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Are climbers becoming more specialized in one discipline over becoming well rounded climbers?


Original Post
Mobes Mobesely · · MDI · Joined Mar 2006 · Points: 865

It seems like it. Personally I couldn't imagine living near classics but never sampling them because they arent sport/trad/boulder etc etc. There are a handful of top climbers that do it all and around where I'm at it seems the average joe climber has their discipline and they stick with it. It shocks me when I hear that someone lived/lives near some classic climbing but ignored it in order to drive multiple hours to their favorite spot. Maybe I hang out in a gym too much but it seems everyone I talk to these days has their one style they like and they rigidly stick to it.

Have things changed in the last 20 years or is it just the region(NE) of the country I'm in?

Lena chita · · OH · Joined Mar 2011 · Points: 746

The price of getting into a new-for-you sub-discipline of climbing is not zero.

People who started out climbing trad, before gyms were a thing, have the gear. Branching out and sampling a few sport climbs in the area is easy.

If you are a sport climber, you can't just casually go trad climbing one day because you feel like it. You need gear and partners who know how to place that gear.

if you are a boulderer, going sport climbing is quite an investment. And so on.

Bill Kirby · · Baltimore Maryland · Joined Jul 2012 · Points: 480

The gym doesn’t teach trad 

Mobes Mobesely · · MDI · Joined Mar 2006 · Points: 865

I guess I was fortunate to have started out hang dogging on trad while accumulating enough gear to do anything. It does seem to me that the average climber can afford gear so lack of money isnt the  reason. . 10 or so years ago I started seeing tons of boulderers who never touched ropes, now it seems less people are crossing over from sport to trad/ trad to sport.

Even the gyms are starting to teach trad through TRing local crags and having multiple licensed guides working out of their gyms so I say the gyms do teach trad in a way Bill. 

reboot · · . · Joined Jul 2006 · Points: 125

I live around Boulder and I've never bothered to hike up any of the Flatirons nor have I gotten past the 1st pitch of Yellow Spur. So? Life is too short to dabble at everything and/or tick off somebody else's idea of "classics".

Lena chita · · OH · Joined Mar 2011 · Points: 746

An average climber CAN afford gear, sure. but most people don't buy ALL the things they can afford. I can afford a kayak, but I am not going out to buy it anytime soon, because I don't think I would be doing it regularly any time soon, if ever.

Rock climbing used to be something you picked up because you wanted to climb rocks. It used to be that everyone that climbed in our gym was an outdoor climber. That is no longer the case. Gym climbing now is a fun and social way to be active. The majority of people who climb in the gym now have never done any kind of technical climbing outside, and they don't want to, either. And a fair number of people who DO want to climb real rock want it in the same vague way that I want to go white-water rafting. It would be fun. Someday, sure. When the weather is warm, and my friend who does the guiding would have time/inclination to take me for a day or relatively leisurely white-water rafting at the New/Gauley. It won't be during PEAK season, obviously, because I am not equipped to handle really hard rapids, nor do I particularly want to, and he would be busy during the peak season anyway. But in the middle of summer sometimes... sure, it would be fun. 

Nolan Huther · · Potsdam, NY · Joined Dec 2014 · Points: 505

Why bother when my arbitrarily picked discipline is obviously vastly superior to the others

Ancent · · Reno, NV · Joined Apr 2015 · Points: 34

I think it's the region you're in. I grew up in the NE, and there, all the destination climbing places are hours apart and generally classic for one area. I grew up tradding at the Gunks, would go to Rumney or the New for sport, etc, but all were significant drives away from one's home and each other, and local cragging was mediocre top roping or miscellaneous mixed lines.

Now living around the Sierras, everyone--for the most part--does all sports. Sure, most people I know trad climb, but I hear the phrase "hey, you wanna clip bolts on Saturday" often enough as sport climbing is a fun different sport. Everyone I know at least has a crash pad and either boulders to kill afternoons, have a comfortable couch next to their sprinter van, or takes it really seriously. The best trad climbers I know did a stint of hard sport climbing, and for the most part, you can't get as high in the mountains unless you trad climb, so there's strong incentive to learn that.

