Recently I repeated some of the harder crack climbs in Tasmania and even added a 27 at Ben Lommond. After climbing the Grand Adjudicator 27 at the star factory, placing the gear on lead, I really started questioning the validity of certain tactics used in claiming the first free ascent of a route. Nick Hancock had originally hammered in a bunch of pitons to climb this “scary and unprotectable” crack. Thankfully the pins have all been pulled out and it took a 19 year old local kid, Alex Lewis, to show Hancock how to climb the route properly. That is, by placing the gear on lead. Hancock has already been dragged over the coals for the pitons in Adjudicator; I am bringing it up again because every time someone repeats this route properly they will think back to his pathetic effort. Do the first ascentionists of other cracks want the same disgrace as Handcock?
In the USA , and everywhere else I can think of, these all gear, hard single pitch routes have ALL been done by placing the gear on lead. It’s not even a question. The only question was, “How can we place the gear easier?” On Cobra Crack 5.14 an aspiring leader velcroed the crux piece of gear to his harness. The eventual first ascentionist held the piece in his mouth! When Beth Rodden climbed Meltdown 5.14, possibly the hardest crack in the world she duct taped the gear to her harness for easier placeing.
Back to Tassie, we have Hancock hammering pins on a 5.12 on what is actually a well protected gear route. And most of the other hard cracks, all only 5.12s are being done with preplaced gear. Its a shame when we look to the USA as a leader in ethics of any sort! And since I’m on trad ethics, Ben Lommond comes to mind.
The abseil bolts have been chopped in keeping in line with the Ben as a bastion of trad climbing in Australia. The idea is by having the Ben as a “no bolts” zone, it keeps wankers from putting up poxy sport routes. However, there is only one person I know who would use the existence of abseil bolts as an excuse to bolt sport routes at Ben Lommond. It’s the same twisted ethic (or lack thereof) that justified hammering pitons in the Adjudicator.
Most of the hard trad routes going up now at Ben Lommond require a 100 metre abseil from the top or an extra 1.5 hour (or more!) approach from the hut. These new routes are worth climbing, but the access is the same for the existing routes which are AWESOME! Im talking about 35mm dream, Warswar 81, Powerdive Eliminate, etc. My vote is for Abseil bolts to reach these routes. What is more “trad”? Rapping in on a 100 metre static to top rope into submission a single pitch in the middle of the cliff, then “lead” it with preplaced gear and then jug out on the fixed line? Or having proper abseil points so that visitors and locals alike can actually get to the base of these routes then onsight climb out?
In summary, the trad ethic in Tassie needs to be upheld by climbing the new “hard” trad pitches by placing gear. This is a no brainer in my opinion. Second, bolted abseils in Ben Lommond absolutely, in no way justifies bolted sport routes. Many climbing areas have bolted abseils and a strong no bolting ethic for routes, Indian Creek, etc. I believe the vast majority of climbers in Tassie agree that bolts do not belong on routes in Ben Lommond, but there needs to be bolted abseils. Climbing first ascent routes with pre-placed gear is way worse practice than having bolted abseils in Ben Lommond.