Posted on 25. Jun, 2012 by in News

I encourage all of the readers of this blog to check out this video. It begins slowly, but soon enough it will become clear why I have reposted it here. It’s wonderful to see this kind of debate going on in the famed forest of Fontainebleau, and to hear from some different points of view. I would tend to agree with guidebook author Bart Van Raaj, but either way, it’s wonderful that these kinds of topics are getting more attention, and it’s obvious that those who care greatly about the sport are thinking about these issues! Enjoy.

70 Responses to “Ethics”

  1. B3

    29. Jun, 2012

    @Bart You’re guidebook is incredible. Really added to my enjoyment of Font. I appreciate all of the hard work you did to make it as great as it is. We visited 34 different areas while we were there and got to each and everyone easily, even the area (I forget the name) of where Welcome to Jamrock is. Thanks so much for assembling all of that info and caring!

  2. Dan

    29. Jun, 2012

    Jamie you argue for the elite and sponsored cutting edge athlete where it MIGHT matter whether or not someone did the climb in the “best style” or hardest way possible or without “cheating”

    Paul and others are arguing that such rules take a lot of the fun out of climbing for the rest of us which enjoy climbing as not a sport or game or competition but as a lifestyle of having fun in the woods with friends. If my buddy starts one move into a V4 we’ve been working on because he just wants to get on top like the rest of the crew has done before we move on, then I still cheer him on and congratulate him when he comes down. I don’t care, and if he does then we can come back next time but either way its all about having fun and enjoying the rocks and being outdoors.

  3. JHay

    29. Jun, 2012

    I tried reading through all of the post, but was a bit short on time, so if I repeat something I apologize.

    It’s tricky right, you could say problem A starts with your hands here, because in 2005 no one was strong enough to start lower… but now that all these gym rats are getting outside, and are strong enough to start lower… we have problem B. if you start getting into to “you have to start on these exact holds”, then where does it end? What if someone chooses to go left hand to the crimp instead of right hand? My wife will match certain crimps that I have no chance to match, does this now make a whole new “problem”? It’s not as easy to say, “start here… finish here”, because the beta, weather, situation, psych, ect… is always different.

    take Esperanza (at Hueco) for instance. Several people have climbed it from the “regular start”. D.Woods was able to send it from the lower (more obvious?) start… does Esperanza no longer exist, and now we only have Desperanza? Certainly not.

    Let’s face it bouldering, and even climbing in general, is fairly contrived. In the beginning it was, get from the ground to the top, the easiest way possible. Now its get from the ground to the top, the hardest way possible.

    I say, “to each his own.”

  4. justin

    29. Jun, 2012

    Does anyone know WHY Dave actaully started there as opposed to lower? That holds a HUGE bearing on this IMO: If he started there because he felt that point more naturally divided the line into a “sit” and a “stand” or “low” and “high” and that the slightly lower start was a contrivance halfway between a stand and the full line. VS. that lower start really is the natural division of the boulder and he was not up to the standard so he claimed the project without having actually done it. These are two completely different situations. One is a statement of aesthetics stated on a climb at the highest level and one is an issue of complete arrogance and disrespect. If it’s the first situation, an objective argument could be made as to why one start or the other should be the generally accepted high start (it looks like there is an actual low start that remains a project, or the French just slap large ammounts of chalk all over for the hell of it), and I would love to hear both those arguments. If Dave really just arbitrarily redefined a CLASSIC project because he was not up to the standard of the accepted line then fuck him.

  5. Todd

    29. Jun, 2012

    To everyone involved in the conversation/debate

    THANK YOU for taking the time to write out well thought responces. I live in Alaska and don’t get out to travel much, so these types of discussion aren’t really possible first hand for me. (Hence also why I’ve probably never heard the question of what exact holds does something start on)

    This has been educational for me, and it would appear that there is a fair amount of disparity in opinions. Perhaps this is a place where local ethics are the guide instead of an overarching rule.

  6. B3

    29. Jun, 2012

    Do those who feel the community or the consensus is right think that the FA of The Island should be taken away from Dave if the knowledgable community in Font has come to a consensus that they should try and take it away from him?

