Bring on the apocalypse

I couldn’t think of a suitable image to go alongside the angry opinionated diatribe below, so here is a fluffy one looking towards Elidir Fawr, Glyder Fawr & Carnedd Llewelyn from the top of Craig yr Ogof, Cwm Silyn after climbing a combo of Kirkus’s route & the direct. Possibly the first ascent of the season and un-chalked. It’s HVS and was climbed a long time ago by people who did not need to be told every gear placement and just got on with it.

Since the easing of Covid restrictions, I’ve been climbing frequently, and more than ever, (if that’s possible) and the space, the elements, the wildlife has been really noticeable. On saying this, is it just me, or are there a lot fewer birds than there used to be? When I grew up, the hedgerows were full of bullfinches, greenfinches, linnets, redpoll, mistle and song thrushes, and the muddy fields always had nesting lapwings, their burbling call, was a soundtrack to my youth. Nowadays, there appears to be few birds in comparison to the days of my childhood, it’s such a shame that it appears we, (humans) have buggered it all up, and are continuing to do so. We know what wrecks the world, but we continue anyway! Humans just can’t help themselves, and much of the blame, in my opinion, comes from arrogance, greed and vanity; humans just don’t appear to be able to hold themselves back where money and bragging are concerned, and it makes me ask why as a species, are humans so narcissistic and greedy?

Anyway, I’ve been getting a lot from my local climbing, it’s possibly been more enjoyable than ever, maybe a positive from all the bad. The thought of travelling long distances on a plane to fulfil personal ambition and ego, and causing more damage, while spreading more of who-knows-what, is something I’m struggling to justify at the moment. Maybe in the future, when it’s all completely wrecked, with no chance of clawing it back, I’ll just stick my head in the sand and do what I want with no regard to the outcome of my actions, who knows? So, I’ve stayed in the UK, two trips to Scotland, but mainly local in Cymru. I’ve done a bit of new routing and a few hard, (for me) repeats. I’ve had several days out climbing some stuff that was new to me, and I’ve climbed some well-versed classics, climbs I’ve done many times. I must admit, these often-repeated climbs felt wonderful, it was like meeting neglected friends. Usually, I do these classics a few times every summer, and returning to them almost felt like a return to times before the pandemic. But like the birds in the hedgerow, I’m not sure the unadulterated feeling I once had, will return?

Since the arrival of Covid-19 and the effect it has had on the world, I question and look at things more deeply. Humanity and the earth we share, appears to be a balancing act, a seesaw, and at the moment, from my somewhat limited perspective, we, (humanity) appear to be sat wallowing on the ground, outweighing the other life, which is in the air, and we appear not to care, as long as we can look at our smartphone, take selfies, eat burgers and fly into outer space!

So, I hear you ask, what has all of this got to do with climbing? Well, not a lot I suppose, or maybe it has? I don’t have a UKC Logbook, but a few years ago I began to look at what people had written about certain climbs. I think it started as my interest in European sport routes grew, and I started to attempt sport climbs at the top of my ability. Mainly I climb with Rich Kirby when on sport trips abroad, and I think it was because of Rich, (who has a logbook and reads what people say about climbs) I started to look at certain logbook entries. In those innocent days, I marvelled at how Rich knew certain things about climbs, and it was only when he told me about people’s logbook entries, I began to read some of them. It soon became apparent how Rich knew certain things, and why he aimed towards certain climbs. On those same trips, we would often have heated debates about the whole logbook thing, because at the time, I thought it was all ego fuelled vanity, yet another thing alongside social media to put it all out there, and show the world how good you are. Just another way to get your mates writhing in envy. I’ve softened a little since, because of course, climbers like to keep record of their great conquests, (sorry, I mean climbs) but, if this was the only reason to fill a logbook, I didn’t understand why people didn’t log their climbs privately, which is, of course, possible. I do understand, and can see the fun/addiction of adding climbs to a logbook, it’s like in the old days when egg collecting was a thing, just look at all those lovely colourful eggs lined up with the name of the bird beneath!

