No Country for Pro Climbers

Is cutting-edge climbing taking a back seat to celebrity, marketing, and social media?

I’m incredibly relieved. This has been an important process in my climbing career and clipping the anchor of “Perfecto Mundo”, my first 9b+ as well as getting the FA was an incredible experience. Thank you to @chris_sharma for bolting this thing and the good sessions over the last couple of weeks and big thanks to my good friend @steghiso for belaying me on the send, for being a big source of motivation and a great inspiration to me. And last but not least thank you @ken_etzel for being up there every day with me and capturing all this. @patagonia_climb @patagoniaeurope @patagonia @redbullgermany @goretexeu @tenayaclimbing @sterlingrope @dmm_wales @entreprisesclimbing @cafekraft_nuernberg @frictionlabs @fazabrushes @multicamper_adventure #stylefirst #carrotsforpower

A post shared by Alexander Megos (@alexandermegos) on

Alex Megos recently freed Perfecto Mundo (5.15c) in Maragalef, Spain, for its first ascent.

Jonathan Siegrist just got the third ascent of Jumbo Love (5.15b), at Clark Mountain, California.

And Babsi Zangerl sent Speed Integrale (9a), at Voralpsee, Switzerland, her first of the grade.

You may have noticed these badass headlines in your Instagram feed. Maybe you stopped long enough to actually skim through the caption, though your eyes likely glazed over by the time you reach the inevitable graph of hashtags and @’s. You probably double-tapped the photo. Like. You probably learned little about the history of the route or gleaned anything of its significance. It was a pretty photo—one of the hundreds you likely saw that afternoon. By the next day, you probably forgot all about it.

Do you ever feel as though any of the really dope climbing that’s happening just kind of gets drowned out by the overabundance of bullshit on Instagram? Travel, training, selfies. Mind-numbing captions containing platitudes about “the process” and “journey.” Self-absorbed struggles with fear, doubt, and self-confidence. People speaking out. People speaking up. Everyone making token nods to the latest cause.

All of these common social-media narratives fall under the umbrella of providing our so-called fans/audience with something that’s supposed to resemble inspiration. With so much “inspiration” on climbing Insta, I’m often left wondering if anyone is actually inspired by anything anymore.

There are exponentially more strong climbers than ever before, but it seems as though far fewer of them—barring the obvious exceptions such as the aforementioned Megos, Siegrist, Zangerl, as well others such as Ondra, Honnold, Caldwell, Claassen, Sharma, Graham, Kinder, Kiersch, Davis, Rodden, Woods, Robinson, Hayes, Harrington, Hong, Hukkataival, etc.—are showing much interest in pushing aesthetics and difficulty in climbing.

The standard for being a professional climber once demanded pushing climbing progression in creative and interesting ways. Now, professional climbers are expected to be both visionaries and standard setters, as well as make time to create an endless supply of photo and video assets, attend events, and manage a constant and robust social media feed.

Why bother doing anything groundbreaking?

Question is, are these additional demands coming at the expense of top climbers’ abilities, if not desires, to push limits? If sponsors and the public are happy simply to see a new pretty photo once a day, with all of the appropriate hashtags and mentions, why bother doing anything groundbreaking?

The expectations that top climbers must be both world-class athletes and media machines ironically may be a self-defeating expectation in that all of that content just begins to feel … the same.

Perhaps this explains why the general climbing population seems to care more about the latest drama from Boulder, or about arguing who—among a community of people with seemingly all the free time in the world to travel and climb rocks—is the most privileged. People seem to be much more interested in following the climbers making mountains out of molehills than the climbers who are quietly sending mountains—not to mention, those who are doing it in such a way that reflects humility and respect for our sport’s history.

If top climbers are more incentivized to carve out their presence in climbing via social media than they are to actually pursue ground-breaking and visionary ascents, that is a problem the climbing world should recognize.

If this sounds the rantings of a washed-up old fart, that’s fair. But it’s not just I who rants gently into the good night.

