Foxy Fridays: Jackie Hueftle

At 5’10”, with a willowy frame and golden hair that hangs halfway to her butt, it might come as surprise that the easiest way to spot Jackie Hueftle (@thegirlinlongshorts) from afar is in fact by her board shorts, skate shoes, and more often than not, her hair in a bun.  Compared with the world’s trademark climbers, she is unassuming.  One is hard-pressed, however, to find anyone from Colorado to British Columbia who hasn’t benefited from her positive energy, her contagious good humor, her encouragement, or her hospitality.

Jackie has served as an inspiration to me since I met her. I was 15, she was 19, and we were climbing in the junior competitive climbing association (JCCA) that preceded the USA climbing.  Roughly three years later, Jackie moved to Boulder, CO where she attended the University of Colorado to study creative writing and started working at the Spot climbing gym.  Today, Jackie is a co-owner of Kilter, which was recently voted #1 among climbing hold companies by the Climbing Business Journal. She also manages the Spot Climbing Gym and is a freelance writer.  Yesterday, I picked up a copy of Climbing Magazine to read an article she wrote on Isabelle Faus’ recent tear through Rocky Mountain National Park. 

Jackie prefers bouldering to other types of climbing, although she has admitted that she dabbles in sport climbing, and has incidentally sent solid 5.13.  Since I’ve known her, Jackie has frequented bouldering meccas such as Fontainebleau, Hueco Tanks, Squamish, and Virgin Gorda every year.  Her photos are mouth-watering, but a sense of calm and contentment washes over me as she describes her most recent trip—her efforts and sends on numerous double-digit boulder problems sound relaxed and pleasurable.

Despite a 50-60 hour workweek and a passion for climbing outside, Jackie manages to forerun boulder problems and help set competitions for The Spot.  On weekends, it’s rare that along with her usual posse, she doesn’t have one or more newcomers to Boulder in tow, who she provides with a ride and a complimentary tour of any given local climbing area.  Jackie’s house in South Boulder in an embassy for the international and occasional out-of-state climber—she is an ambassador, welcoming outsiders into an extensive but tight-knit climbing community.

Jackie grew up in Reno, NV.  She learned to climb on the Donner granite sport-climbing test pieces and Tahoe’s sprawling granite boulder-fields.  Having recently relocated to the Bay Area, I often hear tales about Jackie and her friends who nabbed many of the 1st, 2nd (and 3rd) ascents of local test pieces.  “Do you know Jackie? I smile, “Yeah, don’t you?”

If not, you will soon.

-Lizzy Asher

Spot Comp. Photo by Aaron Colussi.

Spot Comp. Photo by Aaron Colussi.

JACKIE HUEFTLE

Age: 34

Location: Boulder, CO

Occupation: Head Route Setter at The Spot Gym, freelance writer (occasionally), and Co-owner and Chief Operations Officer at Kilter

Years Climbing: Since 1998

Instagram: @thegirlinlongshorts

Flash Foxy: How did you get into the sport?

Jackie Hueftle: A long-time climber named Doug Mishler took my mom and brother a bunch, and I finally went along. My first day was outside at Big Chief near Tahoe and it was hot and dusty and I only had one shoe that fit me (I wore a hiking shoe on the other foot) and I spent most of the day under a pine tree reading a book. I went to the gym shortly after that and got hooked immediately. I’d actually been climbing a few years before at the gym and liked it but then a family friend got injured in a trad fall and my dad got worried, so we started playing hockey instead. Once I got back in the gym at 16, I started going every day–it was the carrot that helped me get through the school days. I worked at the gym, started setting routes, and trained with the team. We had a ton of fun at comps all through our region and nationals. I competed until I aged out, which was only 3 years of competing. I got to go to Junior Worlds in Imst in 2001. Then I stopped competing (there wasn’t much for adults comp-wise at the time) and focused on outdoor climbing.

FF: When did you start working in the industry?

