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Gradeism is a recently identified disease afflicting the modern climber. Experts say gradeism causes shocking behavior in climbers such as “chasing grades” in order to “get better.” Regular people call this wanting to make progress. Climbers call it wrong. Until now.
Yesterday’s training maniac, then ostracized as a total loser, is today’s helpless victim of gradeism, a cannibalistic bug that even the most unsuspecting tree-hugger can catch from a chalked hold or two. This is heavy news for any American climber who wants to win, and will try to do so at any cost whatsoever. Indeed. There’s nothing more shameful than losing, and by that I mean not being able to climb at least 5.12. And by the time you piss-ants read this, LOL, I’ll mean 5.13. Or higher!
The uproarious future looms, but I doubt anyone will be Laughing Out Loud. Today’s climbing gyms, already hustling damn near every city in the country,
will retrospectively appear modest and dim compared to what’s coming next. Industrial training complexes will spit out extraordinary armies of 5.15-crushing
monsters. Think something’s funny now?
This is splendid news for some. A whole generation of new-school climbers can take comfort in knowing that they’re not boring dorks who hide behind cool-looking
urban attire, but merely victims of gradeism. The disease is contagious and completely incurable. It results in an ability to crush rock without any
reliance on pesky footwork. But so what? Those going around trying to climb hard by today’s standards are complete dimwits anyway. They don’t have
the slightest respect for the 80-degree slabs first climbed by guys in white pants, nor do these mutants know the first thing about the “purity” of The Experience. Blasphemous!
Gradeism is ruinous, and I feel sorry for anyone who must cope with the sickness. After all, who wants to get better at rock climbing, especially if it
means being vile and unethical—clipping metal drilled into once holy, now holey stone. … What if you fail? What if you discover your limits? WTF?
I must denounce the following practices outlined in this article because they are wrong. But, regardless of what I write, people with inferiority complexes will still find ways to self-destruct and affirm themselves, a practice older than El Cap. For them, I offer a manual on how not to climb 5.12 and, god willing, avert catching a nasty case of gradeism.
Strengths are Cheating
The substance of a person is hatred for any man who loves his work. – Ayn Rand
First rule is to beware of people who succeed on any route, whatever its nature. The reason they are up there is to make you look bad. Study these bastards well, though, because they have something you don’t. Once you find out what that is, take it away from them. Like so:
My friend Dan Mirsky is an exceptional climber, which makes him an exceptional person to bring down. This summer, at Rifle, he sent at least four 5.13d’s within a month, which is a rapid pace for someone lacking even the most generic sponsorship. At first, I couldn’t figure out what his secret was, until this woman “Jules” began asking him for beta on some route or another. The conversation went:
“Have you been on blah-blah route?” asked Jules.
“I have,” said Dan.
“Well …?” asked Jules, irritated at having to explain herself further. “What’s it like, man?”
“It’s not too bad,” said Dan. “A good route. The crux is pretty hard, though.”
“But you did it?” Jules said, worried.
Dan nodded. Jules shrugged. “Well, that’s because you’re an endurance climber.”
“What does that mean?” Dan asked.
“It means you have endurance and that’s why you sent the route. You’re an endurance climber.”
Dan’s answer obviously didn’t meet Jules’ expectations. She would’ve preferred to hear something like, It’s a crazy-hard sandbag, Jules. You’d have to be a badass mo’fo’ to send that rig.
But Jules was on to something. Dan is an endurance climber, and as far as everyone but Dan is concerned, that’s cheating. After Jules pointed that out, whenever I belayed Dan on anything, I tried to keep this stinky winker in check.
“Hey!” I would yell up at my friend. “What the hell do you think you’re doing up there? You’re not using your endurance, are you?”
“No … no,” Dan said nervously. “Not at all. Nothing to worry about.”
That’s right. If a boulderer gets up a short, powerful route easily, take delight in knowing that he or she was using power, which means the ascent is insignificant because if he even glanced at anything longer, he’d get served like a turd.
Luckily for you, this sort of questioning doesn’t work the other way. No one is going to come up to you and try to rationalize why you failed. You won’t be hearing, “Oh, you just fell because you have a full-time job and 10-pound balls. Don’t worry about it!”
Age and Gender Unlike Yours is Also Cheating
Who needs brains when you’ve got these? —Slogan on an Abercrombie & Fitch T-shirt for women
Part of learning how not to climb 5.12 means joining, whole hog, in the feeding frenzy that is analyzing how other, better climbers are sending routes and then disparaging them. The easiest targets, needless to say, are women and any kid under, oh, I don’t know, 25 years old.
If a woman is sending harder than you are, take a look at her fingers. They’re small, aren’t they? Hell yes! Those crimpers that bout you are wrapper jugs for her. And if she can get up a crack climb, it’s because somewhere along the fissure, her hands fit better than yours. Oh, yeah, they do.
Need more proof? Ask this “fenom” about her past—the sneak was probably a gymnast. She’s been training four hours a day, five days a week to get this strong since she was barely old enough to walk (on her hands). If that’s not cheating, I don’t know what is! If you hear her telling anyone at all about her big send, make sure you add the disclaimer, “Hold on, hold on. Did you know she’s a gymnast?”