The time has come for me to ask, are routes still climbed wholly and purely for personal joy and the individual challenge, or is this reason to climb becoming, like the birds, a rare thing? Climbs themselves are becoming more like eggs, a commodity, something to be listed, ticked and shared, something to boast about. The once hidden nuances of climbs are now revealed in detail. Take a look at some of north Wales’s hard classics in the logbooks, bloody hell, if you choose to read the info given on some entries, or in the beta section, you can rack up the exact gear before getting to the crag, and as long as you’re fit, climb the route being guided all the way by information supplied. What is this about? Why do people feel the need to tell everyone the gear, where the gear is, and how to place it! Have we all become drones – slaves to the internet, unable to step from the ground without a list of how to do? Why do people need to tell others what gear to use on a climb? Hell, climbing has been happening for a long time before the internet, and folk managed. But, like I was saying, I’ve softened, my attitude has changed, and there are aspects of the logbooks I really like; I love reading about the epics, (as long as they got out in the end!) and I love some humble and witty stuff, (Rob Greenwoods comments are some of the best) and I love the honest comments that tell of struggle, pain and pump – things we can all relate and remember. Unfortunately, there isn’t enough of this type of thing, and what could be a good source of entertainment, is lost, (to me anyway) beneath all the fluff and ego.

Over this summer, I’ve watched people climb routes that bear no resemblance to their logbook entries, and the comments they write are at the best, misguided delusions or boasts, and at worst, lies. Why do the comments of people, in general, downgrade climbs, but very rarely, upgrade? And after nearly thirty years of climbing, it’s taken my reading the UKC logbooks to realize you can second a climb and then lead it, and say it was almost flash, I’m sorry, but you can’t almost flash something, you either flash it or you don’t, just face up to the truth, be honest with yourself and others, leave the ego behind and tell it like it is.

I’ve also learnt you can second, top rope and lead a climb, and then say how easy you found it! Well done on finding it easy, good for you! It’s taken years for me to realize you gain more bragging rights by telling the world it was un-chalked and no doubt the first ascent of the season, even if it’s a climb that has had hundreds of ascents and has possibly been climbed by folk already that summer, but they probably chose not to enter into the internet boasting fray, and what the difference does it make whether you climbed a route before anyone else that summer anyway?

I’m sorry, it’s my problem, I know it’s just climbing in the 21st Century, and I’ve been left behind, but bloody hell, this is why the world is fucked, it’s all arrogance, narcissism, selfishness and ego, and I’m happy I’ve been left behind, so please, bring on the apocalypse, because I’m suffering and I need putting out of my misery.

Postscript:

Fluffy boastful lists of the amazing climbs I’ve been finding easy this summer, climbs that I almost flashed after top-roping, will resume in the next blog.

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15 Responses to Bring on the apocalypse

  1. Couldn’t agree more with your sentiments Nick. We really are fucking up this planet. I just try to stick with what feels right for me.

    As for the log books. I’ve only ever used UKC for looking up beta on routes (not that I’m climbing much) I’ve learnt to just enjoy the days out, whether it’s a walk, climb, boulder or run. We’re lucky to have some of the outdoor spaces we do. I don’t think about a summit or getting to the end anymore, more about the meaningful experiences along the way.

    • Nick Bullock says:

      Hey Paul,

      Cheers, yeah, it’s blown… but that’s OK, no one has noticed because they are all looking down at their phones… 😉

  2. Damo says:

    Someone we both occasionally work with recently said (and I paraphrase):
    “You can’t write about that, Nick Bullock’s already writing about that.”
    So I had to be an angry old man about something else.
    Carry on…

    • Nick Bullock says:

      Ha, that is so funny, and I know what and who you are talking about… Great minds think alike, or is it just old, angry and twisted minds rant about the same shit 😉 Great to hear you’re still out there ruffling feathers Damo, keep it up… from a fan 🙂

