/ Has there ever been a better time to be a climber?

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Andy Moles - on 26 Feb 2014
The old boys will say with great vehemence and condescension that there has, but since when did old boys ever say 'it wasn't as good in my day'?

There are some aspects of climbing in the past that must have been nice. It must have been easier to find convenient, high-quality unclimbed lines, for a start. Limited information must have made things more exciting, outside the world of instant news and youtube, where nothing surprises us any more. I can imagine there was more of a sense of community, with fewer people doing it; maybe the 'scene' was better here or there - but then scenes are always better if you're a part of them. I understand there weren't so many women involved?

What about now? If you want to have traditional adventures, eschew the beta-heavy internet-forum culture of dependence, you can. At the other end of the spectrum, if you just want to dip your toes in, there are so many beginner-friendly ways of doing that. You can do everything from winter alpinism to bouldering, or specialise in whatever you like best. There's good access to whatever information you need, and well-developed equipment too - the flipside of a burgeoning commercialism that infects people with a greater love of gear than climbing.

Overall, have we lost as much as we've gained?
Al Evans on 26 Feb 2014
In reply to Andy Moles:

My opinion as an old fart is that climbing is not as good as it was in the old days. And I still prefer 60's 70's rock and roll pop. You could go down the local pub/club and catch bands like The Stones, The Beatles, The Kinks, The Who, or listen to folk singers like Paul Simon, Bob Dylan, Fairport Convention, Steeleye Span and Fleetwood Mac.
Then you could go to Gogarth and do three new routes in a day, or to the Alps and do second ascents or first British ascents. AND there was no pissing about on climbing walls to get fit, AND you just went bouldering as a matter of course, having fun I think it was called then. We made our own gear often so it was a cheaper option than it is now, and we all knew/learned how to read guidebooks and didn't have to cry for 'better' topos or 'beta' from the internet.
Olaf Prot - on 26 Feb 2014
In reply to Al Evans:

...aye, and jumpers for goalposts!
In reply to Andy Moles:

The only downside I see nowadays is the crowds, I climb to get away from people, not join a circus!


Chris
Steve Perry - on 26 Feb 2014
In reply to Chris Craggs:

> The only downside I see nowadays is the crowds, I climb to get away from people, not join a circus!

> Chris

I live in the very far north of Scotland so have never seen a crowd at any crag up here, in fact I've only ever seen other climbers at Reiff, Auckengill and Latheronwheel and we've had those to ourselves more than shared them. Its still the good times up here....weather permitting.
Andy Moles - on 26 Feb 2014
In reply to Chris Craggs:

Not so much of a problem if you live away from the busy areas. It goes both ways too, there are plenty of crags that need a bit more traffic.

In reply to Al Evans:

Aye but you don't have to climb indoors or take bouldering seriously - you could even still make your own gear! Might have to settle for tribute bands though.

ByEek - on 26 Feb 2014
In reply to Steve Perry:

> Its still the good times up here....weather permitting.

I was sure that in the olden days it never rained.
Steve Perry - on 26 Feb 2014
In reply to ByEek:

and there were no midges.
Al Evans on 26 Feb 2014
In reply to ByEek:

> I was sure that in the olden days it never rained.

Try 1976 :-)
pasbury on 26 Feb 2014
In reply to Andy Moles:

Well as a youth in the 80's one could choose to doss about in Wales for a couple of years on the dole without feeling like a criminal.

Mountain routes were actually climbed and not covered in layers of moss and other oomska.
Choss on 26 Feb 2014
In reply to Andy Moles:

Without wishing to sound Like one of the 4 Yorkshiremen...

Back in the day, cutting edge new routes seemed to be put up by people who seemed to be effectively Climbing hobos, with Maybe a photo and write up in rag of the day. Now every ascent of note, for want of a Better Word, seems to be done by Someone Sponsored by A, B and C, wearing the Appropriate Gear and clothes, and Accompanied by a slick video. I preferred the old rock and dole stars ;-)

On another note, is it just me, or has the Price of Gear, rope, harnesses, and Other hardware, not gone up at all since the 1980s?
pasbury on 26 Feb 2014
In reply to Andy Moles:

however the prevailing view that a 'proper' climber would just shamble up to the crag after downing at least a gallon of beer the previous night and climb the hardest routes without inspection, cheats or any discernable training turned out to be both mostly bullshit and a bit of a blind alley for ordinary punters like me.
Doug on 26 Feb 2014
In reply to Al Evans:

didn't that end in downpours & flooding ? (admittedly after several months of fantastic weather, most of which I missed as I was in the Alps)

And to others, it wasn't all wonderful, otherwise I wouldn't have memories of rain & midges, beer was cheaper though...
pasbury on 26 Feb 2014
In reply to Doug:
I can confirm that in the 70's and 80's the Scottish midge was, as it is today, an utter utter bastard.
Post edited at 12:14
tlm - on 26 Feb 2014
In reply to Andy Moles:

Another excellent thing about modern climbing is the chance to go to far flung places pretty cheaply. I've climbed all over the world in some amazing places.

I'm not so keen on the increased commercialisation, or the increase demand for decreased risks, but then it's a choice and it's pretty easy to choose not to buy stuff if it's not your cup of tea...
Andy Moles - on 26 Feb 2014
In reply to Choss:

I hear you on these points.

I retain a fondness for the shabby DIY side of climbing.
Wicamoi on 26 Feb 2014
In reply to Andy Moles:

Have we lost as much as we've gained?

It depends what you want from climbing, doesn't it? If you want lots of information, easy access, media-rich climbing, then today is the time for you. If you want the spirit of adventure, mystery, and exploration, then the 1930s was perhaps the golden age. If you wanted flares, folk music and counter-culture: the 1970s.

