"There are those who struggle up V-diff's at Birchens who actually climb far harder, and far more at the edge of their own personal boundaries than many slick E-grade leaders..."
"Logo-splattered, sterile and posed pictures in magazines are becoming frequent. They offend me - more and more I find myself questioning motives..."
"Winter climbing in Britain should be hard, cold, uncomfortable and beautiful: Shafts of light cutting through clouds, searing hot-aches, shimmering lochs seen from a distant summit, shivering on a belay stance in clouds of spindrift... ...it should not be for people who need a glamorous article to turn the Ben in to a fashion show."
Nick Bullock sticks his neck out and tells us what he really thinks in this passionate and thought-provoking Guest Editorial.
What a load of crap, a major rant summed up with two words should and envious. The author is dictating a length what climbing should be about when climbing is about whatever the climber wants it to be about. The crux of it is his own admission that he is envious of better climbers.
From the article...
"climbing should be about"
"should be climbing first"
"We should be sponsored so that"
"should this matter that much?"
"Winter climbing in Britain should be"
"it shouldnot be"
"should always remain"
"we should cut it loose"
"are actually climbed for the sheer joy of being out there, for the push to the limit, for finding liberation, for screaming f*ck-off to a cotton-wool society..."
after a week of sharing with some pretty cool foreign visitors the best and boldest of British trad climbing, and debating bolts vs gear ad nauseum, I have had plenty of time to vocalise what keeps me climbing.
1) It is the only time I can't think about work/patients/operating.
2) That feeling you get where the gear runs out and you have to keep it all together and make the move, whatever move at whatever grade, must get this right, or learn to fly, and the icy calm that takes over as you move; survived, again.
3) All the other best moments, banter on the ledge with your mates, evening sun, puffins diving, low tide, bliss.
There is a lot of tosh talked about climbing, gradism, elitism, training and all the time the "adventure" crags are getting quieter as more folk head to Malham or even to the indoor wall on a summer evening.
Suits me, but which sport are they playing?
Logos, sponsors, pot noodle numbers, photos, kit.....who cares?
I read an essay which to me said the author would like people to climbing hard (ie push themselves to whatever limit they personally have) for the joy of climbing hard and to push themselves. He seems to hope people will get sponsered for pushing themselves instead of pushing themselves for sponsership.
He doesn't seem envious of other climbers to me, maybe envious of experiences that he hopes they've had be fears they haven't.
Another beautifully written, honest and thought provoking piece.I am constantly reading his past essays and blog posts when in need of inspiration, or when I am questioning my own reasons for climbing.He is one of the few people who seem to be able to perfectly articulate both his own personal conflicts and turmoil, but also some of the more universal themes of climbing.
His articles have taught me to question everything, from the motives behind my personal day to day decisions to the reasons why I climb certain routes, why I climb with certain people, why I buy certain gear or the style of my ascents.Before making choices, in all aspects of life, we should not only consider their consequences, but we must also think deeply over our own reasoning behind them-am I only climbing this route so that I may tell my peers it's grade?, am I toproping it to death because i am in doubt of my own abilities?, am i buying this north face jacket because of the fact that it has two logos on it?
It's all to easy to let modern day values(or lack thereof)to interfere with our climbing, but we must never forget the many, varied reasons why we came to love it-it was never for pull out posters in glossy mags, on the hour news bulletins on websites, inflated self image, comparing oneself to others or boasting about how many one armers you can crank-for me it was seeing a beautiful, pure , aesthetic line that looked impossible from the ground, and ending up moving up it with both grace and difficulty, through the damp holds, greenery ,dirt, all the while sharing this experience with close friends-and finding that when you strip away all that isn't necessary, that we find out who we really are.
I just want to thank him for sharing his thoughts and emotions, and hope that he continues to do so, because personally it has had a profound impact on my perspective on climbing and life in general, and i'm sure i'm not the only one.Cheers,
What a meaningless load of toff! I'm sure Nick is a great climber and an inspirational writer, and in all honesty I climb for exactly the reasons he encourages, but I don't see what gives him the right to go about dictating to the rest of the world whether or not their motives are acceptable.
Climbing is about the individual, and thus we should all have are own individual reasons for being out on the rock. Of course we might not fully understand or appreciate other peoples motives, but that should never detract from their right to be there. "Elitist?" damn straight, that's elitist!
I can't help but feel the real losers here are the author and those that subscribe to his way of thinking. If your climbing is really all about the "sheer joy" of the climb then why should the previous or the next climbers' motives or ethic spoil that? I don't think it should... but this sounds to me far to much like the bitter rant of someone for whom it has.
> (In reply to Jack Geldard - Editor - UKC)
> What a meaningless load of toff! I'm sure Nick is a great climber and an inspirational writer, and in all honesty I climb for exactly the reasons he encourages, but I don't see what gives him the right to go about dictating to the rest of the world whether or not their motives are acceptable.
Dictating? Is he not offering an opinion? We all have that right, you agree?
> (In reply to elfofnight42)
> Dictating? Is he not offering an opinion? We all have that right, you agree?
Fair point. He is of course entitled to his opinion, but I feel this article over steps the mark. It is one thing to disagree with another man's motives, but the outright dissaproval shown here is unwarranted. It is not as if those whom the author so clearly dissaproves of are doing anything to effect his own enjoyment of climbing, although clearly the author has allowed himself to get so self righteously worked up about it that the issue is achieving just that (out of his own fault rather than anyone elses).
