I have been climbing now for nearly 40 years!! Yes I know right? What an old git! Anyway, over the years I have been climbing the sport has taken off in an amazing way to a point almost unrecognisable from my early years.
Firstly, bouldering has taken off big style, what used to be something we did when we couldn’t go ‘proper’ climbing is now probably the main focus for most climbers (or people that call themselves climbers, I am still not sure what that means). From the early boom of our local Dartmoor bouldering scene to dedicated indoor facilities, bouldering is well and truly on the map. Super hard dynamic, gymnastic almost parkour style climbs are the norm now at your indoor wall, throwing yourself at the wall appears to be what everyone wants to be doing, it looks cool and it’s not always about strength and climbing ability. Outdoor bouldering is a serious pastime, boulder mats have taken away the worry of falling off and has saved many knees from injury. I went climbing with the great Johnny Dawes a little while ago and we were both lamenting the days when falling off hurt...and our knees show it!
Roped climbing now focuses on super hard sport bolted climbs, the once wasteland like Anstey’s cove and Torbryan quarry are the go to places with every route however hard having a wanna be hard climber hanging off bolts working every move to death, the focus all about the ‘send’ (hipster climbing term for eventually getting up something that is way too hard for you).
Traditional lead climbing, placing your own gear and taking a deep breath is marginalised with many trad crags still empty with harder routes vanishing under more and more vegetation, it just isn’t cool or hard enough anymore to get scared and fail on something classed as easy!
The biggest change for me is the popularity of deep water soloing, I once used to enjoy hours of quiet climbing above a blue sea, alone, content. Now every DWS venue has a stream of muscled Speedo clad hardcore splashdown freaks, all feeling like they are extreme and defying death. My once lonely forays along the coast are long gone....sad times....
While all this sounds like the long lost memories of an old git, I actually think climbing has become what it should have been all along, a mature adventure sport, filled with people from all walks of life, at all levels of fitness enjoying the amazing feeling of moving over stone, a feeling like no other.
Keep it up climbing; I am still proud to be part of you!!