Does Hard Climbing Matter?

I picked up an issue of Deadpoint Magazine at the Boise Front over Christmas, and was reading their recap of the year, which talked about how climbing standards yet again went through the roof in 2012. And it made me wonder, does that matter to me, a passionate climber of average skill, to read about numbers and ascents that are so far over my head I can’t even fathom what it’s like to excel at that level?

It may be cliché, but for me, it’s inspiration, pure and simple. To know that there are people out there pushing themselves, and that EVERYONE is raising the bar, is incredibly motivating. It’s not like only the pros are getting better, everyone is! You also don’t have to look far to find that many people are sending their hardest routes as they get older, which makes sense, given that so much of climbing is technique and mental fortitude, which in theory should only improve with age and experience.

I read about someone like Chuck Odette, who did his first 5.12 at 34, and his first 5.14 at 44, and I think, wow, I’ve got a lot to look forward to. As global standards continue to rise, mental barriers are continually broken down, at all levels. How many times have you struggled on a route or boulder problem until one of your friends did it, and then all of a sudden everyone does it? There’s no question there’s an element of getting the right beta, but how much of it is breaking through that mental barrier? Knowing that it’s possible makes it so.

We tend to rise (or fall) to the level of the people we surround ourselves with. I’ll never forget my first trip to Rifle, a wide-eyed twenty-three year old, when I saw people hike 5.13 like it was as casual as walking on a sidewalk. I didn’t know that kind of ability was possible for people who hadn’t given up everything to climb. And a small seed was planted, like hmm, maybe someday I can attain that too.

I’m far from obsessed with climbing news. I spend no time on But I love knowing that there is some seriously hard climbing going on out there. That people are pushing themselves and their notion of what they are capable of. That barriers are being broken and paradigms shifted.

What about for you? Does hard climbing matter?

4 Responses to Does Hard Climbing Matter?

  1. Climbing difficult routes is what inspires and creates awe and we need that as people.
    That beind said I have never been inspired by someone cruising a hard route because it means that they were not at their limit.
    For me it is more about climbing something that attracts you to it, more intrinsic. The colors, the shapes, the holds, the challenges.
    If it is really hard then that is cool too!

    piz January 18, 2013 at 3:08 pm
  2. I’d like to climber harder every year. But if I never climbed anything above alpine 5.7 I’d be just as addicted.

    Ted Eliason January 18, 2013 at 5:40 pm
  3. For me climbing is about getting to spend time in, and sometimes gain access to, beautiful wild places. It is about the adventure, the journey and a little bit about that feeling that comes with moving quickly over rock, fluidly plugging gear in the wall, and just being present in that moment.

    I am not strong, nor am I a naturally gifted climber, but I love climbing and being in wild places; if I was either of those things maybe I would strive to climb hard, but the grade really does not matter to me, and to be honest I don’t enjoy chasing a grade. As long as I can get up beautiful multipitch in remote places I’m happy.

    That said; for the sport of climbing I think climbing hard matters. The sport is full of folks who want to push their physical limits in a fast burn up a single pitch of sport climbing, and that is a good thing for the sport. That seems to be where the masses are anywise, and seems to be what fills the gyms and local crags, and the sport needs all the members as it can get. If pushing grades matters to them, then it matters to the sport. So what if I never climb 5.15c, heck it’s not likely that I’ll ever climb 5.13a, but not everyone has an addiction to remote wild places like I do (Trad Climber), and for those who like the sport for other reasons climbing hard seems to matter.

    At the end of it all, I’m young what could I really know 😉

    GoHike January 25, 2013 at 10:24 am
  4. Nope, a preteen will send it before I do.

    What matters is days spent with dust and lichen in your eyes from uncharted ground above.

    Ian Barrett February 10, 2013 at 3:20 pm
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