> (In reply to Mick Ryan - UKClimbing.com)
> It is not as if those whom the author so clearly dissaproves of are doing anything to effect his own enjoyment of climbing
What about his example of Everest.A mountain tainted by wasted oxygen tanks and hundreds of tons of human waste and detritus ,where bribery and theft are rife and where the majority of diseases being treated for in basecamp are STI's.If that wouldn't affect a future ascensionist then I don't know what would.
What, annoyed because your route is taken by top ropers? Yes of course it's annoying, but I don't think anyone can really construct any reasonable argument against their right to be there. Just because you are a "serious" climber doesn't mean your right to be on the route trumps theirs. Patience is a virtue.
The authors comments on Everest are another interesting example. I know these opinions are shared by many in the world of mountaineering, but are they really justified? Obviously the litter problem is a big issue on Everest, and one that is quite simply unnacceptable, but beyond that I think a lot of people are missing out on the experience of such an awesome mountain not because of its commercialisation but because they are in fact susceptable to the very folly Nick is trying to pin on others - if boasting about what you have acheived is important then for the serious mountaineer Everest isn't worth a look in, so many wallys with too much cash for their own good have been dragged to the top that even if you can boast a good ethic it means little. Alternatively if climbing for you is about actually enjoying the climbing then none of that will matter because other people's experiences, motives and ethics shouldn't effect that, you should be able to enjoy your conquest of the world's highest peak just as much as you enjoyed the first ascent of a minor and little known peak somewhere else, and of course Everest has the bonus that it IS the world's highest peak (perhaps it is a little sad that this is the only reason many people climb it, but that shouldn't negate from the additional bonus to your experience of the mountain).
Is there any guidance available as to the exact number of logos on one's helmet differentiate the "climber's climber" from the corporate whore. The helmet in these photos seems to be "spattered" to an extent that a Japanese bukkake star would envy ...?
In reply to tobyfk: Yes they're his sponsors, he's hardly "log splattered", i'd say some of the points raised about commercialism are also about his own personal conflicts with it-he's not just ranting at others or being elitist, i reckon if given the choice he woudn't just cover himself in labels to tell people he's a climber, his actions speak louder than words.His sponsors give him gear in return for exposure due to his successes, from what i understand his savings from his previous job and money earned from his writing are his only forms of income(although i'm happy to be proven wrong on this), and so he is supplied gear ,which allows him to climb, in return for wearing it and some stickers on his helmet-what's your point?
"A possible liar in the scorecard ranking (8) 19/05
The scorecard of one of the most famous climbers in the world are partly fake! During some year we have received e-mails that one member is not honest. We have tried to come in contact with the member without result.
Without the faked ascent the member is still world class but not one of the best. As 8a is often critizised, we now ask our members what we should do? We can present a long story that is not nice."
for me the last paragraph (super alpanism) is the key one. I may have this wrong but I get the impresson Neil is saying that it is a sector of climbing which (by its nature) is hardly ever done for the 'wrong' reasons, and the fact that the type of climbers who he is having a poke at, don't partake in super alpanism is proof that they are not always climbing for (as Neil sees it) the right reasons.
Super alpanism ascents is what I aspire to (hopefully one day!), I think that kind of climbing (big routes in fine style) is so much more meaningful than headpointing some high E number, even onsighting some high E number. Thus I agree with Nick (even if I am missing his point!), but I understand that if you are just intrested in the grades, your image, etc etc then you won't get the point.
>What about his example of Everest.A mountain tainted by wasted oxygen tanks and hundreds of tons of human waste and detritus
I will probably never climb Everest because like a lot of experienced climbers I have developed a set of ethics where using Sherpas to fix ropes and using supplemental Oxygen renders the exercise a bit pointless for me. I also shy away from sport and aid climbing for comparable reasons.
I have watched three series of Everest documentaries - Ultimate survival and Beyond the limits. The organisers show great tenacity in getting their amateur mountaineer clients to the top of Everest. The Sherpa demonstrate great skill and competence every year getting the fixed lines up to the Summit. The climbers going up Everest have different ethics and ambitions to me and they obviously relish the challenge and get a lot of satisfaction from it. So who is it for some dude on UKC to discount all that human experience.
Similarly, I'm not going to start slagging off sport climbers, and I've learned from debates on UKC to be tolerant of top-ropers at Stanage. Every individual has their own set of mountaineering ethics, grown up motivations and ambitions unique to their experiences and background and there is little justification in an angry rant dictating a set of rules for how we interact with the mountains.
>i'd say some of the points raised about commercialism are also about his own personal conflicts
And that is his problem to work out for himself, if he'd written the article as an exploration of his own conflicts instead of an angry rant at everyone else it would have been more digestible.
> And that is his problem to work out for himself, if he'd written the article as an exploration of his own conflicts instead of an angry rant at everyone else it would have been more digestible.
^^^what he says right here. My understanding is that Nick Bullock is one of the very, very few 'professional' climbers in the UK. Surely the interesting article on which he has an almost unique perspective explores the inherent conflict between his concerns about over-commercialization of our sport (I think that's what he's trying to articulate) and his part in that.
