The term ‘climbing’ covers a plethora of different disciplines – ice climbing, bouldering, traditional rock climbing, mountaineering, dry tooling, sport climbing, Scottish winter climbing, etc. It doesn’t matter which of these sub-cultures you are into, they are all as important as each other to the individual. Also most important in the genre are the most inspiring lines, climbs, moves, ice formations, boulders and mountains – the ones that really grab our attention. It is these truly memorable outings, the ones we have dreamed, that makes us as what we are, what we strive towards being. Cliffs, bouldering areas, mountain ranges, ice climbing destinations, they all have climbs that stand out from the rest and the pioneers of these inspirational climbs are generally like the climbs themselves, stand out, individual – people that inspire.

“I know it’s too late for the Nomad Wall but if no-one says anything things will just keep happening and before you know it what makes British climbing special and different has gone.”

Craig Arthur stands above the tranquil Eglwyseg Valley near Llangollen. To quote the Rockfax Guidebook, “The quality and length of the routes at Craig Arthur make it of national importance”.

And to quote the 1993 Clwyd Rock;

“The Nemesis Wall is covered in a mixture of delicate features. Here such classics as Manic Mechanic, Smoking Gun and Tres Hombres find their way.”

[The Nemesis Wall] “It gives the highest concentration of top class hard climbs in the vicinity. Superb technical wall climbing in the lower half is perfectly contrasted with leaning grooves and exposed overhangs on the walls above.”

Craig Arthur it is one of those crags that has a mix of traditional and sport climbs, I have climbed there often. What maybe makes the crag slightly confusing to some is it has climbs with a mixture of traditional and fixed protection.

I have climbed the bolted lines, the traditional climbs and the climbs that have a combination of bolts and traditionally protected gear placements and I can honestly say it is the traditional climbs that stick in the mind most. Stuart Cathcart’s Survival of the Fastest has one bolt near the top and Pat Lillejohn’s, Friday the Thirteenth had no bolts at all and I vividly remember climbing them both. Manic Mechanic like the two climbs above is a three star climb and it is a climb I aspired to attempt at some point in my life.

In general at Craig Arthur and especially on the Nemesis Wall the bolted lines that are not traditional lines which have been bolted, do not follow lines. They do not use weaknesses in the rock. They do not follow formations that are interesting and make you want to climb. The bolted lines at Craig Arthur do not inspire or have the aura as many of the traditional climbs. What the bolted lines on the Nemesis Wall do have is forced, unnatural and clumsy moves in an attempt, (which fail), to avoid the long established climbs. Craig Arthur is not a place a climber would visit to climb an inspirational bolted line because there are not any. I would say the bolted lines at Craig Arthur are at best, good and at worst, very poor which should never have been bolted.

This is no attack on sport climbing, I have just returned from a ten week sport climbing tour of Europe but I’m sorry to say most of the sport climbing at Craig Arthur is sub-standard, especially the fully bolted lines on the Nemesis Wall, which have ruined the long established three star traditional climbs.

Below are descriptions of two of the five three star climbs on the Nemesis Wall, the other three climbs being Smoking Gun E6 6c, Shooting Blanks E6 6c and Tres Hombres E6 6b. There are also another two climbs, Steppin Razor a two star E5 6b and Marie Antoinette a one star E5 6B. These two descriptions are taken from Gary Gibson’s website Sportclimbs.co.uk

10. Friday the Thirteenth E5 6a, 5c *** Start below the obvious long grey streak at the left-hand side of the wall, just right of a small tree. 1. 25m Gain a short groove and step left. Now trend rightwards to a detached flake, PR on the right. Now continue direct to the break. 2. 18m Follow the obvious groove on the left, PRs, moving right over the capping roof to a final wall.

12. Manic Mechanic E6 6b *** Superb and impressive in one big pitch. Start 3m right of the tree. Climb direct up the black streak, BR, to reach a ramp. From the top of this trend rightwards, PR, into a depression, BR. Pull through the bulge, PR to gain the break and continue up to the second break. Move left up the wall, TR, to reach the roof and pull leftwards through it, PR, to good holds and the top.

If you check out the Nemesis Wall topo you will see that there are now four new bolted climbs between, and including, Revival of the Latest and Marie Antoinette. In my opinion these climbs have been squeezed in and the only purpose of these new bolted climbs is to satisfy Gary’s obsession with climbing new routes. Walking along the whole crag there are many new bolted lines which I’m sure affect other long established, starred traditional climbs but at the moment I only have experience of the climbs on the Nemesis Wall.

I have always had the opinion that not every mountain or piece of rock needs to be climbed and that we as climbers should celebrate there will always be mountains with summits that will never be trod, ridges and faces that will always remain great unclimbed challenges, boulders that will always have much tried but yet to be climbed problems and there will always be smaller pieces of unprotected rock we can aspire to climb without putting a line of bolts.

I climbed Friday the Thirteenth several years ago. I climbed it on-sight and as a single pitch. At the time it felt big, wild, intimidating and adventurous. Pat Littlejohn is the first ascentionist and this added to the experience as Pat’s climbs often tend to be intimidating, sparsely protected, full on experiences. Friday the Thirteenth, unlike other routes on the wall did not utilise any bolts – it was a memorable journey! I seconded Paul Swaile on Friday the Thirteenth a few days ago and Paul clipped six bolts without making any deviation from the climb. When I seconded the climb it was obvious an extra three bolts could also be clipped. This radically changed the experience. Here is my revised description of the climb.

