As part of the debate about the route action directe by Swedish professional climber Said Belhaj, voices were raised that demanded video evidence for climbing professionals. We asked various brands and professionals for their opinion.

At the beginning of December 2019, the German Hannes Huch expressed great doubts in a blog post about the ascent of the route Action Directe by the Swedish professional climber Said Belhaj. In the same article he writes: Hannes: "Now we're at a point where we seriously have to start talking about a video proof which is sad but maybe necessary." All around the discussion about the story of Said Belhaj, two professional climbers also raised their voice. Daniel Woods and Carlo Traversi both think that professional climbers should prove special ascents. Daniel Woods even says: “uncut or it does not count”.

EXCURS
After Hannes Huch published the allegations, LACRUX spoke to Said Belhaj and published an exclusive statement. You can find all articles on the topic at the following link.

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That's what the brands and professionals say

Climbing has changed a lot in the past decades. In the current year, the sport will even become Olympic. There are more and more climbers who are financially supported by brands like Black Diamond, Patagonia, Petzl The sport has become more professional. After the debate about Said Belhaj, LACRUX has started to capture other voices from the climbing community that are commenting on the subject of video evidence. Fred Nicole, Adam Ondra, Black Diamond and Patagonia were interviewed and their opinions on the topic are published here as interviews or statements.

Boulder legend Fred Nicole

Fred Nicole. (Image Climbskin)

Do you think that professional climbers should document important ascents using video? Why yes, why no?
I am a person of the generation that started climbing when it was called “free climbing”, not "sport climbing". As the name suggests, the word “free/freedom” is part of it. It is a space where you can develop and express yourself. It seems normal for some people to film themselves constantly, for others it is not. You should respect both.

Where do you see problems and obstacles when recording important ascents?
As I said, if you want to do it, you can do it for sure. I don't see any problem there. But you shouldn't force everyone to do it.

Would the implementation of the video evidence steal the magic of climbing and being together in the outdoors?
Maybe that's common in the current generation. I would not feel comfortable recording every attempt. It's just not natural for me. I never filmed myself or took a selfie, it's not part of my culture.

Any other thoughts on video evidence?
I would really find it a shame if climbing and bouldering in nature would need judges and referees in the future. For me it would reduce the wealth of climbing and bouldering to a sports activity. Maybe it's naive on my part, but I hope most climbers climb primarily for themselves.


Black Diamond Equipment

Black Diamond's Kolin Powick gave a general response to LACRUX's questions.

No. We don’t demand any such thing as uncut video, or anything for that matter. Climbing is based on honesty and integrity. Period. It’s that simple. In the grand scheme of the world, climbing is a pointless activity, if you don’t have honesty and integrity... you got nothing. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion of what they feel is “required” to prove an ascent. But at Black Diamond we have no demands or requirements of our athletes as it pertains to proving a claim.

We celebrate being a good, honest human more than we do accomplishments. Accomplishments are fleeting and futile, being a good person is everlasting and noble.

His colleague Tyler Willcut adds

Climbing professional Adam Ondra

Do you think that professional climbers should document important ascents on video? Why yes, why no?
Basically, I don't think it is necessary to make a video as evidence of an ascent. However, if you frequently climb in areas where there are few people if you do important ascents, then it certainly makes sense to make a video from time to time. Nowadays it is technically easy to record a video. Especially when bouldering or doing sport climbing routes.

Where do you see problems and obstacles when recording important ascents?
Recording a multi-pitch route is of course quite a complex thing. But in the case of boulder problems or short sport climbing routes, I see no difficulties. Especially if it is one of the most important ascent of your career, it is better to record the ascent on video than not to do so.

Would the implementation of the video evidence steal the magic of climbing and being together in the outdoors?
Certainly not for bouldering and short sport climbing routes. You put the smartphone on a tripod and the video installation is done. I don't think that destroys the magic of climbing. The situation is different in the case of multi-pitch climbs or big wall tours. Filming has a huge impact and can ruin the “magic of an ascent”.


Patagonia - sponsor of Said Belhaj

Norbert Sandner from Patagonia provided information.

Do you ask professional climbers to proof their ascents in some way? Why/Why not?
Actually, climbing for us means to be outdoors - to be free and without any constraints! That means we trust the statements of our ambassadors and friends.

Did you start thinking about demanding proof from you athletes since the story of Said Belhaj?
We will not ask any video evidence from our athletes in the future either. And we still hope that everything will turn out well for Said. Many of his buddies confirm that he can climb 9a - and has already climbed (statements from very trustworthy top climbers).

Would the implementation of the video evidence steal the magic of climbing and being together in the outdoors?
Yes. As I said, climbing means being free for us - free from constraints.

Where would you set the limit (difficulty level or similar) when requesting video evidence?
A video recording or film of a route at your personal limit would of course cause absolutely no speculation from any envy or critics. But I would not consider it mandatory.

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Credits: Cover picture Pavel Blazek