Cigarette smoking climbers


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Topic Author's Original Post - Jan 31, 2008 - 04:40pm PT
What's up with the sucking butts, boys?

What drives climbers to need to light up with such enthusiasm?

There are some famous photos of climbers with butts hanging from their lips. Some of the hardest of the hardmen were notorius for their consumption of sticks of the filterless, high-nicotine, high-protein, high-fat, full-flavor variety. There are some hysterical anecdotes of climbers high up on a hill chain-smoking their way through a bivi in hell - struggling with lighters and wet tobaccy. Some of us on the Taco have watched some of our favorite climbing wonks struggle with the life-long addiction.

We know nicotine is addictive as hell. We know the sh!t causes cancer. We know we're chipping years off our lives.

Yet cigs continue to be entrenched in the climbing lifestyle thing.

Is there something about the addictive personalities required to pull hard? Does it help cope with the we-are-going-to-die situations we continue huck ourselves into?

FWIW when I first showed up in the valley I was on a can-a-week Copenhagen grind. By the time I left I had such a nasty nicotine habit that included various forms I'd sniff, dip, suck, light, wad, roll, chaw, spit, hock, flick, etc, etc. that it took me a good 15 years just to taper and then finally quit. I do miss the Camel straights sometimes. Then I wake up and feel an overwhelming urge to brush my teeth.

Trad climber
Lake Oswego, Oregon
Jan 31, 2008 - 04:56pm PT
Once upon a time I climbed Braille Book on Higher Cathedral with a Frenchman who spoke NO English and I could only ask him to spend the night with me in butchered French.

From the moment we left the car until our return later in the day that man had a fag in his mouth. Sometimes two! He belayed, followed, led and hiked with smoke and flames coming from his lips. As soon as one stick approached its end another was lit and both were dragged upon at once until the first disappeared into his lungs.

The route was nice though.
Mighty Hiker

Social climber
Vancouver, B.C.
Jan 31, 2008 - 05:02pm PT
I'm as annoyed as most when compelled to share airspace with smokers, who don't have the common courtesy to ask before lighting up.

Smokers by and large are also litterbugs. At least amongst the general public, and from what I've seen climbers too. The single most numerous item that was picked up at the FaceLift was cigarette butts. By far.

Probably cigarette butts are sort of entry level trash - once you chuck a butt or two, you may not think twice about throwing away a Coors can, a television set, or a '51 Nash Rambler.

Once or twice I've had time to spare, and spent it thoroughly cleaning up the base of a cliff. The number of cigarette butts thrown a short distance away, or just ground underfoot, is one thing. The number "hidden" under rocks is astounding. Apparently it's no longer garbage if it can't be readily seen.

Smoker-climbers may be somewhat more responsible than the general public when it comes to ensuring their cigarettes are out, though.

Trad climber
Santa Clara, Ca.
Jan 31, 2008 - 05:05pm PT
I think it has to do with the 'energy' that nicotine delivers to the system. That and it tends to calm nerves.

I took a partner up one of his first trad leads on Northwest Books. We hiked out to the base, climbed up to the start, racked up, flaked rope, put on shoes, and half way up his first pitch I realized I forgot my precious smokes IN THE CAR. I instantly became nervous at the realization that I'd be smokeless for the next couple of pitches and the walk off.

Really nasty stuff nicotine is. Worse than cocaine and heroin, I would know.

I promised PMB I'd quit. I should be done in a couple of weeks.

Trad climber
Jan 31, 2008 - 05:08pm PT
once you chuck a butt or two, you may not think twice about throwing away a Coors can, a television set, or a '51 Nash Rambler.

I do not condone littering by any means, but I do not think it is fair to blame smokers for other garbage just because butts are also littered. (I don't smoke BTW)

Pocket yer butts please...


Social climber
Jan 31, 2008 - 05:13pm PT
I think with young climbers it's all about the image. It was for me at least at first. Pictures of Don Whillans pulling hard with a butt causally hanging off his lip certainly gave me pause for thought. I took the bait as did many of my friends.

But then it was addiction plain and simple. So yes, helpful for all kinds of reasons. Including lighting up first thing in the AM as an easy way to freshen up your breath.

I finally quit smoking believe it or not three years ago today after twenty years.
Mike Bolte

Trad climber
Planet Earth
Jan 31, 2008 - 05:19pm PT
name this climber. unfiltered camel

ps. he quit years ago and was always thoughtful about his second-hand smoke and butts
Mighty Hiker

Social climber
Vancouver, B.C.
Jan 31, 2008 - 05:43pm PT
Sorry, Tom - I was just funning. Though we did find a lot of Coors cans, a television, and a '51 Nash at the FaceLift, there was probably no causal connnection between smoker/litterers and the latter, anyway.