Conor Pesci · · everett, wa · Joined Feb 2014 · Points: 0

It definitely seem this way.  I have strived to become a well rounded climber but it's hard to find places to learn new disciplines.  It took me a while to find someone that would show me how to trad climb.  It was even harder to find someone that could teach me aid climbing.  I realize there are books/videos around but there is something about having someone show you in learn at the cliff/mountain.  

ConorCarroll · · Golden, CO · Joined Oct 2014 · Points: 0

I used to be an overweight moderate trad climber.  Or at least that is what I aspired to be (climbing moderate routes, I have the overweight thing nailed down).  The idea of a sport route bored me.  I took advantage (as much as a father of multiple kids can) of eldo a couple years back and a partner who also had multiple children limited our outings to about once per month.  Sure, some really great (moderate) routes.  Then caldwell did his dawn wall thing.  Some one told me about he was one of the best "trad climbers" in the world.  Then I read his book and learned about his winter boulder training, flex luther etc.  So, trying to get back into this climbing thing, I simply climb whatever I can, when I can (note some awesome north table ticks of late).  I put myself back in the days when I lived in Houston and how miserable that was....makes north table so celestial.  

The only subcategory I try to avoid is "gym rat," but even the best of us get those cold chills down our back every now and then.     

Jake Jones · · Richmond, VA · Joined Jul 2011 · Points: 1,749

I think it's cool that people only do one thing because that's what they're into.  Most people that are predominantly boulderers, end up being pretty strong.  Same with sport climbing.  Most people that predominantly plug gear and nothing else, either eventually figure out they need one of the other disciplines to advance, or B) stagnate into oblivion (which is fine as long as they're happy with that).  Only a select few and a special type of creature can move through the grades on gear lines like people tend to typically do on bolted routes.  

Suits me just fine.  I have pads, draws and a rack, and I try to use all of them on each trip I go on.  I have to say though, the lack of people plugging gear doesn't bother me one bit.  In a crag with a high volume of hard sport routes and moderate (by moderate, I mean 5.9 - 5.11a, not 5.7/5.8 like most people mistakenly think moderate means) to hard gear lines, you'll rarely find a shitshow of dogs, crowds, blasting music, hammocks, trash, gear strewn about the trail, etc. etc.

Do what you dig, and other people will do the same.  Personally, I can't imagine being near a world class destination with hundreds of quality problems, and literally thousands of quality bolted and gear lines and only climbing boulders, or only plugging gear, or only clipping bolts.  But hey, whatever floats your boat.  I won't cast aspersions on any of them.  I'm at a very average level of all of them and I still love it.  Those that are dedicated to one discipline, tend to either be really good at it, either that, or they've drank the koolaid that YGD if you plug gear, etc. etc.  And I couldn't care less.  More for me.

Nick Goldsmith · · Pomfret VT · Joined Aug 2009 · Points: 440

I live in the north east and most of the folks that I know Ice climb, trad  and sport climb. A fair number alpine and a few aid as well.  I also know a few who used to do the ice and trad thing but now stick to sport for various reasons rangeing from trying to get to 5.14 or simply feel that trad and ice is too scary.   most of my friends are simply climbers.

Buck Rio · · MN · Joined Jul 2015 · Points: 0

I'm back from a layoff of 8 years(skydiving injury induced) and most of my peers are doing other things now, so I am looking for new partners.

But I joined a gym and am surprised that there is a ton of people there that do nothing but gym climbing/bouldering. I guess I use the gym to get in shape to climb outside, not as an end in itself. "The dream is not 15 feet tall..." .  R Robbins idea that we should be keeping the adventure level high.

