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Projects: open or closed?

For years I have been on the look on for the prefect project in Wicklow. I wanted something that would inspire me to train and try and get stronger. So it needed to be steep and powerful, on edges rather than slopers so it wasn’t too condition dependent. It needed to be unclimbed as that is what blows my skirt up. It needed to be a few moves which could be worked in isolation as it gets old fast falling off the same move day in day out.

I expected to find it in the Glendo but never saw exactly what I was looking for. Last summer I found it in Glenmalure. Every box ticked. I have sorted the landing, cleaned the holds and tried the moves. And now I’m trying to get a bit stronger before the siege starts.

I’m deeply motivated  by it and would love to go on and on about it and share all the photos I have. But something holds me back, I’m afraid that if I told the world that someone would go and climb it. And I want it all for myself.

My attitude to projects always has been that no one owns the rock and if you don’t want anyone to climb your project don’t tell anyone.

Photo courtsey of Joe Kinder joekindkid.com

In sport climbing there is the principle of the red tag. A climber would clean and bolt a line. While working it she would leave a red tag on the first bolt to indicate that it’s a work in progress and other climbers should stay off. Considering the time and expense of equipping a sport route this seems fair enough. The question is: how long is the equipper entitled to before she has to open the route up to others?
Red tagging seems to be accepted practise but sometime even the heros get into trouble over it. Deadpointmag offered a $1000 bounty on a route Chris Sharma was working. Chris asked them not to. Shortly afterwards a can of worms opened. Read the Deadpoint original piece and then the embarrassing apology.

Josh’s defence that as Chris didn’t literally put a red tag on his projects or that they were never “officially open” or “officially closed.” is bullshit.

Chris had put the better part of two years projecting the line, and his request for Ethan to stay off it, was between gentlemen

…When he realized that Nalle had flown in from Finland on a mission to try the route, he asked Nalle to give him some time to complete it first…

Anyway. Boulder problems usually require only a small amount of work to prepare them (though there are exceptions) so the issue of finances doesn’t come into it. So is it right for anyone to claim a project as their own? One very strong boulderer I know said that if he heard someone was working a problem he would give them a year to get it done before trying it.

The advantage of closed projects is that

  • It reduces the need for secrecy, people will share information more freely if they aren’t worrried someone will go along and do their project.
  • It encourages people to get out and look for new problems of their own.


  • Not all climbers are going to agree with and respect the idea of closed projects and this could cause friction. Also how do you know a project is closed?
  • It can cause stagnation. There is nothing like the fear of your project getting ‘robbed’ to motivate you. Plus it means problems wait years before getting done as people drift away from climbing leaving a trail of closed projects behind them.

The best solution is probably one of compromise. The Irish bouldering scene is pretty friendly and most of the active boulderers know each other and the way it seems to work at the moment is that you keen quiet about a project but you expect people to give you some breathing space anyway.