14ers, climbing, and popularity

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Craig Cook
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14ers, climbing, and popularity

Postby Craig Cook » Wed Sep 12, 2012 10:14 am

As I finish up the final few classes for my bachelor's degree, I am beginning work on a major project for one of my classes, Rhetorics of New Media. For this project, I am to find an topic/online community and discuss how new media has shaped or formed the community itself.

For me, the obvious choice was to look at the online mountain climbing community. Whether it be here at 14ers.com, or SummitPost, or ListsofJohn, the internet has created a way to both gather and share an immense amount of knowledge about hiking/climbing. And with that, has seen the popularity of climbing explode, both in Colorado and around the world - just take a look at Bierstadt at noon on a Saturday.

However, I need the help of all of you - the community itself. I have some general questions I'll post here, but would love to hear any other thoughts, or expansions upon a particular topic. Also, if you are a member of groups like CFI (Damn you, Bill Middlebrook!), SAR, or any other comparable group, I would definitely like to hear from you - and which group you belong to.

Without further ado;


1. For those who have been climbing for a long time, how has the landscape (figuratively, not literally) changed over the last 20 years? The last 5 years?

2. How much of the current popularity of climbing can be attributed to sites like 14ers.com?

3. Mountain climbing sites like this one provide a vast array of information and data to aid any hiker/climber, from a newbie going for their first mountain, to experts who have done the 58 14ers and are looking for more obscure peaks. Does this flood of information help make mountain climbing a safer activity? Or does it's ability to allow us to not have to critically think while in the mountains actually present more danger (e.g. - getting into situations a person can't get out of)? In other words, as popularity grows, are we becoming safer or more dangerous as a whole?

4. (Please see my post on page 2 of this thread)

5. As with any popular activity, people have begun finding ways to put a new twist on an old hobby. Pajama parties. Summit kegs. Hot tubs. Do you think think these activities could have happened 20 years ago? 5-10 years ago? How much credit/blame should be given to online communities and new media for the so-called "birth" of these variations?

6. How has new media affected your ability to form new relationships with climbing partners? Do you have a set group of people you climb with? How did you meet them? If it was through online communuities, do you believe you could have formed these relationships before places like 14ers.com existed?

7. Popularity is increasing in hiking outside of Colorado as well. With it comes all sorts of guides that can take you up a mountain for a fee. How has this changed the climbing culture for mountains such as Everest, or Denali? How much of the technical skills needed have been pushed to the side, in exchange for the "If you have the money, you can climb" mentality? Or closer to home - if you have a route description and topo map, you can climb. This ties into question 3, about how money and easy acces to beta affect one's personal climbing abilities.

..........

I would like to thank in advance everyone who answers any of these questions. Your feedback and discussion is what will turn my project idea into a reality. These 7 questions are discussion starters - like I said, if you have ideas about relatable topics, I welcome them with open arms.

I am not trying to create any anger or petty arguments here, simply a discussion. I will present any and all sides in my project. I love hiking in Colorado, and love the community here at 14ers.com. But for the sake of the project, I do have to look at both the pros and cons to such a flood of possible information and the effects online communities have on the mountains themselves.

Thank you,

Craig Cook
Last edited by Craig Cook on Wed Sep 12, 2012 9:27 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: 14ers, climbing, and popularity

Postby Craig Cook » Wed Sep 12, 2012 10:18 am

I just saw the thread about the CMC having a team on every public summit in one day.

viewtopic.php?f=2&t=37529

Here's a perfect example for my project. I'd love to hear from members of the CMC who participated and are part of the online community here. What was the general purpose for the outing? How were you able to use new media in order to plan the event and ensure its success, etc.?
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Re: 14ers, climbing, and popularity

Postby Brian Thomas » Wed Sep 12, 2012 11:05 am

Regarding #4 - "Ecotourism", don't really understand what it is you're asking here. There is nothing "green" about burning 1 or 2 tanks of gas every weekend to drive halfway across the state to summit peaks and check boxes on checklists of peaks.
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Re: 14ers, climbing, and popularity

Postby DeucesWild » Wed Sep 12, 2012 11:22 am

Brian Thomas wrote:Regarding #4 - "Ecotourism", don't really understand what it is you're asking here. There is nothing "green" about burning 1 or 2 tanks of gas every weekend to drive halfway across the state to summit peaks and check boxes on checklists of peaks.


