Climbing Ethics and The Southern Way

Austin Haedicke bio photo By Austin Haedicke Comment

A little over a year ago I began my dirtbag journey. That makes it all the harder to believe that I have been “settled into the standard lifestyle” for twice as long as I was living on the road. At any rate, this is a time for pause and reflection. Admitedly, I’ve found myself in a very disheartened state this summer when it comes to many of our fine southern sandstone crags. I’ll keep the examples short as Evening Sends has already written an article about whether or not “gym folk” are to blame for the “declining state” of our beloved crags:

  • Stonefort / Little Rock City: During a recent visit, in the middle of the week (to avoid the weekend scene I’d heard rumors about for months already), I found that a day pass was $8.75. Now, I’m not crying over ten bucks, but it’s the prinicple. What services am I getting for that? If I want water I have to fill up at the clubhouse. If I have to poop, and I’m back at Super Mario I’m best off to dig a hole next to a tree (as if I weren’t in the middle of a country club golf course). Ten bucks is a day pass at most gyms. Here it doesn’t even get you a shower after climbing problems built by nature and maintained by non-profit organizations.

  • Horse Pens 40: Oh, my favorite of favorites! A few months ago it was a busy day full of dirtbags and brohams of all varieties. But alas, I sat in shock in front of Merlin. There before me with a wide spread of pads, amid Bumboy, a clan of 16 year olds with flat bill hats, aviators, and bandannas everywhere but on their head had chosen the epicenter of the park to proclaim the greatness of Nickelback and Papa Roach to climbers far and wide via a substantial bluetooth speaker. Clearly Mr. Shultz wasn’t on the mountain that day, or I’d probalby have a much better story to tell.

  • Rocktown: This one really is pitiful. Whilst dirtbagging I can guarantee you that I packed more trash off of Pigeon Mountain than I ever brought on it – by several multiples. In the last few months I’ve noticed it getting trashier and trashier. I don’t mean a cigarette butt here and an empty water bottle there, but every popular spot having handfulls of each. Literally, I strode down to Campus Punks to find several eggs worth of egg shells right there at the base of the rock, not thrown at the tree line, but literally eating and ******* right at the climb. Furthermore, just to the left was a torn off pair of pants (yes, someone left their blown out trousers there too).

Okay, rant over. I recently returned to HP40 for some “soul searching.” I was inspired by a crew from the Phoenix, AZ area who were accustomed to pockety roofs and the like – compared to the spank-and-compress style of HP40. Nevertheless, they took the weekend in stride and just accepted that they were going to climb about two grades lower than V-whatever they did on their home turf. Right there in the July heat on heinous slopers baked in the afternoon sun; they were having a blast (no speakers required) – and were friendly and well mannered to boot. What great ambassadors to the spirit of our sport.

Furthermore, I was reading over the guidebook (again) and found inspirational renewal. Despite some seemingly ill repute of the author, there are two phoenomenal pieces in the book which I had never read before; “The Southern Way” and “Bouldering Ethics”. To cherry pick from the Henry’s ethics:

  • “Minimize your impact”
  • “Follow the rules”
  • “Don’t be a prick”
  • “Keep the spray to yourself”

Likewise, “The Southern Way” is characterized by the principles that “life is primary, bouldering is secondary, and spray should only come from a metal can”. Further, “The V grade that determines our success is a cold beer at the end of a hard day’s work, and the poeple around us who support our endeavors.” Ultimately, if you’re going to trash talk your friends (as you should be kind to randos), you need to be able to laugh at yourself rather than spew more excuses than your already excessive (and often unhelpful) beta spray. “You will see (The Way) encouraging like minds and living vicariously through their sends. It will never be seen in the crowds that follow the latest crusher, but you might catch a glimpse of its back as it quietly walks away.” I don’t recall which clmibing blogger said it, but much to my point here (and sarcastically so), they touted that “climbers need scorecards to prove their merit like we need Facebook to prove we have friends.”

On the same trip as the Southwesterners exemplified The Souhern (Climber / Rock Warrior?) Way, I gave a scolding to a friend who is a native southerner and on-and-off-again climber which summarizes this post nicely.

“For the love of climbing:

  • be kind,
  • speak softly,
  • and crush hard.”
A much shorter version of this took place in a text message conversation with my dear friend and climbing mentor who, thereafter, deemed my 
ranting "a claim worth of an article."  Thanks to him, among many things, for that as well.
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