Teach a newbie, SAVE OUR SPORT!


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Big Wall climber
arlington, va
Topic Author's Original Post - Nov 13, 2007 - 10:09am PT
I used to wonder once in awhile, about all the time I spent teaching to rookies in the mountains, rather than being out with my hard core partners. I don't wonder anymore.
My mother just sent me an article (maybe you've seen it)where the rangers in parks are concerned about hundreds of thousands of people pouring out of climbing gyms with their new REI get-up and having no idea of how to behave at the real stones.

They actually had some quotes from a beginner talking about Cathedral Peak, who said "They need to put some signs and stuff out there, and some trash cans. They don't even clean your rocks for you out there."

This is absolutely laughable until you multiply this thinking by many thousands of people in our beloved Sierra, and ALL the other ranges. (You should see it out here in the crowded zone, and it's moving your way...)The ranger even said that back in the day climbers brought each other up through a training progression, and that the uneducated usually just walked around taking pictures. Now they are coming out of thousands of gyms thinking they are ready for the real thing. It isn't a crime to be new to a sport, but it is our responsibility to pitch in with some well placed advice rather than trying to ignore these folks.Damn, I have spent a lifetime trying to get away from signs and "stuff" and trash cans and rocks that have been "cleaned". Pay it forward man, pay it forward.

Trad climber
Nov 13, 2007 - 11:54am PT
Save our hobby, burn a gym

Trad climber
Bend, OR
Nov 13, 2007 - 11:58am PT
I think all us old guys have problems with the flood of noobs you're talking about, and it is going to be more and more of a challenge to get away from the stuff we hate about the popularization of our sport. I started climbing in the 70's because I wanted to get away from people and rules and anything that was popular or attracted attention. Things are different now, we have to adjust.
Greg Barnes

Nov 13, 2007 - 12:08pm PT
Way overblown, just another "reporter" sensationalizing the news. The rangers were misquoted and are not worried - see the other ST threads on that article.

My take on the climber "explosion" in the last 15 years:

bouldering - OK, explosion is about right, but if you don't own a harness are you a climber? (I said "own", not "use", before Bachar chimes in...)
sport - more folks but not that many, more people on easier routes, more sport areas, so maybe double?
trad - fewer people on most stuff, about the same or more on the well-protected classics, my guess is about even or lower than 15 years ago (Indian Creek doesn't count since people figured out that popular IC trad is actually better protected than any sport routes...)

Social climber
Davis, CA
Nov 13, 2007 - 12:14pm PT
DMT has it right. Once some climbers wanted to make a living off climbing, they needed new money in the sport.

It's basically a ponzi style set up. How many noobs do you need to attract to support one person who is already there?

Exponential growth from there.

Ice climber
Ashland, Or
Nov 13, 2007 - 12:29pm PT
my gues is that %95 of the general public who goes climbing in a rock gym never actually climb outdoors.

This is based on my own numbers. We have had 7,000 people climb at our gym over the last two years, and I'd say 100 of them are regulars who climb outside.

my 2 cents
Mighty Hiker

Social climber
Vancouver, B.C.
Nov 13, 2007 - 12:38pm PT
I'm all in favour of teaching and mentoring novices and apprentices, in formal and informal ways. Others did so for me.

However, I take strong exception to the suggestion that climbing is a "sport". It is athletic, and sometimes even competitive, although most often the competition is internal. But it isn't a sport.

It will help you to "save" climbing if you don't call it a sport. It's an avocation. Present it as a sport, and then its treated and commodified just like any other sport.

Trad climber
Nov 13, 2007 - 12:44pm PT
The same newbies who come from the gym are the ones whose pockets help the research and development for our new toys.

And damnit, toys rule!

Albeit, having your 'secret spot' turned into an overpopulated, dog infested, trash hole is no fun either.

Toys are still awesome...

Big Wall climber
A cube at my soul sucking job in Oregon
Nov 13, 2007 - 12:45pm PT

I agree, calling it a sport is like calling backpacking a sport. Sadly there seams to be a persistent push to both to add a competetive side to them, especially by the commercial interests it seems. Part of the point for me is the completely non-competitive nature of it. You either attain the summit or you don't. No points, no score, just a man and a rock.