In reply to RocknRoll:
So who is it for some dude on UKC to discount all that human experience.
That is not what i meant, I was making an example of how one persons activites can have an impact on anothers experience of a route, in response to someone who had said that it doesn't matter what the previous ascentionist does, as it doesn't affect you.But hundreds of metres of fixed lines, waste, fixed protection etc. can all have an impact on future ascentionists experience of a route.I never stated that I wished to discount everest climbers experiences-I have a huge amount of respect for people with the determination and fitness required for it, I was merely saying that all of our adventures have impacts, some moreso than others.I apologise if i did not make my point well but don't twist my words or take them out of context.
In reply to RocknRoll: 'like a lot of experienced climbers I have developed a set of ethics where using Sherpas to fix ropes and using supplemental Oxygen renders the exercise a bit pointless for me. I also shy away from sport and aid climbing for comparable reasons'
You're hilarious. Do you not realise that the hardest climbs on the planet are those that the sport climbers are climbing? As for leading edge aid climbs, one shudders to think of the consequences of a fall. How high have you climbed without oxygen, anyway?
I was reffering to NB not you, sorry I didn't make that clear. But in response to you I've never seen a climber carry their own poo off a mountain whether they were a commercial client or DIY. Also there are plenty of revered mountaineers who retreated off mountains leaving fixed lines behind. Everest is probably quite efficient in terms of the numbers of climbers who use the fixed lines as they all go roughly the same routes on the lines put up by the lead team each year.
In reply to Jack Geldard - Editor - UKC:
I found the article to be a bit too much like a lecture. I'll climb for the reasons I like (I haven't yet fathomed exactly what they are, I think I simply love it) thank you very much.
As for logos, if I was sponsored by Wild Country (get in touch if you're interested, I may not climb particularly hard but I'm seen at the crag/wall 2-3 times a week) and they gave me gear so that I could get out climbing as much as I would like with the best kit available then I'd want to give something back! I'd slap their logo all over myself and sing their praises from the top out of everything I climbed!
Looking at the pic of James Pearson looking gripped at the top of The Groove I see that he's dripping with logos. There's four on just the helmet and the sleeve alone. However it is because of those companies that James is able to climb and train so much, get so good and without those companies The Groove E10 7b would not exist.
>Do you not realise that the hardest climbs on the planet are those that the sport climbers are climbing? As for leading edge aid climbs, one shudders to think of the consequences of a fall.
Of course I realise that, it's just not what I'm interested in, I was using it as an example of how different ethics/ambitions/motivations exist between climbers and that I'm not going to dictate to someone else how they approach their sport.
>How high have you climbed without oxygen, anyway?
Kilimanjaro 5895, with Tanzanian guides and porters carrying the food and tents. It was a great experience, not one that would interest me now.
> (In reply to john howard 1)
> I was reffering to NB not you, sorry I didn't make that clear. But in response to you I've never seen a climber carry their own poo off a mountain whether they were a commercial client or DIY.
It depends where you climb, in the states everyone carries waste out with them, its just us Europeans seem to not look after our areas of natural beauty quite as well.
In reply to Will Hunt: The article seemed much like a lecture to me as well. Obviously it was meant to be opinion as its an editorial but i seemed to hint there was an ideal way and reason to climb. I think everyone should be able to have their own reasons to climb, you dont need to be socially wayward and seeking some sort of liberation to be climbing for a proper reason.
Also i dont think that a climbing experience you remember for the rest of your life has to involve engaging in a bit of male bondage to cheat hypothermia on some cold Himalayan face. Memorable days can be had in any aspect of climbing.
It seems our ernest supehero has yet again put his foot in it, pot kettle black seems to spring to mind, hypocrisy of the highest order.... i just love the sactimonious bilge some climbers come out with from time to time, although for sure the recent pics of Pretty boy Pearsons were a tad cringe worthy.
In reply to RocknRoll:
You're propagating some myth about climbing just being about climbers doing their own thing. That's not the case and never has been. Try putting a few bolts in at Stanage and see.
I like it, it's a proper 'editorial' without a doubt.
Is it a hypocrytical account? I don't think so, but I think that is more a case of knowing the full picture, which isn't necessarily portayed in this account. A few photo's of Nick with a logo on his helmet (oo-er) doesn't make him the corperate desperado that perhaps some posters may have alluded to. However I do think it is unfair to say that his sponsors have allowed him to climb more; if the only thing stopping me climbing the next hard route was what kit I was receiving then I'm sure I could find another way round it. This is a big difference between being salaried to climb.
Really good, a really thought provoking insight from - in my eyes at least - a climbing hero.
In reply to RocknRoll:
I know that's an extreme case - I wanted to highlight that to say climbing is just about doing your own thing is an extreme position. I think there are aspects of climbing where it's acceptable to debate and criticise what other people are doing - that's how climbing styles and games evolve. I tend to be pretty non-judgemental about these things myself, within certain limits.
I supply Nick with most of his free kit/sponsorship deal. He doesn't get paid, just gets some free kit. There are no expectations apart from him bringing me a couple of bottles of wine back from the alps.
Not going to comment on the article.
If he didn't get free kit from us he would have to buy it and I know his income is tiny, I like to think we do help him to do more climbing. As for the stickers on the helmets, I just see it as Nick saying thanks to me & the other lads at DMM & Mammut.
