I really wonder why people do this climbing thing


Discussion Topic

Return to Forum List
Post a Reply
Messages 61 - 80 of total 100 in this topic << First  |  < Previous  |  Show All  |  Next >  |  Last >>

Trad climber
Western America
Feb 6, 2013 - 07:17pm PT
Thats an easy one to answer

because ordinary views become a glimpse of heaven on earth when your all jacked up on fear of falling, maximum heart rate, and oxygen starvation.


Trad climber
Feb 6, 2013 - 07:26pm PT
Lots of good food for thought, here. Thanks to everyone for contributing such a broad range of perspectives and approaches to the question.


Trad climber
lost, far away from Poland
Feb 6, 2013 - 08:23pm PT
I think this is pretty funny:

Climbing is like nothing else. Thousands of men and women have heroically explored frontiers literal and metaphorical while pushing themselves high on cliff faces and into remote mountain ranges, sometimes with uncertain odds of success and survival. Countless of essays have been poetically written about it, idolizing the mountains, climbers and climbs, and creating a mythology around the sport.

But some things about it are kind of dumb. Like, for example, when everyone wore Lycra to do it. And some other stuff:

1. The Fit of Shoes
Have you ever listened to a climbing shoe salesperson try to describe to a first-time climbing shoe buyer how shoes should fit? They might as well be trying to explain an eggplant parmigiana recipe to a space alien. “So, you want them to be tight, but not uncomfortable, and your toes should be bent, but not curled, and there should be no room in the end of the shoe, but enough room that blood can still circulate, but barely, in your toes. The rear part of the upper of this shoe is leather, and that will stretch one-fourth to one-half size with use, but the front is a synthetic material and sticky rubber, and that won’t stretch at all. How do those feel? Do they hurt when you walk in them? That’s great.”

2. The American Difficulty Rating System
So, rock climbs are rated from 5.1 to 5.15c, and the higher the number following the decimal point, the more difficult the climb is, and after 5.10, we start using letters to denote the next levels of difficulty, i.e., 5.11a is harder than 5.10d, and so forth, unless you’re climbing without a rope, which is called bouldering, and that’s a scale from V0 to V16, which roughly equates to the 5.1-5.15c system, except it’s way harder — V0 is roughly equivalent to 5.9 climbing, and V5 is approximately 5.12, etc., and then ice is rated on two different scales, WI (which means “water ice”) and AI (which means “alpine ice”), except if there’s rock on the ice climbing route, in which case a “mixed” rating is added to the end, like M4, M5, and so on. Got it? You know what, just forget it.

3. Uphill Walking
Fact: To get to most climbing areas (besides a few things in Joshua Tree and a couple other places), climbers have to walk uphill, which is a strenuous, often sweaty, activity. Climbers will shoulder heavy packs full of ropes and gear and spend hours, even days, to get somewhere promising. Wait, you say there’s six pitches of marginally exciting rock climbing and it’s only seven miles and 2,500 vertical feet away from the trailhead? Where do I sign up?

4. People Don’t Get It
People who don’t climb understand the process of moving upward on rock. The gear, how you get the rope up there, not so much. Try to tell someone that you spent your weekend trying to send your project, which in layperson’s terms is, “Well, I tie a rope to my harness, take my shirt off, cover my hands in chalk and try to climb up 65 feet of overhanging rock, where there’s a set of chains…” — and they start to glaze over. I mean, come on, it’s easily no more ridiculous than, say, golf, or cricket, right?

5. Ice Climbing
When a block of ice the size of a toaster falls and smashes your kneecaps on its way to the ground, and you caused it because you’re hacking at a frozen waterfall with ice picks and crampons, and you grit your teeth and deal with the pain, and you finish the pitch and find that you have the painful “screaming barfies” (the phenomenon in which your fingers fill with searing pain for several minutes as they warm back up from being numb and held high above your head hanging onto ice tools, and you become nauseous), and you’re freezing through several layers of clothes and dodging chunks of ice that fall from above, and on Monday people ask you if you had a nice weekend and you say “Yes, it was nice — I went ice climbing,” well, you know. It’s a little hard to rationalize, isn’t it?

6. Using A Toothbrush To Clean Off Rocks So You Can Climb Them
One of those things that makes sense when you’re doing it, but in the broad scheme of things, seems a little … dumb. And by “dumb,” I mean, like, making artificial snow to ski on in drought-prone areas, stripping your bike down to one gear, hiking out to the middle of nowhere and risking getting eaten by a bear in the name of finding meaning. You know, stuff like that.

7. Free Soloing
Thousands of words have been typed on the internet endorsing and condemning free soloing. As a sometime practitioner, I can attest that free soloing is exciting and totally worth the experience when you don’t fall and die. When you fall while free soloing and die, you’re not on earth anymore and people miss you. And probably nobody thinks that last free solo was a good idea.