JH: I started working at the gym a few months after I started climbing. I started setting a few months after that. I’ve worked in gyms fairly consistently ever since — 6 years at Rocksport in Reno, Nevada and the last 12 at The Spot here in Boulder though I also did a few months setting at the BRC (Boulder Rock Club, also in Boulder) and have done clinics and set at several other gyms. I also write for climbing magazines and have had a few photos published, and I’ve run several blogs and websites. I guide at Hueco, and I’m sponsored by La Sportiva as a backpocket athlete, and Flashed cause they make awesome crash pads with the best carrying harness on the market. I’ve dabbled with other companies but I’m not really a pro climber, more of a pro setter, if you can be that? Or just an industry professional.

FF: What have been some of the biggest challenges for you (working in the industry)?

JH: That glass ceiling you don’t see ’til you hit it? Yeah, that. I thought it didn’t exist in climbing but it does. Being heard as a woman can be difficult. Having your opinion be valuable and being able to express it and have it be taken the right way is difficult. Having value as a route setter when you do not forerun as hard as the guys is difficult, even if you can set well above your climbing limit and have other valuable setting skills, experience, and perspective they may not have.

FF: Is it different/unique in any way to be a female route setter? As it’s a male dominated profession? Are there pros and cons to being one of few women doing it?

JH: Yes, I’m one of a small but growing number of women who put holds on the wall professionally. Most of the people I’ve worked with have been men, but I’ve been lucky enough to have worked with several women as well, most notably Molly Beard who has been setting longer than I have and is one of the USAC’s longest-running setters (male or female). Molly is also the most organized head setter I’ve ever worked for–at the Junior Nationals she chiefed we were out of the gym by 8pm every day.

At The Spot I have interned a few women who have gone on to be good route setters, and we usually have at least two female setters any given day, sometimes up to four or five if we’re setting a comp. I’m sure this is unusual, as most setting women I know are the only girl in their area. My Assistant Head Setter at The Spot is a girl named Sarah Filler who moved from Buffalo to Salt Lake, then to Boulder after she interviewed with me and I was so impressed I hired her on the spot. She had 6 years of experience setting already, which is pretty unusual. She’s been an amazing addition to my team and lends a different perspective while working well with me towards our goals for our setting program and events. Sarah is also very responsible and organized administratively, and skills like those are harder to find than decent setting skills.

I think one of the biggest problems our industry is currently dealing with is having the strongest setter at any given gym, who is usually a young man, be in charge of the setting program. When head setter selection is based on who the strongest climber, therefore usually the most dominant socially, then you can end up with a head setter who has little to no experience with administration, organization, or people management.

I think every setter would agree that to run a setting program well you should be a setter, and ideally a dedicated climber as well (vs having a general manager run the setting program). The setting crew vs gym management is a common problem though one that I hope is fading into the past. That being said, setting is a unique job, and the demands are many and hard to quantify. Only someone who is setting regularly or has set regularly for a long time is truly able to build and run a program that is reasonable for the setting crew and the gym. Luckily things are evolving quickly in terms of professionalism and I think that more and more young setters are working towards management and administration skills and building the understanding in themselves and their staff that their setting program is for the customers and the industry as a whole and not just about setting art projects or replicas of their current project.

So what is different or unique about being a woman in this rapidly evolving environment? Strength is the biggest difference I think, in that most men, even men who do not climb well, are going to be stronger than most women in most ways. Strength continues to be seen as THE most valuable skill in climbing where other skills like technique are often cast off as something anyone can learn if they bother. Because of this, the strongest climber often becomes the most socially dominant, and most dominant in the setting program if it evolves organically.

