Is The Sport of Mountaineering in Decline?

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Bergshrund

 
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Is The Sport of Mountaineering in Decline?

by Bergshrund » Wed Nov 30, 2011 10:51 am

Curious what your thoughts are on the next generation of young climbers. Has the dwindling standard of living in North America (for the middle class) affected this sport for the next generation?

I'm not talking about rock/crag climbing. I'm talking about Mountaineering as in expedition stuff...Denali stuff. The photos I see from recent Denali seasons look like freshly divorced guys in their 40's looking for something new. :P

Where have all the mountain climbers gone? Like 20's. Maybe we should create an Occupy 14,000 Camp website to inject some new blood.

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ExcitableBoy

 
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Re: Is The Sport of Mountaineering in Decline?

by ExcitableBoy » Wed Nov 30, 2011 1:56 pm

Bergshrund wrote:Curious what your thoughts are on the next generation of young climbers. I'm talking about Mountaineering as in expedition stuff...Denali stuff. Where have all the mountain climbers gone? Like 20's.

Mountaineering has always been a fringe sport, but there is more exposure and access (via gyms) than anytime before. I think the number of young people getting into climbing in general, and to a lesser degree mountaineering, is increasing. Perhaps it is because I live in Seattle and have been around the block a few times, but I have climbed and corresponded with many young (High School and College age) aspiring alpinists, many already incredibly skilled. I am 43 and except for a single, old partner, all of my alpine climbing trips the last couple of years were done exclusively with climbers in their 20's. The friends I started with are busy raising families or have changed interests.

All you have to do is look around here on SP. A crew of young guys from CA including Vitialy, Ski, and Pullicid Wombat to name a few have been hitting it hard. I have my on eye on Josh Lewis to start doing some cool things. It takes time and money to accquire all the skills and gear neccessary to work up to expedition climbing. Although I live in the Cascades, it took 8 years of focused training (trad rock, aid/big wall, mountaineering, alpine touring skiing, ice cimbing winter alpine climbing) before I made my first trip to Alaska.

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CClaude

 
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Re: Is The Sport of Mountaineering in Decline?

by CClaude » Wed Nov 30, 2011 2:20 pm

As a percentage of the climbing population, its probably declining, since the vast majority of the climbers today are boulders. But I agree with ExcitableBoy that the numbers are actually probably going up. Mountaineering is also changing in some elements. There is an element that most people won't see that go and do their stuff at the highest of levels and blend into the woodwork. They aren't your typical Denali expedition climber but they do some big stuff on mountains you may or may not have heard of and largely go un-noticed.

I know a lot of young guys who learned to climb hard, are starting to apply their skills at free climbing big walls in Zion and Yosemite and will eventually take their skills and attitudes to other objectives like Pakistan, Baffin Island. Mst of theem you'll never hear of (I once said that of Nik Berry but I was wrong when I said you'd never hear about him).

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Dow Williams

 
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Re: Is The Sport of Mountaineering in Decline?

by Dow Williams » Wed Nov 30, 2011 3:16 pm

Chuck has hit most of it...but in reality, those who do not know much about climbing/mountaineering in general think that the better "climbers", "mountaineers", etc...climb Denali and Everest. In reality, the only real climbers or mountaineers on expeditions up the mountains most of you focus on are in fact just the guides. Neither of these objectives are that attractive to those who climb full time because number one: they are crowded and thus require permitting and money (something most folks who chose the climbing lifestyle have never had) to get in line to climb. Number two: time. The time it takes to travel and climb Everest, a climber/mountaineer can use to hit multiple other objectives with much more interesting mountaineering challenges via rock, ice, ski and/or even alpine skills. In a town like Canmore, Alberta, you do live among your peers (along with the Everest Club wannabes). The young and old are still into mountaineering as much as they have always been....same numbers as far as I can tell. What I have noticed are less "tourist" climbers out and about, those requiring guiding services, travel and/or the ownership of overpriced gear to climb with. That group appears to be more economy driven than any other, but to be fair....most of us never recognized these folks as mountaineers to begin with. Therefore in conclusion I do not see the active number of mountaineers dwindling due to the economy or middle class suffrage.

