Matt Segal: Pioneer or Destroyer of Routes?

Recently there was an article on the 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.

Matt-Segal-Air-China-Fall-3As 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,



57 thoughts on “Matt Segal: Pioneer or Destroyer of Routes?

  1. Respectfully, and since you asked, I disagree wholeheartedly. The Brits figured out a long time ago that there isn’t a lot of rock around and if we bolt everything down to our level there will be nothing left for future generations other than maybe chipping (and bolting) blank faces. As far as future ascents go, “If you can’t climb it, don’t.” Take your ego and go find something else you are capable of climbing.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. So bolt the snot out of routes so your self important retro-Patagonia clad rigid stem cam toting gym rat can hang dog on it? Go back to a bounce house where you can feel safe. Your pro-climber envy is palpable throughout your blog, it’s cute.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. “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. ”

    You have absolutely no clue what you’re talking about. The quote above is complete and utter bollocks.

    There are more sport routes in the world than you could ever hope to climb in 10 lifetimes. Leave the bold trad alone.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Wes, You are a complete idiot! You aren’t even qualified to hold Matt’s chalk bag, let alone belay him. So you think everybody wants to climb what you feel are “safe” routes? What is safe for one soul might be dangerous for another due to individuality & personal qualities. The 1970’s ethic was about respecting the environment & doing as little damage to the stone as possible( ie: fewer holes drilled) Nobody is holding a gun to your head to make you attempt those routes you deem to dangerous to climb. You can always find another climb to try.

    Did it ever occur to you that for some climbers, the mental difficulties of arranging the protection and routefinding, are the main attractions, not just the physical difficulties of the moves, which given enough attempts, give up their secrets and yield to an ascent. Is not an onsite ascent the highest form of style? Or do we dumb things down and make climbing “safe” for the masses?

    Your blog says you’ve been climbing for 3 years. Dude, my bouldering pad is older than that.

    Why in fact are you even writing a blog on climbing? Maybe you should be writing about playing video games or something you actually know something about.


      • This is a completely ridiculous statement. Yes you can choose to not clip them, but if you are scared and pumped you can clip them and fall happily. By the nature of there being bolts at all the commitment falls enormously. You really need to tread lightly here because hard climbing with little gear/or bolts is in many ways the soul of climbing. It was never meant to be safe, that is, unless you wanted to go sport climbing.


      • that’s a ridiculous statement. It’s on YOU to not clip the bolt – if you think your commitment level drops, you obviously do not have enough self control to not clip a bolt when you are scared.


      • The aim is to be free, unrestrained, taking responsibility for ourselves be it on a ms or on an e10 death route (sorry I don’t know u.s. grades) on pure rock no shiny bolts.
        I’m sorry Matt felt the need to add the bolt looks an amazing line but its his FA hope you get to go back and do it clean and chop the bolt.
        As for you, you need a trip to the UK and do some trad and learn about climbing OR stick to pulling on plastic sorry you have not right to slate a climb of Matt’s standard


  5. OMG,

    Most of us over the age of 21 who have been climbing more than 6 years have long checked our egos at the door. Apparently not you however. You are indeed mis or grossly ill informed when it comes to climbing protection. In the 70s, as if it were the Pleistocene, Ray Jardine had already invented and we were using “Friends”. Lowe Balls had come into existence for thin cracks, small RP’s rulled the day yes, but the half tri-cam existed then too. As well, of course, as thin KB’s, rurps and all the other aid technology that hasn’t changed much since then.

    And as at least one person above mentions, the joys of placing one’s own protection, and really feeling a sovereign ascent at your onsight level has been accomplished, not because you clipped all the bolts or pins in the route, but because you just placed all the gear on the, well rules as one of lives’ memorable moments. These are great days.

    It’s apparent that anyone can say anything on a blog.

    And I have to second the bold blog comment above, as I roll in laughter at your blog – leave the bold trad alone dude! There are more than enough bolt lines for your limited sport lifetime.

    In the 21st Century you are irresponsible if you advocate bolting a route because it might be otherwise too dangerous for your skill level. Stay home, or head to the bounce house, as one above suggested. They are nicely padded, after all. Perhaps we should start lining the base of sport routes with pads too, so we don’t twist an ankle. cg


    • Respectfully, that is all crap. Thats like saying, if you don’t have the mental strength to drive without a seatbelt, then don’t, but don’t make us wear one… Every route should be safely protected, and if YOU choose not to clip a bolt, then that is your choice. But just because someone is the first to climb a route, doesn’t mean they should decide how EVERYONE has to climb it. What if I found a beautiful line somewhere, free solo it, and proclaim that nobody can enjoy it unless the free solo it? Because i did! That robs the route from thousands of people… please…

      Liked by 1 person

      • If you want to make a comparison to man-made safety equipment then compare it to helmets…and of course there are tons of people that choose not to wear helmets and wish helmet laws didn’t exist. But either way, both comparisons are dumb.

        The appeal for an R/X route…for people that find them appealing…is often that they are R/X. The difficulty and danger is what draws people in, and is why people like Matt are still climbing these routes instead of any of the countless bolted climbs already in existence. The opposite argument to “you rob thousands of people of the route” is that by adding more bolts, you’re robbing anybody from ever experiencing the climb how the FA first climbed it. And of course since he worked the route on TR first, the climb is already accessible to anybody who can set up a top rope.

        Should we start bulldozing, flattening, and paving all National Parks to make them accessible to everybody in America? Or should we instead preserve the natural (and IRREPLACEABLE) features as they are?


      • but…. if the route was bolted, he can still climb it without the bolts if he chooses. There are plenty of people who climb bolted routes on gear, as is their right. Your argument is moot.


      • > but…. if the route was bolted, he can still climb it without
        > the bolts if he chooses. There are plenty of people who climb
        > bolted routes on gear, as is their right. Your argument is moot.

        You continue to miss the point. When you add bolts, you REMOVE the danger aspect of the climbing. Getting pumped out with a bolt beside your face is NOT the same as getting pumped out with no pro for another 10 feet when a few micro stoppers are your last pieces 10 feet below. Regardless of whether or have to use the bolt, the fact that it’s there changes the characteristic of the climb DRASTICALLY. You might as well say that “mock leading while on TR is the same as leading if you never actually weight the TR rope”. Sure, the physical challenge is the same, but the mental knowledge that you have a BACK UP makes it so much easier. It would be like taking a mountain bike trail and covering up all obstacles in soft foam. Even if you don’t plan to use it, the fact that it’s there if you DO need it makes everything a little bit less scary.

        Plus, as we’ve already established, the route in question can obviously be setup safely for TR, so YOUR argument — of making the climb safe for everybody — is moot.


  6. Totally agree Wes. Especially since he toprope rehearsed it and worked out the gear placements ahead of time. Who but a first (and only) ascentionist is going to go to that trouble? If you want to be a bad ass, act like one and do your x routes ground up.


  7. Good lord you’re an egotistical moron. You shouldn’t be permitted outdoors. Do not, ever, pick up a drill. You don’t have the sense god gave a drunk iguana if you think that you are qualified to comment on Matt Segall’s article or route. Humility reuqires first accepting your own ignorance. Give that a shot as step 1 in becoming a worthwhile human being.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Wes…I think you were born to be a YPS Tool!!! You can’t climb, you hate climbers, and you love NAMBLA…prereq’s covered! The climbing blog thing ain’t working for you….


      • YPS = Yosemite Park Service Tool(gun-toting anti-climber Ranger)
        NAMBLA = North American Man Boy Lovers Assoc.
        Does that clear it up for you? Please tell us that this blog is a giant troll joke. If not, STFU, learn to climb, earn your opinions. You’ve done nothing. You’re words are meaningless.


  9. “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.”

    As has been pointed out above, this is patently not true.