Trad climber
Feb 6, 2013 - 08:40pm PT
I really like that Jimmy Dunn quote. That is friggin' hilarious. My favorite climbing quote is Alex Lowe saying the best climber in the world is the one having the most fun. I used to tell my clients that guidng.

I have had numerous moments when I doubted climbing as a good thing in my life. All in all though, I keep coming back and now my life is pretty much based on it everyday. I kind of have a "Well, I have nothing better to do," sorta attitude. Seriously, if I wasn't climbing, I'd probably be bombing sh#t with ELO or god knows where.

If I fall and eat it, on a rope or not, at least it was a blast getting there. Every trad climber has been in that situation where it could have been game over with one lapse in concentration and everyone keeps coming back. So ya, sh#t is bound to happen to someone at some point. Obviously we wish things didn't happen but isn't that what keeps us coming back? The thrill that "oh sh#t I'm fuked," moment followed by the euphoria of getting past that.

El Presidio San Augustin del Tucson
Feb 6, 2013 - 08:49pm PT

Further evidence for the human climbing imperative comes from our language, which is rife with climbing analogies for describing achievement and success. We speak of climbing the corporate ladder, the pinnacle or height of achievement, reaching for the stars, upward mobility, and so on. Mythology and religion ensconce the gods, whether malevolent or benign, on mountain-tops, and seekers make pilgrimages to high places to encounter the sacred and the divine.

Very nicely said rgold. Fvckin' awesome in fact!

Social climber
Feb 6, 2013 - 08:59pm PT
Because its awesome... maybe you shouldn't climb.

Trad climber
Feb 6, 2013 - 09:29pm PT
I am not a risk taker. Yes I raced Motorcycles, yes I have single handled sail boats. But I did those thing for the beauty of doing something that I was ( am ) good at in an environment I love. I wasn't good at school, but I can take almost anything apart & fix it. I hate crashing, but I love the feeling of pushing my bike ( or car ) at it's limits. & for me school made me feel like a failure. The first time I started feeling good about me was when I realized I could drive a car fast than anyone I new. I never had the money to race cars, but bikes I could at first afford & then people started giving me bikes & gear. I was never a great rider, but I was faster than most & I could tell the team what was right & what was wrong. & If need be I could show them how to make it faster.

I am NO dare devil. I don't like dare devils.

I like beauty, I love when my body can make beautiful fluid moves. I like to be in control of me.
john hansen

Topic Author's Reply - Feb 6, 2013 - 10:25pm PT
I thought I would get beat up pretty badly on this thread, but it has been surprisingly cordial. Thanks every one for posting your thoughts.

Some one said " you used to climb, but you were not a climber" Ouch.
Other people said "you do not get it".

I really liked climbing , it always focused everything into the now.
Everything about it was fun. The good friendships, bueatiful days on warm granite, even the smell of the rock, and as some one said , managing the risk. That was half the fun, setting up pro as you worked your way up. I never was that good or bold, never got up any big walls. but man we had some fun times.

So I think I did "get it"

Another person said " you have 2000 post's here so there must be something that draws you to this site', I have always loved climbing history and this place is the best around. Where else can you sit and listen to climbing ledgends telling old tales.

I liked Werner's one word response "Desire" well put. I had a ton of desire to climb at one time.

Ruppel mentioned the consruction supervisor thing and how I must have seen accidents in the field, actually in 35 years as a carpenter, doing concrete, and moving into supervision, the worst I have seen is a nailgun shot through fingers.

It is a dangerous world, and any of us could be dead tomorrow. Like Cosmic said " the main cause of death is life"

I am surprised that Steve House has not been mentioned more. I noticed today that he had that accident in 2010, I thought it was more recent. That was what sparked the thought for this thread. Wonder how he is doing?

Again , thanks for all your thoughts.


Trad climber
June Lake, California....via the Damascus Road
Feb 6, 2013 - 10:34pm PT
We're all so fortunate to share an amazing sport....a lifestyle....being able to access places that most people in this life never will....and be able to see the world from that perspective, while all others simply look up and wonder.

On January 29th, 1996, I watched my friend Pete Schoerner die in an horrific ice climbing fall here in June Lake.

When the joy of all that climbing is goes horribly wrong, and you watch one of your party die in a most horrible way...well....you cannot help but have a change of perspective. Suddenly, climbing seems so incredibly irrelevant in comparison to the grief that goes out like a wave on a placid pond, disrupting so many lives, including your own.

With luck, drive and passion for the sport, the desire returns, and you set your minds on summits once again....with the caveat that the vivid memory of a friend dying tempers you just enough to keep you ever mindful that this game that we play, has most dire consequences.

Climbing is only relevant, if you return home to those whom you love...and more importantly...those who love and need you more than any mountain is worth.

