More than a month after public revelations of a so-called “bolt war,” a heated escalation conflict on Pikes Peak shows no signs of cooling down.
Phil Wortmann, a local school teacher and mountaineer widely respected for raising the bar on the high boulder of the mountain, spoke on Facebook in late July about the disagreement which he says has simmered for much of the year last. He posted a photo of two other longtime Colorado Springs climbers, Brad Saren and Bo Parsons, wielding tools used to cut bolts, pins and other protective anchors that Wortmann set in rocks to establish routes .
Wortmann said at least a dozen of its roads had been “destroyed” by Saren and Parsons. This included some in Wortmann’s new comprehensive book on climbing the summit – considered the first alpine guide of its kind that has always been enjoyed by a small local circle.
The book, Wortmann said, is at the center of the bolt war. It is believed to be the first area of Pikes Peak since the 1980s, when the area known as Turkey Rocks was struck down by a new wave of athletic mountaineers, as it has come to be known. They clashed with traditionalists who took down and again removed routes before sporting climbers focused on Shelf Road, near Cañon City.
While Wortmann has declared his intention to educate and create a more inclusive environment with his guide, Parsons, in an August statement, called it a “sham” and the posting of an unwritten code violation. .
Parsons’ accusations went further, claiming that Wortmann’s bolting threatened to change methods that had been proven and known on the mountain for decades. Parsons helped create an advocacy group Pikes Peak Climbers Alliance; he was on the local scene before Wortmann joined in the 1990s.
In his statement, Parsons explained that the way to climb the summit is through knowledgeable people, not through a guide inviting strangers oblivious to the traditions, dangers and fragility of the region. Parsons, in his statement, offered to guide anyone wishing to “do traditional rock climbing in a pristine environment where risk is part of the adventure” and advised others “who wish to go sport climbing or develop a sport climbing area “to look elsewhere.
“The new ethic of climbing on Pikes Peak will not be tolerated by me or others,” Parsons wrote, “and I will continue to defend the wild, adventurous and minimalist place that Pikes Peak was for fifty years before. let Phil and others come. “
Wortmann countered that sentiment as being the appearance of the other side. He said his approach to anchor drilling was “conservative” and used not for ease of climbing but for safety – “because I don’t want friends to die”.
The removal of the material “is purely a personal vendetta on the book,” Wortmann said.
He said he cut off discussions with Saren and Parsons. The Gazette’s attempts to reach them were unsuccessful.
Brian Shelton, a veteran member of the sports regional guard, said he was in touch with the two he considers friends.
“Neither team is backing down,” Shelton said. “Chopping will continue on routes that are not considered to have been done ethically at Pikes Peak.”
Last month, the Pikes Peak Climbers Alliance board of directors voted to restore routes. This was in response to a survey in which 95% of those questioned “felt that fixed anchorages should be present on routes which do not contain any areas for the placement of gear” – temporary holds – “or which do not provide safe ways out, “read the alliance announcement.
When asked if the roads had been restored, PPCA Chairman Andrew Reed in a brief phone call said answering “would just send more triggers.” Reed declined to answer further questions, saying media coverage of the issue is “damaging” and “unnecessarily attracting the attention of the Forest Service.”
A spokesperson for the Forest Service told The Gazette that the agency was in contact with the PPCA.
“While we generally do not intervene in disputes between private parties, we understand the need for collaboration and partnerships to achieve resource goals,” the statement read.
Shelton said his “ultimate concern” was the consequences of the Forest Service. “When the landowner steps in, the freedoms are taken away,” he said.
But he agreed with longtime climbing partner Stewart Green, whose days at Pikes Peak date back to the 1960s. Green said he believed regulations might be needed, similar to those established between the PPCA and the Forest Service in 2015 for the South Platte area.
“If (the sides) can’t figure it out,” Green said, “then I think we need to have some sort of formalized escalation management plan to address these issues.”
The Forest Service spokesperson said the Pikes Peak Ranger District “is open to exploring options.”
Wortmann said he “would be happy” with a management plan.
“I have been recommending it for over a year now,” he said. “I would be happy to give up some of my freedoms up there in order to somehow protect the people who can get on and climb there safely.”
As for the restoration of the routes in the meantime, “I kind of left it to the PPCA,” Wortmann said.
He said he wanted to get out of the situation. “I’m just trying not to take it personally,” he said. “It’s more about the community that comes out stronger and better.”