Three issues come to mind today. Two aren’t very important, while one probably is. Before verging into this meandering dirge on today’s state of sport, I must admit to feeling bewitched by some sort of hipster malaise, one that is causing me to feel most fired up by the least consequential topics. The malady is likely symptomatic of something deeper … perhaps I’m sick of seeing so many bloggingheads lost in their own solitary reveries while they whip up another portentous controversy supposedly plaguing the climbing world. Do any of these grave issues ever come to mind while you are actually climbing? One would hope not.
So much of today’s climbing writing seems to be removed from the empirical experience of actual climbing. I’m thinking not just of the topical pretentiousness of many siren bloggingheads, but also of all the metaphysical purple prose that tends to burble out of someone who, typically, has just climbed a mountain (or who has failed magnificently). Whenever I feel this way, however, I am easily assuaged simply by pulling out Issue 192 of Rock and Ice and re-reading “The Prophet” by Leo Houlding. I loved this article not just because Houlding’s ground-up attempt to free climb a new route on El Cap was as bad ass as it gets, but because Houlding stayed so true to his experience. His rather Spartan narrative is austere and authentic, deftly navigating the perils of this genre in which it is easy to trend into a conceptual rendering of the sport.
Alas, I get it. We have blogs. Therefore we must blog. And I’m as guilty as anyone. So with this tangential apologia out of the way, let’s get on with the show.
OK, first order of business: Daisy Chains. I still see climbers wearing these out at the crags, yet they aren’t aid climbing. I find this as baffling as one-piece ski suits (fart bags) or wearing Crocs on approaches (or just wearing Crocs in general). Unless you are standing in etriers on the Salathé Headwall, there is no reason to keep a daisy chain perma-welded to your belay loop. It’s potentially dangerous. It makes you look like a gumby. It’s not cool. If you still have a daisy chain on your harness, and you aren’t aid climbing El Cap, I have four words for you: Chain That Shit Up!
Second issue: You know how a climber will flail on a route and then leave his rope strung from the anchors while he and his partner go sit in the sun and make themselves sandwiches and contemplate how badly they just got served? You want to do the route, because it’s your warm up, only you can’t because someone else’s rope is mysteriously still hanging from it. But you can’t just pull it because you don’t want to come off as a jerk, so you politely call over to the climbers and ask if they are done with the route. Then you get this response: “Oh yeah, you can just pull it, bro!”
You know what? YOU can pull it! Put your f—ing sandwich down, come over here and get your rope off my f—ing warm up!
This happened to me the other weekend. Only because I’m weak, I didn’t say any of that, even though I felt like it. Very sweetly, I said, “Cool, thanks!” and then pulled his rope and flaked it for him like I was his underling.
Third issue: Branded Content. Obviously, this is the really important issue—the one that, as I explained earlier in my longwinded apologia/preface, I don’t really care about. But let’s talk about it anyway.
Does it bother you that all the best climbing videos we see online are thinly disguised advertisements for brands? Are you sick of seeing brand names flash at the beginning and end of every good climbing video? Are you tired of seeing the same climbers, doing the same things (but in different areas), in the same type of video, and branded by the same company? Do you care that the most creative people in the climbing world are inevitably finding themselves beholden to company interests because that’s the only way for them to get the money they need to tell their stories? Most of all, are you worried about what stories and which people are being bowdlerized by the industry?
Yeah, me neither. Just give me a sweet video that gets me stoked to go climbing, and I’ll be happy.