Blowtorching Wet Boulders

Posted on 05. Jan, 2013 by in News

I’m back! I decided to take a bit of break with the holiday season. I’ve been motivated to get outside, but the weather here in Boulder has been very cold and snowy over the last two weeks, and even colder and snowier at all of the places I was interested in traveling to. The weather looks a bit better soon however, and I am looking forward to returning to the rocks to try a number of new projects I have uncovered here in the Front Range and elsewhere. I plan on updating more regularly in the following weeks!

Now on today’s subject matter. Last year Carlo Traversi and Bear Cam Media visited Vastervik, Sweden to film some of the awesome new bouldering there. They produced a high quality video highlighting some of the fabulous problems that are there, including most notably, The Hourglass V13, which looks like a potential 4-star boulder problem. Most interesting is something that didn’t catch my eye initially, but Carlo is seen in the video using a blow torch. A number of climbers commented on the Vimeo thread, telling them rightfully so that using a blowtorch to dry off wet rock is totally unacceptable.

Vastervik Bouldering from Bearcam Media on Vimeo.

My first thought is that often the rules and ethics of bouldering are unspoken. And even when they are spoken, climbers have wildly varying opinions as to what should actually be done. It is one of the reasons I have posted often here about trying to standardize issues like where does a boulder problem start, what to do if one dabs, and proactively dealing with land management officials. One of those rules is that blowtorching wet rock is unacceptable! It can easily damage the rock and there is no need to selfishly take that risk  in order to climb for a day. I’m frustrated with myself for not posting about the issue earlier, even though there have been any number of occasions, including when I was in a cold and snowy New England, that we worked hard to dry wet boulders in a way that would not damage the rock, including not using a blow torch.

My second thought is that Cam and Carlo made an honest mistake and were very open about that, confessing to their error. Particularly Carlo, who responded with this post on his blog. I certainly encourage you to read it. It’s so rare in our manufactured and manipulated internet world a younger climber will step up and take such responsibility. No one is perfect and many climbers make mistakes as they spend more and more time following their passion. I was no different when I was younger and I still make mistakes today. It’s very possible that Carlo had no idea, being that his formative climbing years were in Bishop and Colorado, two of the driest climbing regions in the country, but informed or not, he’s made the right decision. I think his post is outstanding, and I hope that it helps spread good information about proper bouldering ethics, particularly at this time of year.

He asks a number of interesting questions (many of which I would ask as well), and while I would encourage feedback here as always, I would also encourage you to comment on his site as well.


52 Responses to “Blowtorching Wet Boulders”

  1. Robin

    15. Jan, 2013

    B3 – Very interesting ethic question as always! I was missing your blog!

    I completely agree with you when you say that blowtorching and gluing are slippery slopes. It is just not clear for me why this argument would not also hold when using a screwdriver to clean boulders. I don’t doubt that it could be done properly, but I think you would agree that it is very slippery.

    Following your argument (which I completely agree with), you would get :

    B3 : If there is a rule that it is ok to use a screwdriver to clean a boulder, I would agree that if it is used properly, little damage would be done. But I’ve literally seen people chip boulders with screwdrivers!! People will not use them properly and hence the rule. If there is one thing I’ve learned, climbers will bend, manipulate, and twist their ethics to get exactly what they want and then use the “climbing is a lifestyle sport” argument to justify it. Having flexible rules and assuming people will be responsible doesn’t work in my experience.

  2. B3

    15. Jan, 2013

    I think the difference is that cleaning of holds is a safety issue. I’m not sure how to define what constitutes proper safety, and perhaps it would be best if hard plastic tools were used. I want boulders that don’t break and I don’t want to have what happened to Jimmy happen if possible. I’m not yet sure how that works logically. Great comment!

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