Observations of a Middle Aged Climbing Has-Been
By Erik Wellborn
As someone who has climbed for almost 30 years I find the evolution of climbing frozen waterfalls fascinating. From a refuge of loners, misfits, introverts, armed with pound in snargs, footfangs, and clunky plastic boots, the sport has morphed into a fairly mainstream activity. The modern climber can now access fruit boots, turbos, lasers, rehearsed sport tooling, blogs, crowds, and tweets by Justin Timberlake.
About a year ago, I had a series of negative experiences that to me exemplified the uglier characteristics of the current ice/mixed climbing scene. An obsession with grades and the collecting of routes overshadowed the adventure and simple joy of climbing itself and being in the mountains. Of course, this dichotomy is as old as climbing itself but I couldn't help but feel that the increase in climbers and social media had amplified the issue.
For the first time in my life, I wanted nothing further to do with climbing. I spent the following months in a general moodiness and agitation, preferring to focus on hiking, tenkara, and work. I may not have been happy in the world of modern climbing, but I was miserable without it. I needed to find a balance. And I did..
A recent trip to Hyalite this season with an old friend rejuvenated my soul. No crowds, no attitude, pristine ice, low key conversations with humble climbers, and the solitude of the mountains. It has become crystal clear to me what I need from climbing and what I choose to avoid.
In the end, everyone finds what they need on the ice. Whether its crushing the current grades, or something more quiet and personal.