In reply to Ian E B: Thanks for your input Ian, with some of the comments being made you'd swear he was earning a six figure salary or something.Like you say he is given gear to allow him to climb more, not the other way round, anyway back to get back on topic-great editorial nick, keep it up.
> If he didn't get free kit from us he would have to buy it and I know his income is tiny, I like to think we do help him to do more climbing. As for the stickers on the helmets, I just see it as Nick saying thanks to me & the other lads at DMM & Mammut.
Also not going to comment on the article - but thank you for putting things into perspective.
In reply to ALL: I think there is more to this article than just the 'Logo Splattered' bit. It could be my fault for using the NO LOGO image to illustrate it, but there are other aspects to this too.
We all wear logo's all the time. It has just become natural. In the sentence:
"Logo-splattered, sterile and posed pictures in magazines are becoming frequent.
The 'sterile and posed' grab me as much as anything. Do we want to look at and aspire to be models or are we inspired by blood sweat and tears?
My favourite climbing shot ever is Adam Long's OTE front cover of Ben Bransby on his and McHaffie's new route on Eig. (you can see it on his site http://www.adamlong.co.uk/ under published work).
Ben has a few logo's on his clothes - just the same as I do - they're on when I buy them in the shop. However he's pumped, he's scared and he's climbing for his life. It's amazing Adam could hold the camera still - the amount of tension that is in the air.
Interesting and thought provoking editorial. Thanks Nick.
In reply to Jack Geldard - Editor - UKC: I dont think climbing photos are becoming more sterile and posed. As with better technology and more people carrying cameras the photos dont need to be posed, If you look at the latest cover photos of Climb mag, they seem to all be photos of people actually climbing the route compared to in the past, posed, with a hidden rope. Im not sure how hes got the impression these photos are more common. Also this guy seems about as 'logo splattered' as Sharma, Pearson and all those guys, the fact they may actually get salaries isn't really an issue as the principle is the same; they all get something in return for advertising a brand.
In reply to RocknRoll: Surely its because they sympathise with or agree with his opinions? Its an editorial anyone can write one, you just need to be literate and have an opinion on something - you cant really make a blunder as its simply opinion. Whether people like it depends on their view.
I have had the honour of knowing Nick for a long time, longer than most who use this site and longer than most of the people who he now climbs with.
For those of you who do know nick you will understand his passion and his lack for material needs, nick lives to climb, for someone who spends the majority of his life living out of the back of his van because he has rented his house out so he can have the freedom to climb while ensuring his mortgage is paid off, and the rest of his time on trips doing some pretty out there nails stuff, you know who he is and what he does and how passionate he is.
His article reads as nick talks, thinks and acts… for people to even comment on the fact that he has a few logo stickers on his helmet and how it is contradictory to who nick and what he is about shows a total lack of knowledge. Nick does get kit supplied to him by a few companies, if him getting some free kit means a sticker on his helmet… so be it! after all… he has no job and it allows him to continue to push the standards of British Alpinism, he is not paid to climb… he lives to climb… I am sure he is a tad envious of people who make a lot of money and can sit back with out having to do too much while he is out there for weeks at a time with the shits in some tent on the other side of the world.. I know where I would rather be…
This is a bit of a rant, but it surprises and has somewhat shocked me at some of the replies on this thread to someone who puts a hell of a lot of time and devotion into what he does.. It just shows a lack of understanding and ignorance on their part..
I would describe it as a blunder because of the poor quality of the article, it is prosletysing rather than discussing, it is rambling rather than focused, it is vitriolic in it's attack on so many aspects of climbing and hence alienating the author.
I think that climbing motivation is an intersting subject that would make an interesting debate if handled a less aggressively. I am 36 and about to become a father for the second time, I am self employed and my partner is not interested in climbing. I recently suffered a serious climbing injury.
I have begun to question my own motivations as I have a lot of competing responsibilities. Do I spend too much buying kit? Why do I want to progress up the E grades? How much time should I give to climbing? Can I justify the risks on some of the climbs I do? At this stage will I ever make it to be an 'extreme' alpinist? Perhaps I should take up the guitar instead?
Why is Franco Cookson spending so much time focused on climbing with his exams coming up?
Why does Tom Ripley want to spend his life climbing instead of pursuing a career?
In HardXS Andy Kirpatrick admits something along the lines that pursuing extreme alpinism demonstrates a lack of self love, he has two kids but he still does it, why?
There's another climber on that Video who gave up climbing when he couldn't maintain his peak level of ability, why? is it that shallow a sense of satisfaction?
There is something about climbing for me that is compelling yet the satisfaction is fleeting and the goal always gets harder. It's a bit self destructive.
In reply to RocknRoll: He says, "As a collective we should support each other". You say, "it is vitriolic in it's (sic) attack on so many aspects of climbing". It seems to me that the vitriolic one is you.
In reply to BigMac:
>It just shows a lack of understanding and ignorance on their part..
I would say a lack of any introduction in the article or on his profile.
It is interesting to get some background on the author, it sounds like a stressful life.
Simon Yates describes in his book about his climb in Patagonia 'Against the Wall' how he lived a nomadic cash-strapped life pursuing extreme alpinism. He bacame more ana more alientated from mainstream life until the events in Patagonia forced him to back off and re-evaluate his priorities. Andy cave in 'Learing to Breathe' describes a similar experience when he lost his climing partner in the Himalaya and subsequently withdrew from climbing.