“Getting recognized as a climber wasn’t as simple as being the only person to get to the top of the Women’s Finals Route in the gym,” says one longtime professional female climber, who would prefer to remain anonymous since our discourse is so toxic these days that expressing even a mildly controversial opinion opens one up to a headache that isn’t even worth it.

“The only way you used to get noticed by the public or by sponsors was if you were doing something to take the sport to a new level,” she continues. “A first ascent or a significant first female ascent of a route that was hard for the grade. You had to get in a climbing magazine, too, or appear on the cover to be recognized for that ascent. Now I hear people grumble because someone can make a pretty picture, write an inspirational caption, have enough followers, and perhaps that is good enough to make them a ‘prolific climber.’”

Being prolific in climbing is getting cheap

Indeed, being prolific in climbing is getting cheap. With a savvy understanding of how to pull the levers of social media, the right person, with the right image, and just enough climbing skills to lend one the necessary air of legitimacy, can be pretty darn successful without actually ever doing anything very significant.

At one point not so long ago, self-respecting climbers would be mortified, not to mention shunned by peers, to see an image of themselves in a magazine on a route they had not yet sent. Climbers today have no such concerns—perhaps because actual achievement is secondary to image, likes, spray.

With social media, the official record of climbing history has been snatched from the hands of magazine editors by the individual climbers, who act both as their own PR machines as well as the definitive news sources for their own ascents.

This has proven problematic insofar as inaccuracies are common, history is forgotten, and context is almost always omitted.

Magazines used to hold the keys to the castle when it came to making professional careers, which somehow helped prevent turning every climbing trip into another marketing campaign. Further, claims of groundbreaking ascents were researched by journalists, verified, and given appropriate context within the pages of the magazine.

Today there is virtually no such fact-checking or historical context. Reports of free big-walls, months later, through whispers and rumors, have been revealed to be less than what was stated: pitches either top roped or left undone by half the team; dubious belays or anchors points fabricated to break up the cruxes.

None of this seemingly matters anymore, though. The content was created—enough of it to fill a season’s worth of ads and social media. Climbing is becoming a game where it pays to spray.

Parts of the outdoor industry have tacitly encouraged this newfound self-glorification. Brands are less interested in supporting climbers who aren’t willing to turn their passions into daily ads and mini commercials on social media. Climbers who are truly passionate about route development and giving back to the community are less valuable than those who are “good ambassadors” for a brand—whatever that means. But what values are these ambassadors really representing?

Climbing hard is hard. This used to be the price of admission to being a professional climber. Social media lowered the bar by creating climbing celebrities who seem to be far more interested in being in front of cameras than on the sharp end of a difficult new route.

Does it matter? Maybe not. Perhaps most of us will just continue to double-tap, like, share, comment, and scroll on.

  • Shawn Scott

    To take it a step further, there are climbers out there who don’t have an Instagram or sometimes even a cellphone who have been putting up hard FAs that get no hype at all. I’m sure you can think of someone like that where you are from and I can certainly think of many where I live. I’m not saying everyone has to be a luddite to be “real” but I don’t think you can honestly say those climbers you named as the ones pushing the envelope aren’t partially doing it for the likes as well. No ones paying me to climb so why would I look to someone like that as my role model. The real hero’s are in your backyard climbing in last years shoe model, scrounging for belayers and carrying their own pads.

  • Scott A Graham

    Wow what on earth is this guy on about? The system hasn’t changed and never will. If you want to climb for a living you have to satisfy the needs of the sponsors. (Same with every other sport) Which has always included promotion. These days it’s on Instagram and other social media. Adam Ondra just sent silence and it was posted on social media but there was also a masterfully produced video showing the entire route including “context.” So his promotional social media demands stopped him from sending and history wasn’t properly documented? Not at all…clearly. If you read this article with any sense of perspective you instantly feel the sense that these are the ravings of a man that’s frustrated and unhappy personally. But people are still sending the bleeding, screaming edge of possibility and the history and context are being documented better than ever before. So whatever the author is feeling is completely disconnected from reality. It’s a bit sad to read an article like this when climbers everywhere are feeling more inspired than ever but there’s a huge disconnect here.

