Summary of climbing on El Gigante. This year saw at least two repeats of Logical Progression and the establishment of two new long routes (described in the reports that follow this one). Neither ascent of Logical Progression was clean, so the route remains without a free ascent and grade confirmation. Both parties called the route “very hard” and both complained of lichen.
The two new routes were established by the same core group, but in different styles. The first, Man On Fire, was climbed ground-up, with all the bolts drilled free, on lead. This purist tactic was possible because of the route’s 5.10d grade and the climbers’ willingness to climb through very loose rock. The route required extensive subsequent cleaning to make it safe. The second and fourth pitches still need another pass, which they will hopefully get in March 2004 (caution until then!).
After this post-ascent cleaning and careful readings of Jeff Achey’s, Kurt Albert’s, and Royal Robbins’ statements (AAJ 2003), we decided to clean the second route from the top, and climb it ground-up. All did not go as planned. The first rap bolts went in to make possible the descent of the 18th pitch traverse. Then we had the good fortune to run into Carlos Garcia. Of the people who objected to rap-bolting El Gigante, his opinion counted the most with us, as he has been the most active local first ascensionist. Hauling the drill back up to drill off hooks was a huge hassle, and we felt that the end result would be the same if we just put in the bolts on the way down. Carlos gave us the okay, and so pitches 15,16, and 17 were bolted in this style. We do, however, agree with Achey that rap-bolted and sport-bolted are not synonymous. I doubt many climbers will find the route overprotected. Below the 15th pitch we could follow crack lines down to the 7th pitch of Man On Fire.
Two additional words on the style debate: As for freedom, I am with Robbins. There will be more rap-drilling in Candameña Canyon; I hope that those who do it have the dedication to clean their routes well. Nathalie Catlin and I, however, having tried rap-bolting, are going back to ground-up ascents. Finally, I was saddened by Rodulfo Araujo's suggestion that some of Candameña’s first ascensionists come to Mexico “to do what they don’t dare do in their home country.” From what I have seen, this has not been the case, and I hope it never will be. Many of us come to Mexico because of our love for the country and its people. I hope the trust and respect we have been building in many climbing areas continues to grow.