  10. Do you guys not get that this blog was intended as a joke??

    Either it is very well done, more likeb the majority of the readers are a complete bunch of emotionaly unintelligent faggots.


  11. You might as well have one of those huge inflatable bouncy houses at the base of the route if you are too scared to climb it. People like you are the reason why we older climbers see the younger climbers as pussies. It takes plenty of skill to place trad gear while climbing on super hard routes. I think that’s what makes some of the greatest climbers of the world. So no, Matt Segal’s ego is not out of whack. If he can make it that far on a 5.13 trad route while maintaining his composure, that’s nothing but impressive.


    • There’s a reason nearly 50% of you old time climbers haven’t climbed harder than 5.9+…. The argument isn’t that he didn’t have the right to climb in whatever style he wanted, the argument is that he doesn’t have the right to keep the route equipped as is. I have just as much right to add more bolts and climb it in MY style.


      • The reason why 50% of us old time climbers haven’t climbed harder than a 5.9 is because we were taught and brought up to climb with trad gear, not clipping a biner into a bolt. Two entirely different aspects of climbing. We took time to look at, assess, and properly place protection into the rock. In a way, we respected the challenges the sport brought to us and never looked at it competitively.

        We didn’t have gyms to start climbing on unlike you, where anyone without prior experience and in moderately good shape can easily climb 5.10’s via auto belay in a nice, air conditioned environment. And come time to move outdoors, all you need to know is how to use a carabiner to clip draws into bolts.

        And for your last statement, you’re basically saying that YOU can do whatever YOU want to a route in order to satisfy YOUR needs. Sounds kinda selfish to me. Many people, including me, actually enjoy the inherent danger a route has to offer. It’s sort of like an adrenaline rush. And taking away these things just ruins the entire experience for us. If you feel that a route may be too dangerous, either don’t climb it, or pack your stuff and head to the nearest gym so we don’t have to deal with PUSSIES like you.


    • Have you ever thought about what would happen if someone like ondra (a real athlete) came and took a shot at say the path, monkey face, or any other of the “hard” head points in NA? He could free solo any of the above….no problem.

      Maybe that pits your self righteous fist pumping in to perspective.

      Think about it, all your bold 10a are less than impressive….


  12. Hey, I live in Li Ming and have spent time on the route Air China. Bolt or no bolt the route is still dangerous. The fin like arete is the reason. All the moves are pulling you to the right and if you fall, you fall right into this lacerating feature. Bolt or not it is still a dangerous route. Just saying.
    -Mike Dobie


  13. Wes, I’m confused. See, here in Australia, a lot of people believe that Americans don’t understand sarcasm or irony. Now, I’ve always thought that a gross and untrue generalisation, and if someone asked me to give an example of an American being a master of these arts, I would direct them to your blog. And yet, my argument would be disproved by all the comments. I don’t think I can reconcile these disparities. But please don’t stop writing, those of us who get it, love it.

    Liked by 1 person

      • …thumbs up from Czech Republic…above the equator line:) And I would not express it better than “Will_P”…may be because English is not my first language:) Wes, please keep it coming, every single article I have read here is great….


  14. Lol. Well played. But you’re getting a bit out of character with the ‘I’d bolt the SHIT out of it!’ comment. Keep true to form, and you’ll enjoy many more ranting responses to come.


  15. Wes clearly knows his shit, but all the sexist, homophobic, and apostrophobic commenters don’t sound as though they even climb…


  16. I agree Wes. If there is an inspiring line that is dangerous I see nothing wrong with drilling some bolts to help protect a dangerous fall. This opens it up for the rest of us to enjoy safely. Any tips for a first time bolter?


  17. What I don’t understand is why no one’s talking about Matt not wearing a helmet. Not only does he make it R/X, but don’t you think BD or whoever sponsors him would want their helmet in that picture? Please, for the love of god – Matt Segal and all the other pros, think of the children, who look up to you and put that FREE DAMN helmet we all know you have on your head!


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