Opinion: The Changing World of Climbing News

Bierstadt Celebration 2010

Does anyone care that Jane and John Smithe became the first couple from rural Northland to summit Mount Impossible?

The comments posted on my blog show a declining interest in today’s climbing world and the highest level of disdain I’ve seen in covering the climbing world since 1999. And it appears that even the general media world is adjusting. Long-time climbing publications have sold to the lowest bidder. As a result, they are transitioning from print to online publications that feature captivating stories like “The Best Biodegradable Bag for your Poop” or the “Top 10 Ways to Wear Socks.”

Climbing forums have plenty of pithy comments citing fast food restaurants on the summits, paved trails, and men (and women) in kilts (and stilts) doing the ordinary. And, of course, a fan favorite, “Getting to the top is optional, getting down is mandatory,” where the author thinks they invented the saying (apologies to Mr. Viesturs.) Everyone is a comedian, it appears, even me.

This summer, a reporter researching an Everest story asked me to “explain the difficulty and significance of Barney being number 646th American to summit Everest.” I politely explained that even the magazines sold at a grocery store checkout lane wouldn’t cover it.

So what’s going on?

Doing Hard Things

As we enter 2022, I believe most of us have great hopes for a better year, a safer one. Perhaps one with less divisiveness across tightly entrenched groups. But, to accomplish a safe and more inclusive environment, it will take all of us to do hard things, large and small.

Climbing As You Grow Older

I recently turned 65. Yeah, I know! But before you stop reading, this is a tale for the young and, well, the not-so-young. The question is, “When do you stop climbing?”

Does age even matter in climbing? Yuichiro Miura and Tamae Watanabe hold the Everest age records at 80 and 78 for males and females, respectively. Bill Burke began his quest of the Seven Summits at age 60 and got his second summit of Everest at age 72. And Art Muri recently made Everest at 75. Then there are the 13-year-old Everest summiteers Jordan Romero and Malavath Poorna. And let’s not leave out eight-year-old Roxy Getter on Kilimanjaro, not that I think that’s a great idea. By the way, the sweet spot to summit Everest, and most 8000ers, is age 35.

I started climbing at age 38, kind of a late bloomer in the climbing world. I never lived out of my car, was never in the “dirt-bagger,” club or did anything other than work. But then I discovered climbing. Mont Blanc was my first respectable climb. Much to the disgust of my French guide, I didn’t even know how to attach the strap-on Camp crampons that I had just bought in Chamonix. He scoffed, sighed, said something I didn’t understand in French that I’m pretty sure wasn’t a compliment as he strapped them onto my new climbing boots. So yea, I was a novice who didn’t know what I didn’t know and didn’t even know what to ask. But I loved the day, fell in love with climbing, and got my first of several summits on this historic Hill.