Public Safety Issue - Europa/Crap Crags

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Optimally-Primed
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Public Safety Issue - Europa/Crap Crags

Post by Optimally-Primed » Sat Aug 14, 2010 9:36 pm

Last year, I was climbing Arrowroot when rocks came hurling out of the sky and cratered near Millennium Falcon. Climbers were on Europa that day.

I climbed Europa/Crap Crags today and was surprised to see so much loose rock. I worry that the volume of loose rock on parts of this climb poses an unusual risk to public safety.

By loose rock, I don't mean blocks wedged into the crack that sound hollow or even move a bit when touched. By loose rock, I mean football sized rocks sitting delicately on sloping dirt ledges with nothing preventing them from falling but an accidental tap. The loose rock was in abundance (much more than when I climbed in 2 or 3 years back), and concentrated on pitch 4 (starting with the tree climb). Despite being extra careful, we still inadvertently and accidentally knocked off 2 rocks---rocks large enough to kill someone below. We yelled "rock" and hoped no one was in the line of fire on Millennium Falcon, Arrowroot, or Rutabaga.

In my view, climbing this route with knowledge of its extraordinary looseness is a not a decision to be taken lightly. If you do climb it, exercise as much care as possible to avoid knocking rocks down.

Personally, I won't climb Europa again so long as it remains in its current state.

Dirt is starting to fill in cracks and ledges are building up with debris. Perhaps Crap Crags will return in a few years and hold all the choss together again.

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Post by Anders Ourom » Sun Aug 15, 2010 8:27 pm

Not having climbed Crap Crags in years, or gotten around to "Europa" yet, I have no comment on the situation there.

However, route cleaning can sometimes have such effects, especially tree and vegetation removal, and excavation. Particularly on ledges, in gullies, and on trails, and when combined with erosion, and the gradual rotting of roots. Crap Crags is essentially a gully, with many ledges, so it wouldn't be too surprising. You can literally never get to the bottom of cleaning such things - you eventually just call it good enough.

The glaciers, and subsequent geology and erosion, left the Chief covered with till. A mixture of sand, gravel, rocks, etc, which is usually unstable. From time to time its equilibrium is disturbed - erosion, frost effects, windthrown trees, fire, rockfall, more geology, and now human activities, deliberate and otherwise. The vegetation often stabilizes whatever is underneath. When you cut or kill it, the result, combined with increased traffic, all too often destabilizes whatever's underneath. The Apron, and Broadway, have many examples.

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Post by Dru » Sun Aug 15, 2010 9:06 pm

Anders, the Chief was never covered with till. Period.

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Post by Anders Ourom » Sun Aug 15, 2010 9:20 pm

Call it what you will. Whatever the proper name for it, and its origin, an unstable mixture of gravel, sand, and rocks underlie most of the vegetation at Squamish. With a bit or organic matter mixed in, and a layer of topsoil.

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Post by another matt » Mon Aug 16, 2010 8:59 am

To comment on the original post, I have been at the base climbing arrowroot when countless large (killer) sized rocks came down. It was so much and continuous that I belayed from behind a tree at the base while my partner raced up the remainder of the first pitch, then we got our gear and got out of there as quick as possible. Just to reiterate the danger, no helmet would have helped. The spidey senses still tingle when I'm in that area. Thanks Jer for the advisory.

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Post by t2climb » Mon Aug 16, 2010 12:04 pm

That garbage route, "Europa" should never have been put up. The problem today is there are too many mindless self-centered climbers who want to put up a so-called first ascent to make themselves feel important. I think the time will soon come when new routes will have to be approved by a committee like is occurring in the States'. It seems like the only real way to prevent these kinds of garbage routes from being created.

I hope that in the future the MEC will use a whole lot more discretion in providing funds to climbers. They should have never provided members money to go towards the creation of that piece of trash called Europa. The climbers who put up that route should be ashamed and thrown out of the climbing community.

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Post by Cloudraker » Mon Aug 16, 2010 12:38 pm

Well, I think Europa was an honest attempt at developing a moderate multi-pitch route not located on the Apron that a 5.9 climber could get on. As of 2008/2009 what else was there besides UE? The people who developed it didn't do it for notoriety. It seemed like a good idea so they went for it. In fact, I think it was the 2001 McLane guidebook that suggested there may be value in cleaning Crap Crags...

Anyway, haven't climbed it but I've heard mixed reviews from people who have. Some say it's fun, others say it's a p.o.s. With respect to banishing them from the community for the heinous deed of putting up Europa, they wouldn't be the only ones who are guilty of putting up crappy, dangerous routes.

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Post by scrubber » Mon Aug 16, 2010 8:21 pm

My personal views on Europa aside, I commend the extrordinary effort that went into it. Having climbed it a month or so ago I will agree that there is a lot of loose blocks perched on ledges. I would reccommend not climbing it below another party or climbing on Arrowroot or Rutebaga while someone is above you on the first five pitches or so.

I believe that what seemed like a reasonable amount of cleaning a few years ago has now left many blocks behind as more sand/ unprotected soil/ glacial debris or whatever-you-want-to-call-it is washed away.

Time will tell whether or not the route will survive. The moderate grade suggests that it likely will, despite the short season due to Falcon closures. The route simply needs a bit of housekeeping. Just as the popular mountain bike trails need a bit of periodic maintenance, this thing needs an afternoon of trundling and it will be as solid as most long (non-apron) routes around here.

