Are you still a BLANK if you can’t BLANK?

Insert run distance/length/speed or climbing grade/trad/solo/first ascent requirement to please the pretentious Dbag who just shat all over your passions and pointed out that since you are not THE BEST, THE FASTEST, climbing the HARDEST, you clearly cannnot ACTUALLY be what you claim to be.

I came across this, and it really hit the nail on the head for me.

This may seem like a trivial issue if you’re knocking back Ultras every other month and trad climbing 7a(5.13?) on the weekends, but for we newbies, this is probably something which occupies more of our mental space than it should, and definitely more than more experience people realize. Especially as someone who only recently took up new sports as an adult, this bugs me, often. Our victories may be small, and may be personal, but there’s few things worse than lowering off of a personal hardest route to be told ‘you’re one step closer to being a real climber’. It’s already a bit stressful to show up and admit you’re not particularly adept yet, you fall a lot, you’re scared of heights, it’s all kind of new, despite being a grown up. Beginner skier, beginner runner, beginner climber, beginner german speaker… some days i wonder what i spent the first 25 years of my life doing…

Am I still a climber if I can’t flash a 6a? If I only lead 4b? If I can’t climb multi-pitches because I am scared of heights?

The first two apply to me, and the second, a male slightly older coworker who has been climbing for years, but, recently gave it up ‘because he has too much fear of heights to climb multi pitch routes, so what’s the point, I will never be a real climber’. Legit, this guy dropped the whole sport because there was one type of climbing he just didn’t feel comfortable doing. Guess he didn’t spend much time talking to boulders. Maybe he also didn’t enjoy it as much as he claimed too, or grew out of love with it, or just found something else to enjoy. No one should stick with something JUST because they started it, but never climbing again because you can’t do multi-pitch? That’s a bit of a bummer dude.

Seriously though, why do we set all these standards for sports and hobby’s and unless we reach them, we aren’t really ‘blank’. Personally, I think part of it has to do with mainstream media picking up these hero stories of the guy who lost 600 pounds and started running ultra-marathons. Of the soccer moms who strap their babies into carriers, tie them to crash pads, and rock bouldering routes, or of hell, any of the professional climbers out there. If we can’t match them, our accomplishments can’t count. If they can do it, anyone can right? Internet, sponsored climbers, competitions, brand ambassadors, we are constantly bombarded with the peak and elite people of a discipline which aims to motivate us and of course, inspire us to buy more gear to be just like them. But for so many people, it also creates this idea of ‘well if I can’t climb as hard a david lama I am not a real climber’, which just baffles me.

We went ice climbing a few weeks ago, at a place where we could set up a top rope because someone (me) has only been ice climbing a few times, and someone else (who shall remain nameless) is used to following and not leading, and wasn’t prepared to lead and build anchors. We had a blast, we had so much fun, I rocked the routes and felt my confidence explode. Someone else felt better about building anchors and taking me places and me not dying (which I think he worries about more than I realize), and you know the first thing he said once we had taken down all the anchors and re-packed our gear? ‘Yea, that was fun but climbing david wouldn’t consider it real ice climbing because it was top rope’.

I was floored. Sure, I didn’t consider it hard ice climbing, it was easy grades, short pitches, and like he said, top roping, but still. We did not levitate up the ice walls. There were no jet packs. I got my ass up using crampons, front points only, and two ice tools. What else can you possibly call that? Lame flying? Temporary gravitational suspension?

So wow I wasn’t running out a lead 10m from my last screw under a cornice, jeez, or hey, I was following a reasonable and rational progression of difficulty and experience for a beginner, and despite it being ice climbing, I should feel bad because it didn’t measure up to some experienced persons ideal of what ice climbing really was?

No thank you.

Not interested, too busy being bad ass, go whine somewhere else.

Hey miss marathoner, no gold medal or world championship, or world record? Not a real runner no, God forbid those people plugging through 5km three times a week dare to call themselves anything similar. Rock climber who hasn’t put up a first ascent, isn’t sponsored, or have a flashy documentary? Nope, just pretending bro, get real, pfft.


It’s pathetic, and sad that we somehow let someone elses pretensions and hang ups define OUR hobbies, OUR sports, OUR passions. Letting someone break down and criticize our accomplishments because we started recently and they have been doing it in their sleep for a decade. Letting someone feel bigger and badder because they could point out where we went wrong or what we still have left to accomplish. Letting society classify us as pretenders because hell, no one new can ever truly get your thing right. It’s like talking to hipsters about their whole foods and that band they loved before anyone else heard about them…


I’m a climber, sure, I’m just getting started, but I’m a climber. I love climbing, I day dream about it, I wish I was doing it more often, I buy too much gear for it, I go every week, more than once a week, I train for it, I read books about it, blogs about it, mental training plans for it, I am a climber. So maybe I’m just learning how to lead, maybe I am not climbing the hardest difficulties, maybe I am not the fastest, whatever, still a climber. I started doing it to train for something else, and fell in love along the way, oops, does that make it not real either? Not to me it doesn’t.

Screw letting someone else define what level I have to reach to earn their label.

Hell, I don’t even what to know when they think I have gotten bad ass enough to merit their approval, they can keep their lame ass label, I’m not interested.


About adventuresunplugged

The world is a really cool place. I moved to Zurich almost three years ago to start my PhD, and have really enjoyed the different opportunites living close to the Swiss alps offered. This blog is about some of my adventures, climbing, mountaineering, rock climbing, traveling... life in general! Wow, haven't updated this bad boy in some time! While the above is still true I have gone on to finish the PhD, so that is Dr Unplugged to you. I also have landed a job in Switzerland and will be shortly moving to Geneva. Clearly I have some adventures ahead left to explore with you guys along for company!
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