I Hate Climbers…

I hate climbers.

I tell my friends this and they seem surprised. They ask me, “You hate climbers? But aren’t you a climber? You rock climb right? Doesn’t that make you a climber?”

Yes, I climb. And no, I’m not a fucking climber. Fuck those guys.

Ever talk with a climber? None of it ever makes sense. They’re full of slang and jargon and gear and I always feel like I need a dictionary to talk with them.

What the hell is a redpoint? How’s that different from an on-sight? Trad versus sport versus bouldering versus alpine? Mixed? What’s free-soloing? What about aid climbing? What’s the V scale? Or the Yosemite Decimal System? What’s an overhang? How about a dihedrals? Cracks? Slab? Liebacks? Stemming? Fist jams. Stacking. Highballs. Whippers. Decking. Jugs. Pinches. Underclings. Beta. Chossy. Sandbagged.

No clue? Don’t worry, once you figure out the vocabulary, you realize every friggin’ conversation is the same. All that climbers talk about is climbing.

Not a climber? Tough luck buddy. You’re not going to be able to hold a conversation.

Something like:
“Man, I was totally pumped out on the roof, but then I got my foot over and heel hooked the shit out of it, and when I got over the overhang, there was this fat thank-god jug, so I grabbed it and mantled over and put in a cam and just hung there for a while. I didn’t think I was going to make it, but man, it was sweet.”

Or the route beta:
“It’s got a pretty awkward off-width start, but if you go to the right, you can just climb the slab and get back into a bomber hand crack.”

Or:
“It’s got great fist jams and takes pro pretty good, but then there’s a steep crux with a bouldery move near the top.”

And they’ll do this for hours. Back and forth. This climb, or that climb. It’s J-Tree or Yosemite or Tahquitz or the Buttermilks or Red Rocks or the Alabama Hills or wherever. They’ll rattle off climbs with names like White Lightning or Traitor Horn or Overhang Bypass. In areas like The Old Woman or The Blob or Intersection Rock. It’s like this for hour after hour, night after night. The same shit around the campfire.

Then, when they’re done talking about climbs, they start talking about gear. So much damn gear. Their cams, their nuts, harnesses, rope, crash pads. Bolt hangers, anchor chains, shoulder length slings, keylock noses, wire gates, ovals, HMS, and lockers. Reverso versus ATCs. Dyneema versus nylon. Tricams and hexes. A full rack of Bee Dee cams with doubles of certain sizes for this or that crack. How tri-cams are a pain in the ass to get out, especially after a fall. How dyneema doesn’t take a knot well, or what size cordage to use for a trad anchor. Or how this stopper doesn’t slot well because of the ridges, or how this cam has a better range, or whatever.

I hate that after you climb a bit, that gear talk actually becomes useful. Tricams really ARE a pain in the ass to get out after a climb. And #1 and #.75 BD C4’s really ARE nice to have doubles of.

image001

Tricams are great!

I hate the legends. I hate looking at a guidebook and there’s a first ascent set by Chouinard or Robbins or Long or Bachar or some other name that I recognize and have no idea why I recognize it. I don’t know why I know who the Stonemasters are. I don’t know why I see those climbs and immediately want to climb them.

I hate that there are places like Salathe Wall, or Astroman, and that I know what they are. I hate that I’ll never be able to climb them. I hate that I know who Lynn Hill is. I hate that she’ll always be a better climber than me. Even when she’s 90.

I hate Alex Honnold. I hate that he gets on the cover of National Geographic. I hate that he climbs harder without a rope than I will ever climb with one. I hate that it kinda makes me want to try free-soloing. I hate that he, too, talks about being scared. Except he’s scared free-soloing up the face of Half Dome, and I’m scared on some 5.5 J-tree trad lead.

IMG_2949

Me getting scared on a 5.5 lead in J-Tree.

I hate that he talks about trying to achieve and maintain certain mental flow states, like some sort of zen master. I hate that on certain climbs, I get glimpses into similar thoughts, only on a much, much lesser level.

I hate Chris Sharma. I hate that he’s the best damn climber in the world and makes it look so easy. I hate that he’s basically a laid-back pothead with superhuman climbing ability. I hate that I’m not a laid-back pothead with superhuman climbing ability. I hate that every climbing girl I know has a huge crush on him. Fuck that guy.