10. Friday the Thirteenth 6c * with spaced bolts, but possibly not as spaced as a climb at Céüse.

Start below the obvious long grey streak at the left-hand side of the wall, just to right of a line of bolts and just to the left of a line of bolts. Gain a short groove and step left, clip a bolt, then clip two other bolts, one on the right and one high on the left to give you a baby bouncer. This section used to be a run-out and very ‘thoughtful’ but not anymore folks. Now run with abandon and trend rightwards to a detached flake. Clip a bolt above and pull as hard as you want on the flake as you don’t care what happens now with bolts clipped all around. Skip merrily to a PR on the right. Now continue direct to the break, possible bolt to clip on the right, to reach what was the belay where you can clip a high bolt. Follow the obvious groove on the left, PRs, and bolt high and left, before moving right over the capping roof to a final wall.      

Paul Swaile climbing Friday the Thirteenth last week with the approximate location of bolts red ringed!


Below is the second ‘new’ sport climb description on the Nemesis Wall, which it to the right of Friday the Thirteenth and described as a direct assault through the walls. I would describe it as virtually no new climbing and more the combination of two three star traditional routes. Yes a good 7b bolted climb, but a non-line ruining two historic and inspirational three star traditional climbs of much better quality.

11. Oblivion (7b) **direct assault on walls through Friday starting and finishing as for Manic.

Here again is the description of Manic Mechanic from Gary’s website

12. Manic Mechanic E6 6b *** Superb and impressive in one big pitch. Start 3m right of the tree. Climb direct up the black streak, BR, to reach a ramp. From the top of this trend rightwards, PR, into a depression, BR. Pull through the bulge, PR to gain the break and continue up to the second break. Move left up the wall, TR, to reach the roof and pull leftwards through it, PR, to good holds and the top.

This is not a true description, this climb a complete clip-up. Here is the actual description.

12. Manic Mechanic 7b** Good in one big pitch. Start 3m right of the tree beneath a line of bolts. Climb direct up the black streak, BR, to reach a ramp. Clip a high bolt before trending rightwards on what is a high side runner, PR, into a depression, BR. Pull through the bulge, PR to gain the break and continue up to the second break clipping a bolt on the nose of a prow. (It may actually be possible to clip more bolts on the way) Move left up the wall, TR and bolt runner by the side of the thread making all of the nut placements in this piece of beautiful wall unnecessary, to reach the roof and pull leftwards through it, PR, to good but small holds, then before actually completing the crux move of the climb, clip the lower-off. Don’t go to the top to truly finish the climb and give you that, ‘YES’ feeling.

Manic Mechanic has been totally ruined and pushed aside by the inclusion of Oblivion, a mediocre non inspiring, non-line made possible by the inclusion of bolts.

The next new sport climb to the right is,

13. Relentless (7b+) *** a very fine new addition straight up the centre of the wall utilising a high hanging arete and super overlap finale. Very sustained but with two good rest spots.

Once again this is a good bolted climb but once again the actual new climbing is limited, it minces into and out of Manic Mechanic, Friday the Thirteenth and Smoking Gun. It should not have been bolted to the detriment of the three star tradition climbs around it which it fully affects and which are aspirational climbs.

I personally know several people who have climbed or attempted the traditional climbs on this wall and for those who failed to climb them clean, I know they have saved returning until they thought they were fit and capable to once again take on the challenge. Unfortunately for these climbers, unless they are very strong willed or suffering from tunnel vision, they now have to ignore the many bolts which are dotted all over the wall fully affecting all of the climbs and no-doubt giving others the green light to bolt with abandon.

“Drilled gear – Not seen as an issue in North Wales. Should be looked at on a case by case basis. Johnny Dawes and Chris Parkin proposed that retro-bolting should not occur due to the popularity of routes but rather on a basis of whether climbers ‘aspire’ to climb them.” BMC Area Meet decision September 2013.

“I know it’s too late for the Nomad Wall but if no-one says anything things will just keep happening and before you know it what makes British climbing special and different has gone.”

I wrote the comment above and posted on the forums at UKC at the end of a topic about Gary Gibson bolting Nomad Wall at Llanymynech in 2009. My original post can be read by clicking here.

The UKC forum page shows that there were 223 replies to my post. In these replies there are many opinions, some for the bolting of The Nomad Wall, some against, some on the fence, some not bothered. It’s a great thing that we, climbers living in Britain, have a democracy and in doing so we generally adhere to the opinion of the majority. One of the most annoying things in life I find is lack of consideration for others, so when the voice of the majority is ignored and ignored to the detriment of inspirational, long established, high quality, three star traditional climbs, it upsets me considerably.

I’m sure Gary will read this and I would like to say I really don’t mean to make this personal. I don’t know you Gary but I’m sure you are a nice guy and in the past you have made some very significant and worthy additions to British climbing but please, it is now time to stop with this obsessive drive to climb new bolted lines, (many of which are sub-standard and poor) lines which seriously affect very good and historic traditional climbs that many people aspire to climb in as near to their original form as possible.

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26 Responses to Oblivious.

  1. pete harrison says:

    Nick, it’s a bit of a rambling post but, from what I can tell, you’re saying that two routes – Manic Mechanic and Friday 13th have been ruined by the bolts.

