Wednesday, October 3, 2007

The Problem with Climbing Conformity

Having sparked a little kerfluffle about Jamie's writeoff of Meathook, I should add that I have some bias about the subject. The climbing world, aided by media outlets such as magazines, etc. has a remarkable ability to filter and edit events and people that for some reason don't fit the mold. I am happy to see the emergence of blogs and message boards that allow conversations outside the editorial offices of magazines. News editors, however well-intentioned, can have a dramatic effect on the future of climbs, areas, and even a climber's reputation. Perception becomes reality in the closed world of certain cliques even when a different and perfectly valid truth is out there.

For example, two routes of mine, Eternal Recurrence in Clear Creek and Agony and the Ecstasy in Boulder Canyon are still unrepeated, seemingly ignored by the local climbing community. Perhaps this is because they don't fit the preconceived mold of what a hard route should be like. They clearly do not climb like a standard Rifle 5.14 would. They don't have a famous name attached.

It's easy to dismiss efforts outside the mainstream as irrelevant or even non-existent but then the echo-chamber effect sets in as climbers become convinced that they alone know what is significant. If climbers don't join these cliques, the climbers essentially don't exist and their efforts become lost.

I remember hearing about a route that I freed in 1997 called Shine, which is in Clear Creek. Climbers, including some top names, dismissed the climb as short, sharp, and dirty. I wonder if that would have changed if I had rated the climb 5.14 and pumped it up for the magazines. It waited 7 or 8 years for a repeat and still is rarely climbed and now upgraded to 5.14. Fortunately I had a number of witnesses when I did it or I wonder if I even would have been credited with the first ascent.

So give credit where it's due. Respect the efforts of climbers who establish new problems, especially those that are 30 years old and have no repeats. And be open to the possibility that there are people out there who climb very very hard whom you have never heard of and will likely never hear from or see video of on the Web. Jim Holloway doesn't need me to defend his efforts but the principle remains the same--Respect.


sock hands said...

remember peter: all it takes is one kid from the crew to send, and every long forgotten climb will be thrust into the here and now faster than you can say 8spray.spew!

and i am not intending to suggest any 'crew' in particular, as i have seen this phenomonon [sp] manifested in slightly different ways amongst all those i've climbed with from the scenesters to the stalwarts.

i offer this parting thought: regardless how long meathook goes unrepeated for, once it is repeated, i will be sent multiple times within 6 months.

Jamie Emerson said...

I certainly have a huge amount of respect for both you and Holloway, Peter. I would hope I have done nothing to make you think otherwise.

Peter Beal said...

Thanks for the comment and I have a great deal of respect for you as well. As perhaps the hardest-working man in the bouldering business, you set an example that others would do well to follow. So that's why I was surprised to see the post on Meathook. Lots of people read your blog and you should recognize that your opinion carries weight. My feeling is that your authority should be used in part to foster a respect for the pioneers of the past and help set an example for the future.