I hate being scared. I hate looking out across a slab traverse with no protection, knowing that if I slip, I’ll take a whipper fall into the rock. I hate looking out across that traverse and cursing it loudly. I hate doing all that and STILL stepping out onto the granite slab, looking the world like a polished piece of slick death, and somehow finding small chips for my feet to go on, and I gingerly place my feet, one at a time, until I look up and suddenly I’m across without any incident and I can slot in a nice nut placement into a convenient crack.

I hate the lead falls. You’re hanging there with fear building up in your chest, and lactic acid building up in your forearms and knowing, just knowing, that you can’t make this move and that you’re going to fall, and ah-shit you lose your grip and suddenly there’s nothing between you and the hard ground, but then you’re suddenly yanked to a stop by the rope gods and maybe your balls get pinched by your leg loops and everything hurts like a mutha-fucker, but you’re thanking whoever it was that invented kernmantle construction and dynamic rope stretch. Then your belayer asks you if you’re ok, and even if you just crapped your pants a little, you don’t want to seem scared, so you yell, “yeah, I’m good, just lower me a bit so I can get back on the climb.” When, really, all you want to do is get back on the ground and pack your shit and go home because that was terrifying, but for some stupid reason, you swing your dangling ass back onto the route and start working the problem again.

And you fall at the crux again, and maybe again, and maybe a few more times. And you curse yourself for picking a hard-as-hell sport and you curse the rock for being smoother than a baby’s ass, and the lack of holds, and the thin flakes that pass for toeholds, and your puny forearms.

Climbers are fearless thrill-seekers. Or completely controlled zen masters. Strong, lean muscles and the grace of countless climbs under their nylon harnesses. Long arms and long climbs and the inexorable progress upward on the rock without a hitch. Guys and girls like Chris Sharma or Lynn Hill, blonde beasts held to the face with iron pinches and smoothly slotted crack jamming fists. And laid-back post-climb beer drinkers, easy on the eyes and easy on the road.

Definitely not me, I who curse the rock out loud as I climb. Not the joyful silence of sheer confidence, but the thinly held-together cracking-up of my holding-my-shit-togetherness.

I hate looking at a long, curving crack and thinking to myself, ”You gotta be fucking kidding me. People climb this shit?” I hate that I stand there at the base and start racking gear to myself, as if I knew what the hell I was doing. Sure, I’ll take some cams, and some nuts, and some quickdraws and a few alpine draws. No, I don’t think I’ll need the tri-cams. I strap on my helmet, check my tie-in, tighten my leg loops (protect my balls). Then, to my partner: “Climbing.” And he answers, “Climb on.” I place my hand on the rock and step on. And I immediately wonder what the fuck I’m doing.

Slowly upward, upward, slotting in a piece here and there, wondering who the hell thought sticking little metal bits the size of my thumbnail constituted “protection.”

When I go climbing, I spend the entire time pretending. I’m lying to myself and to my friends. I lie to gravity. I tell all of them, yes, I know what I’m doing. I’m in control here. Yes, I am a climber, I can make it up this impossible pitch. I say shit like, “oh that was a beautiful climb.” That usually means I need to go home and change my underwear. Or the climber’s version of an admission of fear, “yeah, that was a little spicy.” As if airy exposure and hard moves were akin to a pinch of habanero spice in your hot sauce. Hot sauce might make my eyes water, but exposure makes me cry like a little bitch.

I’m not a climber because I’m scared. I’m scared all the time. I’m scared of falling. I’m scared of my pro ripping out. I’m scared of rockfall. I’m scared that something will happen and my rope will get cut. I’m scared of flailing on a hard section. I’m scared of looking stupid in front of my climbing partner.

My non-climbing friends (you know, normal, sane people) say things to me when I tell them that I climb. Like, “Oh, I could never rock climb. I’m afraid of heights.” And I think to myself, “are you kidding me? You think I’m NOT afraid of fucking heights?”

But, of course, I play the badass card and just shrug it off like it’s no big deal. I’ll reply with, “oh, you get used to it.” As if you really do. You just get really good at not looking down, at focusing on your moves, on not thinking that you’re dangling on some wall a couple hundred feet above jagged rocks and if your little 10mm rope were cut, you’d be dead, dead, dead.

I try to remind myself of Lynn Hill’s words: “It doesn’t matter how tall the mountain is, all that matters is how strong you are.”

But despite all the fears, all the good and rational reasons to be scared, I’m most scared of living a life where I didn’t try something amazing because I was too afraid. I’m scared of going to my safe grave in my safe bed after living a safe life and wondering if I should have taken more risks. If I should have pushed my fear down deep inside. If I should have tied that rethreaded figure-eight onto my harness and put my hands on a hopeful hold and stepped up to try something impossible. I’m scared that I would have never known that feeling of standing on top a tall tower of gorgeous granite with the sunset sky over J-Tree and looking down at something I ascended with nothing but a skinny shoestring rope and tired muscles and audacity.

