Is trad climbing really elitist?

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Is trad climbing really elitist?

Post by LCD » Wed Jan 04, 2012 8:50 pm

Warning: grab a pot of coffee, or better yet skip to the next post. Only read on if you enjoy YOU magazine and have time to watch Survivor.
There have been a lot of allusions (@JP, allusions = things wot okes sed :-)) in various forums to climbing being an elitist sport. More specifically, to trad climbing being an elitist activity. Part of this perception is seen in the advice given to newbies queries about rack requirements. (10+ friends!, double ropes, 1000 quick draws, lots of those jangly bells etc). In other words, you need lank bucks.
Another perception (myth?) is that you have to be hard core and walk like a cowboy. While there are quite a few of these individuals around, I am guessing that the majority of people enjoying climbing as a past time can walk with their legs closed (although they may sensibly go for brown as the colour of choice in trousers).
There is also advice given that an apprenticeship needs to be served. Bollocks to all of the above.
How many people have started climbing with tow-ropes or by stealing their mothers washing lines and just heading off? Quite a few that I know of. (Ducks at the sound of approaching censure).
This does not require big balls, just a bit of stupidity and lots of ignorance. Ok, I'm not advocating heading off to yellowood ampitheatre with your moms washing line, or even India Venster path, if one can believe the writings on how dangerous it is.
Not sure if I recommend donning a skate board helmet and rushing off to solo scary things either, although this approach does seem to have worked for some . I am assuming that if you are reading this that you are at least aware that climbing as a sport/past time already exists.
But there are lots of existing and new routes to be had at the non-elitist level if you can put aside your ambitions to be the hardest climber (trad, sport, boulder or alpine) around. Actually, if you are a shit hot sport climber that also enjoys (and has time for) walking in the mountains, adding a few nuts to your existing gear and heading off wherever the whim takes you is pretty logical (and cheap (and fun)).
The nice thing about climbing is that, if you can resist peer pressure, you can climb at whatever level you are comfortable with (unlike say kayaking or base jumping) and with a bit of common sense (reaching here) can change your commitment along the way. There may be the odd brown trouser moment at some stage if you like to push things.
An example of a few minimalist climbers that come to mind are the Evans brothers who are even older than Tony Dick. Although (unlike Mr Dick), they weren't climbing grade 27 in their 60's (as far as I know). I am not nearly as old as any of the above (neither have I ever done anything approaching grade 27 even in my dreams/nightmares)
I saw the Evans+Teubes party on most weekends during the 90's at Muizenberg crag climbing in tackies (they were unimpressed with Woolies tackies, long gear talks as to the merits of OK bazaars tackies), a couple of rope slings, 3 nuts (that they had found) and ropes tied around their waists. They were on the same routes as some parties with 0.5 micron soled climbing shoes, harnesses, double ropes and a 20kg rack. Both parties seemed to be enjoying themselves equally. They were not just being reactionary, Gordan Evans was asking if there were any sport routes at silvermine at the F1/F2 grade (14) and Graham Teubes asked if my new Boreals were good for climbing. OK, so maybe ignorance is a prerequisite. They retired their 3 strand rope in favour of a shiny new kernmantle one, proudly shown off just after Christmas.
Anyway, my point (in case you were wondering) is that you don't have to be a rich Doctor or financial guru (or even a porn star) to enjoy trad climbing.
Don't stress too much about putting something back into climbing either. Climbing is supposed to be a useless pastime. Do it for yourself and your partner. Just don't mess it up for others.
(PS: you may have gathered that I am not a professional writer, neither do I have a spell checker on this phone. English purists please excuse me.)
(PPS: I post under the name LCD as I like being referenced in these forums, something that doesn't happen under my birth name.)

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Re: Is trad climbing really elitist?

