What happens to the solitary creativity of our pursuit as more climbers perform for a mass audience? Mountaineering historian Andy Selters investigates what may become one of the defining questions of our era.
Sarcastic old-timers are rephrasing the ancient question about falling trees: If a climb gets done and nobody hears about it, did it really happen?
I had to ask this question when I read the now-famous article in The New York Times, “On Ledge and Online.” The piece featured Tommy Caldwell updating his Facebook status by iPhone from the middle of his Dawn Wall project. In many ways, this story wasn’t news at all, as climbers have long been connecting by phone, wireless or mail runner. Yet today’s hyper-connectivity seems to merge the once-separate acts of sending a route and sending the news of it into a continuous thread. Sarcastic old-timers are rephrasing the ancient question about falling trees: If a climb gets done and nobody hears about it, did it really happen?
Are visibility and live feed going to become the measures of a climb’s success? Caldwell was quoted, “This is a whole new world.” Maybe. At the least, it’s time to re-ask: Are we seekers going apart, or athletes for an audience?
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