For comp setting, someone who cannot forerun as hard is not seen as as valuable a member of the team as someone who can set and forerun the hardest blocs. For comps it is true that forerunning is an important part of the process, but so is experience and vision, and I know several very well known comp setters who can set very effectively above their own ability. I myself have been doing so for years–you have to in Boulder where your women’s comp finals will include climbers like Alex Puccio, Megan Mascarenas, Delaney Miller, and Nina Williams and men’s winners have included Daniel Woods, Paul Robinson, and Dave Graham. Also, most comp finals don’t need to be THAT hard as much as they need to be just hard enough to separate tired climbers, and even then it’s always a game of educated guessing.

So, for comps you need to be able to have vision and work with forerunners. For a regular gym, in most communities most customers are beginner-intermediate climbers, and setters who are climbing at or just above that level may actually be better suited to set and grade for those climbers than setters who are miles stronger. Of course having a mentor setter will help them iron out the kinks, but someone who is working 5.11a herself will have an easier time telling the difference between 5.10c and 5.10d and 11a than someone who climbs 5.13. A diverse setting team can help the gym program address the needs of all the climbers, not just the strongest with the “everyone else can suffer til they get good enough” attitude.  It’s easy to forget just how hard a 3 finger pocket vs a four-finger bucket can feel for a climber who is struggling to gain that specific strength. Part of a setters job is teaching their climbers new skills, and the best setters will be able to empathize with climbers of all levels to do so. This will improve the user experience and hopefully also speed up the learning curve for these newer climbers by giving them reasonable challenges, achievable goals, and a more consistent grade scale to measure themselves against.

Photo by Katrin Bell.

Photo by Katrin Bell.

FF: Can you tell us an anecdote illustrating some/any of the frustrations/roadblocks you came across over the years, and how you have dealt with it?

JH: This is always a sticky subject because I don’t want to sound like sour grapes, and I also don’t want to create hard feelings over past situations that I have personally more or less gotten over by now.

Biggest frustrations are usually around stuff happening when setting for a comp (disagreements, discussions about what to do, etc…) and not feeling my opinion was really heard or respected and then, once the eventual outcome proved me right, no one even looked back at the situation to reevaluate with hindsight, and I was remembered as having been contrary, when really I was arguing for what I believed, which just so happened to be correct. To me part of a good event is looking at what actually happened in the event, and then judging the process to see what happened and how it could be done better in the future. That never seemed to happen, and this kind of dismissal happened several times to/around me. On top of that, traveling to set comps is exhausting, uncomfortable, never pays enough, and unless the head setter is really on it, is often disorganized and frustrating. Molly Beard is one of the only people I can think of who I’d happily travel to set a comp for, because I know she’ll have specific goals for everyone and have us out of the gym by 8pm every night.

One of my specific biggest frustrations was with a group I worked with on several big pro comps. They took over from another organization I had set the comp with before and I talked myself into getting on the team with them too. The first couple of years they were super disorganized — didn’t know many things about running that specific comp or setting for that field, didn’t remember to feed people or even give lunch breaks, didn’t think ahead about things like sun on the wall, etc… We worked crazy hours, it was a mess, but I kept my mouth shut and worked hard to help make the comp go well. The third year I finally opened my mouth, about a particular problem. The head setter didn’t love what I’d set, so I and other setters, then he and I, tried to change it within the constraints of the wall/holds we had. Finally two days later at like 3am he told me to just put it back the way I had it originally. I did, and during the comp the problem split the whole field except the top two competitors. It was problem 2 of 4, and problem 1 got flashed by most of the field, and problem 3 (the head setter’s problem, incidentally) shut everyone but one or two people down on the 2nd move. So my problem and problem 4, which split the top two girls, divided the entire field. Good enough.

I felt like we’d gone through the fire together on the set but the comp was successful and the problem was successful and so overall we had a good experience and grew together. The next year I was told that they didn’t want to hire me again because I’d been “unprofessional”. Apparently having an opinion backed by years of experience and respectfully expressing that opinion, still trying to be flexible and work with the head setter’s needs, and being proved right in the end, was not a professional way to handle things. I felt like had I been a man the impression of my opinion and eventual outcome would have been seen differently and I would have been seen as more professional and capable instead of the opposite. 

