I grew up in a multiracial, multicultural city: Albuquerque, New Mexico, home to a mix of Latinx, Native American, Black, Asian, and Anglo people. The city’s Mexican and Spanish roots run deep, a fact that’s reflected in its populace, dining (some of the best Mexican food around), language, and street names (Rio Grande, Paseo del Norte, etc.). My high school was a blend of races, as were my school friends. But at the rock, it was another matter: In the late-1980s New Mexico climbing scene, we were all pretty much white, save a few climbers of Latinx or Native American heritage. I didn’t pay it much thought: I was a teenager caught up in this new obsession and pretty oblivious to social issues.
I moved to Boulder, Colorado, in 1991 to attend college. Boulder is 88.1 percent white (source: bouldercolorado.gov), and its climbing scene seems whiter yet. I remain here for the killer climbing, which makes me just one more middle-class Boulder white guy with the time and money to pursue his hobby. That’s privilege. I don’t have to worry about being killed by racists while out for a jog (Ahmaud Arbery), suffocated by police for allegedly passing a fake $20 bill (George Floyd), or shot to death in my home because of a mixed-up no-knock warrant (Breonna Taylor). Yet that’s the reality Black Americans—and really anyone in this country who’s not white-skinned—face day after day, not to mention the redlining, economic oppression, carceral state, and other insidious forms of white supremacy that have for far too long formed the cruel fabric of American society.
I lived in Italy in the mid-1990s when the country was amidst an influx of Eastern European immigrants. I’m half Russian, with a strong, Slavic jawline, and this caused problems with Italy’s xenophobic security forces: detainments in airports, stop-and-frisks on the streets of Turin, plainclothes security following me around shops. The discrimination filled me with a formless rage that had no particular target. What’s wrong with me, that you feel like you can treat me this way? I wondered. Leave me alone! Still, I had the luxury of leaving Italy, and what I experienced was just a taste of the nightmarish racism facing BIPOC Americans.
With Climbing’s media platform, it’s incumbent upon us to try to make things better. As the US witnesses civil-rights protests the likes of which we haven’t seen since the Rodney King verdict in 1992, the timing is right for our Community Issue, which celebrates our community’s breadth and depth. In Talk of the Crag (p.8), we cover the reality of our sport for nonbinary climbers and look at whether problematic route names—including ones with racist or seemingly racist overtones—should be changed. Meanwhile, our contributor roster remains a blend of men and women alike from many different backgrounds.
Still, we need to do more—every issue of this magazine needs to better reflect all members of our community. I would love to see more BIPOC climbers contributing to the title and the website, and reaching out with pitches. And we’ll be working to find those contributors as well—you can find us at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d also like to call on photographers to shoot more photos of BIPOC climbers. The storytelling in Climbing relies so acutely on the visual impact of your imagery. Expand your bench of friends and models, take amazing pictures, and send them our way. Climbers of all shapes, sizes, and colors should see themselves on our pages and be inspired—and, above all, feel welcome.
I’d also urge those of you who think that racism isn’t a problem in the climbing community to do some research (start here: climbing.com/antiracismresources) and learn how climbers of color are often ignored, mistreated, or “othered” at the gym, the cliffs, or in the outdoor industry. Or to simply consider how discomfiting it might be to be the only dark-skinned person at the crag or to be visiting a cliff, say in the South, where you have to drive past Confederate flags flying in front yards. Our contributor Kathy Karlo’s excellent podcast For the Love of Climbing—also the name of her column (p.26)—dives into this very story in episode 17, an interview with the Black climber Brandon Belcher. Yet Brandon’s is just one tale. There are so many others. It’s time to start listening.
—Matt Samet, Editor
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In this issue...
The Dark Side of Liberty
Inside Shanjean Lee and Mikey Schaefer’s 5.13+ Liberty Bell FA.
The Vertical Mile
Follow Dakota Walz on his journey, in 2019, to climb 5,280 vertical feet of FAs in the American Southwest.
Hammers of the Gods
Braving the wild, multi-pitch conglomerate spires of Riglos in the hills of Northern Spain.
- Caption Contest
- Quick Clips
Talk of the Crag
- Gender Bias: Nonbinary climbers sound off on discrimination in climbing
- Rated R: Should obscene or offensive routes be renamed?
- 6 climbing gear reviews
- Seasonal Drift: Why appetite fluctuates throughout the year—and how to flow with it
- Bolton Dome, Vermont and the State’s New Schist Golden Age
For the Love of Climbing
- The Webs We Weave: Escaping the trap of outdated ethics
- Spook Book, The Needles, California
- Photo Gallery: 3 recent climbing photo highlights
- Jimmy Webb: Jimmy Webb would be the last person to tell you that he’s sent more V16s than almost any other American. Credit that humility—and the work ethic that earned him those ticks—to his Tennessee roots.
- Mya Lixian Gosling: The comedy of climbing culture