Author: Aleksey Shelkhakov (Morcheka first ascentionist) Crimea
Morcheka: Restoration works
On Wednesday, October 10th, we completed the restoration works in Morcheka, removed almost all bolts left by the team of Sergey Nefedov, puttied the bolt holes. We might as well put an end to the "Cold War", but there are a lot of loose ends left, people make questions, the story still seems to need a sound explanation.
I must say that for me personally, it wasn’t the Internet where the whole unsavory story began, but directly under Morcheka, on a hot September day, when reaching to the wall and getting ready for the route, I caught a glimpse of fixed ropes braced the ground up to the top of the wall, directly across the central tower. All of it did not belong there - any route, no matter how hard it were, did not require a continuous rope through the whole wall. Such measures usually imply works on new rap bolted sport climbing multipitch route or global restoration of the route. And, of course, a chain of shiny, 12-mm bolts, scattered down along the smooth wall to the ground as far as eyes could see. (First 19 bolts were placed by Sergey Nefedov few months prior to “Cold War” – this is where he made chipped holds).
I have been climbing Morcheka since 1998, and remember well how sensitive was the climbing community to emergence of at least one of the new bolts on the wall. One should read the Morcheka logbook journal which is still stored in the campsite at the base of the wall, to feel the atmosphere of those arguments, the compromises, the heat of debate over just one or two bolts. There was that ambition and courage in it, no one wanted to limit access to the wall or maintain a private club. No, it was a concern for the future of the mountain, they were afraid to leave the permanent, almost eternal iron, as we then thought. A hook can be hammered off, instead a bolt is almost an element of the relief ... You may think it's an illusion or something, but the bolts on Morcheka were almost banned, everyone agreed and no one questioned it. We have always strived to maintain a clean wall, as far as it was possible with the current level of climbing skill and protection quality. In short, once I saw the new bolts, I called Aleksey Zhilin and he told me what had happened.
From bad to worse. Reading an online debate on the subject, I could not grasp, why such a touchy issue couldn’t be resolved personally, and why it required to be publically discussed on a virtual forum, garnished with drama, using ambiguous vocabulary and techniques of network PR. I'm sorry about that. But once it happened, we couldn’t keep it private any more, one of the parties appealed to the method of publicity, I must make our Morcheka community’s position clear on this issue. Me, and all of us are deeply uncomfortable with the new derogatory labels like ‘network climber’, ‘virtual mountaineer’ and the like. We will never brag of our specific technical climbing expertize in front of other people. All of them are showing interest in our community, our subject, and have the right to speak. We respect them for their interest in our lives, and are willing to help them enhance their competence, although, we acknowledge that online forums – is not the most appropriate format. Private conversation with those who use all this mess for their own PR, knowing full well what is happening and why. The house is on fire, and they bake the potatoes in the ashes. For them, this is true – please, try to understand that only your actions define the actual level of a climber (mountaineer), not the beautiful presentation in the media space. If you CAN - you're cool. In mountaineering you cannot live on the dividends from your past victories, medals fade in closets on the second day, and the disruptive network activity does not add respect in a community of living in (not virtual) people.
The line, marked with Nefedov team’s bolts crosses from the bottom to the top: “Center” route, variant of the “Center” route via black band climbed by Fantik (one of Morcheka FA), Skyway, goes few meters from “Machombo”, then goes along “Classica. If for the first route this fact is an unfortunate but not critical intervention (there were 2 bolts of Fantik, Nefedov’s team cut them down and substituted with their bolts, instead of two - three, then removed hangers from two of them), instead to Skyway - it is a deterioration, reducing its grade – on that part of forth pitch, the pioneers of Skyway Kruglov - Lyashenko placed 7 bolts, Nefedov and Cedar replaced six of them and added five more (two at the belay right in the middle of the section R3-R4 of Skyway – here’s where the conflict began). The two bolts on “Classica” - in the middle of the pitch.
