Together with a few similarly tragic figures, I confess to being a hardcore devotee of theCrag. Most Australian readers will likely be familiar with the website, but it seems to have had a tough time escaping our shores. Folks of an international persuasion will be more familiar with Mountain Project or 8a.nu as repositories of online climbing beta and logbook functionality, but our homegrown variant is my jam.
For me, the appeal is obvious. Having been diagnosed with incurable Obsessive Ticklistive Disorder, I have a passion for lists and climbing statistics which others might regard as excessive and unhealthy. Additionally, I hate memes and I don’t give a shit about what your dog ate for lunch. Therefore, rather than wasting my time amid the usual detritus to be found on more orthodox websites, theCrag functions as my preferred social media outlet. I consider it the final bastion against the clutter and puerility of the wider internet.
But that doesn’t mean that it’s entirely free from banal acts of shittiness. These seem to be unavoidable in any sort of human endeavour, and in this case, they take the form of spurious ticks and outright falsehoods regarding claimed ascents.
There are two key causes for the perpetration of a false tick – ignorance and ego. The former category is usually an innocent act made by someone who is not yet au fait with complex climbing jargon. This requires a delicate touch, such as the time I was required to correct someone who was “stoked to get the onsight flash”. The latter category is a deliberate act of dishonesty and fraud. It is a scourge on our community and should be attacked without hesitation or remorse, such as the time I was required to condemn a tick which was claimed by a party who bailed from a route, but claimed an onsight because they “swung leads”.
More than once, I have been described in rather unsavoury terms following one of these interactions. This is probably with good reason. Although there has been no election or due process of any sort, I seem to have appointed myself as the Sherriff of Style, a ruthless climbing vigilante who is unafraid to call you out on your bullshit. This is probably unsurprising. I am also a Grammar Nazi of such relentless zeal that it is any wonder I haven’t been summoned to Nuremburg to face trial.
Certainly, I will admit to bluntness and lack of tact when questioning the legitimacy of such ascents, but I will not admit to pettiness. There is a tendency to regard climbing as anarchistic, a game without regulations. In truth, there are some very important rules and honesty is undoubtedly the most important of these. It is the core of our sport and its preservation is vital.
History abounds with instances wherein dishonesty has forever undermined the legitimacy of notable first ascents, including but not limited to Cerro Torre, Denali and K2. There is something disheartening about the destroyed legacy of such ascents. Instead of being shining beacons of human achievement, they are stains upon the character of the sport. Climbing can bring out the best of humanity – dedication, perseverance and curiosity. It can also bring out the worst – greed, egotism and deceit.
Ah, but I digress. I seem to have gotten a little philosophical over here, waxing lyrical about the potential and the peril of the human condition. What does all this have to do with theCrag, you may very well wonder, and what gives me the right to execute my self-administered authority in this very minor fiefdom? How does my opinion carry any weight?
In reality, I have no authority and the value of my individual opinion is negligible. But I speak not just for myself, rather for the consensus of the climbing community and for an important ethical keystone – style matters, but honesty matters more.
Without honesty, achievement cannot exist, because everyone would have free soloed The Nose by now and there would be nothing left to shoot for. Granted, that’s a bit of an exercise in hyperbole, and you may think that comparing it to minor transgressions on theCrag is a bit of a stretch, but as a wise man on a beer commercial once said – Rules is Rules, Macca. If there is one subculture who should be able to respect the literal and metaphorical perils of slippery slopes, it is the climbing community.
The decay of honesty in climbing devalues the achievements of all climbers, so don’t be that guy. Better still, why not respond to the call to arms and become a vigilante yourself? If you want to get deputised, you know where to find me. Join my posse, amigos.
Ryan Siacci, Esq.