Climb safe,

Dean Rosnau
The Larry

Moab, UT
Feb 6, 2013 - 10:37pm PT
+1 Dean

right here, right now
Feb 6, 2013 - 11:01pm PT
John wrote in the OP:
So many lives cut short. And so many terrible injuries.. with years of pain and rehab, and deaths.

Before I get to the main question, I'd like like to address the above supporting statement. I've known an awful lot of people, mostly climbers, who have died. My wife and I are often surprised at how many of them did not die climbing. At times I thought I might even post that list up just because it's so curious.

I have this whacked thesis: it is that climbers have short fuses and that they sense this liability in themselves and correspondingly feel a greater sense of urgency about living deeply.

To answer the thrust of your post: personally, because most of what I saw in life as a teenager was either stifling, boring or unattainable. So I have become a climber and it is what I am. Other than that, it's really hard to say. "Desire" was a good one, as Werner said.

I also liked what Munge said, which is that how might be a more practical question than why (by virtue of it being more personal). In part, understanding how was the reason I started that thread: "REWIND: Life Without Climbing". Sometimes how helps us to see who we are more clearly. Why eliciting the abstract and how asking after the more substantive.

Sport climber
Feb 7, 2013 - 12:11am PT
I see dead people

ok just kidding


Social climber
Feb 7, 2013 - 12:36am PT
Funny how you post about climbing in the past tense - I "was" a climber.

Not all hear the calling, and then it becomes something that is just risky when the passion is not there - understandable. Especially when you lose people close to you.

However, if it is an imperative of your being your post makes no sense.

Your post title is an affront to the heart of the drive - "this climbing thing".

Like it is just a whim...

The "7 reasons" is stupid, I was not entertained.
john hansen

Topic Author's Reply - Feb 7, 2013 - 01:16am PT
Tarbuster wrote,

My wife and I are often surprised at how many of them did not die climbing,,

Confidence can do great things.

Once you lose that..

I was on a metal roof once, when it started to rain. I thought to myself, let's stand above this skylight just in case. And then,, I slipped.

Caught my self on the sky light. It would have been a 20 foot launch out and down in to the bed of my truck. Broken bones for sure.

Since then , I have not spent too much time on roof's.

With confidence, you can do great things. I have much confidence in what I do now, it is just another place besides climbing.

Mister E, or any one, I would still be interested in links to earlier discussions on this topic.

I climbed from about 78 to 88, never placed a piton or a friend. Never could afford friends, hardly knew they existed. Wedges, stoppers and hexes, a small isolated group of climbing buddie's having fun around the Tahoe area. Never much more than 5.9 never took a fall on lead.

Confidence. once you lose that..

Edit:I was writing this when E postedl. Mr E, I did not mean any disrespect with the "this climbing thing" I know it is no whim. You can die doing this stuff.

I have always enjoyed your's and Skip's post's. And yes , climbing is in my past, though I still like to hear the stories on ST.

I knew this post would draw some criticism, and I am OK with that.


from out where the anecdotes roam
Feb 7, 2013 - 07:25am PT
in the context of mortal consequence, one summons proper application of precision.
it's inherently satisfying. but without yagottawanna, it's simply a predicament

Trad climber
Pollock Pines, California
Feb 7, 2013 - 07:37am PT
because you can't get a mountain pregnant

from out where the anecdotes roam
Feb 7, 2013 - 07:47am PT
then where exactly do molehills come from?

Trad climber
Pollock Pines, California
Feb 7, 2013 - 07:55am PT
molehills are undoubtedly
an offspring of immaculate conception;
i am not their father.

right here, right now
Feb 7, 2013 - 10:26am PT
An interesting tangent to the OP is the notion that a lot of us on the forum are nearing 50 years of age or a good chunk over that threshold. I believe this is a good time to reevaluate. Hand eye coordination, response time and all kinds of indicators for athletic prowess begin to wane (and have been for some time, denial will only go so far). I think we are especially prone to crashing right about this time. Our bodies if not our minds are more brittle. A bit of de-tuning and recalibrating of goals may be in order for many of us.

Trad climber
Feb 7, 2013 - 11:25am PT
My body started crashing in my late 40's -- my own fault -- working to hard & not stretching --lost my tuning. & now in my late 50's I'm paying for it. Fortunately I had my grandfather to watch grow old, he made it to 102 & was tough as nails till 100. & then there was BOB KAMPS who climbed hard & boulder even harder till his death in his 70's. I believe that had they diagnosed his heart problem correctly he would still be with us ( With that big smile of his ) & climbing hard as ever.

Knowing you body & the changes it's making is hard to deal with mentally.

But then climbing is 95% mental & the other 50% is psychological.
Messages 61 - 80 of total 100 in this topic << First  |  < Previous  |  Show All  |  Next >  |  Last >>
Return to Forum List
Post a Reply
Our Guidebooks
Check 'em out!
SuperTopo Guidebooks

Try a free sample topo!

SuperTopo on the Web

Review Categories
Recent Route Beta
Recent Gear Reviews