FF: How do you cope with/address feeling that you are not heard, or that your opinion isn’t valued?

JH: Ignoring it and just getting the job done because there’s nothing I’ve found yet that works. In the modern world all the guys I have worked with are pretty good guys, and no one wants to believe they have gender-bias that causes them to feel or act a certain way about other setters they are working with. If you head-on accuse them of not valuing your opinion as much, they’d be appalled and probably just decide you were a raging feminist or having sour grapes.

Unfortunately it continues. As USAC has tried to get more girls in, I’ve heard bad things from other setters about those girls, as if the girl was immediately picked out as the weakest member of the team and was only chosen because she is a girl and not because she is a good setter or cares about setting. Sure, maybe she was chosen because they’re trying to support girls more. But I bet she also works her ass off. I hope all women who are chosen for a big event are able to pull their own weight, and I also hope that crews as a whole value skills besides just who can forerun the hardest.

So I guess the other thing I do is support all the other female setters I’ve met who work hard and do a good job. I know many badass women like Kasia Pietras, Sydney McNair, Christine Deyo, and Chelsea Murn who consistently work hard to set quality product. All four of these girls are head setters at gyms that are lucky to have them. Molly Beard has been holding it down for women for a looooooong time and, as I said, is the most organized head setter I’ve ever worked under. Also Flannery Shay-Nemirow, who I feel like is so badass (she can do one-arms) that no one should even be unconsciously treating her as less-than since she probably foreruns harder than most of the guys as well.

Personally, when I’m working for someone else or with a team I’m not chiefing I just try to make sure I am creating the best product possible and I give my opinions when appropriate as I feel that I have plenty of experience to back them up.

I prefer to work for myself at this point, so I guess the main way I’ve dealt with it all is working my way to the top of my particular haystack. My crew who works for me is super respectful and we all value each other’s opinions regardless of gender. I have a ton of experience they don’t have, and they have a ton of fresh new ideas I don’t have. Also several of them have crazy strengths in areas I am weak in, so it’s cool to let everyone shine in their particular area and to help everyone learn how to be better at the moves we’re bad at.

FFThat’s the second time you’ve used the phrase, “sour grapes”. Do explain.

JH: Sour grapes…I think my mom says it or something. Oh yeah and there’s a Descendents song called Sour Grapes. It’s very easy to be dismissed as just being upset because you didn’t get your way when you’re having an issue that you could also also attribute to other issues like men putting women down, or not respecting women or whatever. If you complain about it people might think you are just bitter when really there is a legitimate reason to complain, but maybe it’s hard to talk about and have seem legitimate.

FF: I like this term. I’m gonna use it. Tell us about Kilter. How did it come to be/what is your role?

JH: Kilter is a climbing hold company that I own with Ian Powell and Stephanie Lazewski. I’ve known Ian since I moved to Boulder, and Stephanie since shortly after that, and so when Ian came back from “retirement” and started shaping again I was excited to help him out. I’m a huge hold nerd of course, and having one of the world’s most talented shapers working behind the wall at your gym–which is how he started again, behind the wall at The Spot–was very exciting. I’d check out holds and give feedback, and when he and Dan Howley (owner of The Spot and my boss there, who helped Ian start Kilter) got their first 36 sets back in plastic I thought they were awesome so I helped promote them. That evolved into me doing some marketing and sales and by the next year Dan had to step away and Ian, Steph, and I reformed the company as Kilter LLC. Now Steph does all the accounting/legal, Ian is the creative and vision, and I’m the catch-all. I think my official title, if I have one, is Chief Operations Officer. I do sales, marketing, and customer service, I take photos and videos, update the website, coordinate with our manufacturers, distributors, and reps, order stickers and shirts, etc…. It’s a small business and we all work a ton and have our fingers in everything. We recently hired Griffin Whiteside as a second accountant but of course he does everything else that needs doing too and his help in invaluable.