    • I’m not against promotion or marketing as a general rule, but I think it can be done with authenticity and humility. To do so otherwise is just egoistic, and disrespectful of the climbers and climbs that have gotten this sport to where it is now. (Also, I’m quite happy, personally, as well. Thanks!)

  • Michael Cheng

    What a muddled article.
    It would be wise if you came out and just said point blank what you feel without burying it in paragraph after paragraph of wishy-washy “don’t you feel the same way that I do about this caricature”?

    You’re arguing that the “progression” of climbing should only be measured along one axis -one of pure physical or sport difficulty. Other facets should be either secondary or discarded.

    Are you brave enough to stand behind that statement without making up some cartoonish image of an instagram influencer to evoke disgust?

    Perhaps the demographics of climbing haven’t actually changed, but as the climbing market grows larger, companies are able to recognize and branch out to capture climbers of different disposition and interest? Maybe not everyone who climbs does it for the pure motive of getting stronger and stronger and doing more and more difficult things?

    TLDR: People like climbing for different reasons

    • I didn’t argue that climbing is only a measure of difficulty at all. In fact, I clearly state that creativity and vision for doing new things are part of progression.

      • Mountain Buddha

        I sympathize with your position in this article. However, I also think the article leans toward the romantic and the nostalgiac. Being able to make a living doing nothing but climbing is a thing of the past without modern sponsorships which depend on social media. But even in “the good old days” there was controversy: Salathe was robbed of the first ascent of lost arrow: Robbins came to the harsh reality that bolting climbs was ultimately the future: Hill, Bachar, Caulk, and other climbers from the 70s went corporate and took to sport climbing. You astutely point out in this article that there are still some climbers pushing limits and name some of them. Those at the cutting edge of the sport have always been few and far between. Despite names such as Frost, Roper and Caldwell being among the first generation of modern climbers in the valley, really, Harding and Robbins were the guys pushing things to new heights. Yes, there are more climbers than ever today, and I would make the argument that limits are still being pushed ever further, only under slightly different contexts. Thanks for posting this

        • Thanks

          • Mountain Buddha

            Hey Andrew, I recently just came across a Cedar Wright piece called “An Ode to the Dark Horse, published on It’s a little older, from 2016. Are you familiar with it? I thought it was relevant to this convo as some of the more vitriolic comments, I feel, are missing the point. Happy Climbing.

    • meh

      I thought the article was well structured and easy to grasp. It is reasonable to feel differently though.

  • no, you’re not right, Joe. Stop trolling.

  • Spencer Rubin

    Excellent OpEd on the climbing-media-train, Andrew. Thank you. Does it matter? Probably not… definitely not. Although, at this point, we should all adjust to a click and swipe world.

  • I’m not getting dragged down into your insane world of trolling. Sasha and JoeK are both good friends of mine, which is why I haven’t commented on their spat. You don’t know what you’re talking about, but everyone already knows that. If you keep trolling me, I’ll block you and not even feel remotely bad about it.

    • I think it says a lot more about you that that’s how you interpreted that …

      • If I wanted to be specific in my article, I would’ve been specific. That wasn’t an oversight, and I’m not going to change that decision because of some pesky troll. You’re free to interpret those lines however you want; however, I’m telling you that your take is wrong. I realize that’s not worth much since I’m not being specific, but alas, that is the truth.

      • Dave

        Were it a reference to Sasha and Joe, the point is still valid – it’s not at all inspiring. It may be thought provoking, or at the least a window into the world of sponsored climbing, but it’s not going to get you fired up to do that multi pitch in Red Rocks.

  • Dave

    Andrew you nailed it. The entire media machine is so – vapid. Just recently I was deleting people from my Instagram feed after seeing the killer photos of them pulling cruxes in Yosemite – just a day or so after two guys fell to their deaths. How weird is it not to address that? We just keep churning out rad photos of climbers stuffing their TC Pros in cracks. Have to move on and do another lap on El Cap with photos of us running it out.