Like Nick, most of my climbing pals did everything...depending on what trip was being floated. Trad in the Tetons, RMNP, Eldo or The Ditch; Ice climbing in Nipigon/Orient bay, or clipping bolts in the New/Red River gorges. Some of those guys are still having new experiences, like pack rafting/MTB in Utah, Kite boarding, kayaking, Helo skiing in Valdez etc. Just aren't doing the climbing thing anymore.

Now if I want to climb, I guess I am going to have to play teacher and show some willing n00b how to place gear. I did find a new friend on the partner finder tool, which is really cool.

I think that the multi-genre climbing person just gets more opportunity. Heck when I was a new climber in the 80's, I went on every trip that an elder would put up with me on, alpine, trad or top rope. Sport wasn't really a thing yet in the Midwest. If you do it all, you will have way more chances to climb, with a bunch of different people.

Nick Goldsmith · · Pomfret VT · Joined Aug 2009 · Points: 440

can't comprehend the only one thing route. if I only sport climbed and I was on vacation and drove past Devils tower I would have  just look at it and wonder what it might be like to climb it and maybe bitch that its not bolted top to bottom. If I trad climbed and refused to clip bolts I would have to drive right by wild iris without stopping to check out the limestone. If I did not ice climb I would have to pull plastic all winter.....  Plastic is the one thing I don't do . I live 12 min from a gym but have not been in there in about a decade... winter time I climb ice, ski and play music. summer if it rains I play music or run a river in the canoe. it's all good.

Pavel Burov · · Russia · Joined May 2013 · Points: 50
T Roper wrote: Are climbers becoming more specialized in one discipline
Sure. It is a natural process. Specialization is a key factor to success in like any professional ball park.
Eric Chabot · · Salt Lake City, UT · Joined Jul 2011 · Points: 45
Nick Goldsmith wrote:  I live 12 min from a gym but have not been in there in about a decade... 

That's cuz the GMRCC sucks royally

Jason Halladay · · Los Alamos, NM · Joined Oct 2005 · Points: 12,188
Jake Jones wrote: ... I won't cast aspersions on any of them..

Off topic but can we all take a moment to appreciate Jake's malapropism avoidance with this proper term?   

Greg Barnes · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2006 · Points: 1,823

Nothing much has changed in the last 20 years...and even before then you could easily replace "sport/trad/boulder" with "popular/offwidth/runout slab" and have the exact same discussions...let alone adding mountaineering and ice into the mix...

Jake Jones · · Richmond, VA · Joined Jul 2011 · Points: 1,749
Jason Halladay wrote:

Off topic but can we all take a moment to appreciate Jake's malapropism avoidance with this proper term?   

Yes, please do haha.  And while you’re at it, let’s marvel at Jason’s knowledge of mental lexicons.

Mobes Mobesely · · MDI · Joined Mar 2006 · Points: 865
Nick Goldsmith wrote: can't comprehend the only one thing route. if I only sport climbed and I was on vacation and drove past Devils tower I would have  just look at it and wonder what it might be like to climb it and maybe bitch that its not bolted top to bottom. If I trad climbed and refused to clip bolts I would have to drive right by wild iris without stopping to check out the limestone. If I did not ice climb I would have to pull plastic all winter.....  Plastic is the one thing I don't do . I live 12 min from a gym but have not been in there in about a decade... winter time I climb ice, ski and play music. summer if it rains I play music or run a river in the canoe. it's all good.
Gym hater. I was the same way until a few years back when gyms started getting nice.

Your examples are what I'm wondering about. Driving past world class climbing while being a really good climber must be tough sometimes, all because its not your "thing".  If you want to throw ice in the mix I'm in the same boat, I just drive past.
Mobes Mobesely · · MDI · Joined Mar 2006 · Points: 865
Greg Barnes wrote: Nothing much has changed in the last 20 years...and even before then you could easily replace "sport/trad/boulder" with "popular/offwidth/runout slab" and have the exact same discussions...let alone adding mountaineering and ice into the mix...

makes sense, thats about how it was when I was learning on granite- popular/offwidth/crazy slab with an occasional beer/boulder thrown in. I was the popular specialist, that and beer bouldering.

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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