I think this article has revealed something of the psychology of the author and the stress of the sacrifices he has made. I respect him for his apparent achievements (although I have no idea what they are) and his drive and focus. Pure conjecture but it sounds like he has hit a bit of a wall?
The question is how does a passionate climber balance progression, satisfaction, enjoyment, safety, financial respinsibilities, family, future financial security, stability in life, social needs...
I've re-read the piece and I still think we must have read a different text.
The way your post read is that the vitriol you aim at Nick Bullock seem to stem from him not giving waht you do enough respect?
There are many reasons to climb but what the editorial says to me is that they should be for yourself and not for the praise of others or for money and fame. I probably like the article as it sits inline with my own thoughts and motivations but even if it didn't , I'm not sure it would need such an agressive response as you seem to deam fit.
> (In reply to BigMac)
> >It just shows a lack of understanding and ignorance on their part..
> I would say a lack of any introduction in the article or on his profile.
> It is interesting to get some background on the author, it sounds like a stressful life.
Try looking at the article again.
You want background on the author, try this and others that are linked to Bullock's Guest Editorial. It may give you some insight.
by Nick Bullock Nov/2006
This article has been read 6,276 times
No he doesn't Mick. Unlike elfofnight42, who has presented some valid criticism of the article, RocknRoll's comments seem poorly thought through. He criticises Nick for ranting and yet that's what he has done for the majority of his posts. He doesn't like the article - that's fine - yet I still don't understand exactly why; he has put forward several reasons for his dislike but neither expanded on nor justified any of them. Lastly he doesn't seem to understand the concept of an editorial.
I'm not always a fan of Nick's writing, and I agree with a few of elfofnight42's criticisms earlier. Yet on the whole I think this was a good article, a good editorial, and I'm glad to have read it.
> (In reply to ALL) I think there is more to this article than just the 'Logo Splattered' bit. It could be my fault for using the NO LOGO image to illustrate it, but there are other aspects to this too.
Also Jack, I don't know if you have read No Logo, but what I remember of it from when I did back in 2000, was more about tax free manufacturing enclaves in third or second world countries - which is ultimately about labour rights than logos. There is stuff in there about the commercialisation of everything, but at least for me the labour rights stuff was more important. This is a much bigger issue than most of us would ever care to think about. Our leisured western lives - be that Nick going off for some dirt-bag super-alpinism or me driving up to Norway for a week of moderate if adventurous ice climbing at Easter, is in part a product to the wealth our societies have accumulated through ever decreasing cost of living that come in part from globalisation of manufacturing.
Climbing shoes now are basically the same price as they were when I bought my first ones nearly 20 years ago. I don't mean in real terms, I mean literally the same cost in pounds - despite twenty years of inflation. We are wealthier just because stuff got cheaper.
You might not have meant that with the No Logo picture, but its worth thinking about.
> Super alpanism ascents is what I aspire to (hopefully one day!), I think that kind of climbing (big routes in fine style) is so much more meaningful than headpointing some high E number, even onsighting some high E number.
But how would you know - if you haven't done one or even either of them?
Different people react in different ways. Sometimes when I've been doing mountain climbs that are easy by world standards but still include adventure and some danger I start thinking "why the hell am I doing this? I'm scared and I miss my family. I definitely don't want to die and put them through hell as a result." This happens even more since having had kids. Obviously that is only a part of the experience, because I keep climbing - but I find I'm more interested in pitched climbing with decent belays these days, than - say - tottering about solo on narrow snow ridges or exposed ice sheets. I respect Nick for incredible skill and bravery, but not everyone would get out of hard, dangerous climbing what he does.
I actually thought the most interesting line was: "Relationships at home fall apart" - that is very revealing, especially for anyone who has had a 'discussion' with their wife/husband/partner about their going climbing 'again' and is forever having to balance your ultimately selfish desire to climb against wider familial responsibilities.
Interesting. And judging by this thread one that provokes many different responses. Personally I couldnt care less about the 'logo' issue.
It comes across that Bullock hasnt entirely resolved his own views on the issues either so it comes across as a raw gut based braindump rather than a cohesive thought out one. Whilst I agreed with many of the sentiments he expresses (particularly regarding adventure) I think you are deluding yourself if you believe you have an objective view on your own motivations but to then go on to second guess and judge others motivations, as he does, has the underlying tenet that one type of motivation is more 'superior' or more 'suspect'..and this personally grates. Why not truly accept that people climb for different reasons and let them climb for different reasons in the spirit of acceptance rather than doling out praise or admonishment depending on your personal worldview.
> (In reply to tobyfk) I would`ve thought you would have worshipped at the feet of corporate whoredom ? Or even licked its spangly high heel ?
Really. Do enlighten me? You know me well, I assume?
Anyway, for the record, I have nothing against climbers with sponsorships, especially if, like Sonnie Trotter and Dave Macleod, they can write about their climbing lives and ambitions in amusing, inspiring and sometimes humble ways. In contrast, Nick Bullock seems to be trying to have his cake and eat it: occupying the moral high ground whilst clearly quite entwined in climbing's commercial side. Perhaps that's not what he intended. If so, I am sorry he didn't spend more time on it. As Simon Lee writes, the article does read like an unedited first draft braindump. On the positive side, it is still far more coherent than 'No Logo' ... a truly indulgent and stupid book.
