Based on some qurank discussions on ego and new routing, I've worked on this little comment piece over the last couple of weeks as the ideas have rolled around in my brain. See what you think...
If you read the news in CRUX or ROCK magazine and it always seems that the crew from NSW are cranking so much harder than the rest of the country -- well, you aren't imagining it! The graph below tells the story...
New South Wales currently has six times the amount of hard routes than Queensland, and is less than half the size! One surprise was that Tassie beats out Queensland, which is largely attributable to the recent(ish) development of the amazing Star Factory.
One immutable climbing law is "hard begets harder". The more hard routes there are, the more likely people will get on them, get stronger and get inspired. As this happens, they get keen to put up their own routes, climb even harder, and the whole thing snowballs.
On the other side of the coin, if the hard routes aren't there to climb, it's a lot more difficult for the standard of the climbing community to progress - it's like a glass ceiling. To get an appreciation of what 'harder' feels like they have no option but to travel (and it's hard to do hard routes on a trip due to the time factor) or establish new routes (perhaps less than 5% of climbers actually establish new routes). There's also some pressure (whether conscious or implied) on the new router to not grade a route higher than what already exists in the local area.
Remove the glass ceiling. Help each State have equal opportunity to 'compete' in the difficulty stakes.
- Establish hard routes
People often only bolt what they think they can climb. Instead, use the European Model and if the line is good but ridiculously hard, establish it anyway and leave it as an open project. It will get done eventually and be a source of inspiration. Also, don't assume that all new hard routes are going to be completely amazing, independent King Lines. Seek out difficulty. Examine where it may be possible to link up cruxes of several side-by-side routes. Or climb up part of an existing line, then bust out into brave new territory. For example, let's look at the hardest routes in Oz (all 8c+ or 34) -- Mechanical Animals is squeezed between two existing routes, Sneaky Old Fox is a link-up and White Ladder is an extension.
- Kudos to the equipper
To facilitate the establishment of more hard routes, we need to start giving credit to the equipper of routes in our guidebooks, topos, and news reports. The equipper had the vision and deserves as much or more credit than the person who does the first ascent.
- Open projects
New projects are a source of inspiration and motivation for the climber who equips and tries to send them. We should all respect 'closed projects' that are being actively worked on. However, if you honestly have no realistic shot in a season or so of completing some beast of a new line, just leave it open for anyone to try. It helps the whole community a hell of a lot more to have people getting on and climbing at a high level, regardless of who eventually sends it.
- Online register of open projects
We need an easy online listing of open super projects. This will provide some nice motivation for climbers to travel and send. An obvious place for this to live is the Australian Climbers Association website.
- Welcome cross-pollination
Invite out-of-state hardmen and hardwomen to your state (and if you're a hardperson - travel!). Host them and guide them around. Suggest the hardest routes and open projects for them to try. This serves several purposes. It helps to validate and bed down the grades at local areas, and the crushers can either establish other hard lines, or suggest new routes and link-ups that could be done by locals. A fresh pair of eyes often have the clearest vision.