    Couple of points:
    You’re giving your personal view, fine, but you’re only telling a very limited version of the bolt-v-trad story here – there’s a reason routes like these end up getting ‘ruined’ by bolts and that reason is that some, not by any means all, of these E5’s and 6’s were put up in what by today’s standards would be very poor style. They are stylistically questionable and the first ascentionist stooped low on the ethics scale by being overly reliant on putting in fixed gear to get the first ascent. These days, advances in standards in both sport and trad means that many of these routes would either be good 7a+ – 7c sport climbs or good bold trad routes.

    It’s an elephant in the room on lots of ‘trad’ crags – go to Hyll Drem and you can count 24 pegs just from the 1st belay of The Burner (I did, geek that I am), on supposedly trad routes. All the steep E5’s and 6’s on that section of the crag are fully pegged up – it’s bollocks and it isn’t unusual unfortunately. Many of the steepest routes around the UK coastline, amazing as they are, are blighted by over-pegging by first ascentionists. Craig Arthur and many other limestone crags are the same. Lets not get into the sea cliffs – a massive lurking elephant due to first ascentionists placing completely unsustainable pieces of fixed mild-steel protection into the rock to facilitate their own, as you eloquently put it, ‘obsessive drive to climb new lines’ – I’m talking about yours and mine trad heroes here obviously. It’s a load of bollocks and I’m not surprised that some climbers, seeing the hypocrisy inherent, wonder ‘why bother with these stupid pegs – they’re basically shit bolts?’

    In between doing nothing all year I managed a trip to Lower Sharpnose. Great fun, but Fay is spoiled slightly as a ‘classic’ trad by the crux being a clip-up on pegs. It’d be far better as an E5 6a sans pegs; still safe and totally clean.

    There’s a good reason Brown et al only allowed themselves 2 pegs per pitch – they knew most things can be protected if you have a hammer and pegs. It’s the same reason I only allow myself an angle and a blade (plus peckers) on winter routes. I know I can stitch things up most times if I carry enough steel.

    I’m not saying those E5’s and 6’s feel like sport routes, they’re obviously still formidable even with with all the pegs, threads or, if you’re at Nesscliffe, six inch nails, ice-screws and warthogs (it’s just stupid there). But people moan about bringing a route down to their level when they start talking about bolts as if it’s only through placing bolts you can be guilty of this – they should realise that, by heavily pegging and in-situ threading routes, the FA has equally brought the climb down to their level. It would be regarded as poor style today to do new trad routes with heavy use of pegs and in-situ threads.
    So, these routes featuring extensive in-situ protection are naturally going to get questioned by those who don’t care as much as you do that the state of climbing remains exactly as it were when they were first done, like some sort of National Trust forever in-stasis activity. (very Daily Mail btw..).

    Perhaps you should put your money where your mouth is and go out by doing trad routes in better style by reducing the number of in-situ pegs on them – we had it in the 60’s and 70’s with climbers reducing points of aid, we should be striving for better style by trying to reduce pieces of ironmongery on all trad routes before bemoaning an understandable reaction to the questionable state of some of these pseudo-trad climbs. If we don’t strive to clean up the mess left, I can see lots more of these routes becoming targets for the keen sport-climbers of this world.
    The first port of call could be Chicama at Rhoscolyn to turn it into a peg-free trad route – E10? Even half the number would be noteworthy! Or make it a brilliant resin-bolted 8a. That would be more laudable than Victor-Meldrewing about pseudo E5’s getting retro’ed by obsessive new route-aloholics.

    Did you take the bolts out?

    • Nick Bullock says:

      Hi Pete,

      Thanks for the ‘rambling’ reply 😉 I will try to digest it fully and reply to some of the main points you have raised, but for now I see you appear to have brushed over the fact that Pat’s route had no bolts and I would imagine was climbed in the best style possible on the first ascent, on-sight. What about this route?

      Cheers, Nick

  2. pete harrison says:

    No it doesn’t have bolts – how many pegs did it have when you did it? Basically pegs are no better, stylistically, than bolts these days in quite a few very good climber’s opinions, mine too too but I’m not very good.

    Those who bashed in lots of pegs in the 60s, 70s and 80s – I think they brought those routes down to their level just like people who place bolts in the wrong place do today. They’re just as guilty of taking away the chance of doing these first ascents in a better style, especially where they pegged the crap out of routes on crags where bolting still isn’t accepted today – the underside of Ochre Slab for example – so that we’re left with clip-up routes which are full of shite rotting fixed gear which we can’t replace, but which was bomber when placed on the FA. These could have been last great problems on gear (or lack of). Gogarth has lots too.

    I’ve lost the fondness that I once had for historic pegs on trad climbs as you can probably tell! They’re just relics of a past we don’t inhabit, fine if they don’t need to be used, but if they do then FFS just replace them with something that’s going to last the next 100 years, or get rid and accept the E6/7/8 you’re left with – at least it’s clean and the same for everyone all who come after. Rather than engage in this futile attempt to preserve things as they were when the first ascensionist didn’t have the choice of using anything better – you don’t choose to drive around in a 1960’s era morris minor or an old bedford camper van do you?

    • Nick Bullock says:

      Hi Pete,

      I do think you have some good points to make about the whole peg v bolt issue but that is not what my post is about. I am happy to enter into the whole debate on pegs but I don’t really think I want to enter into it here because it detracts from what I’m hoping is the main point of the post.

      If I remember correctly I think Friday the Thirteenth has three pegs including one on the belay but I may be wrong. Not really littered with ironmongery or a clip-up. What Friday the Thirteenth was, was a great adventure worthy of three stars from one of the UK’s all time great climbers. It is no longer this!