    Also, in regard to the Sasha/Joe thing, it actually may be one of the more thought provoking and substantial things to have happened in climbing in the last year. (I don’t believe the article is an intentional reference to the issue.)

    • Martin

      You took the words right out of my mouth, well done sir!

  • Zoltan Papp

    The writup is touching a great subject, but I feel like it’s offensive against proclimbers who are the real deal, but to survive they comply with todays social media presence requirements.
    If your article is about those dudes who might have “cheated” a report just to get any sort of benefits, I agree with you and I am on your side. But if your article is actually accusing some proclimbers of not being truthful in their passion, and saying that their performance is not high enough to be an inspirational athlete, I’ll have to disagree with you…
    With all respect… until that day…

  • Hector

    Thanks for the article Andrew. I think your argument depends on the assumption that us, the consumers of social media, are dumb and disinterested. I don’t think that’s true. When I saw that pic of Barbara Zangerl on Speed Integrale I googled it and discovered the original climb (not the extension she climbed) was opened by Beat Kammerlander and many other interesting things. With this context I could assess her achievement myself (verdict: badass). I make an effort to seek out the back story when an insta-whatever of Zangerl pops up – she is truly pushing boundaries – not because social media says so but because I’ve fact checked for myself.
    I also seek out the back story when I see an insta-pic of Cedar Wright, but for different reasons. His story won’t be of a cutting-edge ascent. But it’ll probably be interesting, funny, inspiring, thought provoking and a little exasperating.
    Another example is this year’s Everest season – from insta-reporting I’ve linked through to fascinating articles on guided speed Everest ascents (seriously wtf?), changing dynamics in Sherpa society, and the first time three 8000m peaks have been climbed in one season (by a Nepali woman). The insta-pics are long forgotten, but the ideas and conversations they lead to are authentic and worthwhile.
    I’m sure most insta-posts are just that – some eye candy quickly forgotten. But we’re not slavering zombies – if we’re interested in something we’ll go read up, watch the video, download the podcast, buy the book. Your blog makes a contribution to this nuance and context and climbing is better for it. I think you downplay the average climber’s ability to discern real achievements from fluff, authentic from fake. At least, in this age of fake news, discernment is easier in the realm of climbing than it is out in the real world.

    • thanks for this comment, it was uplifting for me to read this!!!

    • Awesome comment. If you really love climbing and love where it comes from it’s easy to separate the wheat from the chaff.

  • David Bowens

    I find it ironic that the same social media culture you lament in your rants is the same culture that gives a no-talent hack like you an audience in the first place. Talk about shitting where you eat?

    Ok Andrew, we get it. The endless drivel on Instagram is annoying and muddles the waters. But so are self-righteous rants like this that endlessly lament “the gold old days” when climbing was so much more “real”.

    Gate keeping is in its prime isn’t it?

  • meh

    Great article. I laughed multiple times… climbing language has become so cliche, the search for meaning on a sport routes 99th ascent so gross.

    There is some good news though! The loathsome sprayers only win if you let them. Stop looking at their stuff. Remember, they aren’t getting paid. Oh sure, maybe they got some lousy shoes from SoIll, but so what?

    It used to be ok to chuff and have fun out there. But now the chuffers have taken over the airwaves. Some humility and less spray would be a breath of fresh air.

  • Natalia Strelkova

    I believe inspiring people can be very different. Some people inspire others in pushing the limits of human abilities. Some are pushing their own abilities, and that can be pretty inspiring too. Some people recover from severe injuries – and even though they are not on the cuttng edge of climbing, they are so very inspiring. Some people just are so excited about climbing it’s contagious! I know a lot of people that inspire me, and not all of them are pushing the grades. Also, you know, in Instagram every user can choose which accounts he or she watches;) You don’t have to follow every single sponsored or ambitious climber. But you can follow the ones that inspire _you_. And doing that makes me happy.

    • Matt Maddaloni

      Thank you for this! As a long time sponsored athlete I myself have always been more inspired by individuals who push their own boundries, and it sometimes isn’t close to the ‘hardest’ climbs. It is the mental game I find most interesting and if someone takes on a challenge at their level and is stoked! to share it, thats great!

