Pro Boulderers Defend Right to Climb On Wet Sandstone in Spite of Plea From Community Not To

So, a handful of people have asked me to cover this topic in the 24 hours or so since it started blowing up. The title of the article pretty much says it all, but here’s a brief synopsis:

1.) Female Pro Boulderer (Sponsored by La Sportiva, Organic, and Gnarly Nutrition, according to her TUMBLR) went bouldering in Red Rock relatively quickly after a storm.

2.) She posted a photo someone took of her climbing to instagram.

3.) People immediately began to comment about how fragile the sandstone in the area is, and she politely replied that she stood by her decision to climb, and that she is more concerned with the safety of climbers than climbing on wet rock.

4.) A slew of asinine comments flooded in from all over the instagrizzle, including some noodle-scratching insights from her Pro Boulderer husband (sponsored by The North Face, Sanuk, La Sportiva, Clif, Petzl, etc) such as “don’t think that one should not be allowed to climb outside just because it rained. After all, humans did not create boulders, Mother Nature did so if she says no then we should respect her rules (winky face emoji), but she did not. Now we are left with a decision to either risk our own life and survive wet climbs or to stay inside. If I’m psyched I would rather just go for it.”

5.) I fell asleep, didn’t copy-paste the entire comments thread (which got pretty hilarious/sad depending on how you look at it), and today the comments have been made private.


Alright. So what?

 

4 Things.

1.) if you’re reading this, please realize that climbing on wet sandstone is almost universally not accepted, anywhere. It’s not just crimps, it’s not just bouldering, it’s not just this or that or anything else. It’s just not ok. Period. Sandstone is fragile to begin with, practically malleable when it’s wet. Not all sandstone is the same – the NRG, for example, may be an exception. But why fuck around? Chances are, you’re probably not a geologist. Just don’t do it. Especially if you are a public figure in the industry. Think about the example you are setting.

2.) Don’t diminish the significance of your actions by talking about the ephemera of the universe. Gary Johnson — ex-presidential candidate and certifiable idiot — was famously quoted dismissing the importance of working to stop climate change, since the sun is eventually going to envelop the earth anyway, regardless of what we do. That’s called defeatism, and gas lighting, and it’s unproductive and dangerous. It may not matter to the planet as a whole in two thousand years or so if you break a hold or not, but it may affect the way land managers in two years or so think about climbers as a user group. They aren’t your boulders. Don’t treat them as such. Respect local ethics, respect locals, respect land managers, respect the rules. CLIMBING IS NOT A GOD GIVEN RIGHT. It is a privilege, and that privilege can be revoked.

3.) Don’t be an asshole, especially if you’re not perfect. (Which you’re not.) Let he who is innocent cast the first stone, right? I’ll fess up. I’ve climbed on sandstone after it rained. I bet a lot of you others have, too. Like the pro in question, I didn’t break any holds, and I chose my routes carefully. There’s a time and place for shaming…  Nevermind, cross that out. What good does that do? The goal is to get everyone to be mindful and respectful of everyone else. Keep your goal in mind when you act. The best way to get Pro Boulderers to comply with local ethics is probably not to try and ruin everything they’ve worked towards. It’s probably to speak with them in private, and ask them to make a public announcement about the ethic in question.

4.) Put your money where your mouth is (or your mouth where your money is). I can’t recall how many times I’ve said this on this site. Don’t just spray on social media, act, take part, do something. If you think a company you support is sponsoring an athlete that puts the entire community at risk, shoot them an email and begin the discussion. If you want people to stop climbing on wet sandstone, pitch an article to a magazine about it, or write a PRODUCTIVE and WELL-EDUCATED piece about it on mountain project or a different community forum. Don’t just make snarky comments on social media. That achieves nothing.

Have an opinion? You can discuss it here. Or discuss it somewhere else. I don’t care. But wherever you discuss it, try not to be an ass hole when you do. Your internet worst enemies may just end up buying you pizza and a beer one day, and turn out not to be all that bad after all. Just think about it.

 

11 comments

  • Looks like that whole slew of comments is now no longer publicly visible… which I consider an interesting action to take on her part.

    I’m not in her position so I can’t say what I would have done after being called out other than being incredibly sheepish and expressing my apologies to the local community.

    But in general while something like Nutall Sandstone at NRG is “bullet hard”… it’s always better to let it dry off. Nothing worse than pulling off a hold on a classic because you wanted to climb.

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  • I understand the yearning to send routes and to climb when you want to, however, you should respect the local and regional community. They are the ones helping you fight for climbing access and preservation. If you’re a visitor to the area, do your research by talking with locals or even using climbing community resources.

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  • If you want screenshots of the entire interchange feel free to shoot me an email. I’ve already contacted all of the companies listed above with them. I’d encourage everyone else to do the same. These are the people chosen to lead the sport. If we don’t respect that decision, then we owe it to ourselves, to the companies, and to the sport to express that.

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    • Thanks, Peter. I think the path you’ve taken, of contacting the companies in question, is the right way to go. It may be useful to send the screenshots to them, to support your claims. But I think posting them here, for me, would just kind of miss the point. In my mind, the point is not the fate of these two people, the point is for us as a community to discuss what it means to be a pro climber, how we should respond to climbers with overgrown feelings of entitlement, and most importantly to disseminate information about this important local ethic.

      I really appreciate your offer, though, and your input!