  3. Daniel says:

    Hi, Pete. Do you really think that these routes were bolted as a part of a wider ‘anti-peg’ stance, or are you clouding the issue with a load of tripe?

    Thanks in advance.

    • Nick Bullock says:

      Hi Daniel,

      I’ll answer you this one, no they were not, it has nothing to do with any anti-peg stance. How does putting a lower-off half way through the crux move of Manic Mechanic improve the route?


  4. pete harrison says:

    It sounds like the lower-off is very badly placed would have been better placed higher 🙂

    The trouble with ignoring the in-situ gear issue on UK trad is you you can’t do justice to a debate on retro-bolting by just sweeping under the carpet the inconvenient fact that there are a lot of trad routes in this country which are essentially poorly-equipped sport routes – Manic Mechanic and Smokin Gun being two such routes, and that many climbers nowadays think excessive fixed-gear detracts from a genuine trad-climbing experience yet still doesn’t give a genuine sport-climbing experience either.
    I know you’ll come back with it’s ok to be what it is – a mixture, I don’t 100% disagree, but most times I don’t get much inspiration from climbing psuedo-trad.
    It sounds like bolting Friday 13th is questionable but I don’t know it so couldn’t make a sensible judgment. But Manic Mechanic? – come on, that isn’t a trad route; neither is Smokin Gun – both were destined to be fully bolted becasue the first ascentionsist made it so heavily reliant on fixed gear.

    Another point – the desire to explore and create is still there in some climbers, but most of the opportunities for doing that have been taken. Any routes that were originally done in a mish-mash of semi trad/sport styles leaves them open to interpretation by climbers with the desire to go out on the crag and create in their own mould like climbers have always done. Clean trad routes don’t leave anything open to interpretation, they stand on their own merits and get left alone. Blame past first ascentionists on Craig Arthur and elsewhere (Nomad Wall for example) for placing too much fixed gear so that they could make first ascents of yet another ‘E6’ which is really just a badly-equipped 7b+.

    By starting simplistic bolting debates you’ll no doubt appeal to a vociferous section of ukc’ers – if that’s actually the point of your post and your intended audience then I’m sure it’ll go down well with them, but quantity doesn’t correlate to quality. There’s too many experienced and leading climbers saying a similar thing and which makes your position look overly simplistic – which is that it makes sense to couple a desire not to see excessive retro-bolting go along with a desire to get rid of as much of the old in-situ equipment as possible, by either climbing some of those heavily geared routes in a better style, or accepting that some of them make better sport routes.

    Like I said, if you care that much about what you’re saying then act on your words and strip everything out – new bolts and all the old in-situ gear – and do Mnic Mechanic and Smokin Gun on trad gear only to see if they make sense that way. I doubt they would but would be impressed if you actually tried.

    • Nick Bullock says:

      Hi Pete,

      like I said above, I believe the in-situ gear debate/issue is best discussed separate from this piece. Contrary to what you have said, the above was not particularly written as a piece to open debate on retro-bolting, it is a bringing to light one mans fragrant disregard to other people and their feelings and ignoring local policy and respect for established climbs. I would say the local situation on the Orme is a perfect example of people sitting down and chatting sensibly about a situation and acting on what the majority decide.

      I have know about this situation for quite a while, but before saying anything I wanted to get personal experience. In the last few weeks I have climbed at Craig Arthur twice to fully understand the impact of one mans decision to do what he wants.

      “It’s a great thing that we, climbers living in Britain, have a democracy and in doing so we generally adhere to the opinion of the majority. One of the most annoying things in life I find is lack of consideration for others, so when the voice of the majority is ignored and ignored to the detriment of inspirational, long established, high quality, three star traditional climbs, it upsets me considerably.” Taken from my piece above.

      Whether or not we agree on the quality of the original routes due to in-situ gear (although they are/were three star routes) it is not the place for one man to take it upon himself to do as he pleases when it affects so many, not without discussion at least.


  5. Daniel says:

    Hi Pete, you think that pegs make a route too safe, therefore in defiance of this lowering of a route, you would lower it further by bolting it? There is clearly some special logic at work here, if I objected to the over pegging of a route, I’d take them out. In no way do the presence pegs give anyone the the right to delete a trad route.

    • pete harrison says:

      Didn’t you read the parts where I wrote (admittedly not particularly clearly) –

      ”…which is that it makes sense to couple a desire not to see excessive retro-bolting go along with a desire to get rid of as much of the old in-situ equipment as possible, by either climbing some of those heavily geared routes in a better style, or accepting that some of them make better sport routes.”


      ”Like I said, if you care that much about what you’re saying then act on your words and strip everything out – new bolts and all the old in-situ gear – and do Mnic Mechanic and Smokin Gun on trad gear only to see if they make sense that way. I doubt they would but would be impressed if you actually tried.”

      If it isn’t clear enough: I think we should be striving to do routes without the in-situ mess left by previous generations – i.e. in a bolder and cleaner style. Where this doesn’t seem realistic (and that’s obviously a massively subjective judgement call from person to person) then it makes sense to be putting in fixed gear that’s going to last.
      I definitely don’t see any logic in preserving old in-situ gear on heavily-equipped routes like Manic Mechanic just so that it’s never to be altered from the original ascent – like the first ascensionist were some wise deity whose old pegs and bolts must be worshipped. That’s a crazy, illogical stance.