Kris

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Slope stabilization

Post by damien » Tue Aug 17, 2010 6:57 am

Perhaps there is a slope stabilization technique that could be employed to mitigate the erosion?

Along the highway, Keiwit or Highways have used some wheat-type plant and also Lupins for stabilization. Parks may know of some indigenous plant that could be seeded onto the unstable sections. This would be a great tool in many areas even. Golf course grass seed seems kind of lame for use in a park.

Does anyone have experience with this type of activity?

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Post by Dru » Tue Aug 17, 2010 8:50 am

Grass won't hold boulders in. You would need shotcrete and rebar.

I said back while Europa was being cleaned that given the geological nature of the area (Crap Crags follows a shear zone, which means that fractures extend further into the rock than they do on surrounding terrain) it was never going to be possible to make this route completely solid. You could remove loose rock here until you made a 6 or 7 meter deep trough into the Chief here and there would still be more loose rock at the back of it. So even if the current boulders are trundled, more will loosen themselves over the next winter.

Finally because of the rock fractures this area seeps more than surrounding routes which again promotes plant growth which is one reason why Crap Crags is so bushy (the other being that more cracks means more terrain for roots to penetrate). So this route will also tend to revegetate faster than surrounding routes.

All in all given the above information I expect this route will never become solid and will eventually revegetate despite traffic. When it does grow back over and becomes infrequently climbed it will probably be a good thing.

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Post by damien » Tue Aug 17, 2010 9:42 am

Dru wrote:Grass won't hold boulders in...

...When it does grow back over and becomes infrequently climbed it will probably be a good thing.
That's what I am getting at. Assist the revegetation process. Prevent more erosional exposure of boulders & promote soil retension, root growth, and generally stabilize aspects of the slope. This could help to improve our current situation.

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Post by slopr » Tue Aug 17, 2010 10:08 am

I heard that grass was planted on the ledges of grubb street during it's recent re-cleaning to hold the dirt on the ledges together. I think for europa this would be hopeless, although the idea is great. There are a few solid sections but much of this climb is more chossy from the cleaning than it was in it's vegetated state, pre-mass renovation. You could probably dig a tunnel to the backside trail from this thing. I'm cheering for mother nature on this one. It's funny however that there are 2 great routes which crap crags have yielded(Millenium falcon and the Gantlet), both are awesome and not choss piles and will hopefully avoid re-vegetation for that reason. If Europa was awesome it would survive too but it has both multiple gear belays, looseness and A0 bolt ladders on a beginner 5.8 multipitch (easiest not on the apron they say) this is not awesome as the route is not even characteristic of itself and shows the stubbornness, lack of vision, and inexperience of those that put (dug) it up. I do not want to downplay the tremendous effort that went into the cleaning but i don't think it should be encouraged either.

IMO this is a science/construction experiment gone wrong in the name of mass erosion which has created a sh*t pipe down to the top of the arrowroot area.

Europa, you are the weakest link- Good bye.

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Post by Optimally-Primed » Tue Aug 17, 2010 11:00 am

A few have made comments commending the efforts of Jeff Mottershead and the VOC crew that unearthed Europa. I'd like to mirror that comment. Clearly, their enormous effort was done with the intent of providing a positive experience for many people. I think that whatever the outcome of the route, we need to keep in mind that it came about through a massive community service effort. For that Jeff and crew are highly commendable.

What I think route cleaners need to learn from this, however, is that offhand comments in the Squamish guidebook about route cleaning are not a reliable source of information. If prospective but unexperienced route cleaners are out there, my recommendation is to consult not with the guidebook but with individuals who have a proven track record at developing climbs of quality of the particular nature you're after.

In the trad realm, the gurus of Squamish (in my view) are Kris Wild ("scrubber" on this site) and Glenn Payan. Of course there are others.

From my experience, route development requires almost as many skills as climbing. It's a totally different set. Many nonobvious things to learn about which line to pick, how to clean, etc. When I look at my first route that I developed (Optimus Prime), I shudder... how embarrassing! So to get off on the right foot, I recommend getting some advice.

If you like my other routes (Wiretap, Genesis area, Mosquito area, Right Wing, The Milk Road, Upper Black Dyke retro), I'd be happy to offer advice about a prospective line.

Let's not have another Europa.

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Post by t2climb » Tue Aug 17, 2010 12:56 pm

I really can't commend anyone for putting in a bunch of grunt work to put up a dangerous piece of crap. With enough money, force and lack of imagination anyone could have put up that heap. The party that put up that route should really stick to climbing established routes from now on.

The sooner mother nature returns Crap-opa to a vegetated state the sooner this eyesore will be quickly forgotten and the safer the climbing (and anyone else for that matter) public will be.

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Post by gearheart » Wed Aug 25, 2010 11:44 am

I climbed Europa last summer one day after work with one of my long-time alpine partners and in that context I enjoyed the route.
The route was certainly loose in places and had holds I chose not to use after either a visual inspection or tap test (not completely unlike climbing the Upper Black Dyke in my experience). I didn't find the route unsafe and we dropped no loose rock, although I was fresh back from a rockies trip and no doubt still in limestone mode.
The route is a VERY different experience from most (all?) other routes on the Chief, and people should be aware of the need to move lightly, test holds & plan for loose rock (both in climbing and rope work). I have no idea if "pull down, not out" is as good advice for suspect granite holds as it is for suspect limestone, but its probably not a bad approach.
People climbing the routes at the base of Europa should also be aware of the potential hazard & wear a lid for what that's worth.
Todd

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