Spot Setting Crew 2014

Spot Setting Crew 2014

FF: What would your ideal career be?

JH: I guess this, but with a little more money and a little less stress and more time to go climbing. I also love writing and want to publish some of the novels or kids books I’ve been working on. So I guess ideally I live in France part of the year, write my books, climb in Font, set in some way or another, and Kilter. Also, I really do love The Spot. I’ve been there for 12 years, and I love how the Spot is truly focused on creating a good community more than anything. It’s a big part of the reason I’ve worked there for so long. I love how Dan (owner and GM) is always willing to go the extra mile and lets us try new things in order to throw great events.

Scoring at the Earth Treks Setter Showdown. Photo by Mary Mecklenberg.

Scoring at the Earth Treks Setter Showdown. Photo by Mary Mecklenberg.

FF: “Women in climbing” is a hot topic these days. What do you think of the conversation around the First Female Ascent?

JH: For FFAs, I think they are important because they break down mental barriers. I think it helps women to know what other women have done.

People seem to think FFAs are like participation medals–are glorifying nothing–but really most women have different strengths and a different experience on climbs than men do and it’s cool as a woman to see what others have sought out and accomplished.

Another thing people get dismissive about is the “girl problem”, that is, a problem that all the women are trying to send. Yes, if a woman climbs something it’s not unusual to see other women try it–for example Fish Eye in Oliana is probably the 13c most climbed by women in the world–and that is good because the first woman who does it breaks down mental barriers and inspires others to try something that they may have thought was too hard for them before. That single barrier-breaker can then go on to change how those specific women climb–women who do Fish Eye as their first 13c may then feel less intimidated by trying other 13cs, and may go on to get FFA on other 13cs or harder routes.

The mental barrier-breaking progression of a FFA through the female climbing community is very similar to the progression of an FA to the general climbing community. When a man puts up a new problem or route, someone or multiple people start trying to repeat it. The mental barrier has been broken–the route is possible–so now everyone who is able wants to see if they can also accomplish that particular challenge. Because the majority of problems are FA’d by men and until recently the majority of climbers have been men, this process has always been a natural part of climbing for men. When women started doing a version of this for each other, it is not considered special, it’s considered weak because the problem has already been climbed by a man so the accomplishment is not as real.

Virgin Gorda. Photo by Julie Ellison.

Virgin Gorda. Photo by Julie Ellison.

The thing is, women tend to have a different experience than men. We have different strengths. Honestly sometimes I think problems should have different grades for men and women, not so people can have more imaginary points, but because it will help women get a more realistic idea of what might suit them and not, and how hard other climbers of their gender have found a specific climb. The grade scale if used properly would be there to give you an idea of what you can climb and what you can work on. If there was a women’s scale it’d give most women climbers a better idea of what they might like to try at a climbing area. Instead, I see women suffering on the “easy” V6 compression boulder that is super reachy and all the men campus, and then those same women dancing up the nearby V7 crimp face first try because they’re better technical climbers or lighter or whatever it is. Sure, women get away with a higher grade that way, but just for the simple functionality of the grade system it’d be more useful for women to have a grade scale that is more based on women’s average size. That all said, I’m 5.10 so quite a bit taller than average. I still find it easier to relate to other female climbers than males though, mostly because we tend to lack the upper body men come by so naturally.

So, to conclude a long-winded conversation, yes, I think FFAs are important. When a woman climbs a new-to-women problem often it inspires other women to try it, because they get that “maybe I can do that too” feeling that is harder to get when you are looking at something very far out of your perceived ability and experience level, especially when everyone else who has accomplished that specific goal is hard for you to relate to due to physical differences. For example, I am not inspired by Adam Ondra on a personal level. Yes, it’s amazing he is as good as he is, but I can’t relate his accomplishments to my own climbing at all. When Paige Claassen climbs something hard though, I think maybe, just maybe, I could at least try it. Paige is a very good climber, much better than me. She’s easier to relate to though than Adam is, and therefore so much more inspiring.

