Classic Utah Boulders Chipped – Climbing

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On a Saturday in September Hannah O’Connor and some friends hiked to White Pine in Little Cottonwood Canyon (LCC) for bouldering. Your main goal for the session: Project the V9 sit start of nest egg, a classic boulder with exciting moves on a mixture of slopers and crimps. “We were just playing around and warming up on the side of the boulder and my friend Weston mounted nest egg,‘ explains O’Connor. As he made the notoriously difficult first move with ease, he called Hannah over. “It feels different,” he told her, “it’s been chipped.”

Two months earlier, Hannah had had problems with the first move. That day she moved on and immediately linked the first four moves. A quick investigation revealed significant changes nest egg. The first clue: A kick has been cleaned aggressively. “All the rubber was gone,” Hannah said, “before you put your foot down and it worked [grease] right away. Now…it’s not moving.” A weak, open-handed sloper felt different, too: “Now there’s a real ripple hammered into the tip,” says O’Connor, “making it almost two degrees easier.” Still, they wondered wondering if they were imagining it all, so they sent a few local friends a message.

In the days that followed, news of changing grades at Little Cottonwood Canyon and Joe’s Valley flooded social media feeds. “Over the summer we noticed a number of bouldering issues up at LCC where existing holds were being made to improve them,” said Justin Wood, a longtime Little Cottonwood local. In Joe’s Valley, developer and local climber Steven Jeffery also found signs of damage. At least seven boulders were struck between the two locations. In the LCC: nest egg (V7), the minsch (V7) and Citizen dildo (V9). With Joe: water pictures (V7), Golden Plates (V8), boy size (V7) and Mr Duck (V7). Someone upgraded crimps to increase their size and carved grooves into slopers to increase grip.

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Chipped hold on Boulder in Utah
The newly modified right grip water pictures. (Photo: Steven Jeffery)

One of the most famous victims is water pictures, a stiff V7 that rivals any climber. It’s sustained, with a physical intro to a hard foot cut on two sharp crimps. “I did FA in the late ’90s and it stayed in pretty much the same state until one person – 25 years later – decides it’s too hard for them,” says Jeffery. “That’s the painful part of it for everyone; That’s why some old-schoolers get so out of shape.”

Julie Janus, self-proclaimed “resident dirtbag” and member of the Joe’s Valley Coalition, has completed over 25 sessions on this boulder. “I loved almost every minute of the attempt water pictures because the movement is fun, the environment is beautiful and I have met great people with great energy. You can’t take that away with a broken handle, but let’s prevent more of this from happening.”

It is difficult to prevent this situation without knowing the cause. The question everyone asks: Why would anyone do that? Is it an indoor climber who doesn’t know how their actions are affecting the community? Or is it just some asshole who doesn’t care? “It’s really kind of overwhelming to me,” Wood said. “That’s the whole point of bouldering – finding those tough challenges and figuring out how to solve them. So changing the challenge goes against the whole idea of ​​projecting and bouldering.”

But Noah Beck knows how it can happen. About a year ago he sat under it power bug (V8) in the humid Chattanoogan heat. “I tried the moves over and over again but I just couldn’t do it and I got so angry,” Beck said Climb. Frustrated at not being able to transmit, he grabbed a rock and banged the starting handle over and over until it broke. “Usually it’s a self-inflicted hate that makes you want to go out and break something,” he explained. After a video of the chipping was posted to Reddit, it sparked a swarm of (arguably justified) internet fury; he became a social outcast and he knows why. “It’s so exciting when you take someone up a boulder that you’ve already done and you’re like, ‘Man, that’s such a great climb and I want you to try it because the movement is awesome, because this one Griff is so cool,'” Beck explained. “Well… I just took that away from everyone. I broke the boulder for two generations of people—people who have already made it and people who wanted to try.” He’s never repeated the mistake and doesn’t apologize for his actions, but he can’t live it out. “That haunting moment never leaves me, especially when I get angry,” he said.

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Most climbers can’t imagine ever taking a rock, chisel or screwdriver on the climbs we love. But if you’ve ever climbed Little Cottonwood, you might understand the frustration and ego-busting that follows. “This crag is known for having sandbags,” Jeffery explained. “Famous climbers got retired in the late ’90s and 2000s because they couldn’t do a V4 as a V10 climber.” The climbing is incredibly nuanced, Wood explains. “You generally work with bad grips, even seemingly no grips. You have to use subtle positions to climb, which is so cool about it. There really isn’t much to hold on to, as opposed to the straight crimp style.”

Then consider the conditions: On hot summer days, certain boulders feel downright impossible. thThe prime example is Citizen dildo. “The angle of the grip and how you hold it is 100% weather and condition dependent,” explains Jeffery. “If you go up in bad conditions, you can’t physically pull on it. When the conditions are good, it feels the appropriate grade it’s gotten.” Whoever chipped a three-finger-thumb indent on the shelf must not have realized the importance of sending in temps.

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Chipped handle on boulder in Utah.
Citizen dildo now features a three-finger and thumb indent on an otherwise conditional shelf. (Photo: Justin Wood)

Conditions, rock styles, making an effort: all of this is part of outdoor bouldering. And outdoor climbers like to assume everyone else knows it too. But the climbing community is growing rapidly. “TThe person might be so uneducated in the outdoors that they’re like, ‘Oh, that’s wrong because I climb harder than this at a gym,'” says Jeffery. “and cLimbing Gyms will cater to this customer base in every way they can – massive padding, really tight express trains and really really wrong soft grading for the local climbing areas. So you go in there and you climb V8s, and outside you don’t.” When you can’t climb as hard as you expect, it can be “frustrating or ego-damaging,” says Wood. And then you might think: Who will notice a small chip – and who would even care?

Climbers will notice (I promise) and they’ll be thrilled as hell. “There wasn’t really much climbing in LCC in the ’90s, and some of the boulders seemed so unlikely that people back then would slightly improve certain holds to make them doable,” explains Wood, “but the mindset has changed dramatically since then. Now any kind of diversion is strictly frowned upon.” Once impossible boulders are now regularly scaled, as evidenced by climbers increasing the difficulty to V17. And the people of the future may be even stronger or more skilled enough to scale boulders that seem impossible today. “It’s this mindset that we’ve embraced over the last few decades: that we want to preserve this climbing resource as best we can. For now and for future generations.”

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