> has the underlying tenet that one type of motivation is more 'superior' or more 'suspect'
This was my main issue with the piece also. Nick wants us all to climb for our reasons - but what if somebody's reasons are "I want to get sponsored and see my picture in loads of magasines?". The real question then would be "does this reason affect other people's enjoyment of climbing? If Nick or anybody else can make a strong case for a 'yes' answer to this question, then they may have a real point. That case wasn't really made though.
Nevertheless, I enjoyed reading his point of view, and I think it merits proper discussion rather than ranting replies. (Kicks self, remembers we're on UKC
> I actually thought the most interesting line was: "Relationships at home fall apart" - that is very revealing
I agree with you.
I respect Nick Bullock's passion and this is not intended as a personal attack, it is a criticism of his article and an examination of a bit of climbers psychology and to be frank Nick has voluinteered himself to us.
He writes in this article that (he climbs?) "for finding liberation, for screaming f*ck-off to a cotton-wool society"
He writes in 'Echoes' "No longer a life tracked until retirement, the right to vote or possessions. No longer wealth but now I have more riches imaginable."
Is he saying that he has found freedom in climbing? Does this really ring true? Maybe like Simon Yates once admitted he has become a slave to his climbing? Trapped in the back of his van, trapped by his ambition and the compromises he has had to make in the other things in life? Is that the true issue, the contradiction that has prompted this article?
There is also a contradiciton in saying that V-Diff is just as worthy as E-grade climbing but then going on to advocate Super-Alinism.
This debate has put the spotlilght on the contradictions and compromises of climbing.
"In the beginning I was drawn to climbing and climbing hard because I was angry - with the world, my family, and with my future. I chose climbing as self-expression because I needed to feel superior. Soloing hard routes definitley placed me a cut above the rest, in my opinion. The need for superiority conditioned me to desire adulation. I didn't do many of my formative climbs for myself, but for an audience. I wanted to affect them in some way. The more I did, the happier I was. These actions imposed the great responsibility of living up to my ranting and posturing. No man wants to be found out or proven transparent and irrelevant. I worked hard to live into the personality I created, to live up to his strong beliefs and confrontational attitude."
Mark Twight reflecting at the end of "Extreme Alpinism"
The psychology of climbing is an wonderful thing. It was a real pleasure to read that honest paragraph at the end of his book.
In reply to RocknRoll: Interesting points there RocknRoll, although could you elaborate on the comparison between v-diffs and e-grades and his advocation of super-alpinism, I'm not sure I follow what you mean there, cheers John
"There are those who struggle up VDiff's at Birchen who actually climb far harder, and far more at the edge of their own personal boundaries than many slick E-grade leaders"
He writes that without really explaining it and the meaning I extrapolate is that climbing a V-Diff is just as valid as an E-grade if it is at the edge of your ability. He then half way through the article writes "feel it's time to take stock and slow down". Which seems consistent with saying that it's not important to be on ultra hard climbs. But at the end he writes that bit about Super Alpinism.
It's a contradiction that I can relate to because the harder I train the harder I have to climb to be at the edge of my ability. The more I climb the harder I have to go to get the same buzz. Climbing for me is about progression and being scared, feeling right out there. When I climb I usually start on a VS, then try a HVS and then I'll go for an E1 (or a HVS if its Swanage) and I'll shit myself and be frightened and maybe not even enjoy it. It would be more 'enjoyable' to do another HVS but I feel 'greater' having successfully labored up an E1.
It's a noble sentiment to say we admire somebody who is at the edge of their ability on a V-Diff but in truth we rarely celebrate the mediocre and we are inspired by E-grade climbers and 'Super' or 'Extreme' alpinists.
> (In reply to john howard 1)
> "There are those who struggle up VDiff's at Birchen who actually climb far harder, and far more at the edge of their own personal boundaries than many slick E-grade leaders"
> He writes that without really explaining it and the meaning I extrapolate is that climbing a V-Diff is just as valid as an E-grade if it is at the edge of your ability. He then half way through the article writes "feel it's time to take stock and slow down". Which seems consistent with saying that it's not important to be on ultra hard climbs. But at the end he writes that bit about Super Alpinism.
I feel the same about the level of difficulty that people climb at and I know where Nick is coming from.
It is common for people to look down their noses at people who are happy climbing at a certain grade, you see it on the UKC forums often. I find that attitude horrible.
And yet myself, even at 46, I want to get better than I am, still have lots of climbing ambitions and I'm trying - very trying at times.
Coincidentally before I went to Pembroke a couple of weeks ago I emailed a mate who climbs at HVD to reassure him that HVD was OK. This is what I said to him.
"I was glancing through the Climbers Club Pembroke guide and looking at the photos of the guys putting up new E4/E5/E6 routes back in the ‘70’s and ‘80s, these guys are all 30 years older now and probably bumbling around on HVSs and spending time with the grand children. It gets you thinking about how the grade you climb is not important at all, it won’t make you richer, it won’t get you any more friends, and it won’t impress the missus. I think what’s important to me is that I climb with a bit of boldness and if HVD feels bold then I’m having as much excitement as the guy who goes cragging every weekend, trains down the wall three days a week and leads E4."
