A few years ago, fresh from a five-month hiatus from climbing in order to write a book of poetry (I know, right?), I had an epiphany that continues to affect me today—and not just any old epiphany, either, but one of those serious, earth-shattering, I-can-still-feel-it-in-my-bones sort of thing. It came on suddenly, so strong I nearly fainted. I was at the climbing gym that night; it was a sardine-packed affair that generated an alarming amount of anxiety, more than usual. It fondled, molested, kicked and pounded, making me question a reality I never thought I would.
And then it happened.
The proverbial clouds parted, resounding the crack of lightning-bolt vision, the anxiety morphed into something more clear, sharper; and I knew something in me had just violently recalibrated: I loathed climbers. I hated the “scene,” the community, the culture, and myself for being a part of it. I despised the ridiculous jargon, the perpetual, non-stop discussion about climbing, whether at the crag or not. I abhorred all the magazines and Internet threads dedicated to climbing shoes, “epic” trips. I shuddered at the thought of having to watch another climber boulder shirtless whilst still wearing a beanie, the petty arguments over what does and does not establish one as a true dirtbag, is sport climbing really climbing? What about gym climbing? bouldering? etc. and etc. And the list of things I suddenly could no longer stand continued to unravel in a ferocious unfurling.
The mental list slipped through my mind like a bunch of different 1920s-era movies spliced together.I ran through the mental list, and then decided to jot some of them down. It looked like this:
If you …
1. Follow a training and diet regimen fit for an Olympian in order to send your project—and your project is a 30ft roadside 5.10
2. Spend most of your down time (or all of it) on mountainrejects.com, er, I mean, mountainproject.com, for anything other than crag or route directions/descriptions
3. Use words in another language that you do not speak (such as, “venga venga!”).
4. Own four different pairs of climbing shoes for four different types of rock, and sometimes even wear a different shoe on each foot depending on the gnarly prowess of your boulder project.
5. Utilize any of the following words: bomber, stoked, raged, newbie, crank (and you aren’t talking about Methamphetamine), epic (and you aren’t referring to something like Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace), gobies, gripped, gnarly (or its truncated brother, as in, “that’s so gnar!”).
6. Debate whether or not a send was actually a send because the first bolt was stick clipped and the draws pre-hung … and you’re talking about another climber, and you’re being serious.
7. Look stupidly at your hands each time you fall off your project, as if your hands are in some sort of conspiracy against the rest of you, and they are solely to blame for your inability to move past the crux of a route.
8. Make statements like, ”it’s only 5.12b” or “it’s not a pure ascent.”
9. Have a bookshelf(lves) lined with nothing but Climbing, Rock and Ice, and guidebooks, or when asked if you have ever read Allen Ginsberg, you answer, “Who?”
10. And certainly if you constantly write stupid op-ed climbing articles about the blathering, whining, out-of-touch-with-reality climbing community with no intention of publishing a single word of it.