Better than driving halfway across the state to noise/air pollute with ATVs and snowmobiles.
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Re: 14ers, climbing, and popularity

Postby dubsho3000 » Wed Sep 12, 2012 11:25 am

Brian Thomas wrote:Regarding #4 - "Ecotourism", don't really understand what it is you're asking here. There is nothing "green" about burning 1 or 2 tanks of gas every weekend to drive halfway across the state to summit peaks and check boxes on checklists of peaks.


Just to nit-pick here a little, and maybe spark a discussion, one benefit of driving around the state checking boxes is that we gain a new appreciation of nature. Yes there is a cost to all this driving (exhaust, oil leaks, etc) but there is a benefit. People who explore the outdoors may be more likely to protect it through, for instance, supporting wilderness expansion.

So I don't think it's fair to say there is "nothing 'green'" about this activity. It does raise awareness, and that IS a benefit.

Does the benefit outweigh the cost?
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Re: 14ers, climbing, and popularity

Postby SilverLynx » Wed Sep 12, 2012 11:27 am

dubsho3000 wrote:
Brian Thomas wrote:Regarding #4 - "Ecotourism", don't really understand what it is you're asking here. There is nothing "green" about burning 1 or 2 tanks of gas every weekend to drive halfway across the state to summit peaks and check boxes on checklists of peaks.


Just to nit-pick here a little, and maybe spark a discussion, one benefit of driving around the state checking boxes is that we gain a new appreciation of nature. Yes there is a cost to all this driving (exhaust, oil leaks, etc) but there is a benefit. People who explore the outdoors may be more likely to protect it through, for instance, supporting wilderness expansion.

So I don't think it's fair to say there is "nothing 'green'" about this activity. It does raise awareness, and that IS a benefit.

Does the benefit outweigh the cost?

Playing devil's advocate here but I appreciated nature long before I started hiking in Colorado.
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Re: 14ers, climbing, and popularity

Postby djkest » Wed Sep 12, 2012 11:29 am

Wouldn't driving across the state be less environmental impact than flying somewhere 1,000 miles away? I thought jets were an inefficient means of travel. I looked up the defenition of Ecotourism, it's kind of ambiguous. It seems many of the goals of Ecotourism aren't currently being met.

Another "worse than hiking" activity: Hauling your full-size truck, horse trailer, and horses across the state so you can ride your animals.
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Re: 14ers, climbing, and popularity

Postby Brian Thomas » Wed Sep 12, 2012 11:48 am

djkest wrote:Wouldn't driving across the state be less environmental impact than flying somewhere 1,000 miles away?

Looks like my initial response may have derailed Craig's intended purposes of research on this thread, oh well.

Anyone who claims to be an "environmentalist" while burning gasoline to go peakbagging or jet fuel to fly to Costa Rica, New Guinea, et cetera to partake of "Ecotourism" is a hypocrite. I don't claim to be an environmentalist.
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Re: 14ers, climbing, and popularity

Postby SilverLynx » Wed Sep 12, 2012 11:52 am

Just trying to give you a response and be helpful. These are my opinions only.

1. I have not been climbing long so I cannot give you an anecdotal answer. However, my guess would be that popularity of the activity has soared over the last 20 years. I would guess that this increase in popularity has a lot to do with the technology improvement in gear, good marketing from outdoor retail companies, and popular use of the social media. I would also venture to say that some of this increase could be contributed to population increase alone.

2. That is debatable, but certainly 14ers.com has helped a lot of people achieve their goals and made finding beta and partners easier.

3. "Know thyself." Although it may be a lot to look through, I think people can still find what they need and figure out what is accurate and what is not. However, sometimes I wonder if the ease of finding information from all kinds of sources has led to an underestimation in personal risk assessment; e.g. "If that person can do it so can I" mentality.

4. I think 14ers could be one form of ecotourism. From what I remember from my Tourism course in college, tourism is defined as traveling a certain distance outside your usual area and I would say trips to Buena Vista and Lake City are most certainly tourism. I could answer this question a little better when I'm not so tired. Maybe I'll come back to it.

5. Very little credit. The ideas themselves are not new. If you need proof, just look at summit photos from the 1920s. The only thing new is the way in which people form groups to hike with and probably the size of groups that can participate in said variations.

