See an essay discussing headpoint style on potentially dangerous climbs, in relation to the new wave of bold face climbs on Stacks Bluff

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  1. Very well written Gerry. With more and more routes being prepared like this across the state I think its important for climbers to know what to expect.

    Climbing  onsight is the real test of a climbers level, with new wave routes going up they will help to grow and push the sport. CJs onsight of this was a awesome effort and only possible because it was well cleaned,set up and a good route description was available.  

    Well done


    1. Gerry asked me to add in my two cents about his essay. I thought Surmounting Terror was a really good climb. It would have been beyond dangerous to attempt ground up. I think Niels big fall was a game changer. It showed us all how dangerous and ultimately irresponsible it is to attempt some of these routes ground up. Irresponsible insofar as writing up (perhaps unwittingly) a time-bomb death route as a safe enjoyable climb leads repeat ascentionists into danger. Now, of course, every cliff is different. But Niels' fall made a precedent in the Southern Escarpment which is impossible to ignore. In this day and age It is important for the first ascent team to be honest with how they climbed the route. It can not just be assumed it was ground up on-sight. If a route is climbed headpoint style, especially with pre-placed gear, the first ascent team should let people know this!

      I define headpointing as,"A free ascent of a rock climb that involves rehearsing moves and gear placements because a fall will be dangerous/deadly. In most headpoints, the route has been freed on top-rope at least once". Well here comes the controversial part:I dont like headpointing. I think headpointing works at Ben Lomond almost entirely because it is a no-bolts area. It should also be pointed out that Gerry did not use pitons which he could easily have done. The Ben is a unique place where these types of headpoint style trad routes can be put up. It works because of guys like Gerry getting out there and cleaning and leading these things and being honest about the style and the climbing. It works because I TRUSTED Gerry when he said it was committing but had good gear. Just so people know, his route description was bang on.

      Outside of Ben Lomond, I dont really get headpointing. I think setting up headpoint routes next to bolt protected routes is bad practice. If a route needs a bolt.... PUT IT IN! Of course, this is a grey area. lll just point out a couple recent examples. Surmounting Terror can be called a headpoint because for the grade it has marginal/bad gear, and he had already rap inspected/top roped it. I don't find fault in this. He paved the way for onsighting in an area that is bolt free. I recently repeated Alex Lewis' Total Eclipse at the Star Factory. Its a 28 corner protected with black and blue aliens. I did rehearse the gear placements and moves but I do not define it as a headpoint because I know the gear was really good (believe it or not)and a fall would have been totally safe. Total Eclipse does not need bolts and can be safely lead ground up onsight. A grey area climb is Animal Instincts Direct 28. The gear is good but small and a fall could be dangerous. Its been climbed 5 or 6 times and most people think its safe. This route may or may not be a headpoint.  Its a great climb anyway! After much toproping, Ingvar Lidman recently put up a 27 at Mt Blackwood in which he taped sky hooks to the cliff for pro. I do not know if they were necessary gear or if he just wanted to tape them on for some other reason, but lets assume they are the only 'protection' from a bad fall. Well then this is, without a doubt, a headpoint climb. I dont like it because it is smack dab in the middle of bolted routes. Why headpoint this? Ingvar's a great dude but I think its a waste of a route.

      There are entirely rap-bolted routes at Mt. Buffalo, Victoria that have a hard first pitch with many, many bolts and an easier second pitch with far fewer. All this does is screw over people who don't climb as hard. It says "you have to climb at a certain grade to get any bolts" I think this sucks! When its an all bolted route this type of BS is really evident. When its a "trad" headpoint its a little less clear but the first ascentionist's intention is the same. I don't want Tassie "traditional" climbs to end up like Mt. Buffalo wank fests. The reality is that whether it is 20, 24 or 27, these are easy climbs on the world scale. Currently people are onsighting 34/35.  Leading a trad route which could and should have bolts after top-roping it to death is unfair. People that think they are making a "trad" statement by toproping to death a relatively easy but unprotectable route are sadly mistaken. Go ahead and solo whatever you want, but dont take away a climb that could be enjoyed by many people in order to fulfill some kind of invented 'trad' ethic.


      And now for something completely different.

