Climbing all up in the Interwebs

What’s in the Internet water these days? People are being nice, even in forums. ‘Tis the season, I suppose.

• Someone started a random thread on Mountain Project thanking Matt Samet:

“Aside from replacing a boatload of bolts for the ARI, putting up a bunch of routes, and writing a lot of funny articles over the years, I just wanted to publicly put it out there that the Climbing Dictionary is *effing hilarious* and deserves to be in a lot of stockings. Well done, man.”

How cool. The thread is one big love-in for Matt, who’s a kind soul while remaining his cynical, dark self (no wonder I like him so much). The thread did, however, confuse me for a moment. Given that Matt edited Climbing and Rock and Ice magazines in the past – you know the requisite over-the-hill grumpy climber statement: “Aw, them damn mags are all the same poseurs and the same crap, I never read ‘em. You see that piece of shit article on page 32?” – and given the odd toxicity that comes from mixing climbers and the Internet, I instinctively scrolled down the page for words like “asshole,” “choad,” or “dickweed,” along with their misspelled variants. What, it hasn’t descended into puerile postings? Wait a second…this ain’t a climbing forum!

I emailed Matt, and he seemed astounded by the praise:

“This must be the first time in world history that a website thread was thanking me and not calling me a loser.

Still, it’s hard to top the post on 9 years ago in which someone said I write like a ‘teenage rimjob princess.’ I mean, you can’t buy that sort of praise!”

• Speaking of those damn mags, there’s another thread, “are the mags passe? Though perhaps a passe thread, it remains a relevant question as mediums shift. Change happens. I still like the mags, though indeed I’m prematurely over the hill (which implies that I once crested the proverbial hill, thus a problematic statement, but I digress). They aren’t The New Yorker, but nobody claimed they were. I think AlpinistClimbing, and Rock and Ice all do an excellent job in a difficult market (I rarely read Deadpoint or Urban Climber, but I’m glad they’re surviving, too).

Regardless, in the holiday season maybe it’s best to “consume” things that enrich us in a way that our materialistic orgy of consumerism does not. The arts are a great example. Read, watch a good movie, take-in some music.

• The November issue of Climbing magazine had a good piece called “The Future,” in which they interviewed four generations of top climbers: Tommy Caldwell, Lynn Hill, George Lowe and Angie Payne. Here’s part of Tommy’s reply when asked about changes he’s seen in his 30 years of climbing (yeah, he started when he was three):

“Well, right off the bat, I feel like the tension has gone away. I feel like people have embraced all the different kinds of climbing as their own independent facets. And then it’s kind of cool how they’ve merged, too. People realize that hard bouldering or hard sport climbing are really good for doing big-wall free climbs.” He added, “The whole scene is a lot more harmonious.”

I like it. And I liked that issue of Climbing (their 300th edition!). Their “Face Off” on the closing page was great, funny, creative – a bracketed tournament of who/what wins against each other. But I’m not sure if I agree with their finalists – I think it should have been Fred Beckey vs. PBR. Yosemite’s pretty good, though. In their “Six Crags that Shaped the Sport” list, I was thrilled that they excluded Rifle, for fuck’s sake. I’ve had enough of Rifle covers, full-page photos, and articles for awhile. Seems to me that, unfortunately, only so much of interest can be written or photographed about single-pitch sport routes in the same marginally scenic canyon. No matter how good they are. I suspect Climbing’s exclusion was strategic, as each publication needs to differentiate themselves, and my friends at Rock and Ice seem to have Rifle pretty well covered. Along the lines of covering the same material over and over, Climbing must have gotten some flack for including three ‘Rado crags in their list of six: Eldorado Canyon, Shelf Road, and Indian Creek.

• Got the first “official” review of my blog (big time, here I come), and my first “A” since college, on a site called A Blog About Blogs. A fun site, even if there’s nothing official about it – all the better. I love how the Interwebs allow people to just go for it with their ideas.

• Putting together a climbing magazine is hard, thankless, low-paid work. People bitch more than they thank. Here’s a shout-out to the folks at the mags: Thank you for your work. Although I sometimes criticize – and I firmly believe that fair criticism is important (speaking of which, how good is Anthony Lane? Always sharp, funny, insightful criticism.) – most of the climbing mag people are butterflies, samurais, and even ninjas. Which reminds me, since the holidays leave plenty of time to surf the web while getting drunk, wading through family tension, and getting surly at parties (growling at the stranger across the table: “I never did like you!”), I’ll close this rambling post with a music video that’s stuck with me like a bad rash, one that strikes the delicate balance between creepy and sweet, the sort of thing that you kinda like but don’t know if you really should. With luck, it will similarly stick to you – after all, the holidays are for sharing.

