Gear Up!

Climbing - - APPROACH -

IN THE MID-1980s, an in­struc­tor in the New Mex­ico Moun­tain Club gave me my first rock shoes, a pair of blown-out Firé Cats. There weren’t a lot of shoe op­tions then (like, maybe, three?), but any­thing was bet­ter than my Chuck Tay­lors. Ec­static, I put on a pair of wool socks to fill out the over­sized boots, cinched them down, and flung my­self at the crys­talline prob­lems at U-Mound, a gran­ite boul­der­ing area above Al­bu­querque, New Mex­ico.

These days, like most climbers, I run a quiver of shoes, from all-day trad shoes to rad­i­cally down­turned red­point shoes. Ditto for the rest of my gear: I have a gym bag and a crag pack; dif­fer­ent lengths and di­am­e­ters of rope; and cams, nuts, and wid­gets of all shapes, col­ors, and sizes. And this is just the hard goods—never mind the hy­brid shells, wick­ing T-shirts, and be­lay puffies in the gear closet.

Our 2018 Gear Guide (p.33) presents the best of 2017/2018, from wall food to alpine pants and jack­ets to off­set nuts and be­yond. The gear, like climb­ing, is al­ways evolv­ing—our sport is much big­ger, far-reach­ing, and spe­cial­ized than it was when I be­gan 30 years ago. And while climbers have been quick to em­brace ad­vance­ments in gear, some cling to the past in other ways. This is­sue, we re­ceived a let­ter (p.14) from a reader lament­ing our—in his eyes—un­due cov­er­age of women, since “women are a tiny mi­nor­ity of the climb­ing pop­u­la­tion.” Ac­cord­ing to Out­door In­dus­try of Amer­ica statis­tics from 2014, women com­prised one-third of out­door climbers and 42 per­cent of in­door climbers—hardly a “tiny mi­nor­ity.” Even if those num­bers were smaller, should women be ex­cluded from climb­ing me­dia? What about racial/eth­nic mi­nori­ties? Where do you stop? Whose sport, ex­actly, is this?

As fur­ther val­i­da­tion that such an­ti­quated views still hold sway, we re­ceived an­other let­ter, from a woman, lament­ing the lack of en­cour­age­ment for women to join the climb­ing in­dus­try, say as guides or route-set­ters. ( See “Just Do It,” p.56, to learn about the avid first as­cen­tion­ist Ola Przy­bysz, shown above, who’s blaz­ing new ground in China for all climbers—male and fe­male alike.) Which leads me to a fi­nal point: If we’re go­ing to em­brace the growth and change in climb­ing that have brought us all this great gear, mega-gyms, and des­ti­na­tion crags, then we need to em­brace the sport’s chang­ing de­mo­graph­ics as well. I’ve al­ways loved climb­ing be­cause it lets me evolve, ex­pe­ri­enc­ing new places, peo­ple, and cul­tures. So here’s to a more for­ward-think­ing 2018, with the right gear to pro­tect us. MATT SAMET, ED­I­TOR

OLA PRZY­BYSZ ON A 5.12 FA IN THE QINLING MOUN­TAINS SOUTH OF XI’AN, CHINA.

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