Post by SNORT » Wed Jan 04, 2012 9:10 pm

LCD indeed you make good sense. Trad climbing is so not elitist. Anyone can go climb anything with no gear really and have a great adventure. Climbing is not like cycling where it is indeed all about the R40k bike. One can climb trees and have a good outing. As for Tony Dick, indeed he is a phenomenal climber but the vast majority of climbing he does to entertain himself and keep fit is easy, very easy for him, solos like Africa Crag and Right face. Ask him. And he really does enjoy it. He has a place near Chamonix in France and if you care to visit him he will entice you up a ice rock and snow route where the technical climbing grade is no higher than 18 or 19. But adventurous it will be.

Life is a mix of all sorts of things and "adventure is so enticing to some. Others are couch adventurers. Trad climbing just happens to be more adventurous than (most) sport climbing by its very nature and certainly more so than Via Ferratas. Adventure is not elitist. It is perhaps the choice by some to embark on adventures that makes it elite???? It is choice not the activity that makes it elite. And I have no doubt that it is dangerous and irresponsible to "sell" adventure to people you don't know. For them promote canned adventures like doing KILIMINJARO. 600 people a day summit Kili and they all love it - sort of

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Re: Is trad climbing really elitist?

Post by Stu » Wed Jan 04, 2012 9:52 pm

Yes it most certainly is.

:tongue: 8)

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Re: Is trad climbing really elitist?

Post by David Vallet » Wed Jan 04, 2012 10:19 pm

Tutt, Tutt,

no experience needed - hire a professional guide

I don't know you. but, would love to meet you.

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Re: Is trad climbing really elitist?

Post by Oakley » Thu Jan 05, 2012 7:52 am

Agreed completely- but having at least 1 proper sport rope(not a washing line), some nuts and lots of common sense :afro: surely would supply lots of FUN/Adventure...

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Re: Is trad climbing really elitist?

Post by BruceT » Thu Jan 05, 2012 9:42 am

LCD (you don't have to be shy, we're all friends here...).
I agree 100% with your take on trad climbing and add that with
a reasonable expenditure on a smallish rack one can potter around all over the
place and with "common" sense pretty much control the level of risk you want to take
(but not entirely which is maybe why its perceived to be elitist)...
Anyways thats what I try to do and hence my non-elitist signature.
C ya,

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Re: Is trad climbing really elitist?

Post by Franz » Thu Jan 05, 2012 11:23 am

Nice post!
I think there are some who would like it to be elitist and exclusive, and although I dont agree I can understand their logic. Its about the level of risk you are comfortable with, and the controls you desire to put in place to mitigate those risks.

In my opinion climbing is very well positioned as a middle class sport, where the 'masses' will accumulate in climbing gyms, with less of them at the crags and even less on higher grade sport routes. I think traddies will always be the minority, mainly because there is potential for greater risk.
As a sport / pastime its really cheap, and is a great opportunity to get people away from the playstations, and into nature - which I believe can lead to the general population becoming more environmentally conscious.
It is not an activity for low income groups. They should be channeled towards activities that gets them away from the breadline - eg. study, pro-football, trade-apprenticeships. Climbing will do very little to help them out of their dilemma.
It is an activity suited to the affluent who has many an opportunity to invest heavily into gear if they so whish. Yeah, we need gearheads too :)

I promote climbing in our small town, and spread the gospel wherever I go. One of the main responses I get goes something like "oh, I always wanted to try it, but I never knew how to start!"

So, I feel that a lot more should be done to get our country climbing, whether its in a gym, bouldering, sport, trad or whatever. Climbers are the chosen people - not because of money, but because of our outlook on, and love of life!


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Re: Is trad climbing really elitist?

Post by henkg » Thu Jan 05, 2012 1:13 pm

Many famous climbers (traddies) were dirt poor, "escaping" life's realities and forsaking paid employment for climbing. Same on the home front. Leading climbers in SA were/are scraping the barrel. The racks of some I have seen include homemade hexes, odd bits and pieces collected, donated and stolen over time, yet climbing way out there.