IMG_2993

On top of Bussonier (5.7) in J-Tree.

I’m scared that I would never had known what adrenaline and fear mixed with the euphoria of topping out on some pitch you never thought you’d be able to climb felt like. Like you were some sort of superman full of courage and undaunted strength and that you just did something that so many only dream of. That feeling of superiority over your non-climbing friends, lying at home in front of their TVs with their cats and their boring nine-to-five jobs could never hope to achieve. For a few brief moments, I am greatness.

But then, I get back to camp and hang out with my climbing friends and it’s just talk of route after route after route around the campfire. And I know I’m not a badass. I’m just a pretender. They swap stories about this crack or that slab or this face and it’s 5.11d or 5.12a or V7 and it’s back and forth like gaining the anchor and getting on lead for the next pitch. I come out and have a beer and sit with climbers and listen to them talk and try my best to throw some slang in there and hope that they can’t see through me, that they won’t recognize that I’m just a poser, a fake, a phony, that I’m talking like I climb, I’m just pretending.

I’m telling you man, I fucking hate climbers.

But, god damn, I wish I were a climber.

And seriously, fuck Chris Sharma. I hate that guy.

Sort of.

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125 thoughts on “I Hate Climbers…

  1. Pingback: For Your Enjoyment | Caffeinated Wanderings

  2. “That feeling of superiority over your non-climbing friends, lying at home in front of their TVs with their cats and their boring nine-to-five jobs could never hope to achieve.”

    Are you serious? You think that you’re superior to people who don’t choose to climb because they have real jobs that make a difference in the world? Do you really believe that if these people were shoved in front of a rock face and given time to climb from 8-5 that they wouldn’t surpass you in just a few weeks?! Climbing isn’t noble, its not impressive and it doesn’t improve or change the world. Its a purely selfish pastime. Get over yourself !

    • Really? That is what you took from this? You’re a fucking idiot. Everything is selfish- everything, even seemingly altruistic things are done for selfish reasons. The world needs more people doing what they enjoy, not more fucking slaves in this shit capitalist system slaving away for some fucking corporation “improving or changing the world.” Unless you’re some fucking doctor who loves and is extremely passionate about helping people working for MSF or something, shut your goddamn mouth. Your middle management job isn’t “improving or changing the world,” it makes you a fucking slave of a system that should be resisted an ultimately abolished. So stop upholding the status quo.

      And by the way, the feeling of superiority is justified. Climbing is fucking cool, way cooler than some 9-5 office job.

      • I couldn’t like your comment @BS Callout so this is me liking it :).

        And @Paul Taylor, while superior might not be the right word, the point is that he is getting out there and doing something that other people might see on T.V. and think “wow I wish I could do that”. Sure if they went out learnt the skills and did some training then sure they could do the same things too. The key is, they don’t.

        A better take home message is:

        “But despite all the fears, all the good and rational reasons to be scared, I’m most scared of living a life where I didn’t try something amazing because I was too afraid.”

        Nice post Ed, though not sure if I agree with everything ;). Must admit I’m a bit tired about people comparing grades like it’s their dick size. Climbing is climbing is climbing. 🙂

      • Well done BS Callout! I totally agree with you and Chris C. Fo’ sho!

        (Disclaimer: I’m not really hatin’. I’m just feeling that going tongue-in-cheek and sharp is the way to go here. It’s cathartic. Whatever. I’m sick of self-confident dummies. They need a verbal lashing now and then. ;-p )

