On climbing with dudes

There has been a lot of chit chat lately about d-bag climbing dudes harshing a chicks buzz… okay that even made me laugh out loud, normal english again, a lot of discussion about the shit women put up with in climbing (life). While the general consensus is that a large portion of guys are (inadverdantly) idiots, not all of them are. I do believe that a lot of times, a partner may just speak without thinking, and not realizing that what they say might sound a lot harsher to the other person. I also think that a lot of climbers are competitive, maybe not all, but certainly a lot, and for guys this might be a bit more normal to do the chest pounding thing, to other guys they may not even notice, but to women it seems more personal. Just thoughts, just my experience, but I have two good examples I would like to share; one less than awesome, and one super awesome. Both of these are based on the assumption that no one in my social sphere is a full out sexist douche, which is an assumption I think is fair to make 🙂

The less than awesome.
I have a co-worker and he used to climb regularly, but he says he stopped because he was afraid of heights, and when he wasn’t able to do multi-pitch routes he just stopped altogether. His words not mine, his life, his decision, whatever. As a used to be climber, we chat about my sessions, progress, general things often and he has two very specific common threads:

A. That’s not real climbing because SO and SO says reason X.

B. That’s really dangerous, you should not be doing that.

The first one I have commented about on here before, and won’t go into too many details, but I get the impression that by failing to meet criteria X, this co-worker can assuage his ego for ‘failing and giving up’. Well, she keeps climbing when I didn’t, and she now climbs as hard as I used to, but it doesn’t count so I don’t have to feel bad.

The second is kind of cute. This guy has never climbed with me, never got on the sharp end of a rope with me on the other end, never attended a workshop with me or a seminar, has honestly no idea of my experience or skills. On the one hand maybe it’s sexist and he secretly says this because he thinks that women are not as capable, but honestly when he says this I hear two things.

1. I am genuinely concerned you are going to pitch yourself off a cliff.

2. I am completely unaware of how to adequately protect myself in that situation, I feel anxiety and fear, those feelings tell me it is dangerous, thus, I think it is.

Neither of which are particularly flattering, for me or for him, but neither of which have anything to do with me. That is the most common thing you will hear people telling women. ‘Oh, it’s not about you, it’s about him, he’s insecure, he’s uneducated, he’s just concerned and doesn’t know how to say it’. 

Which is really good advice, and sure it seems easier just to always ignore these things, but it is constantly frustrating to be told that it is our problem, we have to get over it, that’s the way it is, we are too sensitive, blah blah blah. And this is true, if it does bug us it takes away time and energy, and introduces an unneeded negativity, and everyone male or female is better off learning strategies to avoid letting others get under their skin, but I can’t help but think:

In an ideal world, isn’t both sides moving towards a common ground, better mutual understanding, and more thoughtful communication a better compromise?


The awesome:

I climb with my boyfriend more often than not. He used to go do cool things with his friends and then come back and tell me about them, and I got damn jealous. So I started doing things do. He has watched with a sort of bemused interest, I think truly expecting me to give up or lose interest way before now. Not unsupportive, not always spectacularly supportive I seem to have tipped the boat with the lead climbing course and he truly believes I am here to stay. He has also made some improvements to how he tells me he is concerned about my safety, which has resulted in much less climbing gym shouting matches (gotta love climbing with the SO eh), and a lot more happy climbing times all around. We had an awesome moment on Sunday. He had just finished an overhanging 5b which is pretty long, and has an odd strange barrel shaped protrusion in the middle to overcome. I have watched him progress on this from months, and he now lead climbs it smoothly without weighting the rope. Go Him! So Sunday he comes down, and says okay your turn. I was a little tired, a little foggy from allergy meds, I said nah maybe next time, see all the expresses are still in. He handed me the top rope which they have for it, and said now what is your excuse, and I just said okay. I climbed it, smoothly, comfortably, a bit of grunting at the top, but I made it. The feeling was awesome, having seen him work so hard on this one, in my head its a ‘hard one’. He pushed me to climb it and to get better, and it felt awesome.


In summary… some climbing partners suck, some are awesome, gender aside. I have also met women who make tons of disparaging comments about other climbers or easy grades, and wasn’t a fan of them boobs and all. In the short term, telling women to get over it is probably about as productive as telling them to get over the fact they get paid less for working the same hours, oh wait, or getting over the fact that they can’t vote… yep we got that one at least. Those guys who care need to think about positive encouragement, cutting the competitiveness, pushing for tougher routes, or, just finding different partners.  Each climbing partnership is different, and communication is essential, we need to get better at telling those d-bags how their thoughtless comments affect us, and their response tells us if they are worth anymore of our time.

No one, no matter what gender, should be breaking you down or they just flat out suck as a climbing partner.

It’s not going to be perfect with everyone, but if they don’t try to make the relationship better for both of you, they probably aren’t worth your time.

We cut toxic girlfriends who perfect the compliment-insult, why not toxic rope mates?


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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