Editorial / WelcomeCLIMBERS Issue #1
Words by Ainhoa Martínez
I started sport climbing as a teenager in the mid-2000’s because I loved adventure sports and for three underlying reasons: rebellion (to find my own tribe), body image (to give some tone to my extremely tall, remarkably skinny body type) and sanity (to keep my mind occupied from overthinking about the new world of romantic relationships).
Growing up with an innate competitive spirit, it was only natural to see climbing as something where performance mattered most. Well, if not most, it mattered a lot because it sometimes determined whether it would be a happy day at the crag or a time filled with pain, anxiety and self-doubt.
Don’t get me wrong; that mindset has given me some great life skills and experiences for which I am super grateful. Climbing was, and still is, a positive driving force. But I do remember a few crappy days where my pubescent emotional intelligence wouldn’t know how to deal with days of no sends, or days where others did better than I did.
I can’t quite remember how, but I must have decided to address the sources of these feelings at some point. Lacking access to (or even awareness of) counselling, I opted for the pragmatic. For example, I quit my 8a.nu scorecard. If you’re old enough, you may remember those years where that website was THE place to be... you’d find the latest climbing ‘news’, a community forum, and a logbook to keep track of climbs. This had an option to participate in a world-ranking system based on points ‘won’ by each ascent grade and style—the scorecard. Your profile included your height, weight and a stock market-like graph with your historical points trajectory. All my friends were into it, and so was I! But, at times, it became a source of stress that turned my climbing days into a gamified experience too focused on the sending. So, I wisened up and pulled the pin on it.
Despite cutting this out, I began to notice a similar undercurrent in the rest of my climbing world as well.
This site’s approach to content and media wasn’t too different to the other leading platforms and magazines. From what I can remember, most of them featured the latest, hardest sends, competition results, interviews of pro climbers, tips to train more efficiently, eat better, and occasionally, a travel piece. Having a career, a side hobby, or any engagement in cultural and environmental causes, were secondary, and if anything, probably not worth mentioning. After all, it was all about climbing, right?
At the same time, the GFC crisis hit hard in Spain, and most of my friends were either students, firefighters or unemployed—therefore climbing all the time. Masses of overseas climbers arrived every day to discover this rock paradise that is my homeland, teased by Sharma and the legendary movies by Big Up Productions. It felt like everyone around me was here to do the one thing: climb more, climb better, and climb harder—so was I.
Close to a decade later, this total commitment to climbing started to feel compromised. I began to find pleasure in spending weekends making pottery, sewing, and learning to surf. I even regretted not having tried these earlier. My 8a.nu scorecard graph was flat as a pancake, and I was OK with that. The weekend trips to the Blueys started to become more intermittent, and it was OK with that too. Was this the sunset of my life as a climber? Was I even allowed to call myself that anymore?
It took some time to come to terms with the idea that, yes, I am still a climber even if my relationship with the sport—or lifestyle—has changed. While it’s not the way it used to be, I am a climber.
Part of me believes that that unhealthy link between performance, self-worth, and identity was just part of growing up and getting a grip on my emotional intelligence. But an equal part of me thinks there is something to be said for climbing culture and the media I had access to, which perhaps placed way too much value on stories about athletic achievement and a life of unilateral devotion.
By no means do I blame the latter. But I like to imagine what kind of climber, or person I could have become if I had grown up with more examples of climbers enjoying a balanced, creative, and diversified life. Maybe I would have missed a weekend or two to take a pottery class at 22. Maybe I wouldn’t have argued with my boyfriend out of frustration for not being able to do that crux in Rodellar. Maybe I would have been a hell of a lot more self-confident and kinder to myself.
This magazine was born as an alternative—or complement—to that performance-focused climbing media style. I like to think about CLIMBERS as a subgenre of climbing literature. It’s a celebration of all the creativity, wisdom, and skill in our community, which is hugely diverse yet steered by a shared instinctive passion.
You won’t find many descriptions of routes and movements—or even many climbing action shots. But, what you will find is that every single piece in here has been created by a climber, and gives us a rarely glimpsed insight into their world beyond what we can see in our shared time at the crag or gym.
Thanks for holding this very first edition. See you out there!
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