        Apparently, some people have no skills….
        No skills at reading comprehension. It’s way easier to develop than climbing skills. How can one not understand this piece? It’s unbelievable. *Un-fucking-believable.*
        Unless you, “Paul Taylor”, have a condition that prevents sensing sarcasm (or is a master troll) then I apologize. I strongly doubt it though. Infact, I’m calling HORSESHIT on you. It’s total HORSESHIT. HORSEsustitutedforcowshitcuzit’sreservedformanurewhichisgoodforsomethingSHIT. HORSESHIT. Yep, I’m surpassing bullshit. I’m going past Bullshit and full-on caps BULLSHIT. Muahahahaha! I bet that anyone who read your comment is thinking “WTF? Is this guy serious!? What an dink.” To clarify, I don’t think I have an above-average intelligence nor do I possess much of an attention span. HOWEVER, I can (and usually do) read an entire piece and think before commenting. For shit’s sake, this was posted on FB by Outdoor Research!
        Outdoor. Research.
        Outdoor…
        Research.
        OR.
        O-fucking-R.
        Duh. Derrr. Doy.
        You most-likely follow their FB feed and maybe own some OR gear. How else would you have seen this? SMH. Making an incorrect judgement on the author (I don’t use the word “writer”, because “I hate writers”. They make it look so easy with their extensive vocabulary, proper use of grammar, and correct spelling. Get it now? It’s an admiration veiled in faux anger and slight jealousy.) of the piece because of one’s willful ignorance is stupid.
        I climb sometimes (I’ve had injuries, and of course: excuses. That’s on me though.) and been on some cool trips, BUT I’m not a climber. Not by a long shot. I even have unused new gear in my closet that I’d like to use sooner than later, but I’m good with whenever. A climber climbs a lot, and makes their life (at least partially) around it. I’m not referring to the occupation as a professional (paid-to-climb) rock climber. I’m referring to the dirtbag (if you don’t know the term, it’s one of lifestyle choice and typically admiration toward those that do whatever it takes to persue their desires in an inexpensive way) climber that lives and breathes the life. They bleed on the rock and inhale chalk dust as much as Sharma, or Hill, or the next hotshot 14 y/o amateur from Kentucky. I’m also referencing the ones that live in the Mtns, or cities, or flatlands that WILL climb every week. They’ll climb everyday possible (rest days don’t count, right? I’m not sure on the rule… since I’m not a climber. Lolz) and love it as much as some of us love the lifestyle and/or acts of: snowboarding, knitting, skateboarding, coding computer apps, running, astronomy, crossfitting, gardening, biking, gaming, skiing, video production, fishing or anything that produces happiness.
        As for your shitty OPINION, which is obviously based on your incomplete knowledge, that “Climbing isn’t noble, its [sic] not impressive and it doesn’t improve or change the world. Its [sic] a purely selfish pastime.” I ask: Really?! What definitions are you using? It IS noble to be a climber. Climbers tend to possess: focus, humble attitudes, respect for the rock, respect for other’s abilities, environmental ethics, patience, and other noble qualities. Also, it’s obviously impressive when a climber can scale a wall like El Cap, Greenland, or other big endeavors. It’s obviously impressive when a mentally disabled, highly autistic, one with birth defects, physically disabled, one with PTSD, paralyzed, amputees, or _____ person do anything climbing related. What if they climb up only a few holds or assist in onlt filling chalk bags and it’s more than they or someone else thought it was too difficult? That can be impressive. It can change that person’s world too! The Access Fund has helped change how climbers get to areas and those areas well-being. Patagonia (started by a climber, Yvonne Chiounard) helps keep natural places and helps restore places back to that state. There are many, many more examples too. As for your implied definition of selfish, most climbing is done by at least a team of two. They must help each other. Bouldering uses spotters to redirect the climber onto crash pads. Climbing gyms and crags are full of people helping each other out. Environmental restoration and conservation is facilitated by climbing groups and climbers across the globe. The gear development has been used in SAR in many different environments, natural and man-made. The gear and techniques, and it’s derivitives, has been used in so many other ways and products.
        You should go climb or try something with an aspect of difficulty. It’s apparent I’m not the only one that thinks you are a bitter, regretful, butt-hurt, trapped-in-a-job-you-dont-want, afraid, dink.
        Don’t be a dink.

    • As someone with a full time job who also climbs when she can find the time, I am completely not offended by this excerpt. There is something amazing about doing something out of the ordinary. I can accept this without being personally offended. It seems you need to get over yourself, Paul.

    • Do you seriously think most people working 9-5 and then sit at home watching TV make a positive difference in the world? I’m not saying that climbing is the most noble of achievements, but if you think that working a full time job is the ultimate human accomplishment, you are sadly mistaken.

      Also This: “Do you really believe that if these people were shoved in front of a rock face and given time to climb from 8-5 that they wouldn’t surpass you in just a few weeks?” Is possibly the most ignorant thing I’ve ever heard.

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  4. thats a lot of hate from someone who reckons they just want to “go outside, be awesome”…

    Everyone started where you are now. You’ll get respect by having fun doing it. Fuck the grades and all that shit, go have some fun. Generally the people that care way too much aren’t that good anyway; “so you just did your first 12a and need to make out to everyone in camp how rad you are? piss off”.

