abseiling. More importantly though Gogarth is pretty much a bolt free area, certainly in the modern idiom. It is a crag that represents adventure climbing, not just trad climbing. A point that I think Martin misses, the add adventure comes from you having to manage your own safety in one way or another, if you don’t have the skills to keep yourself safe, then maybe you shouldn’t be there.

Now Martin argues that this is Elitism, from the E7 climbers, well unfortunately, I feel it is actually elitism not from E7+ climbers but from those of us with the experience to make judgements on anchors, and the skills to make an appropriate belay. Whereas elitism through grade can be seen as limiting factor that unfairly discriminates against those that will never reach those grades. I would argue that the experience elitism, is not an unclimable hill, but one that takes time and a little thought to overcome.

Just because people can move rapidly through the grades nowadays thanks to training, coaching and instruction. Suggesting that we change things to cater for lack of real experience is cutting our nose off to spite our face. I and many of my friends love adventure, it is why I climb. If people can’t be bothered to build up their experience to manage their safety in a climbing environment then so be it. I don’t think it is a reason to bolt belays at Castell Helen.

Castell Helen
Castell Helen

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