  3. Tom says:

    I log my routes on UKC and purposely comment on neglected ‘harder’ trad routes in the Peak where I’m mostly climbing. You might not notice it so much in N Wales but here in the Peak and Yorkshire there are a number of older climbers hell bent on retro bolting every neglected route. Maybe I’m daft to push back against this, as in the grand scale of things routes like Piranha at Rubicon or the last remaining trad routes at Two Tier in Cheedale are pretty mediocre, but there’s history there. The photo of Quentin Fisher in ‘Rock Climbing in Britain’, or the fact that Ninth Life was put up by Dougie Hall the same year that he led Beau Geste. So I would like to see these routes remain as challenges and what helps is publicly logging them on UKC. Peak lime routes get dirty, but once someone clocks that a route is clean, others follow. They get more repeats and we preserve them for another year, keeping the salivating bolters at bay. Or at least that’s what I tell myself! Yes, listing all the gear is lame and yes, there’s a lot of egos out there and bullshit, but it does seem to me that more hard trad is getting climbed, which personally I find reassuring. What’s mainly driving the trend you’re ranting about is the emphasis on training providing a means to climb these routes, rather than putting the time in. There are fuck all birds on the high moors of the Peak District. It’s a wasteland.

    • Nick Bullock says:

      Hi Tom,

      Great reply, thanks. I’m out climbing today, but when it’s raining tomorrow, I’ll sit down and write a reply. You make excellent points that open a shed load of other issues, god, not sure if I want to go there or have the skill/intelligence to get there 🙂

      Cheers and thanks again,
      Nick

    • Mitch Mitchell says:

      Pesticides and more phone towers mean fewer insects mean fewer birds. Blue light street lights mean more insects are committing suicide on them.Many of my routes have been retrobolted without consultation. Then they get polished and ruined. UKC is a sad little collection of opinionated types.People often give opinions on routes whose holds they have never touched.

  4. Mick says:

    Good rant – keep them coming.
    If you ever climb a new middle grade route in NW Scotland, you can only claim a possible first ascent cos Tom Patey might well have done it already but left it unrecorded. Wouldn’t it be fun if we just stopped claiming new routes/winter ascents and left people to experience them as they find them? And on another note, maybe we should also list every species to be displaced by cleaning a new route so we know what we’re doing.

  5. Steve Long says:

    The best bet would be to either not read UKC logbooks at all, or help to make them more useful by providing some balance yourself. I try to put ego to one side and just put comments that will help other climbers avoid any nasty surprises such as loose blocks or missing pegs. I started using the UKC logbook a few years ago when MTUKI arranged for importing data into the qualifications database. I believe strongly that instructors and guides should remain keen climbers in their spare time so I try to give some flavour of my current activity by recording some of my climbs (maybe 10%) – I’m too busy gardening or climbing to bother logging most of them.

    • Nick Bullock says:

      Hey Steve,

      Hope you’re well, at least the garden has had a bit of rain now 😉

      On the face of it, I think the logbooks were started with good intention and have some excellent info and on occasion good stories and insight, I just think they have now, in some cases, been taken over by people who want to show the world how good they are, how easy they find things, and all of this is done with no regard to others, it has been appropriated for use of the individual, not to help the majority.

      I’m not sure to ignore it works, how does that bring a light to something I think is detrimental? In a way, ignoring something makes me complicit. On saying this, I’ve had my say now, so that’s it, I’ve done what I wanted, hopefully brought light to a few things, hopefully made a few people think. It won’t make any difference anyway, the lies, exaggerations and bragging will continue, and no doubt escalate, it appears to be the way of people given this platform we call the World Wide Web. As I said in the piece, it’s my problem, I can see this, (although it will be everyone’s problem in years to come when it’s all up shit creek if we continue the way we are) but it shouldn’t and won’t stop me on occasion throwing the occasional hand grenade, it makes me feel better that I haven’t just sat and said nothing, and when it all implodes, at least I can then say, I told you so 😉

  6. Nick Bullock says:

    Below is a reply made by Rob Greenwood after I posted a link to the above peice on Facebook. I wrote a reply intending to post it on Facebook, but I dont like Facebook and it makes more sense to try and keep everything in one place, so anyone who can be arsed, can read the piece above and then read the reply…

    Rob’s reply…

    “As you know, I’m at the cynical end of the spectrum as far as social media is concerned, so I see where you’re coming from, as it undoubtedly provides a platform for those wishing to self promote – much like any form of social media. That said, I think it’s unfair to say that everyone logging routes is doing so for these reasons.