    Just have fun with it and stop comparing yourself to everyone around you. Your missing the point massively by doing so. The only way to become an awesome climber is to love the game to bits!

    (PS and yeh cant us climbers talk about something different for a change!!!! 😉 )

    • Holy shit you are retarded and have ZERO reading comprehension.
      Zero.
      It’s clearly an inspiration piece. Basically, he said this… “I climb but I’m not a climber. I’m partially envious of my fiends that are climbers and want others to do what they want.”
      Derrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.

  5. Great writing! You have a unique voice about a sport that is difficult to describe. Well done. And yes, Bussonier still scares me, despite many ascents.

  6. Oh right, those damn climbers with their goals and aspirations of bettering themselves. How dare they not speak in lamens terms, to think of the enriching conversation they would be missing out on with jealous and self righteous writers like yourself. I would say climb down off your high horse but you probably wouldn’t understand my beta brah

  7. Lot of hate and fear there, and if you look at any chosen life style they all come with their own language and way of life. Yes climbing has its fair share of tossers but what way of life does not?
    Hope you learn to be a little less bothered by other people and work out how to find your potential.

  8. Saw this on Facebook! Laughed the whole time. I’m new to climbing and this was just too great. I don’t even understand half the words you mentioned! Shared with all my climber friends.

  9. Very much enjoyed this piece. I’m sorry for the people who are trolling/hating on what you wrote b/c they didn’t read the whole thing or think about it before speaking.

    Keep climbing and enjoying yourself 🙂

  10. I mean, I get you’re trying to be funny but it’s like a really long joke with a punchline that doesn’t pay off. And I hope he never reads this and never responds.

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  12. Dude this is awesome!! You were my instructor on my very first climb earlier this year. I’ve dove head first into the climbing world. I definitely have some of the same thoughts about “why the hell am I doing this” but then can’t stop thinking about climbing again right when I get home. Thanks for teaching me!!

  13. Interesting ! not read everything in detail . not a fan of reading too much on the internet far too many people hiding in anonymity . First comment ., really the word hate surely far too strong ? That word is misplaced surely . I suppose being a relic from the late fifties and sixties I find people are as varied more now then. We had climbing bores who only talked about climbing too but we tried to have a good time, I’m ashamed to say with many years passed soloed a route once after 5 pints of beer ) falling off was serious then (for the second with badly burnt hands too !!) all relative, see the standard today , unbelievable !! People are all individuals be true to yourself . Never mind the bullshit.

  14. Wonderful article and amazing writing. As a climber I have all those same feelings. For those people hating, their comments make it pretty obvious they did not read the whole thing or the point of it went entirely above their head!

  15. Thanks. This was refreshing. I see it as any grown up obsession, whether it be surfing sailing or snowshoeing. Its Barbie dolls for jocks, get the thing, upgrade the thing, then worship the thing, then proselytize it within the community (to avoid scrutiny from challengers), to validate it yourself.

  16. Just wanted you to know that I really appreciate this post. I’m a v3 climber at best surrounded by a world of Hardcore Boulders including my boyfriend. I project on their warm-ups. They move on and I get bored watching them destroy V10. Sometimes I think I should give up and cease to be horribly embarrassed every time I go climb. I’m always injured which slows down any hope of getting to the “real” problems. However I just can’t seem to stop. I just can’t give up what climbing gives to me which is essentially an excuse to go out beyond the cities and see what Nature has to offer. It’s just something to do while I wait for the next sunset or awesome Wildlife sightings. Maybe it keeps me healthy. Maybe the injuries are better than long-term inactivity. In any case I appreciate knowing that there are people out there that continue to climb even though they aren’t “crushers”. I could use some people like you in my life. We could sit around the campfire and know that we aren’t the only posers. All joking aside I get this post. Thank you. It’s nice to know that I’m not the only one.

  17. Whilst this post is obviously intended to be satire… I also think it reeks of thinly veiled conceit. It has a self-aggrandizing tone if you read between the lines.
    You say you are not a climber, and then spend the next several paragraphs listing all technical climbing terms you can think of and your climbing achievements. Why?
    You look down on people who have 9-5 jobs and talk about having “that feeling of superiority over your non-climbing friends”. If that is meant to be self-deprecating and you’re admitting to be an arrogant ass with an inflated ego like a lot of other climbers, then I would agree with you.

  18. hahaha… man I totally understand you. I laughted at this because I’ve said it just like this and refuse to recognize that I do the same things I hate hahahahah

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