But I don't agree with your argument that you can simply ignore any of the developments that you would prefer to be without and practise your climbing as if they had never happened. It has much in common with the claim that you can still enjoy the full trad experience on a recently bolted route by simply ignoring the bolts i.e. it's more of a Viz top tip than an argument.
Bulls Crack - on 26 Feb 2014
In reply to pasbury:

> I can confirm that in the 70's and 80's the Scottish midge was, as it is today, an utter utter bastard.

But now they're everywhere - e.g. the Peak ;-)
Andy Moles - on 26 Feb 2014
In reply to Wicamoi:

> But I don't agree with your argument that you can simply ignore any of the developments that you would prefer to be without and practise your climbing as if they had never happened.

You've boiled the flesh off my words, I didn't mean to suggest anything quite so absolute (or daft) as that.
johncoxmysteriously - on 26 Feb 2014
In reply to Choss:

>Price of Gear, rope, harnesses, and Other hardware, not gone up at all since the 1980s?

Eh?? It's just you, I'd have thought, or are you making some kind of joke which I'm missing.

jcm
johncoxmysteriously - on 26 Feb 2014
In reply to Al Evans:

> AND there was no pissing about on climbing walls to get fit,

I never understand old-timers' objections to walls. They're for winter evenings when there's no football on telly; how does that make the overall climbing experience worse?!

jcm
DannyC on 26 Feb 2014
In reply to Andy Moles:

In my opinion, too many commentators on many aspects of sport, lifestyles and culture - especially climbing and particularly the elder statesman of the magazines - are blinded by the rose-tinted glasses we all have about our own personal golden age.

For example, assuming that no other hungover, penniless, angry adolescents are hitching a lift with a stolen shredded rope to just about swear and scrape their way up past the fulmars and choss to complete a new route that was very nearly too much for them.

...The parties just aren't the same these days, says the clapped out raver tucked up at home...

It's always happening, and I hope always will, we're just less likely to hear about when it's not our own generation leading the charge.

To prove a point, this (relatively) young'un agrees with the OP :-)
johncoxmysteriously - on 26 Feb 2014
In reply to DannyC:

To be fair, if your interest is the developing of worthwhile new trad routes and you're a relatively poor young climber from Manchester, you don't have the opportunities Joe Brown had. But otherwise I am inclined to agree with the OP as well.

jcm
Wicamoi on 26 Feb 2014
In reply to Andy Moles:

Apologies Andy, you are right. I was exaggerating for effect, because I thought you were being slightly too best-of-both-worldsy in your second paragraph. I suppose I wanted to say that the djinn is out of the hip-flask and none of us can ever have W.H. Murray's experience now, nor even Tom Patey's. Every age has its advantages, and I quite like the one I'm in; but I'd have liked the others too.
victorclimber - on 26 Feb 2014
In reply to Andy Moles:

was far better to be a Climber in the 60,s when you could picnick on the grass at Almscliff and it wasn't covered in chalk ,and Dudes !!!
victorclimber - on 26 Feb 2014
In reply to Chris Craggs:

But aren't you the man who gets crowds to Crags by publicising them..or is that another Chris Craggs...
Rog Wilko on 26 Feb 2014
In reply to Andy Moles:

One good thing about the old days was you didn't have to carry a 40 litre sac full of hardware - just a rope and a few slings....
Andy Moles - on 26 Feb 2014
In reply to Wicamoi:

I guess I am being best-of-both-worldsy, because I don't think as much of the essence has been lost as some people think it has - maybe it's been lost to them, which is sad, but I think a lot of what (apparently) made climbing so good in the 60s, 70s, 80s is still there. Only now we've got this amazing diversity too.
pasbury on 26 Feb 2014
In reply to Andy Moles:

I would agree. You can still go and enjoy a nice walk-in to a suitably selected quiet crag (maybe choose a weekday) and climb a classic trad route and pretty much get the same experience as anyone from say the early 70's could (date chosen as the advent of 'modern' protection). Your gear will be shinier, lighter and better but you don't have to carry more of it. Your guidebook will be better if it's recent but I still happily use 20 yr old ones without major loss of braincells.
Avoid the honeypots and you automatically avoid some more annoying recent developments caused by overcrowding.
David Bennett - on 26 Feb 2014
In reply to Andy Moles:
It's just as good now as it ever was. I'd just prefer fewer crowds and less queuing / not having to choose another route because the one you planned is mobbed. In the 70s and 80s you only had trad, now you can choose trad or sport. Gear and clothing are much better now so you generally have a more comfortable and safer time.
johncoxmysteriously - on 26 Feb 2014
In reply to David Bennett:

Good lord. If you're queuing then you're sorely lacking in imagination in crag selection.

jcm
pasbury on 26 Feb 2014
In reply to johncoxmysteriously:

I wonder also what the total number of documented crags and routes there are now in the UK compared with 30 years ago. I guess that there are about 3 times as many crags and 10 times as many routes - so plenty to go at!
David Bennett - on 26 Feb 2014
In reply to johncoxmysteriously:

That's why I mentioned having to choose another route. I'm not great at queuing for mobbed routes and will go elsewhere. It doesn't stop me wanting the do the intended route though.
Jon Stewart - on 26 Feb 2014
In reply to pasbury:

> Mountain routes were actually climbed and not covered in layers of moss and other oomska.

This is the thing I feel like I've missed out on. I do often feel that brilliant routes at the top of my grade (E3/4) are not climbed enough, despite being mega-classics. I.e. I'd have to clean them as opposed to follow the chalk (which is what I want to do at my top grade).

I'd loved to have climbed in the era when Chee Tor was not covered in dust, cobwebs, woodlice and of course oomska.