      In case you hadn’t thought it through – Nick’s lament that ”it is not the place for one man to take it upon himself to do as he pleases when it affects so many, not without discussion at least.” can equally be used to lament first ascensionists who originally littered certain routes and crags with excessive unsustainable fixed gear – just so that they could satisfy their own selfish desire to put up a new routes – and which subsequent climbers don’t have the benefit of being able to trust in the same way.

      Nick’s appeal that ”it (bolting) affects so many people”… is only as valid as saying ”putting up routes littered with crap old gear which subsequent climbers can’t trust affects so many people”.
      It’s blatant that the majority of climbers these days who’re capable of climbing routes like Manic Mechanic, Smokin Gun etc. just aren’t inspired to climb them because of the mish-mash of old fixed equipment and the lack of a genuine trad feeling about these kind of routes..

      I don’t think Nick’s accusations of selfishness stack up here.

      • Nick Bullock says:

        Hi Pete,

        I will continue to say that the pegs, in-situ gear issue you talk about detracts from the main point of my piece. The ‘new’ routes that have been bolted are nothing to do with ‘modernising’ the three star lines which were climbed a long time ago.

        Your comment that ‘my lament’ can be applied to the first ascentionists is wrong. The first ascentionists used a style of the time with the protection available and the routes they climbed have been recognised as great climbs worthy of three stars. I don’t think they could have done better really. It is up to future generations to improve on their style given developments in training, gear and with better understanding. Once again I will say Pat Littlejohn’s three star route used no bolts, it now has a possible nine a leader can clip!

        Gary’s ‘new’ routes as I have said are at best squeezed-in, OK climbs which fully affect and encroach on long established climbs. They are not classics, they do not follow logical lines and the moves are forced. They have improved nothing.

        I will not enter into an on-line, chest-beating brag and say yes I’ll go and do Manic Mechanic without any bolts and then strip the wall – maybe I will find time and the cost of fuel to do this, maybe I wont – the truth of the matter is, I should not and do not have to and neither does anyone else and you should not try, by a type of on-line bullying, to force me or anyone else to do this by throwing down the gauntlet. The person who should undo this mess is Gary. Its a pity he didn’t use his time to clean up and climb the established three star routes on this wall, in doing this he would have done the climbing community a much better service but then he would not have added to his tally of ‘new’ routes.


        PS, I think Daniel answers many of your other points and some of the same very well below.

  6. Daniel says:

    Hello, thankyou for replying. I will respond directly to these paragraphs in order to assure you that I have not missed them

    1) There is no link between de-pegging routes and retrobolting, you never did answer my question directly: Do you really think that these routes were bolted as a part of a wider ‘anti-peg’ stance? If not then you would have to admit that stripping some of the fixed gear out of this route would have achieved nothing because Gary never cared about the pegs in the first place.

    As these routes were already 3 star routes, no improvement has been ascertained? Do you believe that 3 star routes are the place to start ‘improving’ via the addition of bolts?

    2) In this paragraph you quote, you simply conflate that pegs = bolts and bolts = pegs. If this was the case, then surely the addition of bolts would be pointless as the route would be a safe as houses clip up anyway? I’ve climbed past some bomber fixed nuts and cams, even clipped some from time to time. What do you think of these? Most likely better than manky pegs, thus satisfying your criteria for a good bolting. After a good summer Sunday afternoon I imagine half of Idwal slabs would be fair game.

    3) Probably the best part of your argument here, not too bad. You still have this weird idea that anything that does not fit into the most ethical trad style must be grid bolted. I do find that rather bizarre. Many routes were first climbed with points of aid and with pegs then were later freed by the Joe Browns of each generation. Surely that seems to be the most direct answer to impure ascents? To strive for a purer ascent?
    I’m not sure if this ‘group of peg worshipers’ exists, if you have some evidence of this ‘crazy illogical’ stance, please enlighten me. I don’t believe anyone would have supported adding further pegs to the climb, let alone bolts.

    4) Now this is just petty, you are essentially saying here, is that because the first ascendant made unilateral decisions based on safe guarding himself decades ago, anyone else is allowed to bolt over it without consulting anyone else. This really doesn’t follow, surely every FA makes decisions on how to protect themselves, none of these have to be followed by subsequent climbers, and as the standards of climbing increase pegs and points of aid start to come out. Had Indian Face had several pegs placed on the route, would you deny the several free Trad ascents this summer by bolting it up? Must we bolt a top rope in place there as no one will ever attempt it ground up?

    5) Had this really been blatant, then why didn’t GG simply inform the community that he planned to bolt these routes to be met with applause and unanimous agreement? The fact is, the placing of pegs on routes at the time was much less objectionable than retrobolting has ever been.

    In summary I don’t think routes that aren’t quite up to the highest of trad values should be bolted over. If this were the precedent, then many trad classics would have been lost forever to form unremarkable sport routes. I feel you are simply trying divert the attention off someone taking matters into their own hands and deleting trad routes at will. While I feel that discussion about pegs is worthwhile, I think it should happen before taking the drill to the rock. Whatever state a route is in, taking matters into one’s own hands is selfish and ignorant, and no talk about pegs, fixed nuts, human waste and ab tat will change that.