      • Natalia Strelkova

        Thanks, great to hear supporting words!

  • Patrick Carr

    Not your best effort here. I get that this is an opinion piece, but it sure would be nice if there was a point, a direction, a recommendation or a path forward. When you publish what amounts to simply a biased rant you will certainly get a lot of attention, but you aren’t contributing to a better climbing community. There have been a string of articles like this recently – “Give your Sprinter to a Real Dirtbag” by Cedar Wright, published by Outside for example. As far as I can tell there are 3 things articles of this type feel have ruined climbing – Money (either corporate or personal), human aesthetics (especially female), other climbers (especially gym climber or ones that don’t climb 9a). Most of these things are in fact related – Corporations use human aesthetics in ad campaigns to recruit new climbers and make more money. Welcome to the real world, this is what happens as sports grow in popularity – look at surfing. There are infinitely more people that wear Hurley and dabble in the ‘lifestyle’ vs guys getting shacked at Teahupo’o or even watching videos of it. These articles rarely focus on any of the good things that come from that cycle that even real climbers can appreciate and use though. You are just feeding the online hate machine against all the people that are ‘privileged’ or not doing it the ‘right way’. In this article you take a slightly different avenue as your central thesis appears to be that when magazines were the arbiters of what was seen and what was not they could uphold the ethics of authenticity and now social media has broken that perfect world order. How dare people make money off of climbing without passing your requirements, right? Frankly it feels a lot like politics – build up your straw man and tear him down to the applause of the audience while we all bask in the glow of the good old days. There’s no point, no progress just pitchforks. Oh wait, yes there is, you get to sell another article. So as the ambassador of our sport that you so clearly think you are, which you should be given your credentials, what exactly is the fix for this problem that you perceive? Beyond platitudes about real dirtbags and the stonemasters maybe you could talk about the good and the bad that comes from popularization of a sport and how each of us could do our part to limit the bad and accentuate the good. There is more and better climbing gear, more crags, more guidebooks and more partners than ever before which are all related to the popularity of the sport. There are downsides too in overcrowding, dilution of ethics and skill and least of all authenticity of pro climbers. Articles that revolve around a theme of addressing the pros and the cons and lay out a reasonable, accomplishable path forward to better the community don’t sell as well as a rant though and I think you know that. You seem to be quite thoughtful and I’m sure that doesn’t escape you. For anyone looking for the good old days it really isn’t so hard to find if you actually wanted to. Get off of instagram, quit your job, live in your car and go find an undeveloped and uncrowded climbing area and get to work cleaning and putting up FAs. Don’t let any of your money go to corporate climbing by buying your ropes at the hardware store and making your own climbing shoes. Never take a picture and make sure no one ever makes a dollar off of anything you do including yourself and be authentic as fuck. Not interested? Didn’t think so. You want the good parts of the current reality of climbing without having to actually live in the good old days. Guess what so does everyone else even those gumby gym climbers. The only problem is that doesn’t exist in the real world. You go even one step further and make your living off of climbing the right way too by working for a magazine and writing. Selling rants to the climbing masses about how the rest of the climbing masses are doing it wrong especially the rich ones and the pretty ones on instagram in league with the big bad corporations makes you way worse than those you are ranting about. At least the corporations have some sweet climbing gear – at least the instagram pros have some gorgeous climbing photos. What’s your contribution to all this? Just selling discontent? Thanks for the pitchforks, but I’ll pass. We deserve better and so do you. Not saying your a bad dude, but this is a bad article. It used to be if you had a problem with someone you’d just fight it out behind Camp 4 and have a beer together afterwards. Now we’ve got people on the interwebs posting rants and making a living off of it. I sure do miss the good old days.