Trad climber
Jan 31, 2008 - 05:46pm PT
no worries, I just mainly wanted to encourage folks to pocket their butts...

the Fet

Knackered climber
A bivy sack in the secret campground
Jan 31, 2008 - 05:50pm PT
I usually see about 1 smoker a week toss a butt out of their window during my commute. Usually still lit.

I know it's probably the minority of smokers who litter but still, it's quite lame.

But I guess if you don't care about possibly giving yourself lung cancer, why worry about littering?
scuffy b

Stump with a backrest
Jan 31, 2008 - 05:53pm PT
It's been a longterm puzzle to me that cigarette smokers can
climb hard. It just seems so counter intuitive.
Recently, Dr. Sue revealed that climbing is not an aerobic
activity. The basis for this assertion is the simple fact that
all the climbers she tested, apparently including some pretty
high-powered prancers, had mediocre aerobic capacity.
Who'd a thunk it?

Trad climber
Chatham N.H.
Jan 31, 2008 - 05:55pm PT
What totally amazes me can be two pitches away and one minute after they light up it's right there.Any more my immediate thought is"parts per billion".

Social climber
Jan 31, 2008 - 05:57pm PT
In my case they kept me real skinny. Skinny for me meant harder climbing.

Trad climber
Jan 31, 2008 - 05:59pm PT

Mighty Hiker

Social climber
Vancouver, B.C.
Jan 31, 2008 - 06:03pm PT
Largo's lengthy "Nicotine Withdrawl" thread presented another side of this:

My sympathies and support for those climbers who are addicted, and would like to or are trying to quit.

Mountain climber
Jan 31, 2008 - 06:11pm PT
I got to spend a couple years in the desert climbing with Bridwell (80's something) and at the time he drove this big ass Buick Eighty Eight. You know the kind you had to start braking and turning out of Beaumont to make the right turn in Jtree.

The thing had these awesome sheep skin seat covers that would hold the camel smoke and I didn't even have to smoke to get a drag from them and if you happen to spill some of the colt-45 we were sipping, those seats just sucked it up.I never got the smoking thing until one day he decides I've been spouting off too much and I get the sharp end all day. we do a couple warm ups no problem, then we do EBGB's and I hit it and am feeling pretty surly now. But I am am at my limit.

So if you know Bridwell, he says " I think you can climb harder" and we proceed over to Swept Away. As I remember there is a belay you hang at just below the crux. I take off make a move or two and come flying off past the belay with Bridwell hanging there with a camel and looking at me like WTF dude. He hauls my sorry sack back to the belay and I immediately start whining and he hands me a Camel and says "shut up, relax and you got it". Couple buts later and some more encouragement and I send the thing. I don't think the camels helped but they sure took my mind off being so scared.

Great days with great people, the best part was Peggies cooking that woman knows how to cook chicken eggplant parmesan.



Big Wall climber
Jan 31, 2008 - 06:41pm PT
Are pipes still cool?


Trad climber
San Francisco, CA
Jan 31, 2008 - 07:20pm PT
I need a smoke:
After a scary lead,
Before a scary lead,
On the top of the climb,
At the bottom of the climb,
Drinking beer after the climb,
Drinking beer before the climb,
Driving to the climb,
Driving from the climb,
Drinking beer while driving to/from the climb

Those are just the climbing related cigarettes.

I always pocket my butts east of Manteca (inside and out of the car). In the city, I really don't give a S%*#. Sorry.

As far as aerobic fitness. I once passed a group of young and fit REI/Shock absorbing trekking pole types on the way up to Italy pass. I was carrying not one but 2 packs for a 5 day trip. (one person in the group was having altitude issues).
The look on their faces when they saw me puffing away at the top was priceless. I really think acclimatization plays a larger role than hours spent on the stair master or whether or not you smoke.


Mick K

Northern Sierra
Jan 31, 2008 - 07:26pm PT
No need to carry a first aid kit juts a pack of cammel straights. If the injury is really that bad at least you can kick back and have one more smoke befroe leaving for the beyond.


Jan 31, 2008 - 07:30pm PT
I'm ready to throw some good trash into the Merced river after a nice cig.

Hummmmnnnn maybe a big ass transformer for Mighty Hiker to pull out on his next face lift .....
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