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Ethics Lost

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  • Ethics Lost

    Once upon a time this societal sub group we call the climbing community was friendly and supportive. Climbers had respect for each other and supported their fellow climbers even when they didn't really know them. There may have been the occasional outlier or bad apple but for the most part the community co-existed and self policed. Oh sure there were plenty of instances when climbers disagreed and debated ethics and style and what constituted good practices. But at the end of the day most would agree to disagree or have a beer and resolve those debates.

    Where did it go wrong?
    Perhaps our sub culture became too big. Some say climbing went mainstream, is that where things changed? Are there too many climbers now or do new climbers just not give a toss?

    Looking at ice climbing as a more fringe activity than rock, we see more disputes over recent winters. Parties climbing over others, anonymous complaints online, ridiculous assertions showing self-centred ignorance, and now we need more respected members of the community to stand up and make codes of conduct that outline what I once considered to be common knowledge and common courtesy.

    Now the latest display of ethics lost and the depths we seem to be sinking to more often than the infrequent infractions we once knew - blatant thievery becoming way too common. I've seen numerous occasions and comments online where grateful climbers thank route builders and retro fitters for the time, energy, effort, and expenses they expend in an effort to develop more climbing routes for the community. However in the last week alone, two routes have had some hardware stolen. This is not a case of differences of opinion on route style or location. These are not cases of chopping gear. I'm talking of pilfering of hangers from studs without decommissioning of said route. Earlier this week a four pitch route had some 80% of its hangers removed, yet the rap anchors were left intact.

    Today I went with a partner and fellow route builder to finalize a brand new six pitch route so we could circulate a route topo. This is a fun route with the initial pitches ranging from 5.4 to 5.6. The last pitch which is the pièce de résistance is a technical yet well protected 5.9. Along with three helpers on different days, we invested several days developing and cleaning, scrubbing and drilling. Today we embarked on our final day to finish up. We were stoked to see our project finished so we could share our adventure with others. Approaching the base the sight that greeted us was empty studs devoid of hangers. A little investigation and we discovered other previously existing routes had also suffered some hanger theft. Once again in this case the rap station had been left. Was this some small act of conscience on the part of the thieves? I think not. More likely they needed the rap stations to get back down the routes. The fact we could solo nearby to the anchor and back to the ground would seem to indicate the thieves were less than accomplished climbers. The fact that both routes plundered were located in Banff might suggest someone local but who knows.

    So where did that leave us? Well I had to use hangers that had been destined for another project to complete this route now. The route is finished and ready for new caressing from others rubber clad feet and chalky fingers. A topo will be coming soon. However the consequences are further reaching than either of these routes. Other routes are likely going to get plundered. Climbers who might endeavour to pass a missing hanger to reach the next bolt may find yet another unprotectable stud. What becomes of their safety, even their life at that point? The actions of these thieves not only deprive the community at large of climbing resources, but by no stretch would it be unfair to point out they are endangering limb and possibly life.
    Later over a beer at the pub, both of us decided we would not be undertaking further new projects this year. Existing projects may be completed but ideas for more projects are done. In taking those hangers, the thieves have stolen future developments too.

    So feel free to extend your thanks to the low life morally bankrupt thieves who stole your routes. Perhaps you have some suggestions on how the community could deal with such thieves and our ethics lost.