  • Mike Bularz

    Eh. I get the point of the article and the thought piece. But to be blunt, this article is misinformed about what people want from climbing media, complaining about a problem that doesn’t exist except in the author’s mind, and a bit hypocritical as this article is not about achievements either

    These “pro climbers” are famous because companies promote them on their channels. A brand name page, that shares an undiscovered climbers post or cool pic in turn gets them 100’s and 1000’s of followers and an audience. These people get discovered by being picked up from their activity on social or through word of mouth
    In return the climbers are expected to provide a level of marketing on par with the profiles of athletes in many sports, which is getting the brand exposed to their large audience and mass following. The definition of pro athlete sponsorship today entails companies paying and supplying gear with their brand TO athletes that have a MASS of people interested in them. It is part supporting an activity related to your brand and getting exposure for your money invested in an athlete
    #3) “ON COMPANY TIME” These climbers wouldn’t have pro photographers and writers making stories about them if someone wasn’t footing the bill and getting something in return, promotion, hashtags
    I do internet marketing – it is getting more and more congested everyday. The author complains that articles about training, diets, technique or whatever are overshadowing just achievement articles. First, this statement is not true as all the magazines routinely publish crap about the next 5.15 send (I haven’t opened an issue of Climbing or Rock and Ice that come in the mail, as it is all these achievements I can’t relate to or are not exactly all climbing is about to me anyway) Nowadays the internet social channels are accessible to anyone and super saturated, it is harder to create unique content that gets people to your site. People attract users to their websites with unique posts, content that is shared and gets traffic, and conversions like email signups, and product sales. Not everyone is searching for, or cares about the latest achievement. This may be because people look to better their own climbing and would rather read articles that talk about this, or that people are tired of reading about achievements outside of the scope of their own lives, where they don’t have months and years on end to project and train, and will never achieve this level of grade-ism and ticklist checking. Also, climbing is not just about achievements but about, guess what – FUN! social interactions, pushing yourself within your own time and schedule. For many people, articles about achievements are a snooze and not relevant. The internet rewards what is relevant to people.
    #5) MISUNDERSTANDING Considers the fact that the constant climbing stories oversaturating the author’s news feed is because all he views ,likes, shares, re-tweets is climbing crap and that is what his social media spits out in return based on his interests.
    #6) HIPOCRIPSY This itself is a climbing blog and is writing a meta article complaining about OTHER articles. You are also creating the same nausea of climbing articles not related to achievements with this article :/

  • Pingback: Reading material | 15/06/2018 -

  • Henning Wang

    The article itself is good and to the point, but for me a bit ruined by the narrow and arrogant american view on who is who in the climbing world.
    You can not seriously say climbers like Harrington and Claassen are pushing aesthetics and difficulty in climbing and in the same sentence not mention climbers like Angela Either.
    These so called “Slaydies” made a climbing film about braiding hair and talking about how great the others were. If that isn’t the definition of useless fluff this article is all about then I don’t know..

    Either it’s the global scene or it’s the american scene, stop confussing the two and get the facts straight as to who is actually doing anything of note.

    • Eiter is definitely on that list. I honestly just rambled off some names off the top of my head. There are a lot of climbers who should be included on this list that I should add. Apologies for the American-centric view here …

  • Chris Desir

    Hi Andrew. I have a question about the purpose of this comment “Perhaps this explains why the general climbing population seems to care more about the latest drama from Boulder, or about arguing who—among a community of people with seemingly all the free time in the world to travel and climb rocks—is the most privileged. People seem to be much more interested in following the climbers making mountains out of molehills than the climbers who are quietly sending mountains—not to mention, those who are doing it in such a way that reflects humility and respect for our sport’s history.”

    I’m curious as to what this has to do with your overall point. It seems to be a reference to the recent outing of Joe Kinder as a misogynist/bully, but it seems to downplay the importance of what I consider to be really novel and refreshing conversations happening in the climbing world. For example, it seems like almost a direct dig about people like meliseymo and blog posts like this: (, or this ( Great reads if you’re interested, by the way.

    But these seems like great conversations to be having in world that tends to incorrectly see itself as a-political or somehow insulated from the political nature of all things. Also they seem to point to an awesome demographic shift in the world of climbing where people of color, and women are gaining more of a foothold and voice within the climbing media world. I can’t help but see veiled sexism in your post and a trivialization of the concerns marginalized people bring to the climbing world, which, given the fast that our marginalizing that tends to follow us wherever we go, tend to go beyond what you seem to consider the essence of climbing (something like pushing aesthetics and difficulty? idk).