And kids! My god, those savage brats have energy and unbridled confidence. Not to mention small fingers, even smaller than women’s. Horse shit! Not to worry: a couple decades of fast food and middle-management jobs with crappy bosses will take care of their trim figures and self-assurance. Plus, climbing is so accessible these days; if there had been comps and gyms back when you were a teenager, you’d have freed Astroman by now.
And as someone training not to climb 5.12, you should also be concerned with the finer points of style conducted on mountain routes in countries and regions of the world that you may “know,” but have never been to and will never go to. Be watchful over what those cranky Eastern Euros are up to. If they succeed on a mountain, it’s because they don’t have any regard for their own lives, or even whether fixed ropes ruin the mountain forever. Besides, they only succeeded because they’re deep into the vodka … which brings us to the next point:
Always do sober what you said you’d do drunk. That will teach you to keep your mouth shut. —Ernest Hemingway
The quickest way to increase your climbing ability, while simultaneously decreasing your chances of sending 5.12, is to sit around a campfire at Indian Creek or Camp 4 and get twisted. Talk to the resident offwidth-sending beard-head, and trust me, your inferiorities will bubble to the surface like a shot of Bailey’s dropped in Guinness. Great Mescalito In A Day, think of the spray that will come out of your mouth! You’ll fleece them all into thinking whatever you want, and that’s not a bad skill to have in these rotten times. Here are a few catch phrases:
Come on! We can just “simul-climb.” (Do the quotation marks with your fingers when you say this loaded word.)
Runout? Have you ever been to [insert obscure home crag]. Talk about hairball. Now that’s a place to cut your teeth! Damn good!
Don’t worry; you’ll have a convenient alibi. The next day, after being half-mad on gin and raving about a day-ascent of Half Dome, you’ll have a hangover—a faithful, unswerving, reliable hangover.
Of course, for those folks who actually want to climb 5.12, those with terrible cases of swollen gradeism, drinking can be a useful thing. A PBR, or any light, watery beer, could provide the carbohydrates and cocksureness you’ll need for a good redpoint effort. It will raise your ability … to a certain extent, after which you won’t have Le Pomme d’Or’s chance in hell of sending 5.12. That, my friend, is the state you’re after. Simply walk around the crag with a cooler of suds, machine-gun chugging the dirty devils. Now you will be exempt from having to climb or, better yet, belay. You will be the fun party person that everyone loves … in addition to drunk!
Get an 8a.nu Scorecard
We judge others by their acts, but ourselves by our intentions. —American Proverb
This website is truly a phenomenon of the New School, and as such, should be your enemy. However, your vigorous participation in this site will be necessary to exploit others for your own gain, and come one step closer to not climbing 5.12.
8a.nu freaks check the site like crazy, looking at the comment fields like the devil looks at the scripture to cite for his own purpose. You’ll notice the comments recorded to describe ticks are two-dimensional, ranging from “Soft for the grade” to “Hard for the grade.” It’s all the website’s users’ no-attention-span brains can articulate.
Anyway, use this site to sandbag any sucker unfortunate enough to read your log. Find a complete choss pile with a big grade, and enter it into your scorecard with the comment, “Soft, way soft. Awesome!” Then, these little grade-hungry maggots will flock to this complete-shit route like the sheeple they are. This will keep them away from whatever you really want to climb, which may be nothing, but at least it’s nothing that will be downgraded.
Getting an 8a.nu scorecard is easy, and you should feel pretty confident about being a highly ranked climber in no time at all. All you need are an e-mail address and a few hours a day to spend craftily entering your “sends.” Be sure not to enter well-known routes, such as Realization, that will cause suspicion. Be smart!
Train Like an Alpinist
Hold me closer, tiny dancer. —Elton John
No one knows more about not climbing 5.12 than alpinists. These gorditos in brightly colored waterproof action suits lack even the slightest comprehension of what it means to win. Alpinism, like golf, is a game for players, not winners. That’s why Nike makes golf balls and winter jackets. And now, with the New Rules set by today’s top alpine climbers, you no longer even need to reach a summit to complete a new route! Many say this concept of victory through defeat makes sense, though none of them are 5.12 climbers—you either clip the anchors, or not. Simple.
And is there any other sport that defines success as not dying? That’s sick. What would cause an allegedly rational person to travel across the world, wake up when most Spaniards go to dinner, and walk around an oxygen-deprived maze designed to crush you. Weird!
This brutal nonsense requires a special type of training, one that is coincidentally useful to someone who wants to learn how not to climb 5.12. First take in 5,000 calories a day, at least! Cuddling with your partner in a single sleeping bag doesn’t do the trick when the temperatures plummet below absolute zero, which is why alpinists suck down enough calories to power Manhattan. But for someone training not to climb 5.12, this diet will be perfect. Aim for enough calories to fail on 5.12, but not so many as to prevent you from sending 5.11, it’s the perfect grade for being accomplished, but not elitist.
Well that’s it. The first snow impends on this sleepy Colorado town and that means it’s almost 2007 and only two more years of Bush, unless Jeb slithers into the Round Room. It’s been a degenerate ride on all accounts, but I hope you’ve learned something about how not to chase grades, but to chase people instead. Especially, I hope you learn how not to climb 5.12. The world has enough elitist losers, and not enough non-elitist losers.
This article appeared in Rock and Ice issue 156 (January 2007).
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