Crux Hold Chipped On Legendary Boulder: Meadowlark Lemon V14
Many would agree with him--the boulder in Red Rock, Nevada, has become one of the most sought-after in the world due to its gorgeous features and beautifully difficult movement. Perhaps this, along with numerous ethical qualms, is why it is so tragic that someone has "chipped," or altered, the crux hold on this boulder to make it easier.
Professional climber Ethan Pringle took a crew to Gateway Canyon this past week to show them Meadowlark Lemon, what he considers to be one of his proudest sends. While stacking some pads so he could brush the infamous crux sloper, he noticed it was significantly more positive. After further inspection, it was clear that someone had altered the hold to make it more in-cut, and therefore easier to pull on. He immediately took a photo and posted it on Instagram to spread the word on this heinous act of selfish vandalism. In the post, he was very candid about his emotions surrounding this incident: "Surprise turned quickly into sadness, sadness turned into frustration and frustration into anger."
In the same post, he explained a bit about why this incident struck such a personal chord with him.
"It was the most number of days I'd ever put into a problem I'd done," Pringle said. "I care a lot about this silly piece of rock. It feels like a precious artifact. I feel personally disrespected by this act of carelessness."
Pringle spoke with FloClimbing about the incident:
FloClimbing: What were your first thoughts when you realized someone had altered Meadowlark Lemon?
Pringle: I just thought, "Oh... someone chipped Meadowlark. Like really chipped it! That really sucks!" I was definitely pretty bummed. It felt like I'd be robbed or all that hard work I'd put into it in some way. I was disgusted. I stacked all the pads we had so that I would see the hold up close and take that picture of it.
How does this alteration affect the movement on the climb itself?
I pulled onto the wall once with pretty sweaty skin and the crux hold just felt a lot more positive. So it probably makes that move a bit easier. How much easier I'm not sure.
Is this the first time you've encountered a climb being altered or chipped? If not, what was that experience like?
I have climbed on dozens of sport routes all over the world at places like Charleston, Rifle, Smith Rocks, Rodellar and elsewhere with chipped and/or glued holds, so I've grabbed hundreds or them but only ever on routes that were manufactured by the equipper or first ascensionist. Basically on routes that were chipped since the beginning of their existence to either make an otherwise blank section of climbing possible or preserve a necessary hold. But to manufacture a hold on a boulder problem that's already had a dozen or more ascents? That's way different. It's really sad. The act of one person taints everyone's experience -- the experience of those that came before and those that are coming after. I know Meadowlark was the victim of one questionable act already -- someone had sprayed fixant or lacquer on some of the holds to try to preserve them, and I also think that the crux holds might have sanded down a little from being brushed by so many people, but that's way different than chipping.
What do you think drives an individual to do something like this?
I can only speculate on what drives an individual to do this. If I had to guess I would say it's a combination of a lack of awareness or carelessness and the thought that they could pretty easily get away with it. It just goes against everything I love about bouldering and climbing in general. Chipping a boulder that has already been climbed before to make it easier for you? Unless someone did it just to piss people off? I have no idea.
How can this sort of practice be avoided in the future?
Well I think that proper mentorship could do some good towards teaching people better ethics. The impact that some of the new waves of climbers, who are starting out in gyms and haven't really been schooled properly in behaving with respect in the outdoors, have on our climbing areas is becoming a huge issue. However this was the act of one or possible a couple people going against the whole community, and there will always be people like that. Sadly this sort of thing has been happening in climbing for decades, and I have a feeling this won't be the last time we see it.
Here is Pringle climbing Meadowlark Lemon V14: