The term armchair quarterback refers to a know-it-all with no real-world experience. They’re critics; quick to assess and lay judgment.
The term armchair mountaineer can be applied the same way sometimes, but I think we need to draw a distinction. Armchair mountaineers in this context have never climbed (or have on a very limited basis), think they know enough about it to render a judgment — most often criticizing other climbers and climbing events.
Whenever a disaster happens on Everest, or recently the deadly avalanches in the Alps or in Nepal, there is someone there to claim they “get it.” Then they claim that we ought not be climbing at all or why more regulation is required.
I take a different approach and use the term armchair mountaineer quite differently. In fact, the differences have made me consider dropping the term’s use altogether. When I say I spend a lot of my time “armchair mountaineering,” I mean I am reading and researching climbing history and current trends. The image that ought to come to mind is someone like me, sitting by a fireplace with a book (or several) with a map laid out on the ottoman while sipping a cup of freshly ground coffee or a beer from Otter Creek (in a glass, rarely the bottle.)
I trying not to lay judgment. I’m genuinely interested in mountaineering — in the achievements reached in the mountains. I also try to defend the sport. There are too many aspects worth celebrating to get down and discouraging.
(By the way, I’ve been taking a new look at Fitz Roy in Patagonia and will be talking about that shortly. Also, I just received in the mail Mark Synnott’s climbing and skiing guide to Baffin Island (Patagonia North, in some ways) and I look forward to drawing from that to share some thoughts on this season’s alpine accomplishment’s on Canada’s largest island. Let me know if you have any ideas for topics. I always enjoy your feedback too.)