Episode 189: Lee Cujes – Welcome to Australia, Mate.

On Episode 189, I sit down with Australian rock climber, developer, Lee Cujes, and force him to do the impossible: speak for the entire climbing community of Australia. Lee is the first Aussie ever on the Enormocast, and I can’t help but recall some of the great times I had on my seminal trip to the Land Down Under. Lee talks about access issues, the infamous “carrot bolts”, rapelling upside down, and more. We get a little of his own history, but what this one is really about is getting you STOKED to go to Australia to climb!

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5 Replies to “Episode 189: Lee Cujes – Welcome to Australia, Mate.”

  1. As an Australian climber I really enjoyed this one. I don’t know Lee well but I have bumped into him at the crag a couple of times when I lived in Queensland. He did a great job at articulating the current mood with respect to access and bolting issues in Australia.

    I think that historically in Australia we’ve managed to strike a pretty good balance between traditional and modern ethics at most of our crags. Mt Piddington in the Blue Mountains, the organ pipes on Mt Wellington in Tasmania and Bundaleer in the Grampians are all great examples of classic crags where old school trad routes exist side by side with modern sport routes. Sadly though I think that mixed crags like this are becoming the exception as new crags are just grid bolted by over zealous developers without even giving anyone a chance to climb the obvious trad lines on gear. Maybe it’s just a reflection of the fact that the crags with obvious trad lines were mostly found and developed years ago, which means that the crags that are left don’t lend themselves to trad as much.

    It’s a complicated issue, and even though I’ve clipped thousands of bolts in my time (and placed a few myself), I do wish that the energetic guys out there with drills would show a bit more restraint. The Grampians situation shows that land managers can and will point to bolts as a reason for banning climbing, so I think it’s in the best interest of the climbing community to think hard about how they’re going to manage crag development and bolting in the future.

    1. Yeah. That’s really the history of climbing everywhere. In some ways, its the slippery slope that the anti-bolt crew have been talking about from the beginning. Now we are likely reaching a saturation point where land managers are asking, “what is up with all these bolts?”

  2. In response to the bolting discussion – I wanted to throw in my .02 on this subject. As a preface, I’m not a rabid anti-bolt fanatic by any means. But I have seen some not so great bolting practices in the past. I started out as a sport climber and never really paid attention to where bolts are placed, why they are placed, etc, etc, etc. I was just happy they were there, and clipped them. I’ve since transitioned into mostly climbing trad, and as I have traveled around the US over the years (not Australia) I have begun to notice quite a few lines which go very G on gear get bolted. As in – good gear, that does not fill in handholds, right next to shiny bolts, all the way up a route.

    I’ve mainly noticed this at walls that are designated as “sport climbing” walls – and the logic is that everything at these walls gets bolted. I’ve seen routes that would be highly classic trad lines get reduced to just another one of the twenty/thirty sport climbs at that particular wall. Basically, my point is that it is disappointing to see. Not anger inducing, just a bummed out feeling of – man… that could have been a pretty cool/unique/memorable climb, but now it’s something most people would struggle to remember amongst the thousands of sport routes in the area.

    A good trad line is satisfying/rewarding, and certain styles of trad (such as a well protected trad face climb) get harder and harder to find.

    Basically, I like bolts. I think they should be placed where they protect a climber against a bad fall. But at the same time, they can most certainly be used in a lazy way by somebody who wants their name in a guidebook more than they want to create a great climbing experience for other people.

    I think I feel motivated to write this because my trust in developers not bolting routes that protect well on gear has been shaken recently. I think the drill carries a ton of responsibility – since you are altering a route for every single climber who will ever come after you – ever. I’m definitely not an crusty old trad dad (being a young guy) who wants everybody risking their lives in order to climb a route without bolts. I just think that rock looks more aesthetic without the added hardware – and that we should really emphasize keeping it that way if it is already safe to ascend the route on gear, even if it isn’t a splitter crack.

    Great interview – and I’m sure that my opinion isn’t particularly controversial (this isn’t written to debate the guest), but I wanted to state this for anybody who listened and is debating whether or not they want to buy that drill.

    1. I agree with the idea of leaving trad routes trad and that occasionally something gets bolted that really is a bit of an abomination. A true crack climb bolted simply for convenience. And I’m pretty sure that the larger community can often agree when there is an egregious act of bolting. However, I also think that if an area is sort of an agreed on sport area, and you have a couple old (or new) routes tucked in there that have one or two mandatory gear placements on them, then that seems not only unnecessary, but in some ways, dangerous. Here’s how it goes down usually: Those old mixed gear routes are often easier grades, and if the information is not readily available, inexperienced climbers who are thinking that draws are all you need, end up in trouble. Also, on a wall of grid bolts, is the one or two less bolts in those walls really an aesthetic improvement? Finally , I think there can be community involvement in some FA decisions despite the fiercely individual nature of the process. But, in my opinion, a true, awesome splitter can remain unbolted even at a sport area.

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