Just… Go Outside.
I find myself outraged and/or intensely frustrated with a certain type of human on a daily basis. This type of human is the kind that lives their lives for the followers, for the embellished stories, for the insta-cred and the posing and the gear reviews that they have no right to write. This type of human can drone on and on about the instruction they’ve received, the experiences they’re about to have, the latest Reel Rock film they saw, and pretend, loudly to know exactly what Honnold and Tommy were feeling as they moved, blindly exhausted, up and down peaks on the Fitz Traverse... a series of peaks that they couldn’t tell apart from the Picket range, the Tetons, or the Torres (okay, sometimes mountains ARE hard to tell apart but my point still stands).
For me, it all began with the packing photos. Some famous mountaineer/ alpinist/ expedition leader kicked off the trend of taking creative photos of their 50% stream of consciousness, 50% hyper-organized packing ritual. Spreading your gear out beautifully and taking a photo of it is ONLY, I repeat ONLY, impressive, if you’re heading out on a 30 day adventure into some unknown peak in Pakistan, the Himalaya, Berma, or somewhere else that’s really, really rad. It is NOT impressive if all you’re taking is an ice axe, strap-on crampons, a hydration bladder, and sunglasses up the nearest "mountain."
Every time I see a posed packing photo, I want to punch someone in the face.
For me, packing is a highly-crazed, highly-organized, un-aesthetic experience unless you get paid to do it. Every time I’ve packed for ANY trip, even when I’ve packed with other people, the room always looked like Ground Zero- my backpacks and ice axe have chips and dings and rips and tears in them from use (as in, actual use). That shit ain’t pretty- and it certainly isn’t impressive if you’re just jetting off for a weekend of hiking.
I do want to acknowledge the massive stereotype I’m criticizing. Clean, new, fresh gear does not always equal inexperience- new cams are especially obvious when they're new and whenever someone pulls a shiny rack out of their pack, I temporarily give them a wide berth in order to assess their experience level. I’m not even close to being a competent trad climber and, yes, I will absolutely have a shiny new rack (if I don’t borrow one from a friend) if and when I become a trad warrior, but I am absolutely, 100% OK with people eyeing me warily out of the corner of their eye, making sure I’m not about to kill myself- or drop a piece on them.
Stereotypes exist for a reason and especially in the mountains (or even at the crag), being aware of and guarding against stereotypes can help keep people safe and happy- no one wants to come home on a stretcher because they didn’t give that dude ahead of them extra space when he started Z-clipping his way up that 5.9 multi-pitch that looked so fun...
The moral of this entire mini-rant is to encourage people to just... get outside. For real. Leave your damn iPhone behind. Don’t take gear you can’t use. Stop screaming loudly as you hike up the trail (you’re scaring off the wildlife). Clean up after your dog (this is a subject worthy of another rant). End all of the lying on your blog/instagram/twitter/facebook/whatever.
You didn’t “climb” Oregon's South Sister if all you did was hike out of the trees and take a photo of it.
Mount Hood won’t “be easy” after you climb Mount Saint Helens (trust me, they’re very different mountains).
It’s not ice climbing unless, well, you’re actually climbing ice.
All of the lies in circulation, the embellished stories of trips, the heavily-filtered photos on Instagram will do nothing for you in the end. The only thing that truly matters is getting outside, exploring the natural world, and learning otherwise-unknowable things about yourself.
Be authentic. Go Outside.