Don’t Tell me Not to Climb

COVID-19 Climbing

“For the powerful, crimes are those that others commit.” Noam Chomsky spoke these words in the interview series Imperial Ambitions in 2005. Today, social media has given all of us the power to shame each other publicly, including climbers.  Recent posts on social media, during the COVID-19 pandemic, chastise others for climbing — unaware of their skill, contextual situation, and state mandate — is, in my opinion, detrimental to climbing’s counter-culture heritage.  In this counter-culture activity, climbers have yielded to the authority they once rebelled against.  An ironic death when personal choice becomes a monument ready to be graffitied, protested & destroyed by ones whose lives we once protected, as we sincerely spoke those ritual words, “Climb on.”

Climbing became popularized in the 1950’s after WWII brought a lifestyle of security and lack of risk to American culture. With Yin there is always Yang. Climbing became the counter-culture risk taking activity that youths needed to exercise their adventurous spirits.  Squashed by an upbringing of frugality, excessive security and what would become, in some historians’ opinions, the beginning of consumerism.

Do you believe those at the vanguard of what was to become a major hobby & profession in the 20th & 21st century were met with open arms? Do you think all their parents supported this dangerous risky activity for their children? Do you believe their friends said, “Yea man, go climb that 100 ft wall with a rope tied around your waist, I heard leaders don’t fall, you’re good.” Do you believe the park services, not just in California at Yosemite, but across the United States didn’t believe these “crazy” kids were a menace to the placid good ol’ American folk trying to enjoy the parks after the rancor of World War II? With any revolution, with any counter-culture movement you often find comradery with those few souls brave enough to walk uncharted territory together.  How have you supported your fellow climbers during the last month in person and/or on social media?

I believe we have a greater responsibility today to one another. To honor the heritage which created the activity we love.  To pay tribute to the likes of Royal Robbins, Warren Harding, John Long, Lynn Hill and many others for their courage to defy the norm, by thinking for ourselves.  Warren Harding & Dean Caldwell’s infamous ascent up the Dawn Wall drew enough concern that a rescue was initiated.  Mr. Harding famously scribbled a note inside a tuna can that read, “A rescue is unwarranted, unwanted and will not be accepted.” Now that’s the spirit!  Is that the same spirit you witness on social media?  I’m not telling you to climb or not to climb. I’m not encouraging you to engage in illegal or illicit activity. I am advocating that the next time you see a post, rather than dishonoring the heritage that allows you to engage in the climbing that you love, you state those ritual words, “Climb on”.

The Great Walls of the World

This isn’t meant to be political. It is meant to be informative about the great walls of the world.  Donald Trump stated that he planned to build a wall between the United States and Mexico. He like many other great leaders of the past may leave his mark on humanity for millennia, if successful.

Huffingtonpost.com in October of 2016 did a post called 13 famous Walls around the world.  They only did photos though. Let’s take a look at some.

The Great Wall of China was built to protect the Chinese states against raids and invasions from the various nomadic groups of the Eurasian Steppe.  Though different pieces were constructed as early as 7th century BC under the rule of Qin Shi Huang between 220-206 BC the most famous part of the wall was built.  Among its purposes was defense and yes, border control.

A less known but, still a great wall was the Walls of Ston.  Famously known as the “European wall of China.” Spanning more than 4.3 miles long it surrounded the city of Ston, which is now southern Croatia.  The city used this wall to protect itself and its Saltpans, which brought it great wealth.

Another wall is the Israeli West Bank Barrier. A wall spanning more than 430 miles!  Israeli considers it a security barrier against terrorism, while Palestinians call it a racial segregation. Politics aside, this wall began construction in 2000 proving modern walls can be built and maintained.  This wall is still in existence today.

Lastly, The Walls of Babylon. Constructed under Nebuchadnezzar II between 634-562 BC. This massive wall is truly wonder! Even the greek historian Herodotus claimed that “Babylon surpasses in wonder any city known in the world.”  According to Herodotus the wall was 56 miles long, 80 feet thick, and 320 feet high!  Large enough chariots could race around the top. Keep in mind a football field is 360 feet long! That is one hell of a wall!

Walls for security, walls for border control, walls for defense.  Walls are truly a great accomplishment of man.  Even psychologically, we built walls to protect ourselves!  Consider the historic significance of these select few walls from history.  Now imagine, the United States, in all its glory being part of that Great Wall history.   A man once said, “If we want to compete with China we need a wall bigger then China.”