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?
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.