      Recently, a visiting Canadian climber by the name of Steve Townshend (aka Manboy) had a productive holiday in Oz. He climbed two routes in Victoria, one of which was a grade 19 sport pitch in the gramps and the other was the all-time mega classic Punks in the Gym (32). In Tassie he made possibly the second ascent of Jake Bresnehan's route Freedom (30) on Mt. Wellington. Pleasant Screams Direct was on the cards but was not climbable due to the fixed line that was hanging over it from a weeks long siege 'headpoint' effort. At the Star Factory he climbed the first ascent of Street Fighter 3. He gave it 32. He also came agonizingly close to sending Jakey B's route Wizard of Oz (32) at the factory. After changing his flight back to Canada twice, a wet cliff sent him home without the send...

      Also a new line dubbed "The Left Over Crack Project" has been opened. Its the crack right of Tooth Fairy. Steve has been projecting the famous Cobra Crack in Squamish and he believes this route is nearly as hard and just as good! Of course this is an open project. One hint... Train monos.

      I hope everyone enjoys the rest of summer. I know I will. See ya out there!









  2. Hi CJ - you are clearly doing some great stuff out there and it’s fun to hear about it, but I do question your need to propose ethics that try to restrict the games climbers can play.

    Firstly, some people might like head pointing, even if you don’t, and they are entitled to engage in this style of activity on the rocks as it doesn’t actually ruin other peoples' climbs or interfere with other activities.  It’s not that I’ve really done much head pointing (only one recorded route I think) and much prefer onsighting, but I do support a diversity of climbing experiences as long as they don’t ruin the shared space too much. Your suggestion that routes like Ingvars Blackwood 27 take away from the enjoyment of others rests on the premise and all other people enjoy the same narrow range of activity you are espousing. Furthermore, it is not as if there is shortage of climbs around, and certainly head point routes are currently rather rare here; your love of the onsight has broad reign. Why would you want to restrict the behaviour of your fellow climbers who are just going around having a good time? 

    Secondly why no room for a no bolt ethic outside the Ben? Again that view reduces diversity in a place like Tas where cliffs for bolts are abound. Why do you want everywhere else to be same same? Most of the good accessible cliffs in Tas are now bolted anyway, so a bolt free ethic on some obscure cliff is hardly going to seriously restrict those climbers who like the status quo. The real issue is how to establish a bolt free crag without someone else coming along and ruining the bolt free game!

  3. HJ-

    Yeah each to their own pretty much. I just pointed out some of the things I dont like about headpointing, pardon the pun. Of course, its just my opinion and take it or leave it. I just get a little tired of "trad" masters wanking on about scary routes, blah blah after top roping the shit out of something. I really like onsighting and new routing from the ground. It should be a last resort to top rope headpoint but its generally the first thing done on these "scary" routes. Look at the UK, birthplace of headpointing. Theres like a dozen guys in the country onsighting E7. They are almost universally top-roped first. This is a pretty silly way to go about "traditional" rock climbing.

    Unfortunately, climbs ARE a finite resource. There is a shortage of climbs around! (tassie at least) Alot of the obvious safe lines are taken. So now new routing is a bit more contrived.  Its more about creating a route for a future onsighter than the style of the first ascent. One bolt in a route is not going to ruin it in my opinion. I think Arapiles has a lot of good routes with one or two bolts and the rest gear. Yeah I dont mind an area or cliff at an area outside the Ben that is no bolts, and I agree its hard to establish.

    Also I intend to onsight Ingvars 27 at Blackwood.  (I suspect the skyhooks shenanigans to be mere hubris.) There are very few established routes in Australia I wouldnt try from the ground. But thats me. If someone creates, for example, a grade 22 headpoint style, they are not screwing me out of a route, only most people who find grade 22 trad routes hard to begin with. I guess Im arguing for tassie climbing in general. Good luck, and thanks for the discussion. Very stimulating stuff on a rest day waiting for the cliff to dry...


      Good luck with the onsght of Highway Star (27) at Mt Blackwood. The two skyhooks (not taped on by the way and placed side by side) were in a run-out section about 15m up - good cams at the base of a blank groove, then grade 25'ish moves to the hooks (gear now about 2m below feet), then harder moves above the hooks to exit the groove and gain a tips layback seam where it is quite strenuous to place a small wire. So if you fell at this point and the hooks failed, you'd go about 10m, pretty close to the ground. Ingvar thought a bolt was out of character with this incredible and beautiful looking thin crack, and if you're good enough then the hooks will suffice, or run it out for 4-5m on grade 26 type moves. I couldn't top-rope this section as it was too hard for me, but i am not ashamed to be an old trad wanker that top-ropes the shit out of scary routes at my limit. Ingvars ascent was a very impressive lead; rehearsed yes, but impressive none the less.