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      • I was thinking more if you wanted to refresh yourself on the details of the situation. But yeah, agreed. Nice post.

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  • Dear red rock community. First off I am sorry that you took offense to my insta comment regarding climbing on wet rock and not allowing it to dry. My goal here was to not start a crazy war but to play devils advocate since Courtney was getting comments from people regarding her climbing a day after it had rained. She is not a local thus does not know your rules. I understand this does not make it right to do whatever anyway and if u guys/gals have rules well then they are to be followed. My comments were not meant to disrespect your rules, but to just state what types of climbs are ‘safe’ and what climbs are ‘not safe’ to session on after it rains. This got taken to the next level and I was eventually called a spoiled brat and ignorant (harsh) for stating an opinion. I do respect ethics, preservation, and communities. What I DO NOT respect is unnecessary harassment for stating an opinion. I was unaware that you have signs up warning against climbing after it rains because I have never seen them during the multiple times I’ve been to red rocks. And to say it should be ‘common’ knowledge to not climb sandstone after it rains, well this is not the case in all sandstone areas. Go to font for example. Most of your trip consists of climbing on damp rock. Yes I know it is a different sandstone then RR. My point was that feature climbing is ok and fragile climbing not. Ok so this is where I was wrong with red rocks and I respect that you don’t want anyone to climb until after 72 hours with a temp of 60 degrees. noted! I wish Kenny Barker told me this when Jimmy and I stayed at his place and tried meadowlark lemon 24 hours after it rained. I mean he is a local and did not tell us to not go out. Just saying. I am fully aware of your rules now and will def respect them since that is how you do things. I apologize again for offending you by writing a comment that conflicts with your rules. like you are ashamed of me for acting disrespectful, I am ashamed of your community for verbally harassing me when I did not name call or bash any of you. This is the last I will write on this topic. You have my apology now lezz just go climb in a respectful manner.

    DW

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    • Daniel,
      I appreciate your response, and your thoughts. I also understand where you are coming from. Not all rocks are the same, not all routes are the same, not all zones locals or ethics are the same. In fact, no two are. They’re all different.

      I don’t want to beat a dead horse, but I want to suggest to you two things.

      1.) I think it is not so much the action of Courtney climbing on the wet rocks that frustrated people, but both of your attitudes of dismissiveness of the concerns people brought up. You are not being dismissive now, and I would just encourage you to note how that will change and defuse the way people respond to this. It’s amazing, but most of the time, all you need to do is apologize for what you didn’t know or understand (even if you felt you DID know or understand something else), and people will forgive you and move on. In short – be aware of not just your actions, but your attitudes as well.

      2.) Both you and Courtney highlighted being aware of how wet rock behaves as important, primarily, as a way to keep climbers safe. I think that note falls on deaf ears for many, because, let’s be honest – nobody is putting a gun to any of our heads and forcing us to climb. As climbers, as people who have that amount of free time and financial flexibility, we are all in an inherently privileged situation. At a very base level, we are all privileged to be granted access to climb on land that we don’t personally own… such as any National or State Park, or chunk of BLM or FS land. I don’t think the primary concern here should be keeping climbers safe from their own actions; climbers can do that themselves. I think the primary concern here should be considering how all of our actions affect other climbers, and other people in general. What if every time we climbed, we didn’t just check out safety systems, but also our compliance with local ethics and cultural norms, as well as whether or not we were doing something that might reflect poorly on the community? I think that would be a step in the right direction, and I think that, as a public figure for this community, you would be a great person to lead by example.

      Thanks again,
      Chris

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  • My only comment would be to give some geologic background to the wet sand stone debate, beyond just “malleable when wet”, which is just plain untrue. Most sandstone is bits of sediment stuck together with a calcium carbonate “glue”. Most rain is slightly acidic. The acid-base (carbonate is a base) reaction will lead to some amount of weakening of this glue. It will definitely make it more susceptible to breaking, but it does require absorption. I don’t climb on wet sandstone, but the extremists who say wait 36 hours after a light rain are uninformed. It’s good to be cautious, but I also don’t think this is a witch hunt. Let’s be honest, in terms of sandstone climber impact, land managers should and probably do care more about chalk than some crimp that broke on Joe-Pro’s proj.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for the good beta, Boz. Yeah, I was using the term malleable pretty dang loosely. Definitely not the best/right adjective to describe sandstone, wet or otherwise.

      I see the 36 hr thing in sort of the same light as the 10:1 safety margin that gives us super high KN standards for UIAA approved gear. Is it over the top? Yeah. But as a policy, it is exhaustive, and preventative.

      In general, I just think complying with policies such as this one that may be a bit excessive is the best bet. Of course, if you are going to bend the rules, probably the best bet is not to promote it on social media, and certainly to do it somewhere less public than Red Rock.

      As for the witch hunt, I agree 100%. That’s completely unproductive.

      As far as chalk goes, don’t get me started…On a more serious note, though, yes, there are SUCH bigger issues to be cognizant about and to discuss as a community. And I’ve tried my best to do so with this site. Unfortunately, if there isn’t a flashy image and some drama and a witch hunt associated with it, typically, people don’t engage. When it comes to talking about important issues we face as a community, people can’t seem to be bothered unless they get the chance to spew vitriol and throw someone under the bus. This is why I was intentional about avoiding names from the start.

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