There has been a lot of mainstream media scrutiny on the climbing world recently. The Dawn Wall Team and Alex Honold currently have that fire hose of attention pointed at them which has resulted in plenty of reading material to digest. While it's kind of cool to see climbing at the forefront of the attention spans of the masses, I am beginning to tire of it.
Maybe it's just my nature, but today I feel like a party host that can't seem to get that last guest to leave. Sure, we all had a great time, but for some reason he won't take the hint or cues like the music stopping, starting to clean up, or the longer pauses between conversations. "Uh, thanks for bringing the six pack man....see you on Monday!"
What brought these feelings on? It was this recent New York Times article on Alex Honold. I started into it honestly thinking "I should read this...it's the Times writing about Honold!". I got about two minutes into it and had to stop at this:
When Honnold does climb with others, he often teams up with specialists in other disciplines, combining their unique skill sets to shatter speed records on the world’s greatest cliffs. Allfrey, for example, is one of the fastest aid-climbers. They were headed, that morning last summer, for El Capitan, a flat-topped cliff about 3,000 feet tall and a mile wide that is considered the Mount Everest of rock climbing, with roughly 2,000 people ascending each year. More than 100 separate climbing routes have been established on El Capitan, each starting on the floor of Yosemite Valley and following various cracks and crevices to the top. El Capitan is so sheer and steep that even the easiest of these routes qualify, for advanced recreational climbers, as petrifying and magnificent once-in-a-lifetime adventures. More than two decades ago, when I climbed regularly, I trained for three years — as do men and women all over the world — to prepare for El Capitan. Twice, I climbed with a partner about a third of the way up, only to retreat in terror, as is common among those ascending for the first time. In the summer of 1992, with two partners, I finally overcame my fear. We hauled supplies by rope and pulley, slept on tiny ledges and made it to the top in five days.
I don't know what it was about this paragraph that turned me off to the rest of the article, but it did. Sure it's nice that the guy writing the article was a climber. Yet did that keep me engaged? Nope. It gives credibility in the eyes of most readers but for me it just guarantees the potential for writing fraught with cliches as every climbing term brought up would have to be explained. Nothing against the writer, good job on the climb man!
Still, this is a very personal opinion, and not one that I expect most to agree with.
I recently lauded Climbing Magazine's online interactive interview with Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson as the "next level" of these kinds of interviews, and I hold to that. This is largely because this is a climbing centric publication and the tone of the interview didn't seem like it was holding your hand from beginning to end, like a mother helping her child balance on the edge of a sidewalk saying "Don't worry, you're safe". Climbing is inherently dangerous...El Cap is ginormous....the Dawn Wall is much harder than you can possibly imagine...Alex Honold is a mad man trapped in a zen master's body...deal with it.
Broadening the audience of the world of climbing has its benefits. I bet the Stone Masters never imagined that the popularization of rock climbing would result in better, cheaper, and more available gear. Climbing movies have brought far off destinations to the screens of thousands of climbers - inspiring the dreams of future climbers. But at least these video servings of adventure and struggle are aimed directly at the climber...the climber who knows what free soloing is...someone who doesn't need to be told how roped climbers don't fall off the rock. Yet, I wouldn't be surprised if some of the Stone Masters got tired of the attention that fell on Yosemite Valley after El Cap was first climbed in a day.
So thanks for the six pack media titans, see you on Monday.