But when I bagged my E1 a couple of days later I felt hypocritical bragging about it and that's the inherent contradiction.
You know if we were all flamenco guitarists then we could get much better without risking our lives or spending lots of time away from home. We could stay at the top of our game for much longer. We could make money out of it and impress potential sexual partners. (Assuming flamenco guitarist play for the enjoyment of playing and not for the danger of playing a piece at the edge of their techinical ability that they might f*ck up
I've twittered about it all over the rest of the forum so I might as well say it here too - check out the book 'Flow' by Mihaly Czikszenmihayli, which is all about the psychology of optimal experience - the moments where you're doing stuff that's challenging to you, that has a goal, that you're totally absorbed in. There's no reason why people shouldn't experience 'flow' on a VDiff if that's what they find challenging, just as much as someone on an E7, or someone focusing on playing flamenco guitar.
In reply to tobyfk: "Nick Bullock seems to be trying to have his cake and eat it: occupying the moral high ground whilst clearly quite entwined in climbing's commercial side"
Toby, one hesitates to speculate on your motivation but you seem quite obsessed with this issue. If you can't see that you are attemting to take what you describe as 'the moral high ground' in the words that I have quoted then you are devoid of self perception. Your words were written from the point of view of a person who has taken up a presumably highly paid job in the UAE about someone who lives in the back of his van and receives a bit of free climbing kit from the manufacturer. I know which of the two of you I think has abandoned himself to commercialism.
> Your words were written from the point of view of a person who has taken up a presumably highly paid job in the UAE about someone who lives in the back of his van and receives a bit of free climbing kit from the manufacturer. I know which of the two of you I think has abandoned himself to commercialism.
Hmmm, interesting point John - but what is commercialism in this sense? I totally accept that many professional climbers are completely skint, but they still have enough to do what they want to do - and presumably this no longer being the 80s, social security isn't enough to support that life style anymore - so presumably all are surfing the wave of commercialism to some extent.
By the way - your profile states that you are both retired and some way away still from 50 which suggest you organised your dealings with the world of capitalism very well to allow such life choices!
There's a whole list of 'straw man' variations in the Wiki article, I particularly like the one called Ipsedixitism... 'Someone guilty of perpetrating an ipsedixitism does not explicitly define it as an axiom, and certainly not as a premise, but often appears presented in syllogistic form'
Now that's what I call sophisticated verbal weaponry to use against the lame UKC logicians.
When I first started climbing I really wanted to climb harder to get respect even lying about what I had done, looking back I'm dissapointed in myself at that shameful and shallow aim and ultimately it makes any achievements hollow and empty. In any case it was obvious to see through and didn't get me any respect.
These days I want to climb harder and push myself for myself to see what I can achieve, not for anyone else to know but for that feeling of accomplishing something that's diffucult for you, and it's a much more satisfying and fulfilling pastime. This, combined with sharing the experience with good friends (and my fantastic girlfriend), makes climbing for me an experience with no equal.
> Toby, one hesitates to speculate on your motivation but you seem quite obsessed with this issue.
That's awfully pompous, John! "One hesitates", indeed. Please feel free to psychoanalyse me in public as long as you're open to me returning the favour. Anyway: on forum threads, the options are generally to get fully sucked into a discussion, limit to a little wry sniper fire or stay out. I'd hoped to stick with option 2, but since I seem to have provoked some pissy responses I guess I am sucked in. Believe me I am far from obsessed.
> Your words were written from the point of view ..... about someone who lives in the back of his van and receives a bit of free climbing kit from the manufacturer. I know which of the two of you I think has abandoned himself to commercialism.
Simon has kindly explained the irrelevance of that argument. Tediously I suppose I have to highlight again (3rd time in this thread?) that I have no problem with sponsored climbers. My start point was just amusement at Nick's criticism of 'logo-splattered' climbers - highlighted also in Jack's introductory blurb - when UKC has a fine collection of splatter photos of the great man himself. Beyond that I think it's a rushed article which has some points I agree with (Everest etc) but an overall tone I find offputting. That's all.
> a person who has taken up a presumably highly paid job in the UAE
Since you mention it, John, of all the office enslavement I have experienced down the years, this is by far the best. I work mornings only, have a 5 minute commute, a bouldering wall in my house, another wall nearby, 9 weeks holiday and a lifetime's unclimbed rock two hours easy drive away across the desert. Do you want salary and tax status? On the negative side, I am still a useless timid climber and do only live for a couple of weeks cumulatively a year in the back of my "van" (OK: bloated 4x4) but I hope to improve on that once I retire. Next year?
> My start point was just amusement at Nick's criticism of 'logo-splattered' climbers - highlighted also in Jack's introductory blurb - when UKC has a fine collection of splatter photos of the great man himself
This was your point on the first reply of the thread and I still find it rather baffling. Surely you can spot the difference between self-portrait taken on a point-n-shoot digi, and an artificially setup photoshoot, with the light, climber, route and products 'just-so'?
The photo you chose as an illustration baffled me even further, as it merely undermined your point and confirmed what Nick seems to be saying. While there may be a few logos on the helmet, they've hardly spend several hours thinking about how to maximise brand exposure, have they?
Does it matter how logo splattered a climber is? I think there is a considerable difference between the 'formula one racing driver' type logo splattering of some climbers and a sticker on the helmet of others.
