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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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