I was recently in Ten Sleep, Wyoming, and listen, it’s really hard to know what to climb without a guidebook there. It’s essentially this long cliff line and everything looks really really really fun and you have basically no way of knowing if any line is going to bottom out in monos or continue being really ultra-pocketed and full of kitty litter type rock.
So what did I do? I went to my local book store and asked for the book by Aaron Huey, “Lies and Propaganda in Ten Sleep Canyon,” and what did I get? Nothing. Really, just about no one had this book last summer, pre-release of the new “Ten Sleep Bible.” Not. One. Shop. It’s like there was literally no more left and that no one had decided to publish another one for a while until there was a real shortage. Pretty crazy.
At first I didn’t believe it. I just hit the road and hit every climbing shop in sight. Can you imagine that both Pagan in Moab and Neptune in Boulder didn’t have it? Puzzling. Truly! Neptune even had a sign because “stop asking us, we don’t have any in the back and can’t order them, and you’re the fifth dude this hour that has asked” (not really but that’s basically what I felt when I read their more gently-put words).
So you can see that this story has a point: rock climbing is way too popular.
Back it up. Why did I get to this point? Well when the new book was released it hit the shelves with a MSRP of one-hundred-freaking-dollars. And, it sold. I’m sure it did, I saw pictures of people buying it on mountain project. Some guy claims he bought two. For what? He obviously did not want new picks or a new harness or he was independently wealthy and could easily afford it.
In a perfect world, we would, if wanted, climb alone on beautiful five star routes all day long and drink beers with our close friends by a fire. But as awesome as sports are, they proliferate. Like bacteria, climbers multiply exponentially. So what happens when we have a culture plate full of cells puking out hard earned dollars? We get interesting products that seem to cost more than we can imagine.
Currently the cheapest harness hovers around $60-70, and yet there is a luxury one by Arcteryx which goes to $160 called the AR-395a (rolls off the tongue, I know). How is there a $100 price difference between similar products? Because one is a luxury where as the other is a baseline. Same thing with approach shoes, ropes, ultralight gear and titanium nick-nacks.
Capitalism isn’t bad. It’s just not something that seems to be a prevent value in climbing culture. Even though some people do buy luxury Alex Honnold or Chris Sharma ropes, they’re still a rope. (Funny how Honnold has his own rope). I will say that capitalism does give us decent (cheap) wine, micro-breweries and gri gris. If not everyone would be belaying on an ATC drinking Coors.
As I looked through the new Ten Sleep guidebook, I was surprised. Lots of it seemed really similar to the old edition that was trapped in the Ten Sleep town library (which I had previously photocopied a few pages to get by). And yet, there it was, with it’s red cover and satin book-string-thing. And I was sad.
I wasn’t sad that there was mountain project and a world of online knowledge. Nor that I could climb at Ten Sleep for free, and that I could camp for free and basically just be living a careless (or care-free?) lifestyle. I was sad that it had come to this: the logical conclusion of guidebooks in a capitalist world.
Hate if someone else did it, fuck, I may as well do it.
Yep. There it was and I had no budget for it. I couldn’t justify blowing that much green on that and then having no beer for weeks or maybe switching all my food choices to ramen and oats. Honestly, I could have bought it and been totally fine but I couldn’t will myself to do it as it stood against what my dirt-bag trip was supposed to conquer.
I was supposed to travel on a shoestring and love every moment of it knowing I had it all.
And that’s something we tell ourselves on climbing trips. That nature and rocks and good beta can sustain adventure. Yet, the guidebook is seminal to that now as meeting locals and befriending them isn’t what we’re doing any longer because we have such a large community which is only loosely connected. We’re travelling like the rest of the planet and looking through guidebooks with expectations. We spend our hard earned cash to have fun and climb.
Maybe this is a wake up call.
Don’t stop… believing… hold on to those feelings,