The eco-challenge and the like I think are doing similar to hiking and backpacking. It is a huge twisting of the ideology I take to the trails when I head out for a few days.

Trad climber
Nov 13, 2007 - 12:55pm PT
I mentioned this once before, but it's worth repeating: about four years ago, while resting up before going home, a couple of young newbies came by and ask where Double Cross was located. We were sitting next to it. The fellow said that they'd just had instruction from a guide and were told that DC would be a good climb for them as their first route. I took them over to Mike's Books. We do have a problem in climbing.
Last week in RR, a young couple came by to talk to us. They'd never climbed outside a gym and wanted advice, and we gave a lot.
When the opportunity arrives, please take the time to help these kids out. If possible, take them along on an easy route and demonstrate the basics; and, most important, hammer into their sculls the good sense to start with routes in the range of minimum fifth as they learn to place secure pro. I told the RR pair to stay off the routes until they had spent time on the ground practicing gear placement in cracks on boulders etc. I always walk those I teach through my last lesson. I place gear showing how then they place it. I go through all the types of gear and lecture, lecture. This is also a good time for anecdotes about errors you've made etc. Scare them a little to pound in the seriousness of the sport they've chosen.
Further, I find passing on all this information and history a lot of fun.

Trad climber
Monrovia, Ca
Nov 13, 2007 - 12:55pm PT
I agree wholeheartedly with Bruce's point, that those of us who have been in it long enough to have a clue should share, teach, if you will. At the same time though, I never have a problem with crowds of newbies where I go climbing. That article is a fraud. Even in Josh, unless you are looking to do Double Cross or climb on Echo Rock on Saturday there is no one around. Especially if you are climbing harder than 5.10b...

And if it is natural beauty and solitude + awesome rock you are looking for, just get away from the roads...


San Fran Cisco
Nov 13, 2007 - 01:32pm PT
here's to the climbers willing to mentor and guide.

Nov 13, 2007 - 01:40pm PT
As far as the sport question I'll go along with what Hemmingway said (I think it was him)....The quote goes something like this

"There are only 3 sports, motor racing, bull fighting and mountain climbing-everything else is just a game"

I started climbing 6ish years ago. I also started climbing outside-the first dozen or so times I climbed were outside. I then briefly climbed both in the gym and outside (i was week (still am but not nearly as much as 6 yrs ago)). I rarely goto the gym (I hate the crowds and often dislike the feel of the people at the gym). That said I think the gym is a great place to train and deal with the lack of friendly weather in the winter. I was prolly a noob for a while too.

You'll never be able to stop idiots from doing stupid things, and the gym makes it far more likely for an idiot to start climbing outside (don't even think about suggesting I am making a statement about all gym climbers here-please read and think logically before you even consider flaming me on the above). But you can give advice to those who ask for it and sometimes have to give advice to those who don't ask for it.

It's unfortunate but other than burning down the gyms the problem will continue, and I think that most of us wouldn't advocate burning down the gyms. I choose to solve the problem (dealing with gym climbers) differently. I now tend to goto places that are unknown to the noobs, or not accessable to the noobs, or climb stuff I wont find them on. My summer TM motto was climb what I want durning the week and climb the runout or OWish stuff on the weekend.

Trad climber
Monrovia, Ca
Nov 13, 2007 - 01:57pm PT
Ultimately climbing is like politics. Local.

If I were a member of the traditional climbing community in Boise I would focus on two things. Bolt removal (from historical trad routes) and education...