    I feel you on some of your points, but this seems just kind of left field ranting fro someone who is maybe experiencing a little insecurity in that position of relative privilege within a community that used to be silent on such issues. Again, its seems like you’re making a lot of points in this article, some of which I agree with, I’m just not sure how this one fits in.

    For the of us for whom the “latest cause” is a real thing that affects our day to day safety, those making nods to them (nods you seem to feel are across the board disingenuous… I disagree) are actually really important figures in the community. I’m glad they get attention regardless of how hard they climb or how well you feel like they are respecting the history of the sport.

    It’s also worth thinking critically about the history of this sport. It’s connection to colonization, its passive and active racism, its endemic sexism, all those darn mole hills, you know? I bring my whole self to this practice of climbing which means that these isms, the way they directly affect my life, come with me. I don’t see why you’ve included others for who this is true in your critique of where you think the climbing culture is going wrong.

    • You seem to have answered your own question here to your own satisfaction, but if you’re actually interested in my opinion, I can earnestly state that you’re wrong about your assumptions for what this article references, and I’m offended by your insinuation that I am a veiled sexist marginalizing people.

      • Chris Desir

        care to explain a little further then? er, nah?

        • I’m talking about comments precisely like yours, that detract from a discussion about authenticity in climbing and how our media consumption has changed by trying to make a hard right turn into a completely irrelevant (albeit important) separate discussion. I’m talking about people who use comment fields to leverage offensive serious charges of sexism and other offensive, horrible accusations without any support or substance simply because you kinda “feel” like it might be true. I thought about just putting your comment in the spam folder just for making that ridiculous accusation, but it’s actually a perfect example of exactly what I’m talking about. Want to apologize, or nah? I agree with you that there are important issues involving oppression in climbing and climbing’s history. You should try writing a compelling article about this topic that cites specific and strong examples of where and when this oppression has taken place (mountaineering history and mountain conquests are a good place to start). I’d read it and think it’s a great, worthy topic, I’m sure.

          • Chris Desir

            I’m responding to a quote from your article that jumped out of the page to me. So, if I took a hard right it’s because I’m trying to follow what you wrote (and you took a hard right. Or not. I’m not really sure. That’s what I’m trying to find out). Yours especially stuck out to me because it was so dismissive of things that seem to me to be really important, and relatively new additions to the popular climbing discourse. I threw out the possibility that you may be threatened based on your apparent defensiveness around these issues and the inclusion of them in a conversation about authenticity in climbing. Also, your dismissiveness rubbed me the wrong way, hence my snarkiness. So, I figured I’d address it directly and ask how you think that theme fits into the rest of your piece. So, how does that theme fit into the rest of your piece?

            I don’t want to apologize. Although I do love when white men demand I apologize to them for pointing these types of things out.

            Unfortunately, I don’t have the time to write this article you’re asking for. If you’d like to pay me for it, I might be able to squeeze it in. Alternatively, you could write it yourself seeing that you are a climbing writer and you consider it to be an important discussion.

          • I love it when people put words in my mouth that I didn’t say or write, criticize me for them, call me sexist, demand I write about topics unrelated to the current one, then, when pressed to cite any examples of what they’re talking about, or actually work to articulate the issues they supposedly deeply care about, say they’re too busy. It happens quite a lot!

          • Chris Desir

            Hmmmm. Maybe it’s time to take a hint? Learn? Change? Grow? Maybe even, listen?

          • ok lol

    • meh

      Way to pick out a single detail, draw an erroneous conclusion, and misinterpret it into sexism, racism, and colonialism. I seldom see these issues when I’m out climbing, but I certainly see them from a handful of internet typists.

      • Chris Desir

        You seldom see them? Damn, they must not be real then. Thank you. I’ll adjust my perception accordingly.