Choss on 26 Feb 2014
In reply to David Bennett:

Ive never Queued for a route, but thats Probably partly due to location and a Penchant for low Grade Esoterica ;-)

Would feel queueing Below a party, i was somehow hassling someone to get a move on rather enjoying their route at their own Pace. I just go Climb something else, can come Back Later.

On multiPitch i have given way to fast moving soloists, but have had a roped party try to push through mid Pitch. The exchange was Interesting and they Decided to wait and follow after.

David Bennett - on 26 Feb 2014
In reply to Choss:

I'm sure you would enjoy the French alps and the antics of guided parties. :-)
SCrossley on 26 Feb 2014
In reply to Rog Wilko:

> One good thing about the old days was you didn't have to carry a 40 litre sac full of hardware - just a rope and a few slings....

You still don`t Rog, just go climbing with Dave W, the gear is your choice ;-)


SCrossley on 26 Feb 2014
In reply to Al Evans:

> My opinion as an old fart is that climbing is not as good as it was in the old days. And I still prefer 60's 70's rock and roll pop.[......]and didn't have to cry for 'better' topos or 'beta' from the internet.


Sounds fantastic Al and I truly wish I had started earlier, but I would think modern climbers go to less funerals of young men and women because of the advances in gear and techniques. Also music choice, would Jean Jeanie now be called after some track by the Arctic Monkeys or whatever?
David Bennett - on 26 Feb 2014
In reply to Jon Stewart:
Very good point. The lack of traffic on trad limestone in particular is a shame.
Choss on 26 Feb 2014
In reply to David Bennett:

> Very good point. The lack of traffic on trad limestone in particular is a shame.

Youve got a Point there. Costa del Brean is a Prime example... the Sport is Heaving, the Trad routes deserted...
johncoxmysteriously - on 26 Feb 2014
In reply to Choss:

> Youve got a Point there. Costa del Brean is a Prime example... the Sport is Heaving, the Trad routes deserted...

Youíre not wrong, but I donít reckon Bones Chimney was ever *that* regularly chalked up!

jcm
foxjerk - on 26 Feb 2014
In reply to Al Evans:

> Then you could go to Gogarth and do three new routes in a day, or to the Alps and do second ascents or first British ascents.

so is it your fault that its not so good for us these days?!!!

seriously thats not a dig, just trying to be funny, i know what a mess these forums can get you into!

Choss on 26 Feb 2014
In reply to johncoxmysteriously:

> Youíre not wrong, but I donít reckon Bones Chimney was ever *that* regularly chalked up!

> jcm

Fair Point, before Sport routes Appeared there, when we Climbed lower grade classics like Cyclops slab and Pandoras box (best VS corner in the area), there was never anyone else their climbing but us.
Red Rover - on 26 Feb 2014
In reply to Andy Moles:

I've never had to queue for a route, most crags arnt very busy. If you want to do the 3 star VS's at stanage then you have to wait but there are better climbs that those on other gritstone and mountain crags that you never see anybody else on. I think there are more and more climbers than ever but they are going to fewer and fewer crags.
Jonny2vests - on 26 Feb 2014
In reply to GLUF:
> Sounds fantastic Al and I truly wish I had started earlier, but I would think modern climbers go to less funerals of young men and women because of the advances in gear and techniques. Also music choice, would Jean Jeanie now be called after some track by the Arctic Monkeys or whatever?

Mardy Bum.

This is in no way a dig at Al Evans.
Post edited at 16:31
Al Evans on 26 Feb 2014
In reply to GLUF:

> Sounds fantastic Al and I truly wish I had started earlier, but I would think modern climbers go to less funerals of young men and women because of the advances in gear and techniques. Also music choice, would Jean Jeanie now be called after some track by the Arctic Monkeys or whatever?

Well very few mates ever died climbing, or at least not due to gear deficiences, and Jean Jeanie was actually named after Jean (hence not Jean Genie) but we did lots of routes that had new wave and punk titles, one of my favourite names was Pete Whillances 'Staying Alive' (Bee Gees) at Gogarth, watching him on the first ascent we just prayed that he would :-)
paul__in_sheffield - on 26 Feb 2014
In reply to Andy Moles:

The dividing line was the passing of the baton from Allen and Bancroft to Ben, Jerry and Andy. Before this, you could aspire to do the hardest new routes of the day, not train, and go to the pub rather than the wall on a rainy sunday. After this it wasn't within reach anymore, and you passed the winter months on a system board in someone's cellar.
So I'll take peak grit and lime 1980 to 1986 please. Thank you
paul__in_sheffield - on 26 Feb 2014
In reply to Andy Moles:

And another thing, all the dissemination on line, and accurate guidebooks has stripped away the magic of outrageous sandbags, whispered beta and just the magical joy of doing stuff not many other people did back then.
Ramblin dave - on 26 Feb 2014
In reply to paul__in_sheffield:

> just the magical joy of doing stuff not many other people did back then.

You should go and clean the oomska of some of those neglected classic E3/4s that Jon Stewart wants chalking up for him...
In reply to victorclimber:

> But aren't you the man who gets crowds to Crags by publicising them..or is that another Chris Craggs...

Yes indeed - good point, though I tend to go to an area a lot until the guide comes out then go somewhere different ;-)


Chris
Rog Wilko on 26 Feb 2014
In reply to Jon Stewart:

> This is the thing I feel like I've missed out on. I do often feel that brilliant routes at the top of my grade (E3/4) are not climbed enough, despite being mega-classics. I.e. I'd have to clean them as opposed to follow the chalk (which is what I want to do at my top grade).

