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.
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.