Recently there was an article on the Climbing.com website by Matt Segal, called, “To Bolt, or Not to Bolt”. The article talks about a route he established in China, called Air China, 5.13+ R. Segal talks about how he wanted to establish the hardest trad route in China. Right off the bat, we see that he had a goal in his mind, and nothing was going to stop him.
As a route developer myself, I don’t seek out contrived lines just to fit my climbing goals. If a route ends up being easier than I thought it would be, I still take the time to clean it, and equip it in a safe way. Segal so desperately wanted this route to be considered a “traditional” route, he risked his own, and his belayers life just to try to nab the first ascent. His ego drove him to almost paying the ultimate price. In the end, the crux was so dangerous, he ended up adding a bolt, and sent the route using that bolt.
I understand the drive he felt. But there comes a point where you should check your ego at the door, and not let your pride destroy what might actually have been a great route. In the 21st century, you are IRRESPONSIBLE if you are establishing R/X routes. Period.
There was a time, where most trad routes were what we consider, R/X. This was simply because climbers in the 70’s didn’t have the gear necessary to protect the route. Bolts were terrible, and cams were not around, so many thin routes were put up with shitty hexes, and pounded in pitons. But today, we have bomber protection, 6 inch stainless steel glue-in bolts, and there’s no reason (other than selfish ego-stroking) why you should rob the community of an excellent, well protected sport route, just because you were stupid enough to risk your life and climb it using tiny off-set brass nuts, and three 000 C3’s.
Sure, the FA gets to name the route, grade it, and goes down in some guidebook or online route repository. But he/she does not own the rock, or get to dictate ethics/style. I would have no problem going to China, and bolting the shit out of Matt Segals route.
Do you agree? Let me know,