    Part of the reason I like people to keep a public logbook is for the joy that’s brought about by seeing friends climb routes I’ve either done or want to do. A good example of this in practise happened only last week, when I saw that Neil Foster had climbed Just Klingon. I’ve done it, loved it, and knew how much it would mean to him, so dropped him a text, which developed into a phone call. If his logbook had been private that conversation would never have happened.

    Another argument against everyone changing their status to private is that the comments – including my own (which you reference) – lack context without knowing who’s made them. Take those witty comments – would they mean as much if you didn’t know that it was me who’d made them? I’m entirely with you that there’s a lot of comments that bear little relation to reality, but if I know that person then it makes a massive difference.

    All that said, it is a very personal choice – public/private, do/don’t. I know that Duncan has been very open about how he found the logbooks addictive and has taken steps to address that. I’ve never experienced this with the logbooks, but have with Instagram + Strava. The Strava one in particular makes me curious, as it’s basically just a UKC logbook for running, but for me it felt like it put a lot more pressure on each run that prevented me (as you suggested within your blog) from going out and enjoying it for what it was – not how it would look.

    I certainly think that if all you see when you visit the logbooks is arrogance, narcissism, selfishness and ego then that’s pretty bleak outlook; however, what I do think is fantastically positive are the sentiments you shared about finding something fulfilling, acknowledging what that is, and appreciating it. Ironically for me, the last time I experienced this was within the aforementioned phone call with Neil Foster – a shared satisfaction in the knowledge that someone else has done something special, for them.”

    My Reply to Rob…

    Hi Rob,

    OK, it’s raining…

    As I said yesterday, I don’t think I said everyone was logging routes for self-promotion, of course they aren’t, but if that was how it came across, I’m sorry, I must get better at writing and expressing my views, my bad! Although to be honest, I wanted to write something that was a bit of a hand grenade, something a bit ranty, because it was more entertaining and fun to write this way, and given society nowadays, this is the way to make more impact as many people can’t be arsed to read a well-researched, balanced, crafted anymore, (not that I’ve ever written anything like this) in general, people appear to want something ranty and trite, something rushed with bad punctuation and grammar, so that’s what I did, which is a bit sad, and goes to enforce how bad things are becoming.

    People can accuse me of being a hypocrite by using social media to promote my writing/blogs etc, but this is a poor argument that doesn’t really have basis, it’s just a way in today’s social media society to get something out there, get it read, because like it or not, (and I don’t) that’s how a lot of people find things. I would much prefer to be having this conversation at the end of the piece of writing that started the conversation, it would give people the whole picture, but I linked the writing on Facebook, and you replied on Facebook, so in a way, I feel forced to reply on Facebook.

    People can also say there has always been ego and hubris in climbing which of course they are correct, but this doesn’t mean its ok to continue with it, especially given the platform we now have for telling the world how good we are. Should we not try to improve from what went before? Is something that happened a hundred years ago reason to do it today?

    Anyway, back to the topic. I do think if people are completely honest with themselves, there is often a little bit of, ‘get me, I’ve just done this’, going on when climbs are ticked, and hey, that’s human, we all like to receive praise for something hard won and worked for, especially from our peers. But, as I was trying to say in the piece, I think the logbooks, which I’m sure were invented with all good intentions, have, in part, been taken over by braggards, people who don’t always write the truth, people who, for whatever reason, want to tell us how great they are, how easy they found something, which in my mind, is not really a good thing, it lacks integrity, it smacks of hubris, and some of the time, its dishonest, and I struggle to sit by and let this happen without at least bringing light to the fact it is happening. I’m sure it also affects readers who maybe had a hard time on the climb, and all they get is someone telling them how easy it is, when in reality, it isn’t the truth, it’s a fabrication, which then puts others off, and makes them feel a bit shit about themselves. Maybe a bit less hubris and bragging, and a bit more humble would help and encourage others, but humble appears to be a thing of the past for many.