  7. pete harrison says:

    Daniel, I think anyone can read my points and see that I’m not advocating what you say I am, i.e. grid-bolting, replacing all pegs with bolts etc. etc. You only have to actually read what I wrote without your blinkers on to understand that I’m actually advocating removing excessive fixed gear and climbing some routes in better style as clean trad, as well as talking about bolting. It’s nuanced, and you talking about Idwal Slabs and Indian Face just makes you look silly. Don’t be silly.

    To answer your question – ‘do I think this is part of a wider anti-peg stance?’: No. It’s Gary Gibson doing what Gary Gibson has often done.

    This isn’t a new phenomenon. Look through the list of E4, 5, and 6s from the 1980s on Clwyd limestone – and crags elsewhere – and you’ll see that these latest routes are part of a very long list of routes which were originally done on a mix of pegs, threads and bolts and which are now bolted routes. It isn’t new and it’s happened for a reason.

    For those who wear blinkers to every debate – Daniel – I’m not saying these routes should automatically become sport routes. I am saying trad routes with loads of pegs bolts and in-situ threads are a natural target for it. They might make very good bold trad routes. What I am also saying is it doesn’t see make much sense to leave routes like these in their current state littered with lots of manky old fixed gear. We don’t leave most aid routes as peg-littered aid routes. Excpet for a very few which are too difficult to free climb, most aid routes have been freed on gear. There’s usually 1 of 2 outcomes for routes like these – bolt them or leave them as they are. I’m advocating thinking about a third option – climbing them in better style without fixed gear. I’m also fine with bolting.

    Nick has backed away from talking about Manic Mechanic in the same light as Friday 13th – it’s because it was littered with pegs and old bolts anyway whereas F13 wasn’t. Smokin Gun, which is also mentioned in the original post, is also basically a sport route on old bolts pegs and threads. It’s destined to be bolted properly unless someone brave thinks they can do a better job as a clean trad ascent. Either makes more sense to me than having shite old bolts, pegs and in-situ threads everywhere.

    One last point – Who gave these routes 3 stars – the whole climbing community? the first ascensionist? the guidebook writer? – I’m writing a guidebook myself and I can promise you the star rating of climbs that don’t get climbed very often is a personal and very subjective call by one or two individuals and not something to be taken too seriously, we’re not talking about well-established classics here like Right Wall. There are ‘3 star routes’ all over the country which are zero or 1 star routes to some people – it’s a very common theme for first ascentionists to give their routes 2 or 3 stars and it’s often bollocks. For 3 star classics these Craig Arthur routes have been strangely snubbed by everybody… Ironically the new bolted routes have been ‘given 3 stars’ too – does this afford them in your eyes the heritage status you’ve imbued Manic Mechanic/Friday 13t

    • Nick Bullock says:

      Hi Pete,

      I’m not backing away from anything I have said about Manic Mechanic, it had one bolt, it now has loads and the crux has a lower off! It is a climb I would have liked to have climbed in its original form. It is a climb that has been fully affected and a false description written up on http://www.sportsclimbs.co.uk in its present form.

      I suppose these climbs that are nearly thirty years old have been climbed by many people who did not disagree that they were brilliant. The three star rating they have been given has continued through at least two guidebooks which would suggest that they are well worthy. The ‘new’ bolted lines are recent and I for one and two of the people who have also climbed them with me are in agreement they are not worth the stars that GG has given them.


    • Daniel says:

      Paragraph by paragraph again for you Pete.

      1) Sorry, but make your mind up, either you are advocating the bolting of this route or you are not. You can’t support both the removal of “excessive fixed gear” and the retrobolting of the route. These two positions are incompatible on the same route.

      2) Right, so this has nothing to do with Gary’s motivations but your own. You have a pro unilateral retrobolting ethic that you are trying to justify here.

      3) Ah, goody ‘thin edge of the wedge’ argument. It’s been done before so why not do it again.

      4) Then what are you saying? What exactly is the criteria for retrobolting? Why are you and Gary Gibson the sole judges on what should be bolted over? Whatever the option taken, he doesn’t have the right to bolt over existing routes without consultation. No one has established a precedent on what routes can be bolted without consultation, therefore your argument that this was an obvious ‘target’ is unfounded. You are clearly against trying routes in a cleaner style, because you’re defending this retrobolting.

      5) Again you repeat this false assumption that everyone is thinking on your level and the climbing community believes that these routes are ‘destined’ to be bolted, this is not at all the case and cannot be used to justify anything. If it was so blatantly obvious then why didn’t Gary simply tell people before hand what he was doing?

      6) No one is imbueing anything with ‘heritage status’, routes can be altered if there’s a consensus. Of course you know that. Yes, there is subjectivity in the rating of the quality of routes, what’s your point? Unless you can prove that the rating is clearly wrong, which these sport ascents not support, you don’t really have an argument. Yes, you fail to even qualify the old ‘the route was shite anyway argument’.

      You repeatly ignore the fact that Gary Gibson acted on his own without warning or statement of intention, and that is in itself wrong. Had he a particularly strong case, then I’m sure he would have persquaded the local community that it’s indeed the right thing to do. But it’s either laziness, the knowledge that there would be disagreement, ego or a mixture of reasons he simply didn’t bother to do that.

      This whole debate is a bad smoke screen for covering for someone, who in your own words, “It’s Gary Gibson doing what Gary Gibson has often done”. Obviously you’re in support of people taking matters into their hands, as long as it is on the probolting front. Want more routes for your guidebooks? Why don’t you just come out and say it? Would you support me ripping bolts out of routes in the area as you are in fact, “actually advocating removing excessive fixed gear”.

