Rock climbing

Ground Up Bolting

Ground up bolting has been long thought to be the “Leave No Trace” way of bolting, and making the most ethical sense. As climbing continues to grow we are needing to think about our impacts to areas and also how we can accommodate more climbers at the crag.

When climbs are bolted from the ground up, great adventure is had by the individuals opening the new ground. They sometimes are not sure if the route goes, bolts get placed where convenient, holes are not very round leaving spinning hangars and in some cases one has to place bolts to pull on or aid to move forward. While this provides the first ascentionists with wonderful stories that the will be told for a lifetime, it does not make the climbs as well thought out and crags well developed for many users and could be thought of anymore, as selfish.

When we develop from the top down we get to hang on a rope, figure out moves, find the clipping stances, making sure the route goes and does not need to veer off into some unaesthetic or annoying traverse that seems out of place to the rest of the climbing.  We also get good holes and can place glue-in bolts that can last for hundreds of years. With top down we can plan out the crag and make sure routes make sense and of they don’t, we don’t put them up.


Now I am not saying we should do this everywhere. For alpine, big mountain areas, wilderness settings, this doesn’t make a ton of sense. However areas we can get to the top, are heavily used, and with-out reasonable natural gear it seems like a worthwhile conversation to have. As we move forward with climbing we need to start thinking about its future and how others will enjoy this great outdoor activity.

The Legacy

“The Legacy”, after adding the bolts.

I put a route up on Looking Glass last fall. It was done by head-pointing and I did not put any hardware in the rock that day. The crux comes 35 ft. off a ledge with no gear below you. You are soloing 5.10+, before you get gear. I had a great adventure with this route but immediately realized it would never get repeated.

After confirming it was a first ascent, asking the greater community if bolts would be appropriate as well as anchors, I went back and put hardware in. It is a route I hope people will climb, and if they wish to have the adventure I had they should feel free to climb past the bolts and not clip them if they are against bolts put in hanging. I have clipped them every time I have lead it since. We measured the top anchors precisely so that now you can get off the Southside of Looking Glass with a single rope benefiting climbers to not have to drag rope across other parties as they climb adjacent routes as well as preventing the bi-weekly epic of “we didn’t know we needed two ropes”.

The legacy first ascent

On the first ascent, with no gear…

Climbing is growing tenfold, we can try to stop it, or we can embrace it and provide well thought out venues that allow users to progress through grades, have adventures and enjoy the out of doors just as we have and leave them with our legacy.

The Legacy

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