The diversity of climbing styles is much broader than we tend to think of it these days. While veteran climber’s like you are sensitive to the differences, it’s hard to easily draw distinctions for non-climbers. Even new climbers tend to think the culture is homogeneous, on the surface, and it seems so by reading the various climbing magazines.
It’s not until you either hit the road and visit some landmark crag or mountain, or you become aware that your home mountains are nothing like the ones you read about in, say for example, North Carolina or Arizona. Maybe you suddenly sense that while the bolts in your community are standard, they’re discouraged at the destination you’ve drooled over in a Patagonia catalog, but you’ve never placed pro. And maybe there is a climbers bar in your area, but no hangout, not even an outfitter, at the other. What did these discoveries do to your perception and enjoyment of climbing?
When I moved to our nation’s capital to be a part of the action of government and politics over a decade ago, I knew that I would miss the Adirondacks and the White Mountains in the northeast, but I was put off by the climbing culture for years. The local crag at Great Falls was exclusively for toproping, and for thay matter, hardly the wilderness experience of the north woods.
When your climbing passion germinates in the northeast, you’re going to have a disposition for all weather conditions, seasons and wilderness — wilderness characterized by bushwhacking and seeing more bears than people at times. It also means being part of a history steeped in trad climbing and friction slabs.
Don Mellor, Adirondack native and climbing guide, said in his 2001 special-jury-mention book at the Banff Mountain Book Festival, American Rock: Region, Rock, and Culture in American Climbing, that the traditional climbing of the region is most in any area of the United States. He explains that it’s because of the thousands of natural lines throughout the Adirondacks and the White Mountains. That, combined with defenders of the ways of Fritz Wiessner and Robert Underhill climbing style and ethics, you have a culture built around taking the mountain lines for what they are and having to bear full responsibility for success or failure.
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Climbing matters, even though we work nine to five.