Traditional vs. new generation: The new-age climbing feud.

My boyfriend and I (he climbs as well) were talking about how great it is that sport climbing made the shortlist for Tokyo 2020. Competition climbing has picked up a lot of speed in recent years with new gyms opening up everyday, but its presence is still under the radar. When I tell people that I climb, I have to explain that no, it’s not a race to the top of the wall and no I’m not hiking Mt. Everest. Though it’s slightly frustrating to rarely have anyone understand what I do, I totally understand. Competition climbing and climbing in general is not well known or understood.

However, some traditional climbers (and even modern) climbers want to keep it that way. Their argument is that climbing will become too mainstream and take away from the culture that has been preserved in climbing for so many years. This culture consists of climbing for the pure enjoyment of climbing (I highly recommend watching “Valley Uprising” for entertainment and history purposes). Also, the world of climbing is a small community even among competition climbers who buckle down and send when competing but offer up beta when given the chance. Mainstreaming threatens the small, helpful, community that is so unique to climbing.

I fully understand the fear of change, especially with something you love, but change can bring on some good. I think the main fear here is that the new generation of climbers will be gym monkeys and protein junkies who strive only to win, but lose sight of the personal, gratifying feeling of sending a climb. Though I hate to see this as much as anyone else, it brings me joy knowing that climbing will continue to thrive for generations to come. My friends won’t change once the sport inevitably explodes, thereby maintaining the small community feel for me for at least another generation.

Popularizing the sport will also make it easier for my friends and relatives to understand what I do, but I don’t think that argument would hold up in a debate. I have faith that climbing’s culture will always be there. It brings unexplainable things out of people, like it did myself. With efforts from current and past climbers, the climbing community no matter how large, will remain as strong as it always has been. Bring on the Olympics.

climb on xx

6 thoughts on “Traditional vs. new generation: The new-age climbing feud.

  1. Every time I tell people that I climb, they always ask if it’s a race to the top and I’m forced to explain that no, in fact, it’s not. I think the exposure we’ll receive if climbing does become a part of the Olympics will be positive and hopefully show that climbing is a valid sport with a loving, supportive community.


  2. Funny thing is that sport climbing was an exhibition event at the 1988 Olympics. I trained for the tryouts but never went. I believe that Lynn Hill and Todd Skinner were among the team members. Your comments are very good. It is funny that you could have written this almost 30 years ago and it would’ve been just as relevant then too. When I go to the crags I feel like much of this has actually come true already from my perspective for better and for worse. I used to go climbing in the 80’s and 90s. and hope to run into somebody to catch a belay from. If someone was there you could always catch a belay and some comraderie. Now I go to the same crags. and can’t find parking. Simultaneously with all the people there it’s sometimes just as hard or harder to find a Belay or people who want to share the experience.


    • Thank you for your insight. I did not know that about the 1988 Olympics – it seems we’ve come full circle! The popularity of the sport has no doubt increased tremendously in such a short time. I’m curious – how come you didn’t try out? I’m just impressed that you were in contention at all, that is awesome!


      • First I’d like to say that I still train hard and despite my time in the harness I really like some of your posts and and have picked up some good stuff from your posts. Thanks for Sharing.
        Re: 1988 Olympics. That was the first year that they allowed professional athletes to compete in the Olympics. Prior to that only amatures could participate. That was the year that Micheal Jordan and all the NBA stars played on the basketball team instead of the top college players. I was only 18 and a Sophomore in college then. I trained hard with the idea of going to the tryouts but life got in the way of me committing myself entirely to climbing. When they changed the rules to allow pros in I figured I had no chance. I was surrounded by some really great climbers and even spent time climbing with some of the pro’s who did make the team like Lynn Hill and Todd Skinner. I never had the guts to commit my life and resources to the sport to the degree they did but it has still played a pivotal role in my life all these years for better and for worse. One thing that hasn’t changed is the ongoing debate of how we define the sport itself. The people we think of as the historical trad climbers were having the same arguments about how we define our sport since the first routes were ever put up. The controversies and points of view pulling in different directions remain relatively unchanged. The only thing that seems to really change are the faces around the campfire.


  3. You’re definitely right – it takes a lot of commitment to train for that caliber of climbing. You would have had to give a lot up. It’s possible, but definitely time consuming. That is so cool you climbed with Lynn Hill, I have so many questions but I don’t even know what to ask haha that is so cool. I’m glad to hear you’re still training hard! Climbing is a life long passion for sure 🙂 I’m flattered you have learned anything from my posts! That’s a great compliment, thank you.


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