profiling a climber through the years

  • My wife and I were sitting in Mt Rambler (Bishop) tonight. Mt Rambler gets its share of climbers and we were sitting in the corner playing a game of “climber”, "not a climber". It got me thinking - I started climbing in high school in the mid 60’s and I basically wore what I wore to high school – blue jeans and shirts my mom made (we were not well off). When not climbing, I looked like every other 16 – 18-year-old.

    Over time, climbers adopted various styles – white painter pants, tights, and today there are climber specific manufacturers and you can spend lots of money on pants, shirt, approach shoes – and have “the look” that you see in places like Mt Rambler and other climber hangouts.

    I think it’s great that some climbers today can afford nice sport specific clothes, great gear, Sprinters, and things I never had – more power to them. I don’t get people that make fun of them. So, given the wide range of age groups here, and in the spirit of fun, can we profile the various generation of climbers over the years? 50’s, 60’s, 70’s, etc. Clothes, cars, etc.

    For me, I've always had a lack of "style" and pretty much blended in with everyone, which was also my goal. Others want to be seen as a climber, which is ok too. So, away from the rocks, can you spot a climber from a non-climber? Is there anything that really differentiates "us" from "them".

  • I just wear carpenters pants and whatever tshirt I have unless it bad weather then I go for the wick fabrics. whatever was on sale...

  • This photo is a self-portrait of me on the left & my friend Chris in the Wind Rivers in Aug. 1971. My family did not outfit me for climbing & I climbed in what I worked in. I recall getting mocked about my inappropriate & dangerous cotton Levis in the mountains on another climbing blog a few years back. We were near Gannet Peak, on an obscure peak named The Sphinx, waiting out a thunderstorm.

    Happily, I worked on Forest Service helicopter fire crews summers while I went to college & with those paychecks, which included overtime, fire-pay, & per diem for expenses during overnight trips, during which we ate C-rations to save money, I had money for school, a car, gas, & limited climbing gear.

    Ray & Chris The Sphinx small.jpg

  • @skiroc said in profiling a climber through the years:

    So, away from the rocks, can you spot a climber from a non-climber? Is there anything that really differentiates "us" from "them".

    Yes, and no.

    Real climbers (the kind that do more than just clip bolts) do have "a look". Partly in their eyes, but other things, too. Most of which I don't think I can describe in words.

    That's the "yes" part. The "no" part is that they share that look with others who walk close to the edge. Skiers, mtn bikers, soldiers, cavers...

  • Not sure if classifies as climbers vs. non climbers but... bitd... it was more Hardman vs "Weakender". This was pre gym days so the guns pretty much told all. Unless they also did things like earn a living working commercial fishing boats, hanging drywall, etc. Did not get rock jock guns from sprayin' fame and glory b.s. stories around the corporate water cooler.

    +1 for the "those who've been on the edge" look. Those for whom which managed risk was a way of life and an important part of the adventure that kept life interesting. Which is not to say that I've not enjoyed my share of dandy sport routes. There's just a lot more "balls" on the line when you're fifty feet out on a classic slab, etc. and it takes a certain "head" to handle it. A no bullshit head factor, cuz if you're lying to yourself about your experience level and capabilities you're only going to get lucky so many times and not be around very long. And maybe that is part of it too: a certain honesty and straight up directness.

  • @toby I kinda know what you mean, but as a history buff, your comment:
    "+1 for the "those who've been on the edge" look.

    Makes me think of stories of WWII soldiers who had suffered sleep-deprivation & combat & had what was coined "the thousand mile stare."

    My best "on the edge look" photo is my buddy Chris on Mt Deborah in Alaska after we had climbed all night & finally reached a less-steep area. We had to hack bivy-ledges out of water ice covered with 2" of hard snow & Chris was well into hypothermia by the time we tucked him in to his sleeping bag as the sun was rising.

    Puchie small.jpg

    To avoid major avalanche danger we climbed the right-side of the spur peak of Deborah at right (Deborah at left) & after a long day & night, summited on it.
    Deborah Cleare small.jpg

    Unfortunately, looking up at the summit ridge of Deborah from our bivy, made our young balls small & we retreated the next morning.
    Deborah north ridge from sally.jpg

  • @FritzRay

    Heh, don't misinterpret the "managed risk" bit. Prudence is oft times the wisdom behind valor. Or to phrase another way, in the words of Kenny Rogers; "You got to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em, know when to walk away, and know when to run...".

    Probably coulda, shoulda chosen my words a bit more carefully above but hopefully folks get my meaning. The "edge" is a personal and intimate space, not a competition. The latter leads to ego driven decisions wh/tend to get you into bad spots. Rule #1 is "To thine own self be true".

    Probably woulda, coulda, shoulda chosen those words more carefully as well but past due for beer thirty! Cheers! 🍻

  • @toby said in profiling a climber through the years:

    know when to walk away, and know when to run..."

    Well, yeah, that's true when possible, but walking (or running) away isn't always possible. And there are times when "fold em" means dying.

    Sometimes the only way is to "hold em" and play out the hand you were dealt. And if you survive, you look like Ray's friend Chris in the photo above.

    Or like me, in the photo below, taken after three days during which we didn't believe we had any chance of surviving, but played out the hand anyway... Blow it up and look at the total lack of expression.

    Looking into the abyss.jpg

  • @skiroc said in profiling a climber through the years:

    Is there anything that really differentiates "us" from "them".

    Lemme put it this way: if I saw Honnald in public, didn't know who he was and he is wearing non-sponsored clothes, I wouldn't pick him for a climber.

  • @David-Harris Total lack of expression? Hmm.... Resignation? Desperation, maybe? Determination.... but not a total lack expressed thereof to my eye at least.

  • Here's an observation that may or may not be appropriate:

    I was a gymnast in the 1950s. If you were to ask someone you encountered as you strolled down a street,"Describe a top 'gymnast'". The result would be a young man with a powerful physique and great acrobatic talent, like the American champion, John Beckner. Even height was not necessarily a factor back then, as Beckner was six feet tall. You might hear of a female gymnast of the time, like Muriel Davies, but women's gymnastics was a minor thing.

    That changed.

    Now, if you were to ask that question the reply would probably be "Simone Biles or another young woman like her". "Top gymnast" to the general public implies female, and under five feet tall. No gender distinctions. Partly, this is due to Title IX.

    Is a gender re-alignment happening now in climbing? Or will men and women be equally known and popular?

    Will rock climbing become women's gymnastics? 👀


  • @jgill I think climbing will continue to be what we each define it to be. I mean, yeah... duh! Nothin' personal. Oh.. snap...

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