This post is in response to a June 19, 2019 article from UKClimbing.com entitled "The Perfect Line: Naming and Claiming" by Sarah-Jane Dobner,
"The stack of vintage magazines beside the circuit boards is always worth a browse. So much has changed! So little has changed! The outfits. The destinations, always looking wonderful, over the years. Flicking through. Eyes caught by a full page photo. Mali, West Africa. Black-skinned youth in dirty trousers leaning against the sandstone. Dwarfed by spray-painted European route names. There is a short caption, by Ray Wood. It concludes "Leaving [the environmental] issue aside however, assuming you have the right to paint the name of a route at the bottom in bright yellow paint has a ring of colonialism about it." The date of the magazine is November 2003. Nearly twenty years ago. In those two decades, how much has the conversation moved on?
Painting route names on the wall isn't common practice, so using a 16 year old image of a crag in Mali where some Spanish-speaking (or at least writing) Eurotrash did so is justifying your argument with an outdated example of behavior that isn't acceptable in 95% of the world.
There are complex issues connected to new routeing. Who gets to do what, and where? How powerful is a name? What has been the impact of the current system? What could be better? In 2019 there is much greater awareness of sexism, racism, cultural imperialism and so on. How should we integrate this knowledge into climbing, into new routeing? On the other hand, one of the beauties of climbing, to my mind, is its lawlessness. It is quite unregulated. We go where we like, put our lives in danger, clamber about rock faces all over the place willy-nilly. It's great. I balk at imposing restrictions or codes of practice. But maybe we should?
The usual "woke" double standards: Hazel Findlay states that we shouldn't be bound by respect for the standards of the last century or the efforts and ethics of first ascentionists.
Her authority for making this statement?
She's a "World-class climber and first ascensionist in multiple countries."
Translation: we sell copy by publishing her picture, she gets to climb for a living instead of waiting tables, digging ditches, joining the military, driving a cab, making pizzas, designing bridges, healing the sick or doing any anything productive for society.
Apparently the author's enlightenment doesn't prevent her from setting aside the fact that, to have FAs in multiple countries, Hazel has added tons of carbon to the atmosphere.
Because while Hazel is white, she's not male, so she gets a #MeToo pass for being so "woke".
(Sorry, ladies, but this is what equality actually looks like: if you get to criticize all males for a past they can't change while using language with enough reverse gender bias to float the Titanic, you're putting yourself in the crosshairs of honesty without respect to gender. Isn't that the goal? But I digress...)
Yeah... those grades and end-driven approaches to climbing suck, huh, Hazel?
Because you'd still be famous in a gradeless world where you weren't splashed all over climbing media BECAUSE you're one of the hardest-sending female climbers.
Which men are forcing you to use the exact same beta? If you want to use different moves or sequences on the same line, feel free!
From my friend Jim, a strong graduate of Sheffield University who stands just a bit over 5'7" tall:
"I'm 5.7 and don't climb like someone who's 5.11 or 6'. I always have climbed every route the way I think it should be climbed, sometimes that involves making an HVS an E2 or finding a way to dynamically propel myself between holds someone significantly taller than me can statically reach."
Back to the article;
It's a tricky conversation. The trouble is, there is no one, simple, correct answer. We're all looking for the Perfect Line. But that line can be smudged, chalked, rubbed out and redrawn depending on myriad factors including personality, gender, location, faith and time. In this article I'll consider culture and naming in the UK before moving on to look at new routeing abroad.
Hmmm... maybe. But regardless of any of those factors, if you go off-route, you're going to have to admit that you did not in fact "send" the line. Sorry, but If I drive through Texas, I can't claim to have followed Route 66 end to end.
Some people like bolts at their feet, waist and just overhead. If those folks were to take drill and bolts and add them to THEIR lines, I can't help but wonder just how open Hazel, or the author, would be to people climbing their lines "the way they like"?
The cultural dominance of white guys
The author goes to great lengths to attack white men for all those historical first ascents, white men who have, especially in the last five decades, been active advocates for gender equality and racial diversity in not only climbing, but society as a whole.
From the comments:
The fact that most of the older routes were put up by 'white guys' obviously irks but it is simply a fact of history. Get over it. You can't change what happened (for whatever reason).
Here's a little factoid from the testes-bearing side: when you make the same kinds of presumptions and display the same kind of bias our gender was and sometimes is still guilty of, those of us who had no more choice about our gender than Bruce/Kaitlyn Jenner lose respect for you, and motivation to continue working for equality, diversity and/or inclusion.