I have posted this before but it bears repetition.
I was reading a back number of a magazine in our hut. The writer was bemoaning the fact that no one bothered to go up to the high crags any more and that the routes were all getting overgrown and mossy. The magazine was an edition of Rocksport, dated 1964 (or thereabouts). Plus ca change.....
paul__in_sheffield - on 26 Feb 2014
In reply to Ramblin dave:
> You should go and clean the oomska of some of those neglected classic E3/4s that Jon Stewart wants chalking up for him...

they're neglected cos they're 'arder than the E5s youth!
Post edited at 16:39
Robert Durran - on 26 Feb 2014
In reply to Andy Moles:

Being a Victorian gentleman of leisure with the whole largely virgin Alps to go at must be about as good as it's ever got.
paul__in_sheffield - on 26 Feb 2014
In reply to Jon Stewart:


> I'd loved to have climbed in the era when Chee Tor was not covered in dust, cobwebs, woodlice and of course oomska.

around 83, queuing to do Two Sunspots or Ceramic. At the same time, queuing for Darius or Delicatessan on High Tor. Amazing how fashions change. Don't remember any oomska back then.
Robert Durran - on 26 Feb 2014
In reply to paul__in_sheffield:

> around 83, queuing to do Two Sunspots or Ceramic.

I remember a queue for Golden Mile in '84 (I wasn't in it). The place was heaving!. I remain convinced that far more people were climbing E5 back then.
Jon Stewart - on 26 Feb 2014
In reply to Robert Durran:

> I remain convinced that far more people were climbing E5 back then.

Wouldn't surprise me, as now many people motivated to climb hard are into bouldering and sport. Makes sense really, if what motivates you is hard climbing, bouldering and sport provide much easier access to that.

jcw on 26 Feb 2014
In reply to johncoxmysteriously:

There's certainly nothing with walls but there was enormous fun in getting out of doors even in lousy weather. When I was in UK I hardly ever had a weekend however short when we didn't get out on something, however wet and greasy. Whether that made for better climbing I don't know, but it probably did help mountaineering in the Alps.
Trangia - on 26 Feb 2014
In reply to Andy Moles:

Surely the best time for climbing must have been the Golden Age in the Alps when all the great Alpine Peaks were unclimbed and awaiting first ascents?
David Bennett - on 26 Feb 2014
In reply to Robert Durran:

Yeah, did the same and it was heaving. Queued for Summer Wine too, wonder how often that gets an ascent these days?
biped - on 26 Feb 2014
In reply to Andy Moles:

I suspect for many it might be some sort of defining era immediately before they started climbing, as it is for me. I started in the late 80s and, as a rock climber (as opposed to alpinist) I'm seeing the early to mid 80s as a time when sticky boots became available, gear technology took a quantum leap forward (cams) and there was bazillions of beautiful 5 star crags to be developed (mostly in Scotland). There's also the culture of training and living the life as a 'government sponsored' climber and all the scenes that grew up during the 80s.
ads.ukclimbing.com
pasbury on 26 Feb 2014
In reply to GLUF:
> Sounds fantastic Al and I truly wish I had started earlier, but I would think modern climbers go to less funerals of young men and women because of the advances in gear and techniques.

Interesting comment. it goes to the heart of darkness type mythos that was a strong thread back when. Probably not statistically valid but then I read a lot of Perrin's stuff when I started climbing. Is there a dark core to our game? Do we 'dice with death' deliberately?

And if not have we really climbed?

For me the answer is no.
Post edited at 19:19
Michael Gordon - on 26 Feb 2014
In reply to johncoxmysteriously:

> I never understand old-timers' objections to walls. They're for winter evenings when there's no football on telly; how does that make the overall climbing experience worse?!
>

It could be argued they've been bad for climbing clubs, at least in terms of getting younger members. For many the wall has become the place to meet folk instead.
myserable old git - on 26 Feb 2014
In reply to Andy Moles:
It all went wrong when the Fire arrived EBs for all that's what I say
Gordon Stainforth - on 26 Feb 2014
In reply to Michael Gordon:

As an old-timer, I think that big modern climbing walls have been a fantastic invention - they mean that keen climbers can keep 'climbing fit' throughout the winter. I was stunned in about 1993, when I first started taking climbing walls a lot more seriously, that after a winter on the walls I could go straight onto an HVS as my first route in March, having not been on a crag for about 5 months, and find it absolutely fine, indeed friendly.

Otherwise, I'm afraid the late 60s were something else - much, much madder and more fun than anything I ever experienced after that. At the medium standards of climbing, it all got progressively safer and more routine, more like any other 'sport'. Obviously, at the top, e.g. Johnny Dawes/Paul Pritchard's mob on slate etc in the 80s it was absolutely amazing, but for most mortals a lot of the shine had gone.

It wasn't just the climbing. The whole thing was socially better in the days of clubs, and before most climbers had cars. And before there were decent guidebooks with technical grades (arguably something was lost when they came in.) I've said this before: but how was it that many climbers were more genuinely musical, and used to be able to entertain us in pubs, and most of us used to join in and sing (quite well I think; many in harmony ... well, certainly in South Wales)?? And also, the standard of joke-telling used to be MUCH higher. No question. People who could tell those wonderful long jokes - 'shaggy dog stories' - that would typically take about 20 minutes to tell and leave you almost a medical wreck when the punch line finally came?
Gordon Stainforth - on 26 Feb 2014
In reply to Michael Gordon:

PS. I know that there's still an amazingly good scene going on on the southern sandstone - though I haven't been near it for nearly 2 decades - mostly galvanised by Malcolm McPherson and friends.
Choss on 26 Feb 2014
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:

> PS. I know that there's still an amazingly good scene going on on the southern sandstone - though I haven't been near it for nearly 2 decades - mostly galvanised by Malcolm McPherson and friends.

