Recently, Jon Glassberg has spent some time developing new problems at an area on the shoulder of Mt. Evans. He has produced a new video documenting that development. The tag line on the vimeo page says the following:
ABYSS gives viewers a sneak peek into a community of rock climbing developers and bouldering secrecy in the (sic) Alpine of Colorado revealing a sociological experiment set in a previously undeveloped area above 13,000 feet.
I want to remain as factual as possible with this entire post. My intention is not to take sides, or to slander anyone, but to generate discussion about the ethics involved in the development of an area multiple parties have visited over the years. It is also to generate discussion about acceptable sport climbing practices in development. I have tried to remain as neutral as possible, and to share my knowledge of the history of the place.
I’d like to share my knowledge of the history on the area, so that it does not go undocumented. In the summer of 2002 I visited Mt. Evans Area A for the first time. Almost nothing had been climbed, and on my first day there I watched Ben Scott do the FA of The Dali V8. Ben has been one of the most dedicated developers in Colorado, and the list of classic problems that bear his name is long. Ben had already chalked what would become No More Greener Grasses. He also pointed out what would be Clear Blue Skies. I came back a few days later to do the second ascent of the Dali and Ben and I began cleaning what would become Beirstadt. My motivation for new rock in the Mt. Evans area was high, and I immediately went home and started searching Terraserver.com (the best mapping site that existed before Google Earth or Bing) and found two clusters higher up I thought were worth visiting. I convinced Ben and Jason Tarry (another dedicated developer) to make the long hike in with me. We were astounded at the massive talus field we had stumbled upon. Ben suggested calling the sector The Aerials and the name stuck. The hike out was brutal (literally 3 times that of Lincoln Lake), we got caught in a terrify lightning storm, and it was years before I went back, although Jason, Ben and Cameron Cross developed a whole area of classic problems. Mark Hobson and Rob D’Anastasio added some hard problems to the sector as well. Cam’s contribution to the area was a number of outstanding highballs, some of which are virtually free solos. The area was omitted from the guide (I asked about it, and the Winds, during my two hour long meeting with the ranger) due to specific concerns that such a remote area would benefit from a lack of people. A few weeks later we drove farther up the road to another valley. We explored a talus field on a bench near Abyss Lake. I don’t remember being taken with the rock (mostly because I was enamored with the Park and it was much easier to access at the time) and while it seemed like there were lines to be climbed I left them alone. Jason Tarry and Cameron Cross, however, were motivated by the solitude, the scenery and the rock. This and the Aerials were their summer areas for the next few years, as the word got out by 2005 and the hordes descended upon Area A and B. They put up problems at the bench and down by the lake. Jason referred to this area as The Winds, and over the last few years I would get random updates about the good bouldering there from him. Jason also developed a sport route (hand drilled) on a tower near the boulders and had put some effort into bolting another route, a stunning and overhanging arete, before Ben Spannuth finished bolting the line after Jason’s initial prep work and redpointed it this summer. This summer also saw bouldering development from Jon Glassberg (which I assume is the focus of the video), who added a number of hard problems in a relatively short period of time. He calls the area The Abyss on his 8a.nu scorecard. His tick-list includes two new V13s, Sandbar and All Hands on Deck, a V12 Death to Traitors, and 3 V11s. It’s motivating that other climbers are hiking around and putting up new problems and routes and it will be interesting to see how much more there is to be done.
There is, of course some ethical controversy that arose surrounding all of this and I wanted to share the view points of both Jon, Jason, and Ben as were expressed as comments on Jon’s site Louder than 11. Jason’s first comment is a response to this trailer:
Jason (Tarry): Good work with your re-development efforts. It is called the Winds and it was developed in 2005-2008
Thanks for your comment. We had a nice conversation with Ben Scott a couple weeks ago about our development efforts in this area and yes, you are correct, the lower area has been developed and once again, you are correct in calling it “The Winds” as you and Cam? named it that when you developed boulders down there in the 2005-2008 range. The area we are referring to as “The Abyss” and “The Bends” is a large group of boulders below the summit of Mt. Epaulet, overlooking the Winds down in the meadow.
We have also developed bouldering above the tower that you bolted last year. You snagged a bunch of draws from my friend Ben Spannuth who sent a new line on the tower a few weeks ago. It would be super cool if we could get those draws back, especially after spending a week cleaning, hand drilling, and working on the project.
We spent some time in the main zone at the bottom of the hill last year developing some boulders but not more than a handful and nothing harder then v10. If we developed anything that might have already been cleaned and sent it was by accident and would love to know what you have developed in the area so that we dont have any overlap!
Jon, It’s all the same area. Call it what ever you want. You can even believe that we didn’t put up
lines in the talus above the tundra, but I do have issues with the Tower.