Free Online Film Showing (self-serving announcement)

Self-serving announcement: You can watch COLD, the climbing film that won the GFP at Banff, for free tonight, online. It’s 19-minutes long, raw, dark, rated R, and my first writing for film (though Cory Richards, climber and videographer, and Anson Fogel, director and editor, did the heavy lifting for sure). Our idea was to tell the story, from inside Cory’s brain, of their his, Simone Moro and Denis Urubko’s viciously cold and dangerous first winter ascent of Gasherbrum II, in Pakistan. It was the first winter ascent of any of Pakistan’s 8,000m peaks, and done without supplementary oxygen or high-altitude porters.

I’m told that you can just click and watch anytime between 7–9 p.m. MST (do the math for your time zone), on Outside Magazine’s website. I have no idea how this came to be, I didn’t have anything to do with it, but it seems great. The only place it had showed previously was at film festivals, and this free showing is a one-time deal. Also, starting at 7:30, there’s a live Q&A session with Anson, Cory, Simone and me. I don’t know if it’ll be moderated, or if you can ask questions about margaritas, mullets and pro wrestling, but give it a try. I’d better figure out how to login before I start swilling margs.

Though I’ve made my modest (sounds better than “meager”) living as a writer and editor for the past 10 years or so (hard to believe, given some of the crap I’ve written), I’d never written for film before. I found it fascinating in ways different than writing for the page. Julie Kennedy, wife of Michael and mother of Hayden, deserves full credit. She’s a connector. Without her idea of bringing us together, it wouldn’t have happened – hell, Cory and I, though we’d hung out before, had never had any contact whatsoever with Anson (who’s an absolutely brilliant independent filmmaker – check out the incredible trailer, below, for his work). But she knows all of us, knows Anson’s award-winning work, and saw Cory’s gripping footage – he’s been working his entire adult life to make his photography career happen, and his devotion to capturing footage in even the grimmest situations amazed us. So Julie wanted us to join forces to make the film, and wanted it to premiere (which it did) at her 5 Point Film Festival, in Carbondale. This was one month before the festival. Uhhhh. But if you know Julie, she’s convincing. “My mom could sell sand to the Arabs,” Hayden told me.

It turned out well enough, as Cold has been cleaning up at film festivals, including winning the Grand Fucking Prize at Banff. Like not just for climbing, but the whole festival. Whoa. Couldn’t believe it when I got the text – yes, text; I’d considered heading to Banff for the fest, since I knew it had been selected, and it all sounded fun, but the airfares were pricey and Yosemite sounded funner (that should totally be a word). So, one day in the Valley I learned of the GFP via text message. Slacker, I know.

Here’s the trailer:

Honestly, we didn’t think Cold would go big like this (even in the relative “big” of the outdoor world – I always think of the movie Waiting for Guffman when talking “big” about climbing). Just figured it too dark and raw for most audiences. For one, it’s laced with profanity – the third word of the film is an f-bomb. (“Do ya have to use many cusswords?” “What the fuck are you talking about?”). We truly did not care if the language turned people off, quite simply because we wanted to communicate Cory’s authentic experience, the distilled essence of what was happening inside his head. So if you’re looking for Brittany Spears, this film is not for you.

By the way, a shortened version of Cold ran with the Reel Rock Tour – I haven’t seen that version, but I heard they tamed it down a little (fewer f-bombs) and trimmed it to 12 minutes (impressive work, don’t know how they did it; most folks, myself included, thought it pretty tight at 19 minutes, but we all get married to our own work). Tonight’s showing will be the full-length version, and I presume it won’t be censored or bleeped-out. The good folks at Sender Films have also made a download, including behind-the-scenes extras, available for sale on their website, despite it not being a Sender production — thanks, guys!

Anyway, enough rambling. If you’ve got nothing better to do for 19 minutes this evening, pour yourself a marg and tune in. I hope you like it.

Here’s the trailer for Anson & crew’s work. Amazing: