Other research suggests that Jim and Tony did all of Slab Alley to Broadway in one day, in 1961. They placed eight bolts in what is now the first three pitches, and only one bolt in the second three pitches. Perhaps they were getting used to being on the slabs - it was the first slab route at Squamish, after all - and perhaps also running out of time, bolts, or both. Still, if the upper half had been bolted in a manner consistent with the lower half, in 1961, it might have had two or three more bolts. Informed speculation.
It is bad form to retro-bolt a climb, except in very unusual circumstances. The analogy is spray-painting a mustache on the Mona Lisa, because you think she'll be prettier. It isn't very respectful of those who created the climb - I spent about 20 days working on Slab Alley, and a lot of time imagining doing it in 1961, the first route on the Apron, with 120' goldline ropes, and mountain boots. We have it a lot easier.
So given this, I'm thinking of removing (sinking) a few of the bolts. Specifically:
Pitch 5: The second and third bolts, which would leave two climbing bolts, one for each slab bit.
Pitch 6 (direct): Maybe one of the three. This would still allow/encourage people to use this finish, and stay out of what is now Banana Peel, but be a bit more adventurous.
Pitch 1: One climbing bolt (new - at old pin placement), bolt belay (new).
Pitch 2: Four climbing bolts (two original, two from 1973), bolt belay (new).
Pitch 3: Four climbing bolts (one original, three on variation to replace the three-bolt ladder), bolt belay.
Pitch 4: One climbing bolt (new).
Pitch 5: Two climbing bolts (new), bolt belay (new).
Pitch 6 (original): One bolt.
Pitch 6 (direct): Two climbing bolts (new).
A total of 21 bolts by the original route (instead of 11), or 22 by the direct sixth. But only four new climbing bolts via the original line.
In terms of retro-bolting, it does seem that the 'rules' are a bit more flexible when it comes to belays. The three that were added seem to make sense, although it would be possible to create an awkward gear belay at the end of the second pitch.
Glenn also suggested leaving the old three-bolt ladder, on the third pitch, in place for now, to see if it's of any interest or use.
Slab Alley of course stands in memory of Tony Cousins and Jim Baldwin. If it is OK, I would like the restoration project to stand in memory of Ed Spat.
Otherwise, from 1995 - 2008 I was very active in the Access Society, which has done a great deal for the climbers of Squamish and B.C. I no longer have an active role. But please consider supporting the Access Society, if you don't already - see www.access-society.ca Join, donate, participate, help with Adopt-a-Crags, or buy a tee-shirt. There's no toll booth at the start of Slab Alley, and no fee to climb at Squamish. The Access Society helps keep it that way.
I don't know why this route fell out of favour over the years. It's not hard and is just a lot of FUN. Well done, Anders!
Thanks, Glenn - a good outing! We must do it again sometime, perhaps with Hamish.
Bran Flakes: I'll ask Peter and Tami, but don't think retrobolting is the right thing for this climb. The upper Apron is known for fairly continuous runout slab climbs. Eric's Route and A Question of Balance were put up on sight, with the latter being retro-cleaned, a curiosity which I invented. Bran Flakes was put up on sight, but was pre-cleaned. Not sure about Pig Dogs, but probably pre-cleaned. We deliberately put in only one bolt on the first pitch of Bran Flakes, given that it's right beside QB - more would have detracted from the character of QB. I tried to place a bolt in the runout section of QB, without success - now that it's clean, maybe feasible with sticky rubber. The upper Apron is known as being a fairly bold place, and I think it should be kept that way. Pig Dogs is a bit better protected, for those wanting it, though also a bit easier.
Right now I'd say the fifth and sixth pitches are comfortable, in terms of fixed protection. The removals would make them a bit more interesting, but also bring the route closer to its original character. They wouldn't be particularly runout by Squamish slab standards, for 5.7 and 5.8, but would be a bit more interesting. Anyway, I thought the idea should at least be broached, and part of Squamish climbing is moderate slabs that are moderately runout. A 5.9 leader should have no difficulty with either pitch; a 5.8 leader should have no difficulty with the fifth pitch with only two bolts, and could always pass on the 'direct' sixth pitch.
