“Choss” was the answer I got when I asked bolting veteran Randy Leavitt about the future of route development in The States. In a lot of ways he was right. It’s pretty safe to say the majority of rock that’s easily accessible and great has been bolted. What’s left is rock of a quality that was dismissed in the past or cliffs that are off the beaten paths. These days you’re either bolting “choss”, hiking five miles to an area, or are scouting the crevasses of the mountains looking for the next big thing. A few have even found a few mother loads and choose to keep them to themselves until they feel these areas are ready for the “masses”.
Lately we’ve been doing a trifecta trip, that is trekking from St George UT, to Ely NV, to Western UT, and back again. Along the way we’re experiencing each of these realities in rock climbing development. In fact Joe’s newest obsession has a little bit of two elements, being the accessibility and choss. The route is super accessible in one way, it lays only a ten minutes hike from the camping, but in another is seems virtually untouchable. Ominously reaching two hundred feet above ground level guarded by a 60 foot vertical choss band. Add to this that the entire area is about 3 hours areas from any normal sized city. The cave is massive, intimidating, and takes a special kind of person to want to invest in it. More power to Joe, I’m sitting that one out!
Since this pursuit of new climbing terrain I knew learning how to bolt had to be written into my list of things to do, or else I’d end up reading five novels a day on my Kindle waiting around for doable routes to come my way. I had my first hand at bolting out at the Rose Cave in Ely. I wouldn’t really say I bolted my first route there, Joe and I tag teamed in while he showed me the basics of bolting on lead, bolting top down, using hooks, ect. I felt better about bolting in the chossy bottom layer of the Mondo Cave not afraid that I would mess up someone’s primo line. A few days later we returned to St George where I put up what I considered to be my first complete route in a tiny sector in the Utah Hills. The rock was way more pristine, the line was relatively vertical and though I had some learning curves with using hooks and hammering I was happy to put in about 8 bolts in a couple of hours. The next day I cleaned the route and send it third try. I named it Manzanita 12b after a funny bush that grows in the desert wash, which you whack through on your way to the cliff.
All in all it was an amazing experience and I can get a feel of why bolters get psyched to get dirty, tired, bruised and battered to create something new. I also got a tiny feeling of why some developers want to keep areas quite or secret and feel a sense of ownership or protectiveness over the work they’ve done. It’s a funny thing and slippery slope in rock climbing. I also realized how easily we judge peoples route development. Why is a bolt here, that hold should have been cleaned, blah blah blah… It’s really easy to get on a route and call it crap or criticize, it’s a different story when you put yourself in the bolter's shoes. For anyone interested about first experiences bolting you check out a little interview here I did with Jackie Hueftle for Climbfind http://heroes.climbfind.com/post/23046144801/girl-bolting-interview-with-colette-mcinerney
As of now we’re at the third place on our list, one that I didn’t help develop and hasn’t been approve for the “masses” to know about. In some ways I understand, as it’s a small area with a delicate environment, plus the main route developer has asked the people who come here to abide by his logic and I don’t mind being respectful. Hopefully soon more cliffs will be found, more people will put routes up in them, and the idea of a crag being too crowded won’t have much space in future choss climbing.