Bitch, Sit Down, Be Humble – An intervention for Climbing Grades

Come on in, Climbing Grades. Take a seat.

Yes, this is an intervention. I’m sorry you had to find out this way, but this shit has gone on for far too long. I hate to say it, but you can be a bit of a dick sometimes.

The fact is, Climbing Grades, that you’ve become a total narcissist. You seem to have this weird and frankly ridiculous belief that you are the centre of the climbing universe. I don’t think this is a healthy attitude, and I think it’s hurting you and others around you. But don’t worry, we’ll work through this together.

I can understand how you got to this point. All your friends are doing it. The process of equating absolute value with an arbitrary number has parallels in other aspects of life. Your good friend Money is a great example – society tends to view success as being directly equivalent to the amount of Money one earns. Although dollars cannot be used to measure happiness, satisfaction, purpose, love, esteem (either self-driven or otherwise) or any other number of intrinsic human qualities we value, the illusion remains entrenched.

You can see where I’m going with this, can’t you Climbing Grades?

I hate to tell you this, Climbing Grades, but you’re not all that and a bag of potato chips. In fact, you are an inherently shitty metric by which to gauge success. There are many reasons for this, but here are a few:

  • You’re subjective AF
  • You vary drastically according to crag, region, country, grading system and age
  • You fail to account for the plethora of other skills that are needed for true climbing mastery

That last one is super important, Climbing Grades. I really can’t tell you how important it truly is, but I’m going to try. It goes back to what I said earlier about aligning the concept of success with an arbitrary numerical figure. Stick with me.

Do you remember John Ewbank? You met him in Australia back in the 1960’s… but that was before you developed a fetish for the “sheer technical difficulty of a single move”. You’ve forgotten about the other elements that John thought were super important in your character, Climbing Grades… things like exposure, length, quality of rock and protection.

I don’t think this is entirely your fault. It’s got a lot to do with the company you keep nowadays. They’re all egging you on, making you feel more important than you are. In turn, you’re doing the same thing to them. It’s a vicious cycle, one that leaves us with a whole mess of trouble and some very unsavoury attitudes. Apart from giving license to sheer, unadulterated douche-baggery, the idea that you are the sole paragon of success is dangerous, Climbing Grades. Please don’t interrupt. Allow me to explain.

You’ve been parading around like the last peacock on Earth for so long that many have forgotten that there are other facets to climbing. You’ve incentivised a very particular style of climbing, one that rewards repetition and rehearsal at the expense of other worthy skills.

The grit and dedication needed to project at high levels is admirable, but it can sometimes twist the ego and point it in strange directions. At the end of a period of obsession which lasts weeks, months, perhaps even years, a climber who succeeds in stitching together a very hard and exceptionally specific sequence of movement is rewarded with… a number. That’s all. Just a number.

That’s you, Climbing Grades. You’re nothing more than a number, and sometimes a letter, and yet you think that you can explain the minutiae of variables and skills which may affect the difficulty of a climb. I think you sometimes give people a false impression of what is achievable and what is safe.

If you want specifics, I can give them to you, Climbing Grades. Here’s a list of things you seem not to give a shit about:

  • Route finding and terrain considerations
  • The ability to quickly and efficiently place various forms of protection
  • The availability of protection, or lack thereof
  • The ability to self-rescue, or conduct rescue of an injured or incapacitated leader
  • The ability to move quickly, efficiently and confidently through moderate, exposed terrain
  • Style of climbing
  • Efficient and timely anchor construction
  • Mental and physical resilience
  • Risk management
  • “Mountain Sense” and general experience
  • Weather observation and prediction, and the ability to climb in less-than-ideal (e.g. shit) conditions
  • Safe, efficient rappelling procedures
  • Troubleshooting for stuck ropes or gear
  • Efficient transitions at belays
  • Correct selection of terrain-appropriate rope techniques
  • Proficiency in backcountry travel, including hiking, skiing, crampon use
  • Competence in navigation through a variety of environments and atmospheric conditions
  • Objective hazards, including but not limited to avalanche and rockfall
  • Gear selection and self-sufficiency

Do you see what I mean, Climbing Grades? There’s a lot more to being a “good climber” than just you.

There, there, Climbing Grades, don’t cry. We still love you and we don’t want you to go anywhere. You mean a lot to us, and we still want to hang out with you all the time.

But seriously… can you just chill the fuck out for a bit? That would be great.

Ryan Siacci, Esq.
September 2017

Thoughts? Opinions? Cries of dissent?

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