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Discussion: From The Economist: For Olympic climbing’s route-setters, a blank wall is a canvas

in: Orienteering; News

Jan 6, 2020 2:28 AM # 
Obvious parallels to orienteering, and notable differences. The Olympic bit, perhaps.

I really appreciated this passage:
"The film brought to the masses not just the physicality and the raw courage of the sport, but also its subtler grace and its knottily intellectual side. Marc Le Menestrel, an accomplished climber and author, who also teaches decision theory at the insead business school in Singapore, talks of the sport’s quest for “movement and beauty” as well as its “intellectual casse-tête”. The job of the route-setter is to make that experience possible and bring it out in its highest form. They are not just sculptors of walls; they are choreographers, forcing athletes into a vertical ballet in which they have to think on their fingertips and on their tippytoes."
Jan 6, 2020 2:57 AM # 
Maybe someone needs to do a write-up like that for orienteering to get into the Olympics.
Jan 6, 2020 5:34 AM # 
As a long-time orienteer and a recently converted climber, I've been intrigued by the parallels between the sports - even though they look completely different, they must be the closest matches to each other in terms of the balance between physical and technical ability.
Jan 6, 2020 9:40 AM # 
Terje Mathisen:
@slow-twitch: Funny you should say that, I've been climbing my entire life, orienteering only from when I was around 10, before that point I spent most weekends climbing the tallest trees on or around the orienteering venue while my parents ran.

Climbing in the mountains or on a brand new route (attempting to flash it) is in fact not just a physical but also a mental challenge, looking at the holds (plastic or rock) around and above you and visualizing the best way to get up. It is always a lot of fun when a good route setter manages to create a climb which forces you to do stuff you really didn't think would be feasible/possible. :-)

Some of my favorite moves are on inside and outside corners, or when you have to place your foot really high up on the side and then mantle up to the point where you can reach the next hold.

Back when I was both stronger and more flexible I loved going upside down, reaching up with my toes to get past a blank section. BTW, for you guys and girls in the US, there is a really classic climb in Yosemite called "Separate Reality", an approximately 25' roof problem where the final crux was to hang from a couple of bad finger jams and turn around so that you could hook your toes around the lip of the roof. The climb was downgraded after a flake fell off and exposed a new good hold. :-(
Jan 6, 2020 9:46 AM # 
Terje Mathisen:
I checked out the linked article, and it is completely wrong in one important regard: The climbing wall in Kranj is (in)famous for NOT being the standard featureless blank surface, instead it has a lot of built-in structure which the route setter have to work with (or work around).

Just take a quick look at

The article is otoh correct in stating that good route setters are artists, at least on the same level as a ballet choreographer.
Jan 6, 2020 10:41 AM # 
The climb was downgraded after a flake fell off...

Haha, I thought you were going to say "..after a flake fell off and injured himself".
Jan 6, 2020 11:36 AM # 
Some of the best early climbers in Australia (1960s and 70s, we started late) came from gymnastics and ballet. Watching some of them boulder was like watching a dance on a vertical face. Terje... sounds like you would have enjoyed climbing certain classics at Mt Arapiles. The Conception is just what you describe. Put your foot as high as you can, then let go with one hand and use it to drag your foot a little higher, pull/mantle, and then reach high for a fist jam at full stretch. If you spend too long on the moves you get cramps. Enough of the nostalgia. Our climbing areas are gradually being closed due to the damage caused by sports climbing ethics. I fear many great trad crags are lost forever.
Jan 7, 2020 8:08 AM # 
Terje Mathisen:
@TheInvisibleLog: I would have loved to go climbing in Australia back in the eighties, and yes, I did watch the photos and films from those classic Mt Arapiles climbs. 25m roof problem anyone? :-)

When I got serious about climbing I realized that what I did on the hardest climbs was in fact very similar to a gymnastics routine, to the point where I told people that I did rock gymnastics as opposed to alpinism or mountaineering. That was around the same time as I joined the university gymnastics team in order to get relevant winter/indoor training.

@tRicky: Separate Reality has been free soloed, I don't know if anyone has managed to kill himself there. Most of it is actually quite safe since you do 75% of the roof on bomber hand and foot jams. OTOH, the last part is outside the ledge underneath, so you'd fall 200-300m to the valley floor, definitely not survivable.