Hes a very Strange person
JdotP - on 26 Feb 2014
In reply to Trangia:

> Surely the best time for climbing must have been the Golden Age in the Alps when all the great Alpine Peaks were unclimbed and awaiting first ascents?

Getting from the UK to the Alps in the 1860s took longer than it takes to get to a basecamp in an unexplored corner of the greater ranges nowadays! (And, compared to the average salary, probably cost more too)
Gordon Stainforth - on 26 Feb 2014
In reply to Choss:

> Hes a very Strange person

I think he is one of those quintessential old characters I was referring to, whose whole life revolves round climbing, and is entirely at odds with the 'normal' modern world. I also don't think it's a good idea to make vague, derogatory comments about people on the internet. Who are you to judge anyway? Your manner of speaking here is certainly odd, with those immensely tedious capital letters in every post you ever make, with some lame technical excuse for doing so. How come the rest of the world manages to post messages without this problem? Not impressive.
Michael Gordon - on 26 Feb 2014
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:

> PS. I know that there's still an amazingly good scene going on on the southern sandstone - though I haven't been near it for nearly 2 decades - mostly galvanised by Malcolm McPherson and friends.

I think a good social scene is important, but so is good climbing!
Gordon Stainforth - on 26 Feb 2014
In reply to JdotP:

> Getting from the UK to the Alps in the 1860s took longer than it takes to get to a basecamp in an unexplored corner of the greater ranges nowadays! (And, compared to the average salary, probably cost more too)

It was obviously very expensive, but i think this can be exaggerated. Because those guys were immensely tough, and didn't live in the lap of luxury. Whymper would often walk, yes walk, from Chamonix to Zermatt ... and back. And there were no cable cars etc. Winthrop Young used to walk (I think several times) from Cambridge to London.
Gordon Stainforth - on 26 Feb 2014
In reply to Michael Gordon:

> I think a good social scene is important, but so is good climbing!

Where's the contradiction?
paul__in_sheffield - on 26 Feb 2014
In reply to Robert Durran:

yep, even queued behind Geoff Birtles and Paul Nunn to do Dagenham Dave
Choss on 26 Feb 2014
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:
You do Know that...

Malcolm McPherson is a very strange person

Is the name of a Micro route at happy Valley rocks, dont you?

http://www.ukclimbing.com/logbook/c.php?i=31169

Dont Worry your apology is Accepted ;-)
Post edited at 20:36
Michael Gordon - on 26 Feb 2014
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:

just a gentle dig at Southern sandstone
Gordon Stainforth - on 26 Feb 2014
In reply to Choss:

Ah, I'd completely forgotten that :))
colin struthers - on 26 Feb 2014
In reply to johncoxmysteriously:

Apart from rock shoes which are getting a bit silly for something that's knackered after 6 months just about all climbing gear is massively cheaper in real terms. In the early eighties karabiners were £2 or £3! I used to buy em one at a time and spend ages at home clicking away with my latest 'investment'. My first gore-tex jacket around about 1983 was over £70 and when I finally lashed out on a pair of Koflach Ultras in the late eighties they weren't a kick in the pants off £200.

Kid's today! Cheap gear, cheap flights, sport routes aplenty, still loads of good trad, a huge bouldering scene etc etc. From a purely climbing perspective you've never had it so good.

On the other hand.... when I was a lad you could get a full student grant and didn't pay fees, nobody expected you to actually study anything, the dole was a doodle (re-start interview? WTF?), you could piss off to the Alps all Summer whilst claiming housing benefit on a flat you weren't even living in, in most jobs the Union had some clout and skiving was just fine,climbing shops didn't have CCTV, all your mates were 'anarchists', political correctness hadn't been invented

Yeah, actually it was better then.
Gordon Stainforth - on 26 Feb 2014
In reply to colin struthers:

I wasn't exactly poor, but we used to share gear. I.e. my main climbing partner and I in the mid 80s for c.5 years, would each buy another Friend, alternately, about every 2 or 3 months so that eventually, after about 2 years we had a complete rack between us. It was probably another 3 years at least before I had my own complete set of Friends. I often think that Friends did a lot of damage to climbing, not to mention the crags.
David Bennett - on 26 Feb 2014
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:
Yeah, the days of buying half racks and hoping your partner for the day / trip had a complementary half. Great times and sometimes scary if you had the "wrong" partner and two of each size with gaps between.......
Derek Furze - on 27 Feb 2014
In reply to pasbury:

Yes, though I remember being a little shocked when doing Brant Direct one lunchtime as a enthusiastic teenager, to see a bloke shamble up in a suit, take off his tie, put on his EBs and lead Hangover with the rope around his waist... it reinforced the myth quite effectively!
Al Evans on 27 Feb 2014
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:

> It was obviously very expensive, but i think this can be exaggerated. Because those guys were immensely tough, and didn't live in the lap of luxury. Whymper would often walk, yes walk, from Chamonix to Zermatt ... and back. And there were no cable cars etc. Winthrop Young used to walk (I think several times) from Cambridge to London.

And Colin Kirkus would cycle from Liverpool and back for a weekend in N Wales with all his gear on his back. Mind you when Ray Aucott was a racing cyclist he would tell me that they cycled upwards of over a hundred miles to a cycle race, dossed in a hedge, did the 100 mile race, then cycled home again. No wonder he found fell running so easy when he took it up as a vet.
Clint86 - on 27 Feb 2014
In reply to Andy Moles:

I haven't read the thread, but I'm thinking that everyone considers their prime to be the golden years.
Al Evans on 27 Feb 2014
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:



> It wasn't just the climbing. The whole thing was socially better in the days of clubs, and before most climbers had cars. And before there were decent guidebooks with technical grades (arguably something was lost when they came in.) I've said this before: but how was it that many climbers were more genuinely musical, and used to be able to entertain us in pubs, and most of us used to join in and sing (quite well I think; many in harmony ... well, certainly in South Wales)?? And also, the standard of joke-telling used to be MUCH higher. No question. People who could tell those wonderful long jokes - 'shaggy dog stories' - that would typically take about 20 minutes to tell and leave you almost a medical wreck when the punch line finally came?