    As you said, and as I said also, the logbooks are great for some things, its just a shame the loudest voices, or at least the voices that affect me the most, come from people not being completely honest about their experience and yes, I do think this is a bad thing, I do think it’s something worthy of a rant, its making a farce of something that is important to some of us, and it makes the whole thing less credible, and it encourages others not to be completely honest about their experiences, which was also my point about society and the world in general, its all become a show, a stage, a bragging platform, which then leads to people like Trump, Johnson, Cummings, and before you know it, its fucked.
    .
    And like I said in the piece, some of the gear beta is crazy, what is that all about? I can see how helpful and valid it is writing beta that is something along the likes of, a peg is old and rusted and not trustworthy, or a block is loose, or a hold has broken, or a thread needs replacing, but describing where, what and how to place almost all the gear on a three star route, when did that become a thing?

    Anyway, also like I said in the piece, its my problem, I can see this, but why should that stop me from writing about it, throwing the occasional hand grenade, makes me feel better that I haven’t just sat and said nothing, and when it all implodes, when it’s all gone to shit, at least I can say I told you so 😉

  7. Keith Sanders says:

    Hi Nick A big Grenade you threw there and I think is needed,
    What is the point of knowing every move and gear placement? Yes it may improve your grade but not your ability to onsight .
    Just finished reading a book by Nick Warton “ How hard can it be “ did you notice using media well your blog to push it? As Nick say and I’ve always adeared to is The On Sight is everything surely it what we all inspire to .
    I don’t have a log book but occasionally log onto UKC Forum under my own name and sometimes comment but why all the made up names are climbers scared to say it as it is?
    In case they get it wrong or just to sometimes redicule?
    Yes we get things wrong sometimes and that’s good if we acknowledge it to ourselves and others, just like failing or having a hard time on a route.
    Well that’s my thought Nick.
    Stay safe and keep it coming we all need a shake up now and again .

    Keith Sanders

  8. Andrew Marshall says:

    Braggarts are loud, such is their nature. No one brags quietly, so I think that there’s no reason to think that people don’t still climb for the joy of it. Maybe you’ve fallen victim to something of a survivor bias, in that the loudest voices will always be the ones you hear first. More people are climbing than ever before, you only have to go out to the crags and take a look. The Women’s Trad festival in 2019 (I think) sold out their tickets in less than an hour. A climbing film won an Oscar. Climbing is in the Olympics. Grumpy old men on UKC complain that there are “too many climbers” and shout down efforts to encourage more. I find it hard to believe that all these people are just looking for pictures for their Tinder profiles. Maybe those pushing the envelope at the highest levels are being a bit economical with the truth – but that’s a minority of the climbing community. A niche, within a niche. Punterism, and pride in punterism, is more popular than ever.

    So I suppose I find your outlook maybe a touch on the pessimistic side – though I guess it wouldn’t make for such an entertaining rant otherwise. But I see reason for optimism. Trump was rejected by America. Despite his best efforts, Johnson’s attempt to cull the vulnerable population of the UK by ignoring COVID largely failed as cooler and more rational heads prevailed. ICL’s worst case predictions did not come to pass, and vaccine research is now ten years ahead of where it would have been. Cummings seems determined to bring down the government he had a large part in bringing about, and his very public meltdown seems likely to exclude him from positions of power for the foreseeable future (feel free to quote me on that, though). I think that those nostalgic for the past forget how far we’ve come, and if I had to bet I’d put money on them largely being white, male and straight. They might like to try thinking about how attitudes to women, ethnic minorities and LGBT folk have changed in the last few decades, at least here in what we like to call the “civilized west”.

