Are These the Most Annoying Climbing Phrases of All Time?
This article originally appeared on Climbing
The other night, after a long day of dealing with work stress, a cranky shoulder, the start of a home-renovation project, and a nasty respiratory virus that had torn through our household, turning my screaming-brat children into screaming-brat snot-rocket disease vectors, I lay in bed scrolling through Instagram, looking for something--anything--to make me feel better. I was well cognizant of how addictive the app is and how, instead of lifting my spirits, it was making me feel lousy, depressed, and agitated. But I scrolled nonetheless, in search of distraction, entertainment, stimulation--whatever it is that brings us back again and again to these damnable social-media apps like heat-stunned burros gagging on mud at a dried-up watering hole.
We've all been here and we all know it's an issue; the only solution, really, is to delete the app, which I did the next day along with Facebook and Nextdoor. Instead of reading long-form magazine articles or books at night, I was mindlessly trawling social, and my life and attention span were suffering for it. That night, I'd also unfollowed a few climbers' accounts. I'm just as powerless to resist social media as the rest of us--gripped by FOMO and in fool's pursuit of that next, ever-diminishing dopamine hit--and I subconsciously knew that I'd probably reinstall Instagram. I didn't want to log back in only to read, once again, about these climbers' "quick trips" to take down some hard route or how they'd "managed to surprise myself with a quick send."
I just couldn't take it anymore. This was humblebragging without the "humble," and it was getting on my nerves. Plus, in an era where the very best climbers unapologetically take years to do the hardest climbs, does it really matter how "quickly" we're doing climbs well off the world standard?
Back in the early 1990s when Climbing was a print title and was the only way for Americans to get news of the climbing world, the magazine had a department called Hot Flashes that compiled the most difficult ascents from around the States and the globe. If you were an A-Lister, you got your own article; if you were a B-Lister, you might merit a bullet point and your name in bold in the sub-department Quick Hits. This was the Instagram of our day--let's call it "Printstagram"--where all the sprayers went to spray directly (you could report your own ascents) or by proxy (you commanded your subalterns to report your ascents). Back then, because hard climbing was so new, it somehow mattered how long it took to do a route, so you'd often see gushing Hot Flash reports like "In an impressive display of power and fitness, Brosephina McBiceps took down Stanklebreath Headwall third day, second try."
Because there are so few metrics in climbing compared to other sports--and the one main metric we use, route grades, is subjective--perhaps this logging of attempts was meant to quantify effort, to show how a climber measured up to a climb or how well that route represented a certain grade. Or perhaps it was just more spray, and once the magazine reported how many tries someone took to send a route the one time, we all somehow felt obligated to quantify our tries. Regardless, the result became a race to repeat testpieces the quickest; it didn't really matter that you did the climb, just that you did it faster than the last person. I became so consumed with this mindset while immersed in the mid-90s Rifle scene that I indefinitely postponed getting on certain climbs, waiting for that "right moment" to do them in the fewest tries. (To this day, I still haven't given some of them a real effort!)
If you think this sounds like a grim, unpleasurable, goal-focused, competitive mindset that ignores the process and sucks all the joy out of climbing, then you would be correct. And "quick trips" and "managing to surprise myself with a quick send" are just the modern-day equivalents of this BS mentality.
To combat this noxious trend of empty-and-meaningless humblebrag effluvia, I've come up with more accurate and precise phrases to use on Instagram. The key here is honesty: just saying what you mean. I think we'd all rather you do that, so that we know where you stand--and where we stand in relation. Here we go:
In lieu of "quick trip," you can write:
"I have a Sprinter van, no children, vague if not nonexistent work obligations, disposable income, and the ability to go wherever I want, whenever I want, unlike the rest of you day-job, paycheck-to-paycheck, stressed-out plebeians."
"My trip wasn't long because it didn't need to be because I did this hard route quickly and am a better climber than you ever will be. Also, did I mention I have a Sprinter van?"
"I live near a ton of cool climbing and it's only a short drive to get there--na-na, na-na, boo-boo! And when I get there I do the hard routes quickly, you weak-ass weaklings."
Managed to surprise myself with a quick send:
In lieu of "Managed to surprise myself with a quick send," you can write:
"This hard route was easy for me, and I'm a better climber than all the other people who took longer than me to do it--who did not manage to surprise themselves with quick sends."
"I've secretly been training all winter specifically for this one climb, but I don't want to admit that because it makes me look like a sweaty tryhard."
"This route is overgraded, so I'm going to obliquely downgrade it here with my 'quick send' while still taking full points at 8a.nu since I need them for my scorecard, because, at heart, I'm a competitive dick."
"This route took me a respectably large amount of tries and was difficult for me, but I'm not going to come out and say how many because I don't want to look weak in front of my peers. I'll just use vague language like 'quick' instead, because there is no way to quantify what 'quick' means without a concrete number or some means of comparison."
"I'm a way better climber than the people who didn't manage to surprise themselves with a quick send."
"I'm a way better climber than you."
I'm not, however, saying that I've sometimes not done routes more quickly than I thought I would. We all have--we just don't all spew about it. The other day, after coming off that particularly stressful period, I redpointed a project I'd been working on and off all winter. I felt like warmed-over dogshit, was still wheezing from being sick, and had been stress-eating peanut-butter cups for two days straight. But I got up the route anyway, mainly because I tried my absolute fucking hardest after being inspired by a killer Power Company podcast on giving max effort. But did I "manage to surprise myself"? Not really--my goal had always been to do the route, and I'd spent all season training for and working toward it. I was happy that I'd done the climb, but not surprised. It took as long as it took, just like every other route all of us have done, ever. Which, after all, is the point--the effort, the process, the immersion in flow.
Matt Samet is a freelance writer/editor and longtime climber based in Boulder, Colorado.
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