At least the newbie had the common sense to be impressed. That's a start.
Outdoor Educator

Trad climber
Idyllwild, CA.
Nov 13, 2007 - 02:06pm PT
Lucky Me:
In August I started working as an instructor at Astrocamp in Idyllwild. We have several high ropes elements that I take students on(i.e. zipline, skycoaster, catwalk)and an indoor rock wall. I loved the feeling of being off the ground. I fell in love with the wall and soon purchased climbing shoes and began practicing on the wall a few times a week. Years earlier, I had taken a basic climbing class @ J. Tree. I remembered how much fun it was and I wanted to get on real rock again. About 4 weeks ago I had the good fortune to run into Clark Jacobs at the local bar in Idyllwild. Since meeting, we have been bouldering and climbing in J.Tree and Idyllwild, watched lots of old climbing videos, and he's given me endless instruction on equipment... all for a few beers and meals. He also took another instructor and friend from Astrocamp climbing at Suicide last weekend when I was working.
I met Zip @ J. Tree with Clark, so Zip if you're reading this thread it's the woman who was with Clark.
Clark has become a good friend and is a selfless person, an excellent teacher and a prime example of the type of person who will "Save Your Sport."

Big Wall climber
arlington, va
Topic Author's Reply - Nov 13, 2007 - 02:56pm PT
Ksolem, excellent pics man!
Somebody said that the whole thing is overblown, rangers misquoted etc. There are times and places where that seems true, but believe me, there are places out here in the East where it's not the least bit overblown. I don't wanna hop up and down crying wolf, but man some of the stuff I've seen just boggles the mind.

Whoever said get away from the road, amen. That's what Tarbuster's recent pic's are all about. This spring at Smith Rocks on a weekend, an old buddy of mine wasn't too sure about hiking all the way up to Wombat for something obscure, but he trusts me. When we got up there and had a whole formation to ourselves and he saw the view from the top....nuff said.

To whoever said encourage them to start out easy, amen.I climbed recently with a girl who has put in some gym time, and she had a lot of trouble with something way easier than what she does at the gym because she had trouble finding the holds. They all "blended in" no colored tape you know.

Trad climber
San Francisco, CA
Nov 13, 2007 - 03:51pm PT
A few thoughts:

I've been climbing at the gym for the last few months. Working full time blows. I do pickup climbing so I've partnered around 30 different people so far. I have yet to meet someone who's gone outside more than "a few times" or more recently than "A few years ago". You'd think that the local gym is a good place to meet partners, but the internet seems to work better.

Avoiding the crowds even on super classic routes is easy. When West Crack has 4 parties waiting Crescent Arch is usually free. 80 People on Cathedral Peak? Walk another hour and do Mathes. Northwest Books busy? Left Water Crack is a good alternative. Nutcracker, start at 4pm. Regular route, start at 4am.

I love impressing the hell out of people who need handholds to climb.

kev, stop screwing around on st and get back to your super secret work.
Nate D

San Francisco
Nov 13, 2007 - 04:58pm PT
Roping in a bright-eyed bushy-tailed newbie on an obscure first ascent is always fun!

A far cry from the gym and will learn 'em real quick 'bout the roots of our sport... uh, I mean, passion.

Trad climber
sorry, just posting out loud.
Nov 13, 2007 - 06:24pm PT
outlaw gyms, only gym climbers will be outlaws.

i think i'm ok with that.

Trad climber
all bivied up on the ledge
Nov 13, 2007 - 07:08pm PT
The other day I took my youngest son and some of his friends to a local gym for a birthday celebration. Now, I am not a gym fan by any measure, but it was close and his choice. Sooo...
I get to the gym and the guy tells me he has to check my belay skills before I can belay the kids. So I sit the kids down and explain the tie-in process, communication, aiming my belay, etc. just like I would in the mountains. He watches for a minute and then lets me do my thing.
We climb for a while, and some teen girl in a staff shirt comes by, sees me anchored to the supplied point and tells me "You only have to anchor when the person you are belaying weighs more than you do." I politely thanked her for her advice and replied "I'd prefer to teach these boys to always anchor so they get in the habit. If they go on real rock in the future, they need to be safe."
Her reply? "Oh, I never thought about that...I've never climbed on real rock."
Take a look around...noobs are being "taught" by teenage belay monkeys. Almost every time I have encountered noobs on their first trad climb, they don't have a clue how to build an anchor, aim their belay, or set protection.
A salute to all who take their time to share the wealth of their experience. Let's hope their charges are on the Taco 20 years from now sharing the message.

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