6. I think that in general, media has helped people a great deal with finding partners. I only have a tiny group of regular hiking partners. Not all of them were found on 14ers.com or Facebook. So personally I can't say for sure, but it's clear that other people benefit a lot from new media. The fact is that people have always had some way to find new friends and partners; today it's just done in a different way than it used to be done.

7. Climb at your own risk... If you think money is going to keep you safe, by all means, I guess. I personally would not feel comfortable doing something extremely technical without a strong foundation of skills, but people are different.
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Re: 14ers, climbing, and popularity

Postby SchralpTheGnar » Wed Sep 12, 2012 11:56 am

Awesome, I'm bored at work and love wasting time posting threads on 14ers.com

1. For those who have been climbing for a long time, how has the landscape (figuratively, not literally) changed over the last 20 years? The last 5 years?
I notice a lot of more people skiing the 14ers today, mainly because of all the pub that Davenport generated. When I started skiing the teeners in 1998 there were very few people out there, now it seems like everyone and his brother is skiing the teeners. I don't mind this so much, as I believe as a whole our society benefits from such pursuits.

2. How much of the current popularity of climbing can be attributed to sites like 14ers.com?
Approximately 25%.


3. Mountain climbing sites like this one provide a vast array of information and data to aid any hiker/climber, from a newbie going for their first mountain, to experts who have done the 58 14ers and are looking for more obscure peaks. Does this flood of information help make mountain climbing a safer activity? Or does it's ability to allow us to not have to critically think while in the mountains actually present more danger (e.g. - getting into situations a person can't get out of)? In other words, as popularity grows, are we becoming safer or more dangerous as a whole?

I would say it's neither safer, nor more dangerous. The probability of injury is staying pretty much the same. If you think about it, how many accidents are really caused by overcrowding or from reading a website. Maybe the only thing I could think of being slightly more negative is snow slope evalutation, seeing TR's of peaks with ski descents has lead to the term "double dipping a descent", that is you read the TR, see that the route goes and repeat it, now usually this is ok if you know what you're doing, however, given rapidly changing conditions or poor general knowledge (e.g, the initial descent was in spring at 10am and you ski the same line at 2pm) I could see this making things overall less safe.


4. With the increase of popularity, do you see a decline in the idea of Ecotourism? How so? Or perhaps, is its popularity actually a tool to help educate a greater number of
people about Ecotourism? How can/does new media and online climbing communities influence Ecotourism? For example, CFI won a new truck last year - would this have possible without new media?

This question makes no sense to me.

5. As with any popular activity, people have begun finding ways to put a new twist on an old hobby. Pajama parties. Summit kegs. Hot tubs. Do you think think these activities could have happened 20 years ago? 5-10 years ago? How much credit/blame should be given to online communities and new media for the so-called "birth" of these variations?

The new media is not solely responsible, as this sort of stuff used to happen, but just on a smaller scale with usually only those participating even knowing about it. With social media, it's much easier to get the word out, and definitely easier to recruit people into doing stupid stuff.

6. How has new media affected your ability to form new relationships with climbing partners? Do you have a set group of people you climb with? How did you meet them? If it was through online communuities, do you believe you could have formed these relationships before places like 14ers.com existed?

I have never climbed with anyone from an online forum, I have met up with some people at a ski area, and done a few laps at loveland pass, berthoud pass, but for any serious climbing or skiing I will only go with one of my regular partners.


7. Popularity is increasing in hiking outside of Colorado as well. With it comes all sorts of guides that can take you up a mountain for a fee. How has this changed the climbing culture for mountains such as Everest, or Denali? How much of the technical skills needed have been pushed to the side, in exchange for the "If you have the money, you can climb" mentality? Or closer to home - if you have a route description and topo map, you can climb. This ties into question 3, about how money and easy acces to beta affect one's personal climbing abilities.

