Abseil tat or litter?

Scottish, scrambles, climbs and mountaineering routes are fiercely free from fixed anchors, bolts, rings, steel stancheons or any manner of permenantly installed metal equipment.

Apart from a few exceptions…


“Because there is a widely accepted ethic that adventurous bolt-free climbing remains the primary ethic in summer and winter for all Scottish climbs”.

It is true that in this country we have avaliable to us for exploration and recreation a coutryside which is wild and adventurous, largely free of waymarked trails, mountains huts and bolted anchors for climbers that is celebrated, not only by us but by visitors who come for that wilderness experience. It is also true that we have a litter problem and even a vandalism problem on some mountains, but that’s not the particular issue that I have in mind here. Or is it?

At regularly used abseil points on the likes of Tower Ridge, Pinnacle Ridge, Creag Dubh, King’s Cave Chimney, North Buttress and most likely every other mountain and valley crag where a steep descent is commonly made there is tat.

climbing tat

noun. informal

old rope or chord of a disposable nature used to create an anchor that is left behind in an abseil descent.

Sometimes, indeed usually in places like the Cuillin, there are large clumps of varying age and vintage, occasionally linked together in clumsy but elaborate systems of independance and redundance with archaic karabiners, maillons and cord.

So we have a paradox: bolting in the mountains is not tolerated. People get incredibly upset about it, some sufficiently motivated to go and chop the attempts of a hopeful bolter at a crag perceived as unsuitable or indeed anywhere. Yet we do seem to tolerate heaps of unsightly and rotting rope, threaded and slung on just about every crag of any size in the country. Most people will agree that this is not ideal but in the same breath any permanent anchor is the thin end of the wedge that propagates the eventual demise of traditional climbing and the end of civilisation as we know it!

I think we should have two options. 1) Use tat far more sparingly and get rid of all the old in situ stuff, or 2) Take it all down and in particularly well used spots (especially those used by people with less experience) replace with stainless steel fixings. Discreet, tidy and safe.

I shall apply this rhetoric to myself and think about how I can improve things when next addressing a rotting clump, and by that I mean remove and replace with a single piece if really necessary.

#Abseiltat #OldManofHoyabseil #boltingethic