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Posted on 24. Nov, 2009 by in News

When I first moved to Colorado, Mt. Evans was virtually unknown. For almost three years, only a handful of boulderers visited the area and I was lucky enough to be one of them. I was asked to keep the place a secret by the climbers who found it. This put me in a very difficult postition, because as the word slowly trickled out, people knew that I spent alot of time hiking around and would ask me if I knew anything about the area. I was always torn about what to say but in the end, it has helped shaped part of my approach to development. I fully understand wanting to keep a secret, especially when you have done all the hiking, all the cleaning, and all the preparation that can go in to doing a first ascent. I think most of this is ego driven, which is ok (all of the hardest climbs have been ego driven) but it can also slow down the development of an area. I am by no means perfect on this point (in sharing things) but I try to be the best I can be. I promoted Sunseeker earlier this year, knowing that is was one of the best projects in Colorado (I certainly felt I had a chance to do it) but I just wanted to see it get done, and sure enough Nalle nabbed the FA just a few days after my post. I am not trying to take credit for his ascent by any means, but I am pointing out that when a problem or area enter the public eye, the increased attention can have a dramatic effect. I am curious as to what others think. It seems that areas like Flagstaff, AZ or the South (Boone, for example) have been off the radar for a while because there is a perception (though untrue) that locals are reticent about divulging beta to secret areas. Perhaps this is because both areas lack guidebooks. Should projects or areas be kept secret? Does the person who finds and cleans a problem have any right to do the first ascent? Thoughts?

30 Responses to “Secrets”

  1. Eliott

    24. Nov, 2009

    I certainly think that it is good and proper to t least ask the person who found and cleaned the boulder if you can work it. Most dedicated soul climbers just know and stay away from it until it gets climbed. There are thousands of boulders out there .. why steal someone else’s hard work?? But uh . .it is just boulder. If someone steals your first what are you going to do? F it. Get the second. or the Fifth. Or the 50th.

  2. martin

    24. Nov, 2009

    I think that choice belongs to each person who finds a new area or bouldert to decide. If someone goes out for a walk and finds something to climb should they be obligated to tell others? I don’t think so. However, it is obvious that nobody has the right to claim dibs on a first ascent just because they were the initial person to stumble across it. Something as exciting as being the first to climb a piece of rock is worth holding on too and challenging yourself for days on end until another climber comes along and beats you too it.

  3. Kevin

    24. Nov, 2009

    I was visiting Flagstaff, AZ. in early 2000, or so. A somewhat local , living there for like 5 years, was going to do a guide and possibly small article about Flagstaff bouldering. Once the “locals” heard, they put some real pressure on him to stop all attempts to do either. To my knowledge no guide was ever published, or article. Right or wrong, the local scene there, which entailed about 20+ people, where completely against it. I don’t think it was a “don’t steal my project” thing, it seemed more like, we really don’t need an influx of people here. “The Draw” and many of the Flagstaff areas, have almost no hike, dam, some you can drive right to the boulder. It may have been a fear of access. In reality it was already on the map. Many Euroes(SP) already made it there regular stop, before going to Hueco. Flagstaff, evan if there was no bouldering, is a great Western town to hang in. Well, to wrap it up, you can still enjoy the same experience as 10 years ago. Can we say the same about other areas that have been heavily publicized?

  4. wyclimber

    24. Nov, 2009

    Question for the ages really. Boils down to what you have or haven’t done. People that spend a lot of time hiking around eventually find ‘new’ stuff and get to put in time developing and nabbing FA’s. Then there are those that make the noise about so and so and their secret stuff or tight lips, but I generally don’t see them even looking for their own finds.

    Its not like the gripers couldn’t have stumbled into Evans while it was being developed to find and open their own gems, but they didn’t. One of the easiest things to do is complain after the fact. Its all part of the game, so shut it and go find some new stuff to climb and when your ready, let the rest of us in on it. I promise to do the same.

  5. ed

    24. Nov, 2009

    The “work” on a boulder problem really boils down to cleaning holds. Someone’s right to a first ascent of a boulder problem is absurd. Unless of course promoting yourself and your ego are more important then actual climbing.

  6. B3

    24. Nov, 2009

    @Kevin Interesting to think about how guidebooks positively or negatively affect an area. And as I commented earlier, how internet publicity is positive or negative. Years ago, all of what I would prefer to call “information” was called spray and was clearly negative. Funny how that has almost flipped completely.

  7. Kevin

    24. Nov, 2009

    Its a thin blue line. I think we ALL have the ability to exploit an area in a negative way. We also should be able to create media about an area and not get BASHED by the local community. I guess a little research and some stewardship go along way. I also think “the secret” areas have really been kept secret. We all know who can keep there mouth shut and who can’t, oh yeah BTW, I can’t.

  8. sockhands

    24. Nov, 2009

    to tell/spray or not to tell/spray… it generally seems to come down to deciding on a case-by-case basis.

    secret areas are very hard for me, since i like to invite a thousand kids to climb. other than huddling in the same constricted rmnp cave to avoid the rain, climbing in a group is typically fun.

    to keep secrets forces one to make judgments about his or her friends… who is worthy of the secret and who is not…. in all cases, this has led me to dissatisfaction with the experience. active concealment to those you call friend never makes you feel very good.

    maybe a better method is passive secret keeping… if someone asks where you’re climbing on saturday… you tell them and take them… but you do not advertise or lie or refuse to talk about a place if asked directly.

    in any event, i can say with certainty that the hardest FAs i have done and some of the hardest new lines i have done were when i brought friends to work the moves and race for the the FA. the good-natured motivation and beta sharing cannot be beat…. plus, the real worth of an FA is how much it gets repeated…. that’s when i’ve always taken pride in an FA… when it becomes a coveted classic… not when it sits unrepeated and awaiting the day when it is fully forgotten and FA’d again.

    every hard project that i’ve kept off the radar still sits unsent by anyone.

    and if a friend of yours nabs the FA, then it is almost even more special since it was effectively a gift to that friend…. the only thing that irks me is when you show someone a project or new area… they piss all over it without thanks, then spray it all over the internet without a shout to those who served the project up on a silver spoon.

    That’s just rude.

    this may be a tangent to the larger question, but i believe that massaging the ego of the developers and demonstrating a genuine gratefulness for their efforts can go a long way to get people to open up and share their secret areas.

    the common denominator is respect. respect for who showed you the place, who developed it, and respect for the area itself…. pick up your trash… take a few minutes to fix a wetspot on the trail that is getting chewed up with traffic… attend a trail day for once…

    all these things can really help folks want to show others around.

    on the other hand, show up like locusts to decimate an area and move on… well, i bet those folks will not be in the know when some new stone gets found.

    whatever…. the theraflu is wearing off.

  9. rgod

    24. Nov, 2009

    I lived and climbed in Flagstaff for many years, and experienced the solitude of lesser known areas. In fact, those may be some of my most fond memories of climbing in that area. I think every climbing area comes with an experience and it should be enjoyed in that way. Hueco, Bishop, and Yosemite are fantastic climbing areas but have enormous crowd problems, but visitors enjoy them for their historical significance, climbing scene, and amazing rock. I don’t understand why lesser known, or less publicized areas, shouldn’t be enjoyed for their solitude, serenity and “throw-back” to the days before bouldering became popular.

    I recall when Little Cottonwood Canyon and Joe’s Valley did not have guidebooks. As a new climber, it was fun to go out and snag a first ascent, not because it was hard, but because it was part of the experience. Maybe we should preserve the experience of lesser-known climbing areas so that the experience can be enjoyed by others seeking it?

    Just a thought . . . spray away

  10. Ken

    24. Nov, 2009

    This isn’t the first time you’ve mentioned Flag on this site. Why don’t you come on down and check it out? There are many gems waiting to be picked…. Ken from Flag

  11. sock hands

    24. Nov, 2009

    i can’t.

  12. B3

    24. Nov, 2009

    @rgod Alot of good thoughts or ideas. I have traveled to many small out of the way places and enjoyed them for exactly the reasons you give. At the same time, I have often used the internet to find out of the way areas or problems. It’s a Catch-22.

  13. SphereHead

    24. Nov, 2009

    As a long time developer, “local,” and proponent of the anti-guidebook, article, and general media exposure of Flagstaff rock climbing, I am an obvious advocate of the “off the radar” approach. However, despite this perception of fervent localism in Flag, traveling climbers still brave the waters and are treated to tours of both established and new found problems and areas by the very “locals” they may have read or argued with on the internet to begin with.

    Of note; more often than not, when invited to a new area or off the beaten path problem, traveling climbers typically decline for the more familiar Rampage session near the car and in the Dr. Topo guide, go figure.

    Interestingly enough, small guidebooks were created, articles written, and photos published in major climbing media outlets (as i’m sure happened in Boone, etc.), but save for a few more climbers moving to town each year, nothing much negative has come of this exposure. What has happened is the spirit of the “throw back days” has remained because everyone, willing or not, became invested in keeping that spirit alive, everyone became a steward of their crags. Be it from an initial misperception of potential local reaction/retaliation or a realization after a day of climbing with no one but your friends that it’s better this way, an oral tradition has been established with Northern Arizona area bouldering (unofficially of course) that all are welcome, just ask, keep your ego in check, and leave it as it was before you came. Because, after all, your just climbing up dirty cliff bands in the woods anyway.

  14. Calvin

    24. Nov, 2009

    Sometimes access is a little sensitive so crowds can be a problem. That’s the way it is here in So iLL.