I imagine you believe you guys were the first to find the arête route on the tower too. I placed that first anchor on the arête on a Tuesday and placed a few nuts as directionals to clean the route. I came back 10 days later to find the entire route bolted with draws hanging and my directionals were gone. I was first taken back that someone would take it upon themselves to bolt another person’s obvious project, but that is simply an ethical issue. I can get past the fact that some people’s ethics are not as defined as others. Second, it is wilderness area. We need to be considerate of the pristine nature of the area and not leave fixed draws and, most importantly, motorized equipment is prohibited. I do not want anyone to create additional issues with the land managers that may adversely affect access to these areas. You may tell me that you did not use a power drill on the route, but then why are there 2 mis-holes.
It is hard to believe you would create a mis-hole with a hand drill. Lastly, regarding the draws, I am more that happy to return the draws to the owner. I left an obvious note at the base of the arête with my email address. I was told that you found that note, but no one bothered to contact me. Tell Ben Spannuth congratulations on his F.A. of the Arête. It is truly a proud, amazing route.
I am more than willing to walk the area to discuss our previous development effort and it
would be “super cool” if I could get my directionals back too.
Before you start discovering other “new” areas on Mount Evans, remember that there are 6 distinct valleys on and around Mount Evans that were previously developed between 2003 and 2009. Chicago lakes, Lincoln Lake and Abyss Lake are only 3 of the 6.
Sorry to cause the whole tower fiasco, I wrongfully assumed the arête was an abandoned project because I only saw a single bolt and single nut below it. If it would have had more bolts I wouldn’t have finished it. If you left more than one nut (which it seems like you did since you said “a few nuts as directionals” they were not there when I bolted the route. It’s possible the wind swung them out…I had a draw and hanger spin off the second bolt a few days after finishing the bolting.
I understand not wanting draws on the tower. However, I left them anyway because I was going back nearly everyday my skin was up for climbing on it and it was extremely challenging to hang the draws while leading. Also, I didn’t like traversing between the anchors of the routes since dropping down to the left anchors was a little scary and setup for a big swing.
I did not use a power drill on any of the bolts. In fact, I’ve never used a power drill, don’t have one, and have never borrowed one from anyone. I placed four bolts on each of the two days I went out to bolt with Jon G’s hand drill and borrowed the hammer from Steve Hong. Also, I talked with the Mt Evans Park Service, Rob Pizem (who I knew had bolted in the area), and the Access Fund regarding permits and bolting rules in the Wilderness Area and was very clear it had to be done with a hand drill. All eight bolts I placed were hand drilled. Jon has video.
Regarding the mis holes, it was my first time using a hand drill and bolting in general. I’m not sure of the exact spots you’re talking about but would guess they’re both in the crux below the undercling or possibly one is there and one is in the initial overhang. The reason I’m guessing those places is because it was challenging to stay close to the wall in the blankish crux section and I failed to sink that bolt until I bolted the lower arete to pull in on. I also blew a hook while trying to hammer one in the steep section so maybe once I got solidly in place it was in a different spot? Again I’m not sure where the mis holes are but I definitely remember having to work around those two sections. Neither of them could be more than a couple hits deep. Additionally, I protection the initial overhang to the point well since I thought it was going to be harder than it ended up being and didn’t want to force people to bring a stick.
I don’t really care about the names of anything.
Again, sorry about the whole situation, I definitely never saw your note (I’d be willing to bet it was eaten by some little critters) but can imagine you were upset since something you put a bolt into got finished before you could come back. The bottom line for me is that the route had to be climbed, so I did want had to be done to make it climbable…although I could have asked around more before doing so.
I also don’t really care about the draws, but half of them are Jon’s so you should give them to him. I still have your nut, which I brought to the tower every day I went, but I’m not in CO for a long time so if you email me your address I’ll mail it.
The questions I’d like to ask are as follows: Who and what determines how a bouldering area is named? How long should someone wait to finish the job of a sport climb that is previously started? What if there isn’t a physical red-tag? Should there be a red-tag? Is it appropriate to produce a video of an area that rangers explicitly asked not to receive attention? Was any effort made to ask the rangers if filming a video was acceptable, even if directions are not given? Does this differ from the attention given Lincoln Lake, and if so, how? Does Jason have a right to take the draws, and to be upset about his missing directional gear, the route project being finished and red-pointed? Does Jon have the right to name (or rename) the area and to film there? Does Ben have the right to bolt and send the sport route? Thoughts?
I will repeat what I said earlier: I want to remain as factual as possible with this entire post. My intention is not to take sides, or to slander anyone, but to generate discussion about the ethics involved in the development of an area multiple parties have visited over the years. It is also to generate discussion about acceptable sport climbing practices in development. I have tried to remain as neutral as possible, and to share my knowledge of the history of the place.