FWIW, I was working on Pineapple Peel today, getting at it from Slab Alley - PP really wanders. Anyway, I took the opportunity to give the original third pitch bolt ladder on SA, and the free variation to its left, a good brushing. I also cleaned the 5.10 variation at the start of the fourth pitch.
The new bolt on the "elephant steps" wisely protects the leader, and also prevents her from getting too high before traversing left (a lot of people went wrong by making an ascending traverse instead of staying low). The fifth pitch is totally adequately protected with 2 new bolts. It's mostly class 3-4.
On the last pitch, original finish (5.7), Anders has replaced the original bolt, which many people of my generation tended to ignore anyways. The direct finish variant (5.9, so I'm told) used to be run out and unprotectable. Anders has installed two brand-new bolts on this variant. I'm a bit equivocal about these, but, what the heck, leave them, I suppose, if they make 5.9 leaders feel more secure.
As I said in a previous post, most leaders should have no difficulty with this route.
I climbed Slab Alley this weekend and last, and really liked it. I led all pitches both times as I was with a less experienced partner. The first trip up felt very adventurous as I had never heard of it before. I thought the climbing was easy but classic, and the harder moves well protected. I enjoyed it just as much the second time.The runouts demand that you pay attention, but make for a really fun route. Thanks for your efforts in restoring a cool route.
Nice to meet you too. I would agree with you about Bran Flakes if it got climbed ever. It definetly doesn't detract from QB because nobody gets on it. Just one bolt somewhere above the first one to prevent people from decking and I think it would see alot more traffic.
99% of the people I talk to who hate slabs, usually really only hate the runout nature of them. It's all in your head right? If you keep your head down and climb, usually the bolts just pop up out of nowhere, but if you are fixated on them it seems like it takes forever to get there.
As far as Slab Alley goes, it's bark is definetly worse than it's bite. Maybe if you just don't tell people you took those bolts off, it'll still get climbed, and .9 leaders will get a little taste of some runout.
To take an example, Banana Peel was first climbed with no bolts at all - none. Fairly soon one was added, on what for most is the third pitch, but for a long time it was the only one. Now people also often clip bolts on Black Bug's Blood (aka the Dimple climb) and A Troll's Sonnet, which are unfortunately reachable. Same with Grim Reaper - much blunted by bolts on nearby, perhaps too close, routes.
So there's something of an issue there, but to mind the old/runout/on sight/led slab routes should be left as they are. There's also the grid bolting concern - with cleaning and rapbolts, any 5.10 slab climber can probably climb just about anywhere on the Apron, right of Diedre. Do we need that? There's enough convenience bolting at Squamish already, for various motives, and we don't want to end up like Europe, where commercial reasons have led to many excesses.
Anyway, I won't do anything with sinking any of the SA bolts any time soon, but think it should be considered.
As for Bran Flakes, the crux is probably the the slab to the first bolt, about 15 m up. I led it and placed the bolt, came down, and Peter did the rest. It was intended as something of a statement, something a bit bolder than QB. Assuming a climber makes it to the first bolt, and an alert belayer, you should be OK. I'll see Peter in a few weeks, and ask him, but suggest that BF be left alone for now. Anyone who wants something much like it, but a bit better protected, can do QB, or PDP.
There doesn't seem much need to me for additional "routes" or bolts on the upper Apron. Not really a good place for grid-bolting, especially given its history. It's no sport-crag, nor are there many places at Squamish with similar fun.
When we did A Question of Balance, there was a lot of lichen on it, hence the early grade of 5.10a. I rappelled down it a year or two later and brushed it a bit, but for some years, there were skid marks in the lichens, from where people slid off the runout bit. Graphic evidence.
Of course, sticky rubber makes all slab climbs easier.
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