  7. Dan

    29. Jun, 2012

    @B3 regarding Dave and the Island… with all respect to Dave, his vision, strength, enthusiasm, and knowledge of the sport of is tops with very few equals… I’d say his start was pretty illogical. That is only judging from the vids since I’ve never been there and would defer to those that have spent lots more time in Font and even more credit to those who’ve spent time on the boulder. Lucas M who has done both has claimed both so that lends some credibility to Dave’s ascent but if I were to give my 2 cents about this particular boulder (realizing the precedent that could be set but not at all commenting on any other boulder problem ever just this particular one) I’d say Dave’s ascent should have an asterisk at best.

  8. time is too expensive

    30. Jun, 2012

    @ B3. We all know that starting holds/ positions and ending holds are obvious on classic boulder problems, that’s why there are valid rules in the first place. The start that Dave did was indeed illogical (according to the video)…and if it was an easy problem then his ascent would have been deleted. But the question is did dave show beta that allowed the lower start to be conceived as truly possible?. If so, then you can never erase his presence. That’s why the lower start is called the big island

  9. Michael Rathke

    30. Jun, 2012

    Be aware of trolls acting serious

    Dave has the FA, he could have started on the last hold standing on his head, as long as he got to the top. If it was an already established line then yeah okay all of the statements made in the video are valid…
    Daves legit elbow-start was totally down played throughout the whole video.

    …at the beginning AAAAHHHH NOOOO, (fall) climbing is serious dude, its competition…
    Then at the end, oh its okay he did this, no big deal

    not that videos have to be like a paper for school…tell them what you are going to tell them, tell them what you told them, and then tell them what you haven’t told them..

  10. Mirthe

    30. Jun, 2012

    B3:I only have time for a short response, but I really appreciate everyones comments. They are thoughtful and they have stayed focused on the argument and not delved into personal attacks. I really appreciate all of the comments, they are awesome! Thanks for participating in the discussion everyone!

    Mirthe: I totally agree. Thanks!

    Mark E: The problem is that not everyone who boulders, even at a high level, is comfortable with defining climbing as a competitive activity. If a climber (or a community of climbers) wants to blend the competitive side with concerns like aesthetics (“it’s a proud line’) or historic value (“it’s a Gill problem”) then the pure side-by-side comparison of difficulty is no longer given primacy. There are other concerns that may trump the competitive side.

    Mirthe: this is exactly the point I made in my thesis. In order to understand the different experiences/motivations of climbers I designed the play- and sport continuum whereby the sport aspect is all about competition and rules, while play is about freedom which allow you to do whatever you want because it’s about aesthetic and/or fun. I argue however that the position of a person within that continuum can change through time or per situation.

    I’m am wondering however in what way climbers make strategic use for their own sake by emphasizing play or sport values. For example: A climber cannot climb a named boulderproblem… he get’s annoyed and argues that the problem isn’t aesthetic and natural anyway, because of an eliminated hold. If he could climb the problem and put it on his ticklist, would his opinion be different?

    I especially liked the notion about the internal compass that Todd made. Because of the lack of an objective system, we need to be moral agents ourselves and be true to our internal compass that is shaped by our own values and collective ethics. A good example would be the older generation of climbers that had to cope with drastic changes of ethics because of technological developments (like the crashpad). Initially these developments were regarded as cheating, but later the new habits were generally embraced (or not, depending of the person).

    I am wondering in what way indoor climbing (inclusive competition climbing) have shaped/changed the ethics of outdoor climbing. Does somebody have an opinion about that?

    For those who are interested in the background of this small movie, here you can find an English extract of my masters thesis and the Dutch complete version:

  11. gianluca

    30. Jun, 2012

    “sit starts are motivated by ego?”

    actually in font most boulders are not overhanging enough to offer “nice” sitstarts…

    i think that plays a big role in the common bleausard belief that sistarts are more often than not an ego-driven contrievance…

  12. Justin

    01. Jul, 2012

    Michael, then the first person to have done the finish to this line got the FA, not Dave (unless that was in fact Dave). Why didn’t that person claim it as their own?

    Can you really not see the other side of the story? If Daniel Woods had a classic project in RMNP that had an accepted and defined start, and then someone came along and did it from two or three moves in, wouldn’t you expect some kind of justification besides “climbing is just playing” for that to be a legitimate ascent of an accepted cutting edge project?

