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Most of my posts are about climbing. Why not one more, albeit a short one? When people describe climbing as a progression, they often mean that as an activity, it has "moved forward". What does this mean? Well, a number of things are relevant for examination. The technology that accompanies climbing has progressed: ropes are now made of nylon instead of hemp; protection often takes the form of mechanical as opposed to passive; helmets weigh less than 3 pounds; clothing is now made of synthetics instead of wool. Climbing has progressed as in, it is more widely accepted as an activity. The caveat of this, however, is: the concept of technical grades in climbing has 'progressed'. Why else would climbing find the mainstream if not for gradation of difficulty? We are a culture of faster, further, longer and harder. More accurately, we are a metaculture because we would rather observe and conceptualize those aspects of our activities. Climbing has fallen prey to this analytical rubric for decades. This is why I say, echoing others who have said it before:

Any progression in climbing is dead as a fucking doornail.

Why is a doornail dead? I have no idea. But I just saw news that Jaws II in Rumney, NH had been sent for the third time and that it was temperature dependent. Reading this blurb evoked, for once, not a sense of jealousy, in that I will never be able to rock climb at that level of difficulty, but rather a sense of loss, in that the ideal surrounding one of my favorite pastimes is...junk. Fucking junk. Of course, one could attempt to claim exemption from this nonsense, but: most climbers I know personally suffer from some level of participation is this muckish drat of egotism and self-righteous bullshit surrounding climbing. This includes myself, whom I have gotten to know somewhat over the years.


So my point, of course, convoluted as it may seem, is that climbing needs to


...It's that simple: Shut the fucking fuck up. What I mean, of course, is that the more something so personal continues to be bastardized as a quantifiable and therefore 'progressive' sport, the more often a huge load of bullshit is going to be riding shotgun. Apologies to all the clothing and shoe companies who now rely on sensationalism to sell their products.

Since this is my weBLOG, I'd like to admit some dirty secrets about my own relationship to climbing. Then, I will hopefully shut up about climbing in order to have a more functional blog, perhaps about something else.

Climbing was at one point the most important thing in my life.

I am still incredibly egotistical and elitist about climbing in part because of the excessive gradation involved in rock climbing.

I look down on climbers who make stupid mistakes because I once made the same mistakes.

I hate indoor climbing. Wait. No. I hate the indoor climbing industry.

Difficulty and its pursuit have trumped adventure and in some sense, experience vis a vis my involvement in climbing. Also, my fingers are borderline arthritic and without intervention will certainly be so in 5-10 years.

Climbing is personal meditation. Progression is void.


  1. Wow, this is sad and hilarious at the same time... Andrew, you've made as much of an impression on me as a climber and route-setter as anyone else, probably more and for to my benefit; I feel lucky to know you. Good luck finding your way out of the climbing gym industry.

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  3. Sam: as you can guess, I still love rock climbing. I can't, however, overlook some of the more sordid aspects of it. As with many things, parts of it are entirely useless and parts of it are astonishingly beautiful. I would hardly overlook my impact on others however and I truly appreciate your sentiment. Let's climb together soon; I'll try to keep my perennial cynicism at bay but the 'sike' might have to ride bitch with reality for a while.

  4. Andrew, hope you took my previous comment as the joke that it was; an explanation always takes the humor out of it, but I thought your piece was poignant for all the degeneration taking place in climbing culture. If a culture can be defined in part by its language, climbing (or at least bouldering) is going the way of Ultimate Fighting Championships when I would prefer it go the way of Curling. The protagonists and antagonists were in stark contrast the other night at a competition here in Oakland. Hardmen (gods because they flash v8 on plastic) were yelling at kids struggling on v2 to 'get out of my way' and I heard an intermediate climber say 'this makes me hate climbing, and everything about it.' But on the other hand, it was a community event - free for members, free pizza and free beer - and very inspiring. My deepest apologies for writing 'SIKED' in my previous comment; I hate that word and I feel as though I shat on your blog. In the ever-expanding Universe of climbing media, I.M. is one of the endangered species with impeccable grammar and genuine insight.

  5. Adam and I might be your only readers... seriously, but it's everyone else's loss!!!
    I've got a butt-load of time off since quitting Stone Gardens, so as soon as you come back we can climb; I don't want to trad and you probably don't want to boulder so we could clip some snap links together?

  6. Don't worry Adam: write whatever you want and know that I too am versed in sarcasm and didn't take that in any other sense! The climbing culture really is splintered enough that we can all still enjoy our little places in it without giving much mind to the growing number of poseurs and egomaniacs involved. Meanwhile, I just watched a bunch of videos of Alex Honnold soloing and realized that climbing is still incredibly cool. That kid is talented as a motherfucker, but we all know that.

    Snap links ahoy. I know where there are some sweet pockets near North Bend that get the 3-Drill-Bit Award of Excellence, but I already beat that dead horse in one of my previous blogs. Getting excited about dry rock and probably coming back to WA soon.

  7. I've heard that for 12's, "3 bits is better than 2". But, for smaller drilled holds, please climb at Smith's hallowed Aggro Wall.

    Although prolific with acerbic rhetoric at times...I still like your blog Drew. Keep expressing yourself my friend.

  8. Being something of cynic I relate handily to the buffoonery that you pointed out in the sport and have been very much a part of the ego-drag-race that is climbing, at one point or another. As the seasons tick by and climbing takes on a different shape the whole of the process at this point is almost tidal, complete with its own ebbs and floods of motivation, weakness/strength, and focus.
    I think you're very close to right Andrew. Progression is void. Enjoy the process.