        • meh

          You can have whatever perception you want of course. I’ll stick to mine. Maybe you should write your own piece, rather than projecting every single buzzy buzzword onto someone else’s article? For serious, I think intersectionality is well intentioned, but it’s getting to the point where you can’t talk about anything without talking about everything. So talking about climbing can’t happen without talking about the patriarchy, privilege, racism, sexism, colonialism and gaslighting. I’m sure I missed some. Once that structure gets dropped to frame a discussion, I have yet to see a productive discussion. It’s either a lame echo chamber where everyone agrees we are all bad, can all do better, and we all agree, thwap thwap, or people wisely disengage, only to be called names on their way out. No thank you.

          Social media is a turd. Just my opinion. I see why lots of people like it, but I find the less time I spend on it, the happier I am. Why? because then I have to engage with the people and places around me, probably. YMMV. Plus it got the idiot45 elected.

  • Blake Herrington

    This article (especially the sub-headline) conflates or confuses the idea of climbing sponsorship as a means of producing and rewarding the hardest possible sends, as opposed to producing the highest possible sales for a company.

    Climbing sponsorship isn’t a meritocracy. It’s basically a social media popularity and loyalty contest, and is increasingly designed as such by the sponsoring brands. Being a sponsored climber is increasingly correlated with having a large and active social media presence, being very good looking, appearing interested in social/environmental issues, having an extraverted personality, and being highly agreeable and unwilling to buck the norms (chopping bolts on Cerro Torre, etc). Sponsorship is decreasingly correlated with being in the top 5% of climbers based on achievement. Sponsorship simply isn’t planned or designed to encourage or reward high end achievement per se. Complaining about this situation or just generally voicing a preference for actual accomplishment over twitter skills simply won’t move the needle on this topic.

    To create an incentive structure aligned around the goal of maximizing hard climbing accomplishments, as the author prefers, here are a few starting points:

    *Switch the AAC grant system to a reward/prize system. Give money as gifts to the biggest/baddest routes, rather than pay in advance.

    *Piolet d’Or would also be a Nobel-like prize system for cutting edge routes, with the potential for some small beforehand investment in the climbing teams, based on potential for ROI.

    *Within bouldering and sport climbing, create a highly visible online ranking or scorecard for the world’s top climbers, with perhaps a sub-ranking of the top North American climbers. Have annual payments made to the winning climbers based upon a few categories, such hardest single route, hardest new route, and hardest 10-15 routes over a calendar year. Perhaps include separate rankings of men vs women. The salary/prizes could be drawn from advertisements on the website that ranked and tracked the leaderboard, as well as income created from top athlete events, corporate contributions to sponsor the competition, etc. Individual companies (perhaps even some “outdoor” but not climbing gear companies) could reward each year’s winners with annual salary sponsorship and/or valuable prizes like a new subaru or Sprinter van.

    The author rhetorically asks, but never answers, if one of the negative results of prizing social media followings and community/issue engagement is a net reduction in the quantity and difficulty of “ground breaking and visionary ascents”. I think this contention is true but only to a very small degree, mostly impacting the very-good but not cutting-edge sport climbers and boulderers. The extreme extreme extreme high-performance-capable tail end of the climbing ability bell curve definitionally consists of just a few people in any given year. Their ability to climb 5.15d or v16 or flash El Cap is probably little affected by the broader turn towards sponsoring social media darlings.

  • James Madelin

    “Social media lowered the bar by creating climbing celebrities who seem to be far more interested in being in front of cameras than on the sharp end of a difficult new route.” It depends on your definition of the ‘bar’ though… To me, it has raised the bar, as my definition of the bar is a combination of things that includes; the global profile of ‘dangerous’ sports, the global profile of climbing and the ability of climbers to earn an excellent living, off the top of my head. Most of my life, I’ve been assumed to be a freak to be interested in rock climbing… now a lot less so, which I think is a great thing. My friends who are instructors and guides agree.. that’s a pretty great bar to see so high! And hard climbs will still be done by great climbers with very little social media presence…. who’ll still post it to Youtube and us freaks and weirdos will still love ’em for it.