From the beginning to the end I saw the history of climbing of difficult routes with complex aid passages, our team was the second independent team, who climbed Skyway and Machombo. And now, reading into what many, I suppose, young climbers write I conclude that they do not understand the logics of the existence of any of these routes, or their objective value. I will try very briefly, in the format of this article, to highlight the issue. These routes have emerged as a fundamental breakthrough the total deadlock of bolting. We hated bolt ladders, understanding that those "machine-gun" series of bolts on the walls belonged to the past, but we did not know how to make it through monolith with minimum hardware left. The sky hooks brought by Yuri Kruglov were a breakthrough. Perhaps it is difficult to imagine how one could go to a climbing store and find no Talons of Black Diamond or similar products. We are talking about the year 1997. Back then there were few places to visit in the Crimea, let along to buy sky hooks. We made them ourselves, using the model of the Talons. The first was brought by Kruglov. What he did on the wall with them - was like a miracle - after passing you left clean smooth terrain with very sparse 8 mm bolts (every 5-7 meters) for protection. Between them - a series of moves on the rock features and very few holes. In addition, left for protection, the Sky hooks kept shallow fall. So the bolting problem was solved, the rock face previously virgin was covered with a new, superdangerous route. Everyone who wanted to get a new level of use of hardware and climbing learned aid climbing on it. The route has and had all of that legitimacy, which can only be a climbing route - it is classified, introduced into all guidebooks, participates in climbing fests, and most importantly, is used by people. Going down the route the day before yesterday I saw the bolts manually placed by Kruglov 15 years ago. They are of an almost perfect quality and provide reliable protection for the route even today. In particular, some of the belay bolts look new. On the routes like this "rebolting" is only allowed on the bolt of the same diameter, (I keep silent about “retrobolting”), - otherwise it simplifies the route, psychologically as well. Do not pretend that we do not distinguish the 8 mm bolt set by a climber to pass from the upper steps of aider, from the 12 mm VENTO bolts. On any bolt left by Nefedov team one can safely set a belay on Skyway. Is this not a simplification? For cool “free climbers” it was unacceptable to use the 8mm bolts for climbing? Their fall is somehow more dangerous than that of any ordinary visitor of Skyway whose skyhook missed the cavern or he lost his balance ... All this applies to Machombo as well. This route also has all the possible legitimacy in the climbing community as the Skyway, and it, too, was affected by Nefedov’s bolts. You can not get your way through the existing routes, reducing their complexity. We can, again, take different attitudes to sport climbing and climbing fests/competitions, as its integral part. The author of this article is not among their fans, but we cannot show disrespect to this process. Within it real climbers train and live, often of high sport levels, it is their right to do so and to compete.
I am forced to bring attention to the false emphasis made by Sergey Nefedov on issues of free and aid climbing. I am not declaring it a misleading, a deliberate distortion of trends or anything. I only want to clarify that rock climbing requires knowledge of all the methods. There is simply no conflict between free climbing and aid climbing. On a complex, unprepared virgin rock, where there is still a lot of scree material, grass, snow, or whatever, all means are good. Switching from aid climbing to free climbing and vice versa, goes faster and easier if the climber is skilled, and the two ways of climbing both have the right to be used and to evolve in parallel, for as long as people will be doing their first ascents. Here as the comparison is like between martial arts and fighting with weapons - both can be useful depending on the situation. There are certainly masters in both techniques, but why talk about priorities? First ascent is a war. The task is to survive and reach the top.
Talking about the war. The name given by Nefedov to the line made by him together with visitors from the U.S. – makes me cringe. Of course, it’s the author's right to name his creation as he pleases, but any phrase, especially such a discrepant and strong political saying, has its associative array. We, the community of Morcheka climbers are all real people, with own views on social, historical, and other relevant topics. Our views are sometimes diametrically opposed, we are human beings - but the mountain sports is an independent subject. Here we are apolitical, it is a consensus zone, so do not smoke at the gas station. Certainly, we should not necessarily view the confrontation in the spirit of the locals vs. the foreigners or Ukrainians vs. Russians. No good can come from substitutions of the kind. We all, the people not indifferent to the mountains, those who make first sports ascents there, or just making the basics, love beautiful views and eyewitness accounts, and thus getting positive feedback - we are all involved in this wonderful world of the mountains, even if to a different degree. But in a sense, we are all together, and no one is more valuable than another. Also we are all responsible for this irretrievable natural fund to future generations, we need to transfer our walls in a clean form, not stuffed with pieces of iron, for they, our children and grandchildren alike with us are entitled to possession of this wealth.
To end with, everything that has happened to the Nefedov team‘s line is, to my strong belief, neither a creation nor a deletion of a route. A route cannot exist in the same (literally) physical location with other existing independent routes, moreover cancelling them (reducing in complexity). Yes, the guys have done certain work, made their own line, but it had to be cleaned from their anchors for above mentioned reasons. I am sorry for the wasted effort, but clearing of the wall, removal of the bolts was imminent, as I have already explained in detail. No need to personalize and explain what has happened in the clue of the conflict between Nefedov and Kruglov and Co. The climbing community is so inconsiderable in number and coherency, and we simply cannot afford to antagonize. I see our disengagement and relatively rare visits to Morcheka as the grounds for Sergey’s ignoring of those simple ground-up rules that observed so naturally by all of us who had created the Skyway, the Machombo, and the Ugolok at Morcheka. Life does not end with the removal of the line at Morcheka, I'm sure that are still many places in the Crimea for sport climbing multipitch routes, and for thread multipitch routes. Only it is necessary to discuss everything and give notices beforehand. Let there be peace.