My climbing club The Parnassus actually produced a songbook of climbers versions of classic folk songs, I still remember snatches of some of them, sung to the tune of Darling Clementine.
'She was leading, like a fairy on a hundred feet of line, but alas there was no crack there to support my clemantine'
Or 'All for the want of a nail' I can only remember the tragic end to this song after the climber had fallen,
'So they carried him home in a pail, and it was all for the want of a nail'
:-)
victorclimber - on 27 Feb 2014
In reply to Clint86:

I certainly didn't think my Prime whatever that is was the Golden Years ,My Prime I suppose was climbing at the hardest I could with new nuts ,friends etc ,but my Golden Years were long before that I agree with Al..
Seymore Butt - on 27 Feb 2014
In reply to victorclimber:


No problem with cowshit, crowds and chalk in those days

http://www.ukclimbing.com/images/dbpage.html?id=235463

Al
LeeWood - on 27 Feb 2014
In reply to Clint86:

Yes, easy to skew the vote with memories of one's own bestyears ... before putting on weight, getting responsibilities etc. Student days make networking & climbing so easy.
Pete Jones - on 27 Feb 2014
In reply to Al Evans:

'76 was magic. Spent a week climbing on Cloggy sleeping out by the lake.
JdotP - on 27 Feb 2014
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:

> It was obviously very expensive, but i think this can be exaggerated. Because those guys were immensely tough, and didn't live in the lap of luxury. Whymper would often walk, yes walk, from Chamonix to Zermatt ... and back. And there were no cable cars etc. Winthrop Young used to walk (I think several times) from Cambridge to London.

Certainly they were immensely tough, but stories like this also suggest to me that climbing was the preserve of a privileged minority with an awful lot of free time....
Only a hill - on 27 Feb 2014
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:
> As an old-timer, I think that big modern climbing walls have been a fantastic invention - they mean that keen climbers can keep 'climbing fit' throughout the winter. I was stunned in about 1993, when I first started taking climbing walls a lot more seriously, that after a winter on the walls I could go straight onto an HVS as my first route in March, having not been on a crag for about 5 months, and find it absolutely fine, indeed friendly.

> Otherwise, I'm afraid the late 60s were something else - much, much madder and more fun than anything I ever experienced after that. At the medium standards of climbing, it all got progressively safer and more routine, more like any other 'sport'. Obviously, at the top, e.g. Johnny Dawes/Paul Pritchard's mob on slate etc in the 80s it was absolutely amazing, but for most mortals a lot of the shine had gone.

> It wasn't just the climbing. The whole thing was socially better in the days of clubs, and before most climbers had cars. And before there were decent guidebooks with technical grades (arguably something was lost when they came in.) I've said this before: but how was it that many climbers were more genuinely musical, and used to be able to entertain us in pubs, and most of us used to join in and sing (quite well I think; many in harmony ... well, certainly in South Wales)?? And also, the standard of joke-telling used to be MUCH higher. No question. People who could tell those wonderful long jokes - 'shaggy dog stories' - that would typically take about 20 minutes to tell and leave you almost a medical wreck when the punch line finally came?

I think this is possible in just about every generation, Gordon. For example you've just described the culture of the UEA Fell and Mountaineerjng Club from 2005-2008 when I was an active member.

edit: I refer to your last paragraph ... I'm on my phone so editing the rest of the quote out would have been a faff!
Post edited at 14:33
seankenny - on 27 Feb 2014
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:

> Otherwise, I'm afraid the late 60s were something else - much, much madder and more fun than anything I ever experienced after that.

If that coincides with your late teens/early 20s, well doesn't everyone feel like that?

> It wasn't just the climbing. The whole thing was socially better in the days of clubs, and before most climbers had cars. And before there were decent guidebooks with technical grades (arguably something was lost when they came in.) I've said this before: but how was it that many climbers were more genuinely musical, and used to be able to entertain us in pubs, and most of us used to join in and sing (quite well I think; many in harmony ...

It sort of sounds great, but this to me comes across as a paen to a more communal time, where there was a more shared culture and a more equal society. In some ways fun, at least if you were on the inside. But that kind of world is gone for good and as someone a bit younger, I reckon that's a good thing. One of the most striking passages in Ron's book is describing the party scene in Wales, when a Llanberis climber hits his girlfriend and no-one raises an eyebrow. Now clearly I know you weren't into that sort of scene at all, but I'm guessing the scene whose passing you lament was pretty white, male, middle-ish class. Today's culture (I mean more broadly than climbing here, as our little world tends to reflect the mainstream) may be more individualistic, less shared, but it's much more tolerant, and a bit less drab, which is a good thing.

Also, I can't sing...

aln - on 27 Feb 2014
In reply to Al Evans:

> we did lots of routes that had new wave and punk titles, one of my favourite names was Pete Whillances 'Staying Alive' (Bee Gees)

eh....

ads.ukclimbing.com
Wicamoi on 28 Feb 2014
In reply to seankenny:

OK, it's true that Gordon appears to have conflated to some extent the pleasure inherent in being young with the pleasure inherent in the era in which he happened to be young; but you are definitely guilty of conflating a community which entertained itself via music and story-telling with the existence of unchallenged violence and intolerance.

