Nobody ever thought I’d say this, but I like it when people communicate in reasonable ways on the Internet. At least when it’s regarding something I wrote – otherwise, since I don’t have TV, I kind of like to sit back and watch the fracas. Such a barrier exists with Internet communication that it’s easy to be a dick – just browse any number of web forums or comments sections. I’ve been guilty as well, no doubt. I think it’s just the distance. We’re more willing to be rude from behind the windshield of our vehicles than we’d be on the sidewalk, for example. And then get behind a computer, with all the tubes and microbes and gizmos and whatnot creating relative anonymity, and it’s no wonder mayhem rules the interwebs.
But I liked the tone of most of the commentary I got from my latest Cleanest Line post. It’s about adventure and the younger generation, and I hypothesize and navel-gaze over whether or not today’s youth are as inclined toward real-deal adventure (however you define that…). To be clear – as I’m pretty sure I was in the post – I’m not saying they’re weenies; I’m not saying they’re Gods. The young guns climb crazy hard, that’s for sure. It’s part of a natural evolution. It’s also undoubtedly true that, as our society grows increasingly mechanized, automated, and comfortable, each generation – overall, mind you – becomes less willing to embrace discomfort. Isolated examples don’t prove a larger point (“Yeah, well my buddy rode his bike naked to the North Pole, so your assumption is asinine!”). And maybe embracing discomfort – like the willingness to suffer for far-flung fantasies and adventure – is nothing but stupid. Intellectually, sure, it’s stupid. Why suffer? Well then, why ever leave the couch? (Aside from trips to the fridge, of course.) But somehow I’m unconvinced that the couch, or necessarily striving for comfort, equates to any sort of universal wisdom. I feel like something gets lost.
I’m drifting, but I wanted to re-post what I wrote. It’s below. At least as interesting as the text, though, are the replies. One thing that struck me is how some folks latched onto a single morsel and ran, even sprinted, with it. Like parts touched a nerve. That’s a good thing, I think. But sometimes I was like, “Uhhh, dude, I never said that. Sorry that your momma didn’t breast feed ya or whatever.” I suppose we all sometimes read things however we want to read them. Including, perhaps, our own writings.
The replies are spread over the original TCL post and the Facebook posts on my page, Patagonia’s, and Alpinist’s (they posted it, too).
Admittedly the topic doesn’t truly matter. It’s just fun to think about – I think so, anyway. Hope you enjoy it, or at least maybe fish some good chunks of lint out of your navel.
Choose Your Own Adventure
While gazing into my navel and pulling lint the other day, I wondered about adventure. It seems to me that, based on my admittedly unscientific observations of news reports and the ascents I encounter in my American Alpine Journal editorial job, refinement ascents are all the rage. By refinement, I mean something other than bona fide first ascents and new routes. Things like fastest ascent, new enchainment, first alpine-style ascent, first one-day ascent and first free ascent with its endless sub-denominations (onsight, redpoint, continuous free, team free, individual free, and so many that I can’t keep them straight – and, notably, as with everything that is a work in progress, the standards keep shifting).
I don’t mean for “refinement” to sound derogatory. You can’t fault today’s climbers for the reality that fewer obvious virgin lines exist. But we’ve got so many more advantages now, why not make the extra effort? Why aren’t the young whipper snappers doing like the royal “we” did? Uphill both ways with frostbitten toes and an 80-pound pack, baby? (80?! Hell, we had 100!) Well, for one, it’s probably true that the young whipper snappers aren’t as inclined to trudge to the middle of nowhere – they’re too busy climbing hard.
It’s just a shift. Things evolve. And who’s to say that a first free isn’t an adventure? (Though there can be little dispute that, all else equal, heading onto previously untouched terrain presents a much greater element of the unknown.)
It’s pretty freakin’ amazing how hard some of today’s younger climbers climb.
And still, I’ve wondered if the younger generation is more or less inclined to adventuresome expeditions.
Not that we have any way of knowing. Sure, fewer of today’s climbers go on far-flung adventures when viewed in proportion to the total climbing population, but that’s because the total number of climbers has grown by a shitton (spell-check always flags that word, but I’m pretty sure it’s one word, not two). Yet in absolute numbers, I know from my AAJ work that plenty of young climbers still head off the beaten path to chase windmills, and I love it. Maybe they just don’t make the headlines so much, and most of climbing’s surging popularity naturally comes from those drawn to the more accessible realms. Whether or not this reflects shifts in our increasingly modernized and comfortable lives, the fact remains that it’s relatively easy and enjoyable to safely dabble in bouldering, cragging and gym climbing. Type I fun – what a concept. And some of those “dabblers” get damned good. It feels good to be good.
So maybe climbers are just getting smarter. I mean, is there value in suffering for the hell of it, or in adventure for adventure’s sake?
I don’t know. But I know that some people prefer the blue tape route, and I like it, too. Along with my Facebook, quick access to climbing, and high-speed internet. Yet I still squeeze my limes by hand.
We all choose our battles.
If true that today’s generation is less inclined to go remote, that’s OK. Think of the bright side: You know how most people who visit national parks never leave their vehicles or go farther than like 200 yards from their SUV? Unreal, right? Absolutely. And a damn good thing if, instead of pontificating about the old days, you want to get away from the masses and have yourself an adventure.
I loved the post on The Cleanest Line. Now that I had time to re-read it here I have something to say too.
