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Community Feedback – Bolting at Port Chalmers Quarry

In our July newsletter, we requested feedback from the Otago climbing community on Jaz Morris’ proposed rebolting of routes at the Port Chalmers Quarry. The following response from community member Dave Brash was received and is presented for consideration:

“Firstly, good on Jaz for getting into rebolting/putting up routes locally; two or three old guys have been doing most of this for years now. It would be nice to see a new generation of route developers coming through.

I see no need to consult when you are not changing anything, only renewing, as Jaz is doing at PCQ, especially when it is a neglected and unloved route, as these are. Just go ahead and do it, no consulting needed, and accept the thanks of all climbers.

However, my opinion is that there is often a valid case for changing bolt positions from the original, and I would encourage Jaz to do this if the clips are not ideal. It is years since I was on the routes mentioned, and I have forgotten any details – they may well be properly bolted, in which case no problem – but this is not always the case. In fact we have a legacy at Long Beach of poorly bolted 80’s routes. So let’s not perpetuate mistakes, let’s fix them.

This endemic poor bolting was due either to thoughtlessness or to a rather ugly sandbagging mentality which was not uncommon at the time, but interestingly not applied to new routes at the perpetrators’ own level of difficulty: I can’t think of any sandbag routes g 23+ at Long Beach, but could reel off a dozen in the lower grades g 15 – 21. Just a few examples of these at Long Beach include 80s routes Bulimics’ Picnic (16), Heiti Heiti Kahikatoa (18) and Swiss Version (21), each of which has undergone a different metamorphosis (or lack of it) over the years.

Unfortunately Bulimics’ Picnic was rebolted (with Alpine Club support) ethically ‘correctly’, with the bolts in the original positions, reinforcing the mistakes and effectively making this otherwise excellent route, at a grade under represented at Long Beach, unavailable to the average grade 16 climber. The first bolt is high and somewhat scary to get to, the crux has a runner way below, with small ledges in the fall zone to enable a foot injury, and the top section is dangerously run out, with no pro at all. In short, it needs a makeover; what justification can there be to maintain it in its present state apart from an archaic ethical argument?
There was a different outcome for Swiss Version, originally bolted so you had to do the crux before clipping the bolt. Swiss Version was rebolted (no extra bolts) in the late 90s with the runners placed in the proper (i.e. different) places, and turning an unnecessarily annoying experience into a fine climb. No extra bolts were placed, but apparently the first ascentionist was not happy that the bolt positions had been changed. Should he have been able to veto the changes? Thankfully he didn’t feel strongly enough about it to chop the bolts.
HHK has a long runout above a slab to a pumpy clip at a poor stance; fall off here and you are at risk of serious injury, as at least two broken ankles have demonstrated. To date it has not been rebolted (no extra bolts) or retro bolted (extra bolt/s). I would like to make a case for changing the bolt positions on both Bulimics’ Picnic and HHK, and adding a bolt to the upper section of Bulimics’ Picnic; maybe HHK needs an extra bolt too. This would make these excellent but presently neglected routes available to grade 16 and 18 climbers respectively. I repeat – these are not the only routes at Long Beach in this category.
Should the first ascentionist have rights in perpetuity over the rock? Especially if they have been thoughtless or even malicious in their bolt placements? Sure, we should retain classic and historic bold routes unchanged (I have just come from Tuolomne Meadows where the world famous X rated Bachar-Yerian is situated, and this climb is a prime example) and we should definitely have an eye on history before retro bolting, but the ones I would defend -Crime and Punishment for example – are actually not bolted ‘sandbag’ style, and are venerated routes with historic significance.
So there is a place for bold, even dangerous routes to be preserved and not sanitised, but this need not apply to all routes. Subjective? Yes, of course, so consensus will not always be perfectly achieved, a dare I say it, independent action has a proud history in climbing; Harding would not have climbed the Nose of El Capitan, or the Dawn Wall, if he had toed the line with the ‘Valley Christians.’ I guess Ray Jardiine wouldn’t have chipped holds in a visionary but misguided effort to forge a free route on the Nose either, but that’s another ethical can of worms, we won’t open that one here.” -Dave Brash
Thoughts? Responses? Please send them to otago.climber@gmail.com

Posted: 08/09/15

Posted By: Narina Sutherland