    I saw a peregrine up on Kinder the other day, first one I’d ever seen, and it really does look greener up there than I’ve ever seen it. It might not seem like it, but people do care more than they used to.

    • Nick Bullock says:

      Hi Andrew,

      Thanks for the reply, it’s a good one, I had to look up what survivor bias was, so already I’ve learnt something. I could turn that one back onto you, maybe you are only concentrating on the good things, and not seeing the effects of the things I’ve highlighted? But you do make a good point, I have always been cynical, and often look to the negative, so thanks for listing some good stuff, although I’m not sure if this has much to do with the points I’ve raised or answers them. Is it OK to ignore deceit, hubris, bragging, why should it be left to continue and not challenged? Is it a good thing to list all the gear placements on some climbs, tell folk what goes where etc, is this what we want from our climbing, is this really what has happened? If the answer to this is yes, or what difference does it make, well, so be it, as I said in the piece, bring on the apocalypse, put me out of my misery!

      Who mentioned anything about looking for pictures for Tinder profiles, not sure where that comes from or what it has to do with the points raised? I also don’t understand where I have spoken about pro climbers being economical with the truth, I wrote about logbook comments of people climbing in the UK, none are pro climbers.

      You’re right to think I’m pessimistic, I am, I wish I could completely ignore some stuff going on, and it didn’t bother me, but I find ignoring lies and hubris difficult, or at least, I find it difficult not to speak up about, maybe the younger generation (you?) have learnt to deal with this sort of thing by ignoring it. I still struggle when I know people are pumping out bullshit, sorry.

      Trump was, as you say, rejected by the USA, but not by much, he is still out there and still has a lot of support. Johnson, a racist, sexist, homophobe and liar, he is the PM of the UK. At the last election, a large proportion of British people voted for him, they supported a racist, sexist, homophobe and liar, it resulted in the Conservative Party receiving a landslide majority of 80 seats. The Conservatives made a net gain of 48 seats and won 43.6% of the popular vote – the highest percentage for any party since 1979. As of two days ago, the people that have died of Covid in the UK (or at least it was mentioned on the death certificate) is 129000, I’m not sure that any of this is something to feel optimistic about. I don’t know about, or have read anything about vaccine research, so I can’t really comment, but the powers that be knew a long time ago this pandemic could and would happen, they did nothing, maybe vaccine research should have been supported better a long time ago and the people who have been saying a pandemic is inevitable, should have been listened to not ignored? Cummings will be replaced by another of his ilk, if it hasn’t already happened, this is the type of person we now have behind the scenes running the country. Yes, I’m pessimistic.

      I’m not nostalgic for the past, the past has gone, change happens, time moves. Some change as you say is great, I’m just not sure it all is, the world is changing, and it’s a fact that far right extremism is growing, I don’t think this is good. Yes, I’m a pessimist.

      Peregrines are great birds hey, but it’s a fact, birds are massively in decline and one peregrine doesn’t make a recovery! Yes, I’m a pessimist.

      It’s funny you mention the grass been greener, slightly Freudian that, it’s not going to be in years to come the way the planet is warming, and thank god there are still people who care, but there aren’t enough of them. Yes, I’m a pessimist.

      Sorry, it’s a long way from UKC logbooks, but on occasion I struggle with bullshit, especially when it affects something close to my heart, so I wrote something that was a tad tongue in cheek, a tad serious, something I quite enjoyed blasting out to raise the subject and see what came back. So thanks for giving me food for thought, but not McDonald’s food because that’s fucking the world also, but a whole load of people keep eating it! Yes, I’m a pessimist.

      Cheers
      Nick

  9. Mark Goodwin says:

    A NATURAL ONLINE LINE

    whilst still
    on the final

    moves of the
    sort after

    Mirror Face

    the climber
    the same as

    the ones be
    fore & the

    ones after
    posted that

    they’d already
    been there

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