I’ll divide it in two. Part one: I think the younger generation might be less inclined to pain/discomfort/adventure/etc because in today world it is so much easier to just stay “local” and have an “adventure”. Consider this: When you and I were growing up, how many rock gyms were out there? How many “adventure” camps for the kids were out there? I would say not a lot. If you wanted to climb you would go somewhere where there was rock. In time that rock would become “known” or “easy” and you would move to the next, farther rock. You would find yourself in time traveling to far countries and fantastic places, pushing yourself to try to reach those places and “suffering” discomfort in the process. You were mentally ready for it. You “knew” that it would be worth the pain. Part two: I might be way off here but back in the day there were more “first ascents” and untouched places on this earth. While this is not true, or at least I believe it is not the case, the younger generations might say” whatever dude, there’s nothing out there so let’s stay local and have fun and push that 5.18R.
I don’t know. I have a 1 year old daughter now and I am planning to do what my father did: get out there, explore, be cold, be hot, get wet and have tons of fun, maybe type I or II and maybe type III. I want to give her the choice to say: I know I can handle it, I know i will be cold, but I will have fun and I want to be out there!
Fantastic post KC
thanks much, Uri. super good points, i agree with both. makes sense to me, anyway (for whatever that might be worth…). indeed things shift, everything changes, it’s the way of the world as we both know. and that’s totally ok. your daughter is fortunate to have a dad like you, just as you’re fortunate to have the dad you had — those early years influence make me wonder another point…how much might that play into things? for better (sometimes) or for worse (sometimes) it seems kids are crazy protected all the time. don’t do this, you might fall. don’t do that, you might get hit by a bus. don’t do that, you’ll go blind (er, wait, that’s something different). and video games, all that has to have an impact. i don’t know what statistics might exist, but there’s no question that children growing up spend far more time indoors than they used to. how might that effect interest in adventure?
That is an excellent point KC. Yes, I agree with you, kids are vote spending more time inside AND are being more protected. I mean, what’s with all the purell! You and I and countless others played in the dirt and touched everything and then we washed our hands and it was ok. Today everything is sterile. And yes, while I do love video games (i was a pacman champion), a lot of kids are spending more and more time hooked into the virtual world.
I think you are right, this might have a huge influence. Awesome post man.
Very interesting article Kelly. While I’m not a climber, I do consider myself a motivated ski mountaineer and would like to throw in a couple points to stir the pot.
I think one aspect that hasn’t been addressed with regards to the younger generation pushing adventures to far off lands is DEBT. All you seasoned climbers speak of the old days when the only limit to adventure was how hard you were but not much talk about how cheap college tution was (if you went at all), or the cost of living in general. Back then you could get a good paying job right out of high school. Most young people today realize they need to go to college, for better or worse. How many of your friends were 40-80k in debt when they were making plans to head to Europe or Alaska or…see my point?
Also, the youner generation is sadly a credit generation. Did your old crew of climbers have credit cards? Could you get yourself into debt so easily? Cell phone bills?
Not to be a downer, but economic constraints, I feel, hinder my ability to much adventure. So what’s left? I buy a tank of gas and heasd to the Mission’s, the Ointlers, Glacier Park, Bitterroot, The Bob to find adventure within a 100 mile radius of my house. And unless you know me, my adventures don’t get out or blogged thus it seems, I feel, the younger generation’s advetures aren’t heard much.
My two cents for what it’s worth…Iknow it’s kinda a downer but an interesting aspect to your agruement.
Anyways, hello from Montana. I remeber climbing with you on that old shitty woody wall at UM like ten years ago with my friends whispering, “Thats Kelly Cordes, he’s a beast…” Glad to see your excellent writing too…keep it up.
yo Smokey, thanks for the note, hope things are great up there. ha, funny about that old wall at UM! what a great place to learn to climb (MT that is, not the indoor wall) — and, more on topic, i fully think there’s sooo much adventure out the back door to be had so close to home for you and the MT crew. that’s one thing i miss about it, compared to here (i’m in estes park, CO these days). trade offs…tons of stuff soooo close to my door here (literally two miles away), and so much terrific climbing around and great weather. but it doesn’t have the undiscovered feel you get in the Missions, the B-root, etc etc.
the debt thing is super interesting, too. i wonder if the costs of living (or the ones we’re talking about) have risen disproportionately to income, etc. the student loan thing is a really good point. my loans weren’t anything like what people have now. jobs were probably easier to find, too (at least the shitty paying ones where it didn’t matter if you quit or just didn’t show b/c you were out in the mountains — you could get another shitty job as soon as your cash ran out).
i do remember living off credit cards for awhile, unfortunately. arg, literally makes me shudder now, b/c the years of living in debt were soooo stifling. though, come to think of it, those were often for other, stupider things, and the year i moved into a $65/month shack and worked 3 jobs to clear all my debt was the most liberating thing ever.
still, indeed i do remember making my first several alaska trips happen thanks to credit cards. just kinda saying “fuck it” and going for it — and i’m glad i did. key for me was to not let that get so out of control that i couldn’t have freedom later. at the time, though, it’s what i had to do. hmmmm, interesting stuff. and sometimes, maybe some luck just plays into it — ya find a decent paying, flexible job, your car doesn’t break down too much, and ya find a killer deal on a shack for $65/month.
anyway, thanks for the note and keep having fun up there!