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ExcitableBoy

 
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Re: Is The Sport of Mountaineering in Decline?

by ExcitableBoy » Wed Nov 30, 2011 4:53 pm

borutbk wrote:First of all Mountaineering is not a sport.

Au contraire. Mountaineering is one of three sports along with bull fighting and motorcycle racing. Everything else is just a game.

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hansw

 
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Re: Is The Sport of Mountaineering in Decline?

by hansw » Wed Nov 30, 2011 6:20 pm

"Mountaineering is a matter of taste and taste is not an issue for debate."

- Leslie Stephen
"I wonder why. I wonder why. I wonder why I wonder. I wonder why I wonder why. I wonder why I wonder!"
- Richard Feynman

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Re: Is The Sport of Mountaineering in Decline?

by sharperblue » Wed Nov 30, 2011 7:00 pm

Bergshrund wrote:Curious what your thoughts are on the next generation of young climbers. Has the dwindling standard of living in North America (for the middle class) affected this sport for the next generation?

I'm not talking about rock/crag climbing. I'm talking about Mountaineering as in expedition stuff...Denali stuff. The photos I see from recent Denali seasons look like freshly divorced guys in their 40's looking for something new. :P

Where have all the mountain climbers gone?


I think that all we have to do is look at the plethora of mass-mailing gear companies and websites in both the Americas and Europe to realize that climbing is exponentially rising in popularity, as is 'expedition' mountaineering/technical mountaineering as well. I would agree that a large percentage of younger climbers are more interested in bouldering and sport climbing than aid, trad, ice, or mixed, and even less so if it involves altitude or more committing approaches - but that is a vast generalization, and also I think just a matter of time (meaning, the longer you stick around climbing circles, the more diverse a group of people you meet, and you gradually become drawn into other aspects of the sport as your own experience, training, and knowledge of what is possible and available broadens.)

Look at Denali Base or high camp today; did it look even remotely like that in even 1980? How about 1960? What about the popular bases in the Ishinca Valley in Peru or around the Fitzroy massif or Mont Blanc? The numbers are staggering compared to a few decades ago, and it's not just snow-slogging mid-life crisis guys in their 40's and 50's. The world's ranges and valley walls are filled with people who can climb at a level in any branch of the sport you could wish that would stagger the previous generations, in both skill and number. The skills, tools, and training that were obscure and difficult to obtain thirty or fifty years ago are a pretty big business these days.

As for age - and there are of course very many very notable exceptions - I think that a lot of us only feel like we can 'take on' expedition style stuff after making a big leap of faith or being invited on trips by more experienced friends. It takes many people a long time to 'work up' to that kind of thing, and there are a lot of illusions about things like cost (it can be, if you climb in the Usual Suspect Spots, but it sure doesn't have to be - it can be astoundingly cheap, in fact) and difficulty (in California, for example, where there are no glaciers and little ice, but plenty of out-of-the-car world-class climbing spots, the percentages of people who are willing or are even knowledgable about the range of possible climbing styles available to them are even slimmer. The climbing world for very many of us here looks like this: Bouldering - Happy Boulders and Buttermilks. Ice - Lee Vining canyon. Trad - Yosemite. Sport - JT and the Gorge.

I think what I'm getting at with that last digression is the one area where I am genuinely disappointed in the younger generation (my own included) - for the love of all f*ck: go explore more! The number of people I know who are capable of climbing almost anything, anywhere in the world is pretty big, actually - but they seldom put up new lines, seldom show much interest in Adventure. If you can climb trad at 5.11 and aid at A2+ and climb ice at at least AI2, you should be putting up new routes as a matter of course, and picking up the guidebook when you just want an easy day :) In my perfect little insular world. :)

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JHH60

 
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Re: Is The Sport of Mountaineering in Decline?

by JHH60 » Wed Nov 30, 2011 7:19 pm

There's a pretty big range of activity between full time climbers and those who only climb in the company of guides. If someone goes out and climbs a class 4 route with a friend that neither have done before, for the sheer joy of being in the mountains, is that not mountaineering, even if it's not a cutting edge first ascent that they spray about in Alpinist (or Summitpost)? Does a route have to be a first ascent to be mountaineering? Norman Clyde, who probably did more first ascents in the Sierra than anyone, loved to repeat his favorite climbs. Was he not mountaineering when he repeated routes?