    Also, cleaning boulders can be a dirty, nasty business. If you only have limited time to climb each week, putting in the hours can be a real sacrifice, so it seems a little unfair to just call it ego driven. I got to climb a cool new climb last Sunday right after watching a guy clean a boulder and do the FA. He spent quite a bit of effort getting dirt off the top. After seeing that, I would have stayed off the boulder to give him a chance for the FA if he hadn’t gotten it and needed time. Seems reasonable to me.

  15. joe morgan

    25. Nov, 2009

    i think its user decision. i dont yell about my new problems i find when i am close, just needing a session or some skin, to sending; after all, it is the explorer in me that drives me to hike over that next hill, use google maps, etc to find new stone. if someone else wants to do the legwork, let them, of course you can’t hide rocks sitting in the hills.
    but my friend has gotten stung by sharing the rocks. and stung only in the ego. he discovered via massive hiking a new zone. he carried in the required ladders and ropes and saws to clean and prepare what is now considered one of Black Mts finest lines. however, he did not get the FA. you show to many people your projects, you might not send first. but hey. just rocks. just humans. just silly sometimes.

  16. Justin

    25. Nov, 2009

    Did Sock Hands just write an epic comment that did not crash into a pit of nonsense? I’m not comfortable with this concept and hope the trend does not continue.

    My two cents… I understand the desire to keep a secret a secret, I do it. No one gets hurt if a secret is well kept because no one knows that they are missing out on anything. Its when a the secret begins to slip and people start asking that it gets tricky.

    Of course, I love sharing new problems with my friends and they typically do the same. I don’t have a problem sharing with them because they all, more or less, contribute to pool of boulder problems by hiking, discovering, and cleaning new lines. The people that typically will have to wait for the newness are those that never put in the time and effort to find and clean new lines themselves. Its fine if you don’t want to do this, just don’t expect me to turn over a bunch of choice FA’s to you.

    I will say that its seems unethical or, at the very least, elitist to have secret areas or problems and post videos or pictures of them on the internet without making beta to get to them available. That’s just taunting.

  17. thomas

    26. Nov, 2009

    one of the most important aspects on keeping secrets is the preservation of an area. being a developer in the south this is very true. go to a Little Rock City type area and you will see tape wads, plastic bottles, and general trash not to mention the caked on chalk. this is climber impact, no one else. this bothers me personally because half the reason to go bouldering/climbing is to enjoy the natural landscape. some places are meant to be kept low profile.

  18. Nate Draughn

    26. Nov, 2009

    No Way!! Let it be known! People shouldn’t keep these bomb areas to themselves!!

    BOONE is sick! Anybody need a tour?! hit me up! place is way good!

  19. Jim

    29. Nov, 2009

    Finding a new climb or a new area is very exciting. It is completely understandable to want to be the first to climb it and keep the area under the radar so it doesn’t become too crowded. In my opinion, the person that found the area or climb has the right to ASK other people to keep it quiet, but by no means are they entitled to deciding access to the newly found climb. The rock is out there for all of us. To demand that an area be kept quiet is selfish. Share your discovery with the community. As was already mentioned, that is the best way to develop a new area.

  20. Andy

    01. Dec, 2009

    Keeping a newly discovered area close to oneself makes perfect sense. There is always a lot of questions about access, further development, and impact, and these items need to be understood prior to any major release of the area.

    However once the main developers start talking to people outside of their main group the area should be considered open as they decided to bring in more people which allows for the word to spread quickly.

    In today’s age with the rampant use of digital cameras, blogs, climbing websites, facebook, etc. That thinking that an area will be secret after you have told a couple of people (even if you stress its secrecy) is incredibly disillusioned.

    My issue is that once the word gets out, usually there is a major influx of people to that area. The people spreading the news post poor or inconsistent directions and little info about the climbs, but just enough to get people interested.

    With this poor “beta” due the area suddenly has a million social trails, people crossing through private land, and tons of other random incidents.

    Problems could be easily alleviated if early on proper documentation in terms of access points, names, ethics, etc are clearly laid out in a public forum (ie mountainproject) or other guidebook means. Therefore people understand all the fine points around access and that access can be easily updated and discussed.

    Therefore I feel strongly that once the developers begin sharing information outside of a tight group of friends they are responsible for making the area public and if proper information is released early on in development, areas can be properly used by a larger group of people.