      • pete harrison says:

        Haha, this is laughable. Daniel you’re spectacularly missing what I’m saying and attributing to me opinions and ideas which I quite simply don’t hold.
        I think my points are clear enough. I don’t ”support Gary’s actions” – it depends on the route. How about you get yourself copies of the ’83, ’93 and 2005 Clywd Limestone guidebooks, check through all the formerly trad-graded routes which have been turned into sport routes or altered by bolts over the last 30 years – it must now run into hundreds of routes – (you could educate yourself in the process), and then ask my opinion on each individual one. That way you might start to realise how nuanced any bolting debate is , every route being unique. I’ll agree with the bolts on some and on some I won’t – just like every other climber who visits these crags will have their own version of what makes most sense to them, and their idea will be different to mine. There isn’t a one-size fits all answer. But you obviously aren’t able to understand nuanced arguments very well.
        I definitely think Gary should be asking the first ascentionists their opinion before altering any of their routes. That’s common courtesy. It’d be interesting to hear John Moulding’s thoughts on what should happen to the fixed gear on his routes.
        Of the routes under discussion, it neither surprises me or bothers me anywhere near as much as they do you or Nick, but if pressed I’d say F13th should have been avoided by keeping the bolts on the sport route Oblivious, where it crosses F13, further apart so as not to be reachable from that route and mentioning the gear placement needed (if there was one) where it crosses F13th – that would have been a more respectful thing to do and that’s the sort of thing that happens in other areas such as The Ormes. Manic Mechanic – I honestly don’t care that it’s been bolted.

        There’s not a lot more can be said than that, except that if you go and take the shite old fixed gear out from any heavily-equipped ‘pseudo-trad’ route and lead it in a cleaner style I’d probably applaud you – you could take your pick of thousands of trad routes around the country, seas cliffs are a good place to start. But if you’d read my previous posts more carefully you’d have known that already.

  8. pete harrison says:

    The fact you think that a 3-star rating continues through two guidebooks guarantees these routes are ‘classics’ says a lot about your naivety around how thoroughly- researched guidebooks really are – especially rockfax guidebooks :)) I bet you those ratings are taken from the original ascensionist/original guidebook without revision or route-checking. I’ll give Lee a call, I’m happy to be proven incorrect.

    Regards quality, it’s your opinion obviously, but other disagree with you – Oblivion gets votes for 3 stars http://www.ukclimbing.com/logbook/c.php?i=188189
    …as does Relentless: ”A tremendous route with an “out there” finish which appears to be the crux from below, but isn’t unless you are either freaked out or just feel plain weak by then!”
    MikeYouCanClimb – Lead RP – 18/Aug/13 with Matthew Pearson
    ”Brilliant. continously interesting with a really exciting finale!!”
    spidey – Lead RP – 09/Jun/12 with luke clarke
    ”Took the wrong finish, by traversing left and finishing as per Manic Mechanic, instead of launching out over the roof, above which there may be a bolt somewhere.”
    switch – Lead dnf – 21/Aug/11 with Chris

    Classics ;))

    • Nick Bullock says:

      Hi Pete,

      You have got me chuckling with this reply, cheers.

      I don’t think I’m being naïve, I’m going on what I’m given, which in the original Clewyd Guidebook is by … erm, Gary Gibson… Oh!!! 😉

      And yep, everyone has an opinion, I was once told opinions are like arseholes, everybody has one and mine is as valid as the others I think. I’m quite willing to go with the majority when its talked about honestly and a decision is made, I just don’t like one person bulldozering his personal agenda.

      And I think you are being naïve if you think the ‘new’ bolted climbs are good just because people have entered their thoughts on the UKC logbook. There are many climbers who do not enter their climbing experiences on UKC.

      Right I’m off to do a workout,

      later mate

      • pete harrison says:

        Which is pretty much what I’m saying – Gary’s star ratings are all over the place (like his bolts), I wouldn’t take much notice of his 3-star ratings for supposed Clwyd ‘trad classics’ any more than I would for Gary’s recent sport routes – I’m skeptical of both! Which makes you saying ‘they’re 3-star classics’ not a very strong argument to me.
        If we were talking about real 3-star trad routes it’d be a different story and I’d be as up in arms as you about anyone placing bolts anywhere near it.
        Actual recent ascensionists of two of Gary’s bolted routes on Nemisis Wall do at least say they think Oblivion and Relentless are good routes, that much can’t be denied, just as you think Friday 13th was a great route. It certainly looks like one of the more natural lines on that wall, Survival of the Fastest being one of very few others. Most of the others just seem to be forced pseudo sport lines.

        Workout = I’m jealous, I’m bouncing off the walls in boredom… can’t even do physio yet.

  9. Tom Briggs says:

    I did Smoking Gun 3 years ago on my one and only trip to Craig Arthur. It’s one of those weirdly UK ‘trad’ routes that’s really a sport climb. The same day I backed off some totally crap snappy sport in-filler further to the right, ‘Sunny Side Up Mix’. At the time I posted in my UKC logbook “The worst of British sport climbing – squeeze it in where’s there’s no line on loose, flaky rock. Pulled a hold off at the 3rd bolt and lowered off in disgust. This crag is not “of national importance” and this route aint 3 stars.” Sad to hear even the decent sections of crag (the bit section with Smoking Gun is actually excellent rock) have been ruined by too many bolts and more gap fillers. Just pandering to one man’s ego.