Do you really think that the unchallenged violence and the intolerance have gone along with the music and story-telling - or have we mostly lost the latter and mostly kept the former?

You certainly can sing, but if you can't bear the sound of your own voice, then clap, stamp or learn an instrument!
flaneur - on 28 Feb 2014
In reply to Andy Moles:

I've been a climber since the 70s. I'm quite sure you are right. In practically every way there has not been a better time to be a climber.

As you say, and this thread is good proof, people who disagree give two main reasons. Firstly, the lack of adventure. This is clearly nonsense, if you think this you are just not imaginative enough. Secondly, it's not as fun. Old men (and it is always men) were saying the same around Neolithic camp-fires, "Stone Axes! These youngsters have it easy. It were much more fun when we had to pull down trees with our bare hands". It's just the grey-hairs attempting to maintain status in their own eyes even though they have lost it in everyone else's.

One of the greatest changes that no-one seems to have mentioned, hugely for the better to my mind, has been the increase in the numbers of women participating. I'll leave you to speculate why I think this has been an improvement!
Post edited at 09:11
Lord of Starkness - on 28 Feb 2014
In reply to Al Evans:

> one of my favourite names was Pete Whillances 'Staying Alive' (Bee Gees) at Gogarth, watching him on the first ascent we just prayed that he would :-)

Pete did a goodly number of musically titles routes in a similar vein -- he was (and probably still is) a great fan of the Eagles, with Desperado and Take It To The Limit. My favourite Whillance route name has to be the non musical " Edge of Extinction" - though he did reference Runrig with his 'Edge of the World" on St Kilda.

Nice bloke as well :-)


He was one of the 'coolest' climbers I knew when things got really tricky
Al Evans on 28 Feb 2014
In reply to aln:

> eh....

You had to be there watching, the route name was perfect.
Erstwhile on 28 Feb 2014
In reply to Andy Moles:

As I see it, any time before the widespread adoption of mobile phones was better than now, and before Internet to some extent. Everything today is fast, easy and synthetic (like porn and drugs).

Back in the days of Snell's field and dossing in the Nevis distillery, it was less easy but much more earthy. I remember going up on Ben Nevis mid week in February and not seeing a soul for days on end. We were genuinely on our own, with our "primitive" gear and lack of conditions updates: there wasn't even an avalanche forecast in those days.
Same in the Alps. We spent two days on the Freny Pillar in September and saw one person. If anything went wrong you had to blow a whistle and cross your fingers. That kind of isolation is impossible now. As Messner said (to me!), he was lucky to solo Everest at the right moment, completely alone on the mountain. An impossible experience today.
Only a hill - on 28 Feb 2014
In reply to Erstwhile:

But as others have been saying, it all depends on what you want from climbing. Not everyone is alike.
aln - on 28 Feb 2014
In reply to Al Evans:

> You had to be there watching, the route name was perfect.

Nothing wrong with the name but you seem to have confused the Bee Gees with punk and new wave.
johncoxmysteriously - on 28 Feb 2014
In reply to Pete Jones:

> '76 was magic. Spent a week climbing on Cloggy sleeping out by the lake.

Well, what's stopping anyone doing that now? With more waterproof gear, what's more - not that that was important in 1976, bien sur.

jcm

flaneur - on 28 Feb 2014
In reply to Erstwhile:
> As I see it, any time before the widespread adoption of mobile phones was better than now, and before Internet to some extent. Everything today is fast, easy and synthetic (like porn and drugs).

> Back in the days of Snell's field and dossing in the Nevis distillery, it was less easy but much more earthy. I remember going up on Ben Nevis mid week in February and not seeing a soul for days on end. We were genuinely on our own, with our "primitive" gear and lack of conditions updates: there wasn't even an avalanche forecast in those days.

> Same in the Alps. We spent two days on the Freny Pillar in September and saw one person. If anything went wrong you had to blow a whistle and cross your fingers. That kind of isolation is impossible now. As Messner said (to me!), he was lucky to solo Everest at the right moment, completely alone on the mountain. An impossible experience today.

Of course Everest (Freney Pillar, Ben Nevis) are different now but 'there are other Everests in the lives of men'. There are still many places you can climb which have the levels of isolation you had in the past. Geographically they are a bit further away but as travel is easier it all balances out. If climbing is faster, easier and more synthetic now, try harder routes, go a bit further away, commit yourself more. You just need a bit more imagination. Uli Steck had a torrid time last spring and Everest, a special case, is lost to climbers but I bet he didn't feel climbing was easy or synthetic on the S.Face of Annapurna.

If you don't think young climbers are doing the equivalent of dossing in the Fort William distillery you are just talking to the wrong ones.


Post edited at 12:41
Tradical - on 28 Feb 2014
In reply to GLUF:

Off topic: THE Dave W? Jazz master extraordinaire?
loose overhang - on 02 Mar 2014
In reply to Andy Moles:

"Overall, have we lost as much as we've gained?"

I'll try to keep on topic and to answer your question. I first climbed in the Peak in April 1971 at Black Rocks. Over the next few months of that year I climbed the local limestone and grit, doing the "apprenticeship" I met climbers, who told me of far-off places and wonderful adventures. I heard of Cloggy and the Alps. It was everything my 18 year old mind and body wanted. I was on the threshold of entering the greater world. I was immediately stricken. After a couple of months I had decided that the career that I had embarked upon from secondary school was too dull and predictable, so I left it to become an idler, i.e. a climber. The excitement for climbing I experienced at the time was stunning. I climbed every weekend. I thought no one else saw the magic of, and no one else enjoyed climbing as much as I did. Those first two or three years were sheer wonder

I climbed in England and Wales, and Scotland and went to the Alps every summer. To travel by car, or hitch-hike through England, North West France, West Germany, Italy and Austria to the mountains was so memorable. The newness of it all. And as each season went by I expected myself to expand my accomplishments. To go up through the grades, I expected to become a great rock climber and be a super-alpinist.

