Archive | September 27, 2012

Irresponsible, rude, pillaging climbers – We made them, so we ought to change them.

When the first climbing video for Simply Adventure went live on, it was only a matter of time before I had my first encounter with a troll. Basically, this hateful dude filled up the comment feed on the video spewing all sorts of negative nancy-isms, which were tolerable until he switched from hating on me as a climber to hating on my desire to promote and inspire conservation within the climbing community.

Here’s what he said: 

“Just a thought, if the purpose is conservation, a better angle may be to work on limiting people that use an area rather than making it wide open to all. This way impact is limited rather than multiplied. Sure, you won’t get props for not allowing full access, but the area may be truly conserved instead of pillaged by any Tom, Dick, or Harry that wants to go climbing.”

It took me a moment to recover from reeling over what I had just read. Is this the best solution we can come up with for the issues of overuse and poor values of outdoor responsibility? Are we really willing to stop climbing at certain crags just because a few folks don’t know the do’s and don’ts of outdoor etiquette? Even worse – are we really willing to become elitist enough to say “we can come climb here, but you can’t”?

Here’s what I said back to him:

“I’d rather educate climbers into appreciating good land stewardship values than discourage climbing in any way. Areas getting pillaged by Tom, Dick, and Harry is exactly what we want to change, but instead of telling them not to enjoy the sport with us, shouldn’t we just teach them to be responsible instead?”

To me, it seems like a very common sense solution. There is no denying that the exploding popularity of climbing has brought some negative consequences on the outdoor community – but isn’t it our responsibility to change that? As climbers who “know better,” aren’t we obligated to pass on our wisdom and experiences to ensure that the ‘traditions’ of proper land stewardship, leave no trace, and giving back to the crags?  

I absolutely share this guy’s clear disdain for climbers who roll up to the crag and break every rule of responsible land use. No one likes a litter bug, no one appreciates someone’s dog pissing on your rope, no one likes to hear drunk kids hollering all through the boulder field. But changing their perspective on the outdoor climbing experience seems like a much more sustainable resolution than kicking them out of a destination. You can tell Tom, Dick, and Harry that they can’t climb at your crag – but aren’t they just going to move onto the next spot, and continue to pillage just like before?

Niko and I are driven by this idea of spreading the good tidings of being responsible, healthy climbers (and when I say healthy, I mean healthy to the land). While it may seem like a no-brainer to some of us, some new climbers may have never even considered that peeing under an overhang is really terrible for the soil and won’t get washed away by the rain. They may not understand why leaving crappy gear up on a route isn’t cool. They don’t know how big of a difference it makes to fill up just one plastic bag with some of the trash littering the base of a climb.

And it’s our fault if they never learn.

We as a collective climbing community are responsible for the rudest, loudest, messiest dude at the crag. Those climbers we are so quick to judge are purely a product of our unwillingness to say, “Hey man, don’t forget to pick up your tuna packet.”

And we’re all guilty of ignoring the issue.

Graffiti at Sandrock in Alabama – should we be responsible for cleaning it up?

I can’t sit here and toot my horn of positive climbing ambassadorship; I’m guilty of the elitist attitude just as much as anyone else. It’s all too easy to just turn to your partner and say “Dude, that guy is such a jackass,” instead of actually fixing the issue. Why are we so willing to slap judgment instead of realizing that we are all part of the same community. That dude building an illegal fire pit under your project is just as much a part of the climbing community as you are.

There is one example that still bothers me to this day: During a fall climbing trip to Stone Fort in Tennessee a few years ago, I joined a big group of climbers from the FSU Climbing Club for a weekend of boulder crushin’ adventure. We were sitting under the Super Mario boulder, and one girl found a spider crawling on a log. She swooped in to squash it (for absolutely no reason) – and thankfully missed. Then, I proceeded to silently watch her in horror as she terrorized the poor bug for five minutes until it finally got caught under her fingers and met a totally senseless death. She instantly lost all my respect – and then I realized that I was just as guilty for the spider’s death; why didn’t I say something?

Beginning now, enduring throughout our yearlong Simply Adventure trip, and lasting for the rest of our lives as climbers, Niko and I are committing ourselves to this idea of educating people. Not about how to tie knots, not about placing cams – about the importance of respecting the outdoors, caring for our crags, and undertaking our duty as a climbers to continue spreading the message.

If we don’t spread the word, who will?

What do you think? Is it your responsibility to educate climbers you see at the crag who are exhibiting the kind of behavior that gets an area’s access revoked? Should you feel obligated to pick up their tuna packets after they abandon them at the base of a climb? Are you an asshole for asking them to stop carving their initials in the trunk of a tree – or are you doing the right thing?
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