  21. Timpson

    03. Dec, 2009

    For me it’s a double edged sword. I’ve developed small areas and obscure boulders in a few states, and when doing so I have felt a finite responsibility to establish sound ethics, healthy relationships with landowners and neighbors, and have all my eggs in one basket so to speak, before releasing information and inviting the crowds in. Behaving any other way is simply irresponsible and affects the entire climbing community. So in this regard “secrets” and secret areas can sometimes, even often, be necessary. However, I have often experienced the selfish, and purely egotistical side of the coin. I cannot tell you how many times I have been refused tours, refused beta, refused access, etc., for a myriad of reasons including not being a local, or not climbing what any particular spray lord at any given time considered “hard enough”. I’m a pretty easy going and friendly dude, and never turn anyone away from access or information I have, unless an agreement with a landowner demands it. Climbing to me is all about sharing, I see no satisfaction in keeping a classic problem to myself, or to an elite group of “locals”. A classic problem becomes classic because everyone has access to it, and because it’s so good that people want to climb it over and over, and come from all over the place to do so. When circumstances don’t demand secrets for LEGITIMATE REASONS, rocks should be shared with all. It benefits the entire community…

  22. HANS

    18. Feb, 2010

    Ego driven?
    How does getting an FA stroke one’s ego when the only reason you probably got it was because someone stronger wasn’t there at the time?

  23. B3

    18. Feb, 2010

    How does the desire to be first at anything not driven by ego?
    e?go??[ee-goh, eg-oh] Show IPA
    –noun, plural e?gos.
    1. the “I” or self of any person; a person as thinking, feeling, and willing, and distinguishing itself from the selves of others and from objects of its thought.
    2. Psychoanalysis. the part of the psychic apparatus that experiences and reacts to the outside world and thus mediates between the primitive drives of the id and the demands of the social and physical environment.
    3. egotism; conceit; self-importance: Her ego becomes more unbearable each day.

    i think definition 3 is applicable. Thinking that fundamentally rock climbing, or more closely being the first one to do a rock climb, would qualify as conceit or self-importance.

  24. Todd

    04. Jun, 2010

    My $.02.
    I’v been developing bouldering in AK for 15 years. Almost every time I go outside bouldering I develop 10-15 new problems. We have a huge amount of rock, and very few people, so there is no reason to keep anything secret.

    In an area like boulder with a huge population of active boulderers, you have a litany of potential issues that arise from making places known. I think one of the number one things to address for new areas is access and impact. If these are dealt with, then make it known.

    In my experience, a very small percentage of people are willing to put in the effort to actually clean and explore new areas/problems. Instead they’ll just go repeat the stuff that’s been established.

  25. Miagt

    02. Aug, 2010

    the story that boulders tell the kids at night in boone while camping.

    Tell the folks of the secret areas in boone and it’s not Keyser Söze that will get ya, but joey henson will come grab you pad out from under you when you least expect it

    My view sometimes it is special for folks to have some places to call their own wtih no trash on the ground and loud folks to deal with.

    But I fell ya

  26. Gabe Myers

    28. Feb, 2011

    I think that you need to keep your goddamn mouth shut about sensitive areas, like Mt. Evans, but now that the word is out to the whole world and it has been publicized to a ridiculous degree, the masses will come and quickly destroy the place. The same thing happened to area A.

    “All of the hardest climbs have been ego-driven”- that might be true for an egomaniac like you, Jamie, but I can assure you that people are still putting up very hard problems and not telling a soul, and you will never have access to these places.

  27. Loren

    01. Mar, 2011

    I have spend a good part of the last two years developing a new Pass in CO and the 600+ problems that are now cleaned. When it comes to these new areas, my thoughts have always been simple. If the area is National Forest Land, your responsibility as a climber with enough drive to develop these areas, is to follow an ethic which the community considers appropriate and make the area available to everyone, yes everyone.

    With the growth in the climbing community I have witnessed in the last 20 years, most areas in CO will be explored and developed in the near future. We need to encourage the youth that dominate the sport to be stewards of our lands. Show them through our guidebooks the ethics of the past and how they have shaped our individual communities view of stewardship.

    Growing up in the competitive climbing world in the 90s as a teen, I saw a lot of varieties of ethics travelling the world. Recently coaching kids in USA Climbing has shown me that these kids want to explore our public lands as much as we do. They want to be responsible climbers(they are hooked, like me), but not all of their parents understand the outdoors and have the ability to give them a sound understanding of what it means to be a steward of our lands.
    I am writing my guidebook to encourage the community to see the land that my friends and I have explored, we are sure that they will find it as beautiful and exciting as we do. Hopefully they will read the forward about ethics on the Pass.

  28. E P

    02. Mar, 2011

    Boone largely flies under the radar because of access issues.

  29. Blkjesusonrock

    08. Apr, 2011

    This is absurd, stop whining about “it was my FA”, if it was yours why didn’t you take it? Shoot, just pull a S. Diamond and say you did, name it, and then get the 2nd as well. Sometimes the egos around this sport are bigger than the rocks that challenge us.

  30. Elmo

    15. Nov, 2011

    Them Flagstaff climbers sure do like their roofs.

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