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Aid Climbing vs Free Climbing

I have been watching a load of videos on Red Bull TV, this one for example

I can not help thinking that climbing has gone a bit anal and is missing the bigger picture.

For example, these guys in the video I link to above.

They want to free climb the Citadel, but they don’t want to put bolts in because that goes against the spirit of the climb.

Okay, I get it. 

If you live around the corner and you can have a crack at the face many times a month.

But these guys cannot do that. In effect this is a once in a lifetime “project”.

About 17:21 into the video, they decide to give up. Because they do not want to put bolts in.

The reason being they did not want to “damage” the rock, as if bolts can damage a mountain.

They voluntarily “failed” in their expedition for cosmetic purposes. The voluntarily “failed” in their expedition for “purity”

As if they could not pull out the few offending bolts on the way down if they wanted.

What a waste of time, money and effort.

Surely the number one priority is to get to the top in the time you have available. If you have years to get to the top, ie you live next to the mountain, sure, don’t use or put bolts.

If you are there for a couple of weeks only, and you have a once in a lifetime opportunity on that peak, what is the point in not making the peak? Why not put in some bolts on a pitch that is otherwise unclimbable.

What did they learn by not making it?

Here were their alternatives


  • You don’t make it because you didn’t want to use bolts


  • You made it because you made bolts

Which is the better alternative?

Even if you made it with bolts you still did not make it free climbing so the result is the same except on one hand you actually made the summit.

Sure making the summit using bolts is not as good as free climbing to the summit

But surely it is better than not making the summit at all

From your sponsors point of view, for your investment point of view and from your time’s point of view.

Climbers need to be realistic. If you can’t reach the summit in the time you have available using the method you wanted to use you must adapt your method to get the job done in the time you have

No shame in that. And if a climber has a problem with that they have clearly never ventured onto difficult climbs in isolated parts of the world with limited finances and if they have, they are unnecessarily punishing themselves.

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This page was last modified Jun 18, 2019 @ 10:05 am

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