FF: This is the reason I was so captivated by the new Star Wars. It gave me this sense of “Oh, this is what guys grew up feeling–being able to imagine themselves as the hero portrayed in an action movie!” It felt awesome. Girls lacked that, for so long, and we’re just starting now to have our own heroes. I think of First Female Ascents as being a unique way for us to celebrate our own heroes, and it baffles and saddens me that this is seen as “irrelevant” and is minimized–by men and women in our community.

JH: Agreed. Think of the late 90s. Strong men? Chris Sharma, Dave Graham, Joe Kinder, Luke Parady, Ben Moon… Strong women? Lisa Rands did some V9s. Looking back I’m sure there were a few more, but Lisa is the only strong female boulderer I remember hearing about.

"Vampire in the Ice Caves" Independence Pass. Photo by Leah Crane

“Vampire in the Ice Caves” Independence Pass. Photo by Leah Crane

FF: You’re a writer too (Jackie of all trades!) Tell us about your drive to write.

JH: I’ve always loved reading, and a natural extension of that is to write. Also I used to have a really good memory, and I ask a lot of questions, and I always want everyone to understand each other, and writing is a good way to improve communication and share information I’ve learned. As I said before, I think history is important, so I like writing about people who have made or are currently making history. My new article in Climbing Magazine this month is on Isabelle Faus–probably the quietest crusher in the world right now. She does FFAs but also FAs and has climbed up to V14. Have you heard of her? Also, reading and writing are forms of escape, especially fiction and children’s books, and that’s what I like to write the most. Unfortunately at the moment I barely have time to think so I don’t remember as much as well and I don’t have much time to write for fun. Hence, future goal is to live in a little house in Font, go bouldering, and finish some of my books.

FF: Do you find inspiration when climbing outside? What are your major sources of inspiration to always keep your setting fresh and original? Is any of it original at this point? When does it start to feel contrived?

JH: Yes of course! The best thing about setting, and about climbing in general, are the infinite possibilities. Every single outdoor problem is different, and every single indoor problem can be different because there are so many holds to choose from and so many different wall angle options in most gyms. Tiny changes in hold size, type, or angle can make all the difference, and there are infinite moves to set, learn, and experiment with. There is absolutely no reason to be bored if you enjoy what you are doing.

Everywhere I’ve climbed outdoors has influenced my setting at some point. Fontainebleau is one of my absolute favorite places as the style is tension-tech but still powerful. It’s hard to recreate in the gym because the rock formations in Font create so much of the movement, plus the subtle sandstone texture allows you to climb the way you do; however, you can still take inspiration from Font and create amazing climbs indoors. Same thing for Hueco, and Bishop, etc, etc… Every new move you try is a new move you can build off to create hundreds more.

This doesn’t mean I don’t have slow days. Everyone does. Nothing like a few new sets of holds to snap a setting team back into psych though. For me since I’m at Kilter most of the time I’m always seeing what Ian is shaping next and it keeps me excited for future possibilities.

FF: What is your setting “style”? What types of moves do you gravitate towards?

JH: I definitely started as a technical setter, but my setting has changed a lot over the years. I set what’s interesting to me at the moment, what I’m working on personally, what I want to help our customers work on, or what inspires me given the holds and the wall. My favorite things are probably problems that my stronger setters have trouble with until they unlock the beta. Nothing like punishing a power-monger for not using their feet properly. That said, I think a well-set problem not only has specific beta, but it is set in such a way that the correct beta feels natural, so the angles and types of holds and feet on the wall will encourage a climber to do the moves the best possible way. This way you can subtlety teach your customers how to climb better without having to actually be there with them. When I’m setting I often imagine how moves will feel for different grades of climber given their strengths, and visualize which muscles to tighten for specific moves for climbers who will be at their limit. That helps a lot with predicting the grades of the problems I set as I’m setting them. People will always surprise you, of course, which is another reason setting is so interesting.