Back in the days here in Norway climbing was supposed to be secret, i.e. you should never do or say anything that could tempt another person to start climbing: If they did so and got hurt/killed, you would be responsible. This rule was doubled for free soloing, which you should not mention even to your climbing friends.
Jan 7, 2020 10:34 AM # 
Am I correct in remembering Separate Reality as the climb that introduced cams to the world.
Never tried that 25 m roof you mention (presumably Procal Harum). It was three Australian grades above my upper limit then (26 v 23). Best story about that was someone graffiting in the rock at the base "Eddy Ozols lives here". Eddy took on the job of belaying one of the first ascentionists. Rock politics these days wouldn't look to well on grafitti. Anyway, Procul Harem's time came and went. The closest we have to a Separate Reality clone, Passport to Insanity in the Grampians. The climb history is worth reading for amusement.
This was surpassed by Welcome to Barbados, a grade 29/30 50 metre roof on natural gear. Both these climbs are now banned to climbing. Orienteering looks much better as an option these days.
Jan 7, 2020 1:03 PM # 
Terje Mathisen:
I think you are right re Separate Reality and Friends: After inventing cams Ray Jardine freed both Separate Reality and Tales of Power, the first one ended up as an iconic cover photo in Mountain Magazine #56. I vividly remember seeing that cover in the late seventies and immediately started to dream about climbing it.
Passport to Insanity seems harder though, even in the original version shown on the cover, Separate Reality was "just" a plain 5.12 climb, i.e. probably 5.12a or b?
Australian 27 should be 5.12c, right?
Jan 7, 2020 5:32 PM # 
Another parallel between climbing and orienteering: access to suitable terrain. In the '80s and '90s, when I was climbing a lot, and climbing was growing, U.S. landowners (private and government) were starting to close their areas to climbing. Probably fear of lawsuits and liability, but also general dislike of climbers might have been a factor. With many traditional crags going off limits, the Access Fund got started in the U.S. in the early '90s, with the specific objective of preserving and growing access to climbing areas. I was an early donor. They've had a lot of success.

Something similar seems to be going on with access to orienteering areas. Park managers are limiting numbers, trying to keep visitors only on trails, and using other creative means to exclude orienteers. We have meetings and give presentations, but their minds are closed. We need an Access Fund for orienteering. I'd donate to that, too.
Jan 8, 2020 7:18 AM # 
Terje Mathisen:
@TiomN: Ouch!
I tend to forget (or suppress?) this problem since we here in the Nordic countries (Norway/Sweden/Finland, but NOT Denmark) have what's known as "allemannsretten" (lit. "All men's rights (of access)" which means that the general rule is free access to all undeveloped lands, public or private. This includes up to three days of tenting/bivouacking. One recent exception is land that has been protected as a biological reservation, i.e. on the last map I worked on, a refresh of the entire Bygdøy peninsula in Oslo, all orienteering events have been banned on the northernmost part due to a rare moss (or lichen?) that has been found on fallen trees in this particular area. :-(

The law also states that you shall not litter or deface, something which I have never done, at least not intentionally. The rule is the same in the Scouts handbook: "Leave nothing except a Thank You to the owner".

BTW, the litter/deface rule means that you should always ask for permission before you drill any bolt anchors!
Jan 8, 2020 8:28 AM # 
One recent exception is land that has been protected as a biological reservation

So the land access issue begins... Welcome to the rest of the world!
Jan 8, 2020 3:02 PM # 
You always have had to ask permissons in Nordic countries to arrange O events. Everyman's rights doesn't give you permission to arrange anything, not place any controls or let competitors run through an area. And without getting permissions first there is no point making a map. Everyman's rights may make less difference than some may believe. The difference is how easily landowners tend to give permission. And that depends on several other factors than everyman's right, like can they be sued if something happens to someone on thier property, do they know what orineteering is and so on.
Jan 8, 2020 3:17 PM # 
I think the ease with which people give permission could have something to do with the influence of allemannsretten. If you're used to people walking, skiing, berry picking, bird watching, etc. on your land then it's not so weird to have an occasional event there.
Jan 9, 2020 8:47 AM # 
@Terje. Once it got past 5.11, it was all imaginery to me. I never fell in love with gym climbing, though I did go through a buildering phase. The latter seemed to have much more relevance to real rock. And I still have a copy of that issue of Mountain magazine.
Jan 9, 2020 10:16 AM # 
Terje Mathisen:
@TheInvisibleLog: I'm back at 5.11 now, anything higher is effectively imaginary. I.e. I will try the occasional 5.12a (Norwegian 8-), but end up hangdogging every move sequence in the crux, if I can even do the moves in isolation. I did flash a (french style) 7a recently, that is supposed to be 7+ in Norway. BTW, I got my first visit to a rock gym in the US when I lived in Utah 91-92, after that year I was better than at any point during my "active" career.

Re. allemannsretten: I did not know that you need permission also for control sites in Finland! Here in Norway it is only required for locations where you gather a lot of people, which has been interpreted as meaning parking/event centre/start, and we typically end up paying $3-5 or so for parking in the local farmer's field.
Jan 9, 2020 2:23 PM # 
And not just for control sites, you are not alowed to arrange O event where competotors run through someones propery without asking permission. Good relasitionship with landowners is essential, not fun if club invets a lot to map an area and then it becomes useless for one of the landownners with narrow strip of land acros the area decides to say no and sort of splits the area in two too small parts.

Single person, a family or some friends are allowed to hike/ run or sleep a night in tent and pick berries, but pretty much thats it.

BTW some clubs were horrified when Karttapullautin/MapAnt appeared, they were afraid some will be running in places / dates where they have agreed with land owners to not train at all, and club will get the blame and loose acces to important areas. not sure has this happenned, quite possibly it has.

This discussion thread is closed.