Monday, 5 October 2009


A while ago, over two years ago in fact, a friend of mine showed me these pictures. They were taken at Long Crag in Yorkshire, which is a small esoteric venue covered by the Yorkshire Limestone guide. I sent them into a climbing magazine at the time, but they couldn't print them, and I sort of forgot about them. I found them while trawling through my hard drive and as this blog is not a family blog I thought I would put them up here. It is difficult to work out exactly who did what - but  judging from the clumsy bolt chopping it seems likely that the bolt chopper with his angle grinder decided to leave a little message for the bolter. In terms of ethical actions, this is just about the most stupid thing I have ever seen.

I love British climbing and I love British climbing ethics. I love the way that climbers in Britain are so strictly self policing - it is very reassuring to know that there are enough people who care stopping bolts spreading into the mountains, or painted route names onto roadside crags. Seeing and hearing extensive debates in pubs or internet forums is always a positive sign and as long as this debate comes before action, the right decision is almost always taken. I can’t think of an ethical debate where the consensus opinion has been wrong, can you? 

And yet, perhaps inevitably, there will always be renegades who are so self assured in their opinions that they decide to take their own direct action. Somewhere, probably not too far from Long Crag, is someone just like this. Maybe you are reading this. Maybe you think I don’t know enough about the situation to pass judgement. Maybe you have a point. But so do I. Whether the bolt should be there in the first place is not for me to say, but quite clearly the backlash was the wrong course of action to take in that, or any other, situation. If you want to chop a bolt, then do it properly or not at all. It is not hard to chop a bolt, hammer in the stub, and fill the hole to leave a barely visible scar. 

Apart from anything else, the hypocrisy of the action is absolutely astounding - whoever did this left the cause of traditional British climbing behind a long while ago for some crazed and illogical anti bolting frenzy. There is a time and a place for bolts in British climbing. There is no place for vile graffiti like this on our rock.