Logo Alan Watts Interview Chain Reaction
Alan Watts on Chain
Reaction (5.12c) in 1983

This is the second installment of an
interview with Alan Watts, the influential
Smith Rock climber who helped create
the new -- in the late '80's -- discipline
of sport climbing. Join us as we
continue our discussion of the rise of
Smith Rock and the birth of US sport
climbing. You can also click here to
start this interview at the beginning. During that time when
Smith Rock was starting to really take
off, you were working on a lot of the
major routes. Of the routes that you
put up at Smith Rock, or worked on,
which ones are you the most proud of?
And which routes are most memorable
for you?

Alan: I would probably have to first
mention To Bolt Or Not To Be. A lot
of the routes I am most proud of I
didn't have the first ascent of, to tell
you the truth. To Bolt Or Not To is
one of those. It was the hardest route
I have ever done, and it took a
tremendous amount of effort for me
to do -- at a time when was I climbing
really well.

I was the first person to establish it;
I cleaned it -- and that was quite an
undertaking -- and I worked out the
moves. It was a route that I had a
long history with. I started work on it
in '84 and completed it in '89. The fact
that four other people had done it in
between wasn't that big a deal to me.

For me, it seemed significantly
harder than anything else I had done
at that point, and I had done routes
that were close to that hard. Scarface,
for instance, was considered a 5.14 at
the time and I had done the second
ascent of that a year earlier. To Bolt
Or Not To Be certainly seemed harder
than that. It's like 130 feet long, and,
for the most part, there is hardly a
place on the route where you couldn't
fall off. The lower half of the route, or
lower two-thirds, is just extremely
difficult the entire way. The upper part
is easier -- but still hard 5.12.

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