  13. Dan

    02. Jul, 2012

    Justin, are you serious? No one is saying that doing a high start to a project counts as doing the project. They did what they did . . . a high start to the project. If it had never been been done before, of course they could claim an FA. And when Daniel Woods comes along and does the sit start, that would be an FA too. You would have two different problems:

    Rad Project (stand)/The Island/Whateverthefuck


    Rad Project (sit)/The Big Island/Whateverthefuckelse

    If the first problem is lame and inobvious, and the second is an awesome classic with a perfect start jug, then people will probably only do the second one and the first will fade into obscurity,

  14. justin

    02. Jul, 2012

    Dan, we definitely agree on your last comment, and yes I am serious.

    Given that Dave did it from a start that deviated from the accepted project, some kind of argument should be provided to justify that. Otherwise it is just redefining the “impossible” to be something less, and then claiming to have done what others deemed “impossible” or “the next level” or whatever without actually having done so. That reflects poorly on someones character IMO, and despite the fact that I have a massive ammount of respect for Dave Grahm and his climbing, I wouldn’t excuse something like that. We don’t even know the situation though because currently we are being kept in the dark about it.

    Also, just for the record, I think climbing is just climbing rocks. It’s fun and it can make you look into yourself and grow, so its one of my favorite past times. I still think we should do it, like we should strive to do all things, with integrity and also with respect and love for everyone else who shares our passion. In this way I see guys like Adam Ondra as great role models of how to be, teenage yelling and all.

  15. Dan

    02. Jul, 2012

    Justin, you’re completely missing the point. I’m not sure how to explain it any more clearly. Dave never claimed to have done anything he didn’t do, as far as the The Island is concerned.

  16. Matt

    03. Jul, 2012

    Top Notch – Paul was working it as a project from the lowest feasible method. Ty started out left and bagged the FA. Different problems?

  17. Justin

    03. Jul, 2012


    So I completely beg to differ. Miscommunication between Climbing and Dave Grahm? Hard to say, I wasn’t there. Perhaps if the headline had read “Dave Grahm does FA of longstanding Font project starting two moves in” we wouldn’t be having this conversation. I only bring it up because this kind of thing is a recurring problem and when people are called on it, they typically respond like this and deny FACTUAL things that happened that people may be reacting to. So no, Dan, your the one who is missing the point THIS DID GET MISREPORTED, AND THE NATURE OF THE MISREPRESENTATION LEFT US ALL WITH THE IMPRESSION THAT A LONGSTANDING DEFINED PROJECT HAD BEEN DONE, WHEN IN FACT THAT WAS NOT THE CASE! Come on, would those guys have really gone through the trouble to make that video if they felt that the project was completed and that the climb was accurately reported? Do you really mean to suggest that the French are that petty?

    In Daves defense, if I am missing the place where he came out and explicitly pointed out to us all the nature of what happened: he started a project two moves in and somehow it got reported that he claimed to do something he did’t, then just link it up please. Also, if Dave accurately reported that to Climbing and they reported it that way, perhaps it would be in Daves best interest to avoid allowing them or anyone else to misrepresent his climbing. Again, big respect to him and his climbing, but boo on this.

  18. B3

    03. Jul, 2012

    Pauls comment is somewhat misleading. His start is actually higher than Ty’s. He struggled to do from there and then started in a different place that was easier for him. I think it goes back to some competitiveness between both climbers.

  19. michael rathke

    05. Jul, 2012

    @ justin

    thats why i said

    “If it was an already established line then yeah okay all of the statements made in the video are valid…”

  20. Justin

    06. Jul, 2012

    Michael, I agree that the FAist gets to decide where THEIR climb truly starts. When claiming a worked project though, it gets sticky. If you “complete” someones project, but climbed less than what they defined the project to be, you didn’t do their project. When The Island got done, it was reported that Dave had completed a longstanding classic Font project, but since he clearly climbed less than the defined line, the locals got bent out of shape, as would most climbers most places.

    He is absolutely entitled to say that he feels his start is a more natural division of the boulder, or a more natural place to start for whatever reason, and further argue that subsequent ascentionists should see his vision as more aesthetic than the accepted project and make it the actual line that gets climbed on the boulder. Or just say “heres my climb, cool, lets go get some grub”, whatever. The problem is in claiming to have done something you didn’t, and when shitty reporting gets called out and the lame rebuttal is “climbing is interpretable” you not only look arrogant, you look classless and stupid. I think a better response would be to admit that some mistake was made, which could be forgiven since we are all human and such a thing really should have been a minor oversight, and then done the little insignificant thing that was asked of to set the situation right. I dont really get what the big deal is.

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