Responses to common pro-bolting arguments

These views are elitist!
Because something is hard, it should be made easier so it is not ‘elitist’?  If this was applied other sports, perhaps we could make a marathon less for less able runners so they all finish at the same time, or allow darts players to stand closer to the board so the challenge is less, or in gymnastics competition allow lesser able competitors more comfortable landings so they dare to make the moves etc…

This argument is poor; climbers can climb traditionally at any grade. It is not elitist in the slightest.

If a climber wants to do hard moves in safety there are many options open to them; they can do it on a top rope, take up bouldering or even deep water soloing.

Of course on a top rope it is not ‘on lead’ but in reality if the vanity of wanting to have done something ‘on lead’ is the core reason for causing permenant damage to the rock it says little for climber’s attitudes.

Bolts make ‘impossible’ climbs safe
So does a top rope only you don’t have to drill holes all over the rock. The requirement to ‘lead’ something instead of using a top rope is basically putting selfish wants over the longevity of millions of year old rock formations.

The hardest climbs in the world are bolted
Simply not true. Check the hardest bouldering problems in the world, the moves will inherently be harder due to the fact that there are less of them. Also – define ‘hard’ there is a strong argument to suggest that the hardest traditional routes are in fact the hardest routes because they require huge reserves of mental strength alongside physical.

Logically speaking, if it can be climbed using bolts, it can be climbed clean or soloed. Just because you can’t imagine it happening today – just wait 20 years and see what happens. Or, for other examples look at the hard sport climbs of the 80’s and how often they get on sighted today.

Bolts reduce accidents
Where is the evidence to prove this? – While compiling this article we have not been able to find any credible sources to suggest this one way or another.

There was a study done on children and climbing frames, and it found that by having rubber matting on the floor instead of concrete did not reduce injuries, it turns out that the children perceived there to be more safe with the rubber matting and took more risks – perhaps bolts follow a similar pattern.

Climbing is a dangerous sport, bolts or no bolts – many sport routes can be equaly well protected with traditional gear and this can be coupled with the fact that people are less likley to fall when over natural gear compared with bolts.

Bolts at belays and portaledges make sense
Rocking around in a storm on a portaledge attached to some not so great gear is going to be scary as. But on the other hand, perhaps its best to put the ledge somewhere with good gear, or accept that you are on a hard climb and this is one of the reasons why it is hard.

If you need to use bolts to put up a route you are taking the route away from someone more able who will be able to climb it without.

Bolts on ‘trade routes’ are OK
Just because lots of people use it, doesn’t mean that it should be made even more accessible, it’s a poor justification based entirely around (often guides) convenience and speed. If the route is that easy, then the protection should be adequate, if the protection is too hard, then one should just climb elsewhere until they are good enough or fast enough.

By bolting a route it will only enhance its ‘trade route’ status meaning that bolts inevitably become self-justifying invalidating the whole argument.

Historically, the ethics dictate that it’s OK

For crags that were initially aided using pegs, people might say that it is fine to drill bolts.

This is just nonsense, historically many things were seen to be OK; like slavery, torture or crapping out the window in to the street.

Just because the history of a crag is based around fixed protection it doesn’t mean that that is where the progression of climbing styles and ethics should remain forever.

See the argument about why bolts are unsustainable.

The locals at the crag feel that this is how it should be
Firstly ‘the locals’ very rarely own the rock, and again just because that is the style that has developed, doesn’t mean that it is there where climbing progression stops.

Secondly they are rarely the only people who enjoy the natural environment so having the local climbers dictate that bolting anything is OK is a misrepresentation of everyone who uses the place – people rarely take in to the consideration of people who visit but don’t climb there – these places have different visitors for different reasons.

Traditional gear also damages the rock
This one is a pathetic argument, all climbing damages the rock, it is impossible not to – but the real question is how can you REDUCE the level in which you damage the rock – and bolting is quite obviously not the answer.

See the argument about why bolts are unsustainable.

Trad or ‘clean’ climbers can simply climb around the bolts
This argument can only be brought up from a basis of general ignorance as to what traditional climbing is about and what makes it challenging. For example; if a climber is about to start on a difficult piece of climbing on a traditional climb where there is no gear for some distance, they may also be doing it in the knowledge that they may not be able to reverse the moves, to complete this part of the climb will require mental and physical strength. If there was a bolt half way up this – effectively providing an easy retreat this ‘mental crux’ simply would not exist in the same way.

Bolts, for many routes, will inherently destroy much of the mental challenge and difficulties the route presents to the climber. To suggest that it is the same to simply climb around the bolts is nonsense; and to believe it can only show a lack of understanding.

And lastly “Future ‘Anti gravity mats’ mean that we won’t need bolts for too much longer, so bolting now is sustainable
This is reminiscent of people who say they don’t mind smoke excessively because they will have something to cure lung cancer by the time they get it and equally daft only a cure for cancer is far more likely than a portable anti gravity mat (talk to a physicist to find out more).


2 responses to “Responses to common pro-bolting arguments

  1. although I agree that bolting needs to stop, your arguements are very flawed. you claim to say you are not an elitist but many of your arguments use a condescending tone towards climbers that use bolts.

  2. Your probably right there Zac – I might have a read through & re-work some of the responses at some point; I wrote all of these 3 years ago in an evening or two so it would be good to go-over and make it more balanced.

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