FF: Any tough learning experiences during a comp? Learn anything about setting the hard way?

JH: The biggest problems with my own routes in comps were always when we second-guessed ourselves and made a last minute change. Once someone threw me a foot and said “just put that on there” and I did and then it ended up changing the entire scoring at the top of the route because some people grabbed it and though they couldn’t continue off of it the head judge judged it as “in” and re-scored the whole route when the setters were all out eating. On top of that he re-scored it wrong (putting the offending foot above the actual sequence instead of below) so it changed the top 10 of a whole category. That was a huge fuck-up. Another time someone had me take a foot off at the last minute and it turned out that most of the category it was for was too weak to do the move without it and it would have made a big positive difference had it been on.

Every single comp route is a game of educated guessing. Those last minute changes I think are a bad idea because you took lots of time before to think things through and over and over again I find I should trust myself during those initial sessions. Second-guessing and changing at the end of a comp set when you are tired, or when all the competitors looked strong in prelims, or whatever it is, just isn’t a good idea.

FF: What would you say to a girl or woman with no setting experience who wants to set? What advice would you give her? Is there anything you wish you had known without learning the hard way?

JH: If you are interested and willing to work hard and ok with ladders and tools you should try it. It’s interesting. Make up problems at the walls you climb at with holds on the wall. Ask if you can come help forerun. Help wash holds so you learn the holds. Ask if you can help set. Just ask. See what you can do, and work your butt off to do it.

When I started setting I was paid a set rate per route so I could take as much time as I wanted to figure out what I wanted to set. This helped me develop as a much better setter I think without the constraint of the gym’s time clock. Then for forerunning – watch, keep your mouth shut, and learn. Make changes. Remember that everyone is not as flexible as you, that people are stronger and weaker than you, bigger or smaller. If the strongest guy in the gym skips your sequence it doesn’t mean it’s bad. It could just be appropriate for a different level of climber. Also, it’s interesting and creative work, but in the end you are making a product and the most important thing is making a good product.

FF: What do you see as biggest change to the sport, as someone who has worked in the industry for so long? Are you generally supportive of the developments, the increase in participation, sponsorship, and hype? Climbing used to be a sport on the fringes, now it’s trending on Instagram. What do you think about that?

JH: Mixed feelings. It’s weird to go places like the Buttermilks where I used to more or less know everyone I’d see out there any given day, because now I know no one, and I see groups from LA who mostly climb inside sketching their way up dangerous highball V3s like King Tut that have slab-crux top outs and are really not appropriate for climbers of that grade at all. It scares me. It probably scares them too.

I do think it’s cool the industry is growing, as I think climbing is such a great fun sport, and so positive for kids in so many ways. It’s awesome to see the youth girls at The Spot, for example, being able to do so many pull-ups and building confidence in their physical abilities.

Hype….I don’t know. It’s annoying but also necessary. It’s cool to see so many friends getting to go cool places and have cool trips. I #hate hashtags on photos, though I do think the hashtag serves a cool purpose (creates a universal library because if everything is already categorized searching is so much easier). It’d be nice to have hashtags be more in the background on Instagram though.

I also don’t love the impact on outdoor areas. People need to remember that there is no big wilderness anymore. All the impact you leave is there for other people to see, and it compounds. So clean up after your damn selves! Pick up your trash and other people’s trash. Be kind to vegetation. Don’t be disrespectful of other users. Don’t camp in the trails. Don’t camp if you’re not supposed to camp. Don’t have fires under boulders. Don’t leave toilet paper. Don’t leave cigarette butts. Sunflower seed shells don’t decompose that fast. Neither do pistachio shells. So don’t leave them. Don’t be shitty. Really that should just be what all the signs say — don’t be shitty.

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