So it seems to happen all the time these days. Some new route or impressive feat is reported online and straight away there's a barrage of criticism. "Surely it's not that hard?", "How can THIS person have climbed this route?", "That looks rubbish!" "Why's he done it like this?". The quantity of negative comments is thankfully usually outweighed by positive ones, thanking the compiler for the report or even congratulating the person on the ascent. Whilst that's nice, it's not what the report is for. You don't climb really dangerous routes to be thanked - that would be insane, but you also really don't expect to be criticised for it not looking hard or good enough either. I'm not a restaurant, this isn't trip advisor. It may really surprise you, but I didn't climb this route to satisfy your ideas of what a hard route looks like or to roll out the same old cliches.
And whilst we're on the topic of conformity. What is it about "repeating the classics"? Why, why must a climber repeat routes in other areas if he is not to be slandered? What kind of dullardish, retrophillic, prescriptive nonsense is that. The UK trad scene is stuck in a rutt at the moment. Yeh, it might be a rut where great routes are still being climbed every year and there are more glossy photos and videos than ever before whizzing around, but it's not really going in a new direction. Maybe, just maybe, it's exactly that obsession with 'doing things the way we've always done them' that's holding us back. The salient fact is, and this may be a little chilling for you - trad routes up to this point haven't been that bold. There's a lot of trickery still going on in the climbing media, supported by the real actors of our sport, and suddenly everyone seems to believe that we can't go bolder. It's so ingrown into our sport that when people talk about climbing another way they're accused of spewing hyperbole. It's not hyperbole though. These routes, these incredible adventures really are like true love - they make seemingly the most platitudiness statements adopt new levels of the profound. Like it or not - just try the routes!
And then there was cameras. Not only have I climbed my route for the sole purpose of satisfying your ideas about what I should be doing, but I should also be filming it if I want to be believed. Is this some kind of backwards threat so that you have more to watch on your boring days at work, or is there such a level of distrust in climbing today that this is really the way it has to be? It's got to the point now where things are actually not being climbed because the right photographic team isn't there; or you set off on routes a bit prematurely because there is a good camera at the crag. What crack den did you slither out of? What a world away the real climbing experience feels - you know, that place where I stood below my project, the climb I've been working on for months, truly terrified, really not wanting to do it, but then having a moment of very calm direction in which I got on the route and humbly climbed it. That was fantastic, earth-shattering, one of the best things I've ever experienced, but that doesn't seem to count for anything if I can't give you some glossy shots. Maybe those Arabs in Laurence of Arabia were right - maybe the camera does steal the soul.
So why is it that a third party, entirely removed from the action, the climber, the cliff and possibly even the area in which the climb took place, feels the need and as if he has the right to criticise? I think we've forgotten that routes are reported to inform the climbing public of what is going on, excite, ignite passion and spread the interest. It's a fabulously productive, cohesive and interesting roll of the climbing forums that are otherwise just swamped with dross. Attack real foul play - lying, chipping, loutish behaviour, but don't just get upset cause someone can't be bothered to walk up End of the Affair, prior to pandering to ideas of how a real climber sounds and looks.