I've never done any guided services, but I've never climbed anything really big. I could imagine paying for a guided service so day, but since I'm not an idiot I won't think that paying my guide will make up for any lack of skills on my part.
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Re: 14ers, climbing, and popularity

Postby gokarengo » Wed Sep 12, 2012 12:04 pm

I grew up here and have noticed a huge increase in popularity in the mountains. But along with that came increased trail maintainence, Bierstadt's boardwalks being a prime example. I ran into a friend of my parent's on a hike recently and she's been an avid hiker for decades. I noticed this summer just how many unprepared people I see on the trails and asked her about it. She said there have always been unprepared people, like people starting out midafternoon with visible stormclouds rolling in, there are just loads more of them and hikers in general now.
In regards to the environmental impacts, I hate that the monorail up 70 funding got shot down in the late 90s. It'd probably be built by now. I also hate the driving and car culture here. And I especially hate people who drive for hours to go 4 wheel driving and don't know the environmental impacts, even for such things as spreading invasive weeds. I love hiking but hate myself for driving so much and so far to do it. haha. Sorry if I'm coming across as hateful. I'm really not like that usually :)
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Re: 14ers, climbing, and popularity

Postby oldschool » Wed Sep 12, 2012 12:14 pm

I have been climbing since 1975 and the following responses are based on my experiences, attitudes, and opinions.

1. The landscape has changed tremendously. Camming devices, "sport" climbing, equipment such as Gore-Tex and innovations in clothing, the clash between sport vs trad in the 80's, gyms, access to information have made tons of changes. These changes have brought more people into the fold and opened up climbing to the general public. Back in the 70's and 80's, much of climbing and mountaineering was looked at as a "death wish" activity, done by people that "wanted" to die or were on the "fringe" of "normal" outdoor activities. It was like that when I started climbing in the 70's and 80's. It is now commonplace to see entire families enjoying climbing, especially since the advent of gyms in the 1990's. Technology has played a very big part too, IMO, and not all good. GPS and cell phones allow people to "know" where they are after downloading a .gpx track and cell phones allow contact. However, I have seen too many people that believe that a GPS and a cell phone are the "new" First Aid kit, not having all the where-with-all to use them properly and believing it may be someone else's "job" to help or rescue them in case of trouble, and in some cases, very minor trouble, as we have seen in the media. Experience and skill....priceless!

2. I do believe that a site such as 14er's and other sites do allow people to get the information that makes them comfortable to go outside and into the mountains. How much or how many I don't venture a guess.

3. I think it does both...help and hurt. I use the awesome information on this site to help guide my decisions about weather, conditions, partners, routes, and more. I strongly believe that some users of this site and others blindly use the information incorrectly, believing that " I know the route..I'm good". I have many experiences in the mountains of CO and other places where a printed sheet of paper and some beta are all that people really have, leaving behind the most important tool...their brain. The Ten Essentials are sometimes ignored. We have seen on this site people that, despite information that suggests it's not a good time to go out, have done so with dire consequences. We, as climbers and hikers, are a funny lot, holding our right to decide for ourselves when and where we will go passionately. I also know many that use the information wisely and prudently, mixing this information with experience and input from others. This site allows that interaction, which is so helpful in making these decisions.

4. I do not see any connection to this point from a site such as this.

5. I do believe that these types of activities arise from some form of "one upmanship" and shock value, to some degree. However, as we recently saw, what an awesome community we are when something like an FKT by John Prater or the FKT on Nolan's 14er's come about. Cool stuff. The mountains are fun and some people have different views about that fun. I personally go to the hills for solitude and challenge...others go for other reasons. 20 years ago I do not believe that any such things would have taken place, but then again, they COULD have. Our society has changed lots over the last 20 years, 10 years, and even 5 years. These changes bring about attitude and "what's acceptable" changes. I'm happy as hell I live in a place where if I want to go up on a mountain and set up a hot tub or climb in my pajama's...I can! I have seen and heard some input from others about how, when confronted with music on a summit or a bare chested woman or "loud" people on a summit, they get irritated. We all have our reasons for being in the mountains, some of these being different from others. Tolerance is the key...to allow each individual to choose their experience.

6. Social media in many forms have allowed me to find new friends and partners. I think the benefits are awesome. I have so many connections with new and old partners due to sites such as this. Before such social media, making connections was a part of "getting out there" and meeting people on the trail, so to speak. Today, making those connections is much easier.

7. Money can buy adventure...no doubt. It is up to Guiding companies to police skill levels. I have guided and taught trad climbing for years. It is a serious responsibility. Skill is key, the ability and foresight to say "no, I'm turning around", play important roles, whether we are being guided or not. I turned around 5 times separate times on winter attempts on La Plata Peak, a rather "easy" hike. Things weren't right so I turned back. This past winter I finally made it! Our brains and our abilities can clash at times...we must be careful.


Be safe, have fun

Mike
"There's a feeling I get when I look to the West and my spirit is crying for leaving" Led Zeppelin

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