I regularly slept at the woodshed at Stoney. I knew the climber's barns in Wales, the Lakes and Derbyshire. Bless those farmers.

Wherever I went I met, or simply ran into my fellow climbers. There was never any shortage of climbing partners, and there weren't that many climbers really. The ethic was first-of-all humour, then anti-everything, especially anti people who took themselves seriously; then anti-French, except for French climbers like us; careers; except for people who had a career, but were like us and climbed. especially if they had a well-paying job and a car

I was completely transformed by my experiences between the ages 18 and 22. I climbed more frequently then than I have since. I loved those times. But I don't think it was the best time to climb, but it might have been. When the Victorian gentlemen set out for the Alps it could have been. When Hillary and Tsenzing climbed Everest it must have been the best time, for them.

Then my friends began to die in the mountains.

I've been climbing, on and off, for 43 years. The best time to climb for me is now. I climbed in the Western French and Italian Alps last summer, my first time in the Alps in 40 years.
I climbed in Scotland in 2010 and had a fantastic time. It was better then than it would have been when I was 20. I know that. We checked the weather reports, we had a car, we went to bed early enough to get up before daylight. We were not put off by a bad weather report.

I had some great days in the Cascades of Washington and BC throughout last spring to autumn.
I walked up to Annapurna Base Camp last December and onwards to meet my sister.
Today, I went to the local indoor gym. It works really well for fitness and for training, very enjoyable for movement. In a month I go to Red Rock, Nevada. There, I want to go high into the canyons for full-day adventures. I hope to be able to have a few "high-wire" adventures.

The magic of the 1970s has vanished, certainly. But those were largely imaginations. In those days I imagined more than I did. Now I don't imagine so much, I do, and I experience.

I don't think I have lost anything. I have moved on from being a crag-rat (circa '73) at Stoney and now see a much broader, (and higher, excuse me) horizon. I enjoy being up in the mountains without necessarily peak-bagging. But when the opportunity presents I'll push it. I'm forced to use a cliche, but, "it is what I do"

I hope to continue to see the world by being in the mountains with my great and beautiful friends.
pasbury on 03 Mar 2014
In reply to loose overhang:

Great post.
Erstwhile on 05 Mar 2014
In reply to flaneur:

> There are still many places you can climb which have the levels of isolation you had in the past.

But for how much longer ?
Bruce Hooker - on 05 Mar 2014
In reply to Andy Moles:

It's a lot harder to go to unclimbed places now and much of the planet, especially the lower bits of the Himalayas, are really too dangerous or too expensive. Hard to find unclimbed mountains that are doable for the average sort of person.

Then there's bolting... the horror, the horror, but I'd better not get started on that :-)
Andy Moles - on 07 Mar 2014
In reply to all:

Some interesting replies, thanks...
Al Evans on 07 Mar 2014
In reply to aln:

> Nothing wrong with the name but you seem to have confused the Bee Gees with punk and new wave.

No we didn't, nothing would have made me or Jim name anything after a Bee Gees song, but for Pete on that route it was just right.
Gordon Stainforth - on 07 Mar 2014
In reply to Wicamoi:

> OK, it's true that Gordon appears to have conflated to some extent the pleasure inherent in being young with the pleasure inherent in the era in which he happened to be young; but you are definitely guilty of conflating a community which entertained itself via music and story-telling with the existence of unchallenged violence and intolerance.

It's certainly true that 'to some extent' I conflated the pleasure of being young with the pleasure of the era in which I happened to be young, but the latter was what I was wanting to emphasise. The 1960s were unlike any other era before or since, in being an extraordinary social revolution, and it's very hard to see how there could be a similarly huge change in the future (unless there is another swing away from our present myopic mercenary reactionism.)

There have been several revolutions in British history. Scientific, roughly, in order: wheel, printing, industrial (steam, steel, rail and aircraft), internet/world wide web. Social: English Common Law (c.1000AD), 1832 Great Reform Bill, Women's Emancipation (1920s), general liberalisation of all social barriers/classes, particularly of young people and minority groups (1960s Ö but really delayed after effect of WW2)

Things about climbing that were different in the 60s from now:

Male-dominated (worse)
More dangerous (not sure if that was worse: there are arguably too many people 'pretending' now to be climbers)
More uncomfortable - e.g. horrible outdoor clothing: heavy, itchy sweaty; lousy sun protection (much worse);
Far less predictable, calibrated, accurately graded i.e more genuinely adventurous (I think better)
Tougher and rougher (generally better: brought out the best in people, and better camaraderie)
More friendly, with the atmosphere of simply belonging to one big club: modern car-based climbers often have little real communication with other groups (better)
More expensive, relatively - particularly climbing equipment (worse)
Overall much more eccentric, fun, unconventional (much better).
The rock and the mountains just the same, though a little less worn (a bit better)
zigzag - on 07 Mar 2014
In reply to Andy Moles:

Hi Andy, actually I'm one of the really old guys and I think todays climbers are fitter and far better climbers than there used to be, because people are generally fitter and train up as well has having far superior climbing gear than what was once available. hey I've still got a pair of EBs I use occasionally, but I've just bought a new rope that'll see me out
I can't do the hard stuff now but I still have fun climbing the easier stuff and that's what it's all about, Cheers Andy, Happy Climbing
Choss on 07 Mar 2014
In reply to Andy Moles:

It was Better being a full Time Climber in the 80s. They only asked you if you had Looked for work every 6 Months. Now they hassle folk every fortnight they sign on. Its wrong so it is.

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