I'll grant that hiring a guide to drag you up a mountain that you can't climb yourself is not in the same league as real mountaineering. But are you not a real mountaineer if you hire a guide to learn specific skills so you can later do them youself, vs. just going out with a friend who may or may not know what they're doing, trying to learn by doing, and dying if you get it wrong (as happened to a close friend and climbing buddy in college when what I now know was a very poorly constructed anchor failed on him)?

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Josh Lewis

 
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Re: Is The Sport of Mountaineering in Decline?

by Josh Lewis » Wed Nov 30, 2011 10:11 pm

ExcitableBoy wrote:I have my on eye on Josh Lewis to start doing some cool things. It takes time and money to accquire all the skills and gear neccessary to work up to expedition climbing.


I'm working on it, it's difficult when you live in a catch 22 of technical climbing. My catch 22 is that I cannot climb because I cannot lead, and I cannot lead because I don't climb. :lol: :roll: My friend Mark Straub took me out quite a few times but sadly he moved away. :( The gear is another part of it, back in the day I rigged my supplies for climbing and would go out in deep snow with cotton clothing and cheap nylon pants. If I had a decent camera back then I would have all sorts of trip reports on my younger days of adventures and misadventures. But I found out after many years that liability was one of the biggest things holding me back. I was not someone who had passionate parents when it comes to mountaineering (although my mom hiked back in the day). For me it was a real struggle to get into the mountains. And along the way of that struggle I got into some deep trouble. :wink: But now days when all else fails, I have a bus route to the mountains. I was going to go out today for a great alpine trip, but my brother forgot his bus pass at the bus station. :x

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Kiefer

 
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Re: Is The Sport of Mountaineering in Decline?

by Kiefer » Thu Dec 01, 2011 2:02 am

Borutbk,
Honest & genuine miss for a guy in Eastern Europe, but ExcitableBoy was just referring to a Hemingway quote. He understands perfectly well! :wink:
"Auto racing, bull fighting, and mountain climbing are the only real sports ... all others are games.”

This is a good question. It's something I've never really thought about. I love the aspect of being at altitude on a steep snow slope, mixed rock with ice. It really does take in everything else about all the other aspects and types of climbing. Mountaineering, alpinism is kinda like the final graduation and even it has tangets very specific to it's particular type.
My preference is to get out and climb in winter or in winter conditions. There's a more pure quality to it (except perhaps for big wall). Really makes you feel at even odds with nature. There's nothing like entering into a potentially dangerous situation, overcoming it (and your own fears) and walking away from it all the wiser.
I know It's just part of the game, but I do wish the time commitment wasn't so long, the money commitment so severe and the logistics so nightmarish. But if it wasn't, would it be the same? :?:

I'm trying to finaggle something big for next year (Canada) and already I want to bang my head into the wall...and I love it! :D

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Sierra Ledge Rat

 
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Re: Is The Sport of Mountaineering in Decline?

by Sierra Ledge Rat » Thu Dec 01, 2011 2:11 am

borutbk wrote:First of all Mountaineering is not a sport...


I beg your pardon:

“There are only three sports: bullfighting, motor racing, and mountain climbing.”

-Ernest Hemingway

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JHH60

 
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Re: Is The Sport of Mountaineering in Decline?

by JHH60 » Thu Dec 01, 2011 2:17 am

Of course if Hemingway were alive today, he would have said:

"There are three sports - motor racing, mountain climbing, and cave diving..." 8)

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peninsula

 
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Re: Is The Sport of Mountaineering in Decline?

by peninsula » Thu Dec 01, 2011 2:23 am

Sierra Ledge Rat wrote:
borutbk wrote:First of all Mountaineering is not a sport...


I beg your pardon:

“There are only three sports: bullfighting, motor racing, and mountain climbing.”

-Ernest Hemingway


I guess it was not enough for Hemingway to keep on living.

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