  10. Mark Reeves says:

    I have to tend to agree with various points in regard to adding sports routes that essentially fill empty space on a crag for no apparent purpose other than to fill said space and presumably someones ego. I keep quiet on retro-bolting though.

  11. Tim says:

    Good debate Pete and Nick….bit intimidated by you heavy hitters but hope to contribute in a practical way maybe somewhere in the middle.
    Rather than comment through rose tinted spectacles or through virtual hear say I went to the Nemesis wall yesterday (beautiful day and no one around, ideal venue for a bit of route tinkering :-)). Mostly to see what effect the newest lines have had and if they were positive contributions to what is the best wall at this crag.
    On a positive note I thought Relentless is a really good addition and perhaps only needs a couple of bolts repositioned ( fortunately in the top easier half so they can’t be clipped on MM and F 13th) to be a well thought out example of how different styles can sensibly co exist…the climbing is about as independant as possible on a juggy wall with breaks and it didn’t feel like it was climbing MM or SG. I’ve been on MM a long while ago as far as the top roof (unfortunately exciting forearm malfunction). It has no appeal as a retroed route at the moment….shame. You can clip all bar 2 bolts on Oblivion, but am sure it would be a bad idea to make for any of the ground on Relentless. Smoking Gun is at it was except you can clip a bolt to protect a VS move at the bottom…no big deal. Still a good challenge for adventurous sport climbers?
    Oblivion however is a total non route and has had a totally negative impact. It is essentially a poor effort at squeezing in with only really 2 or 3 independant moves that link the start of MM into F13 then MM again. The positioning of the belay is the worst anti climax in the history of lower offs! Mid MM crux!! Anyone going for this route will inevitably just climb Pat’s route but with bolts for pro as it is never more than 1.5m away at best. Friday 13th, which is the true trad classic of the wall has been completely ruined which is a crying shame.
    The most positive compromise would be to remove all the bolts from Oblivion and the other poor route that starts just left of F 13th and removing the ugly lower off completely. 2 or 3 of the higher bolts on Relentless could be shifted, retaining its integrity and that of the 2 original climbs. This would keep polar opposites (extremists) and everyone else (climbers) happy with a great sport route, a true trad classic and a great example of minimalist bolt/peg/ thread/nut/adrenaline fuelled but safe British quirkiness.
    I reckon that the attractive (classic sport route) of Relentless will actually increase the traffic (well deserved) on Friday the 13th, Manic and Smoking Gun as you can’t help noticing all the jugs as you lower off :-). As for the routes to the right the growing Sycamore will soon make the bolted direct on Tres Hombres even more awkward.
    Looking at the rest of the crag it looks as if a lot/all of the less good hybrids have been bolted up and inevitably there are holds chalked that haven’t been for many a decade.

    Kind regards to all, Tim

  12. Daniel says:

    Of course I’m misreading you. You have defended and justified these actions again and again. But of course you ‘don’t support’ gary’s actions. Re-read your own posts. It has been clear to see, look at the post by Tim, he clearly recognises that you have been taking the opposite corner to nick. Do you want to laugh at him now and call him a fool? Stop filling out your posts with cheap insults, it’s pathetic.

    Only now after some ‘pressing’ have you had the very slightest criticism of the route oblivion. I disagree that the bolts should be moved. The route should simply go, cramming in routes is bad style even if you remove the retrobolting aspect.

    It already is the trad ethic to climb in a cleaner style and remove old pegs if possible. It is also the ethic that routes shouldn’t be retrobolted without proper consultation. These points of view are perfectly consistent. So people are perfectly validated to be annoyied when routes are retrobolted.

    I loved how you think that your argument, ‘a route that already has pegs in it might aswell be bolted’ is ‘nuanced’. Do you not think these debates should happen before people take a drill to established routes? Genuine question there and I want a genuine answer.

  13. Pat Littlejohn says:

    Apologies for tuning in late to this debate. I guess I should make it clear that I won’t accept the retro bolting of Friday the Thirteenth. It was the first free climb on the wall, climbed on-sight in one pitch with just two pegs (relics of earlier aid climbs). With modern gear these could no doubt be dispensed with. I doubt whether any other climber in Britain would wreck a cluster of 3-star trad routes by super-imposing his own bolted lines, but Gary has form – he did the same to the routes Crowman and Painted Bird in S Wales and also (by the sound of it) to the Nomad Wall routes at Llanymynech.
    The issue is not about the use of pegs in the Eighties – if it was I would respond to some of the revisionist drivel in the above thread – it’s about whether someone with a ruthless, Guinness-Book-of-Records approach to climbing can be allowed to bolt over existing climbs with impunity. I don’t see it as my place to defend every route on the wall but I give notice that every bolt clip-able from Friday the Thirteenth will be removed and the rock repaired as well as possible.

  14. Pat Littlejohn says:

    Update. Yesterday (Nov 19) Tim Neill and I removed bolts from Friday the Thirteenth and Manic Mechanic. The sport route on the left side of the wall (Revival of the Latest) is not affected, and Relentless can still be climbed as a sport route either by doing a mildly ‘runout’ section to pass through Friday the Thirteenth or carrying a couple of small/medium wires to protect. Two pegs which had been placed in the upper part of Friday the Thirteenth since the first ascent (and beside perfect wire placements) were also removed. Hopefully things can now ‘settle down’ on this excellent wall and there will be no further need to remove bolts placed on outstanding trad climbs.

  15. Blake says:

    Ha! Nice1 Pat

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