Sometimes the logo's take away from a picture what it is perhaps trying to show, this certainly being the the case in my eyes with certain recent high profile ascent pics. But this is about photography and advertisements and money in peoples pockets, not about motivations.
> This was your point on the first reply of the thread and I still find it rather baffling. Surely you can spot the difference between self-portrait taken on a point-n-shoot digi, and an artificially setup photoshoot, with the light, climber, route and products 'just-so'?
Of course there is a difference. But Nick's actual line was: "Logo-splattered, sterile and posed pictures in magazines are becoming frequent. They offend me..." I guess the point is that is sounds quite judgemental, he didn't say "they're boring", or "they all look the same" etc. He says "offend". Fair enough - if quite strong phrase - but then for someone to point out that of those three 'crimes' he points out, he is 'guilty' (of course the analogous language is excessive, hence the quotation marks) of one of them himself, doesn't seem unfair to point out
One odd aspect of my "abandonment to commercialism" out here is that I have yet to see any oil or indeed anything related to it. Apart from rigs out in the Gulf, viewable on about five days per year (too hazy most of the time).
> (In reply to Alun)
> Of course there is a difference. But Nick's actual line was: "Logo-splattered, sterile and posed pictures in magazines are becoming frequent. They offend me..." I guess the point is that is sounds quite judgemental, he didn't say "they're boring", or "they all look the same" etc. He says "offend". Fair enough - if quite strong phrase - but then for someone to point out that of those three 'crimes' he points out, he is 'guilty' (of course the analogous language is excessive, hence the quotation marks) of one of them himself, doesn't seem unfair to point out
I saw this as one phrase, "Logo-splattered, sterile and posed pictures" and it was the picture as a whole that was the issue, ie, not catching the moment but a pose to please sponsers/ mag editors. Seems a shame that the discussion seems to be only about having logos on kit and not the rest of the article.
In reply to galpinos: Yup - fair enough, but then again a good editorial or op-ed piece is a strong statement of views and is meant to promote discussion. So in that sense Nick's article is real success!
> Seems a shame that the discussion seems to be only about .... and not the rest of the article.
Well this is great: "Our climbing pond is small, like a goldfish bag carried home from the fair – on occasion big-fish egos swell against the plastic" Wish lines like that entered my head when I write.
I wondered whether NB had a specific "big-fish"/ "climb to blog"-ger in mind with this article? If so, I assume a winter climber judging from the emphasis of the last few paragraphs.
> (In reply to galpinos) Posed shots are the same as un-posed ones showing sponsors. The purpose of both is to advertise a brand.
Really? I took the posed photos comment to mean just that, posed. The person isn't climbing the route but just holding the position for the shot then grabbing an out of shot safety rope or whatever. The photo is purely to please the sponsers as opposed to actually campturing the ascent of a climber who happens to have logos on his kit.
> (In reply to tobyfk)
> Did you notice how no one said "what does that mean"? Of course I have no idea, is it something to do with Bonsai trees? I'll look it up later...
Look it up first, don't go to the garden centre and ask if the guys round the back can help you find some bukkake.
martin k21 May 2008
In reply to Jack Geldard - Editor - UKC: i haven't managed to get through all the posts, but whatever nick has written, he has achieved one of the simple aims of an editorial, which is to express an opinion, get a reaction and cause a debate. well done!
"Without mentioning any names, we admit there are several guys in the 8a.nu's rankings system, even in the top ten, who are suspected of...not being entirely honest, to put it mildly. What’s maybe more interesting is that many of the rumors we hear originate from other top class climbers. If it’s just a case of bad mouthing your ‘rivals’ (we don’t think so), it’s really bad, but if everything we hear is true, it’s even worse...
So, why lie? There are, of course, several reasons behind this, but the most important one is, as always, the money, or more precisely, fame, glory and SPONSORS. Sending hard stuff, and letting people know about it, enables you to travel the globe and to do what you like best - climb. If lying can give you this, why not? Well, apart from going to HELL when you die, it’ll only work for a while, until people get suspicious. Pretty soon they’ll be on to you and you’ll find it extremely hard to hold on to your ‘hard earned’ sponsors. Once a liar - always a liar. Probably most of these guys don't know that they are lying as they are mythomaniacs.
We don’t want to be the bad guys here or to be some kind of ethic police but as our scorecard is starting to be the official ranking we have some responsibilities to all you guys who don't fake. If you have reason to believe someone’s being a naughty boy - let us know. Then, we'll contact this guy and pass over the rumour...
Liar liar... and mythomaniacs is a delicate and touchy subject and we really don't know what to to do about it. Anyhow we thought it should be mentioned. But don't forget that climbing is for fun. Enjoy!"
Keeping the records real is important, so the rest of us and especially the top climbers can have confidence in the standards they are measuring themselves against. It could be said that lies about ethics are somewhat equivalent to Tour de France riders taking drugs?
> (In reply to Mick Ryan - UKClimbing.com)
> Keeping the records real is important, so the rest of us and especially the top climbers can have confidence in the standards they are measuring themselves against. It could be said that lies about ethics are somewhat equivalent to Tour de France riders taking drugs?
Or track and field athletes taking drugs, or soccer players, or tennis players, or american footballers........................ or climbers?