The barriers to entry is not high if this is your chosen style. Maybe some traddies view their style superior to other styles. But do not judge a group by its individuals.

To each his own. Live and let live.
You may still be here tomorrow, but your dreams may not. Cat Stevens

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Re: Is trad climbing really elitist?

Post by marley » Fri Jan 11, 2013 11:09 am

I am a trad climber by choice. I rarely climb sport. The reason for this is because I don't climb hard and have become bored with the sports routes in my grade. Reason for not climbing hard is that I am weak and I have limits on my time. That being said I thoroughly enjoy even re-climbing trad routes because you can almost every time climb a trad route differently (moves, placing gear or run it out, etc). Since we had our kids I rarely climb anymore. I crave it, but my kids come first. I do run to the hills every now and then, (and Shorty will confirm,) that I more than often do not go and climb with my old climbing buddies (they climb too hard for me now anyway) but I mostly take out newbies when I have the time. There is pleasure in climbing for oneself, but there is even more when you expose someone to it for the first time. Trad climbing is definitely not elitist - I think that life in general has become "faster" and that sports climbing/bouldering appeals to the younger generation because of the "fast in, fast out" nature of it, especially at entry level.

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Re: Is trad climbing really elitist?

Post by Chris F » Fri Jan 11, 2013 11:50 am

Interesting post. Here in the UK trad is very much the norm, with sport being perceived as "elitist"and (with some recent notable exceptions) there not being a lot a sport routes below 7a. I guess it's to do with the profusion of easily accessible single pitch crag climbs that anyone can have a go at and easily accessible quality multipitch mountain trad that nmeans trad is very much "for the masses". Plus trad gear is a lot more affordable!

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Re: Is trad climbing really elitist?

Post by andrew p » Fri Jan 11, 2013 2:32 pm

Its not elitist, just seems that way as so few people do it.

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Re: Is trad climbing really elitist?

Post by Garron » Fri Jan 11, 2013 6:50 pm

it is a pity that trad climbers are not truly elitist, it would be great to have some sport climbers carrying bags into Klein Winterhoek for trad climbers :)

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Re: Is trad climbing really elitist?

Post by Nic Le Maitre » Mon Jan 14, 2013 11:40 am

Trad climbing is not elitist at all, it costs nothing more than petrol money to go tradding with someone who has all the gear. As long as you are prepared to belay, carry half the weight and learn quickly (so that you can start leading too) you too can become a traddie. The entrance barrier is really low and brilliant easy routes are the norm rather than the exception in contrast to sport climbing. You can enjoy uncrowded crags, beautiful views and amazing rock that SA has to offer in a far wider variety of places than is possible with sport climbing.
Happy climbing

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Re: Is trad climbing really elitist?

Post by SNORT » Mon Jan 14, 2013 12:10 pm

How do you define elite?
Elitism is the belief or attitude that some individuals, who form an elite — a select group of people with a certain ancestry, intrinsic quality or worth, higher intellect, wealth, specialized training or experience, or other distinctive attributes — are those whose influence or authority is greater than that of others; whose views on a matter are to be taken the most seriously or carry the most weight; whose views or actions are most likely to be constructive to society as a whole; or whose extraordinary skills, abilities, or wisdom render them especially fit to govern

We talk about the elite when it comes to money and power. We talk about elite athletes, and we talk about the elite when we refer to smart people on top of their game whatever it is. There is always a barrier to entry to any elitist environment. In some cases you can buy yourself in but when it comes to sport it is those athletes who try harder, work harder and want it more.

Jacques Kallis is an elite cricketer. Why, because he is the best. Is Cricket an elitist sport no. As there is no barrier to entry. Same could be said for Oscar Pistorius and all our top sports men and women.

Trad climbing is not an elite form of climbing at all. Within it there are climbers who are better than others, try harder, work harder and want it more. They can be considered the elite within the activity as one would consider a top boulderer or sport climber. But the activity is not elite.

Perhaps the question is whether trad climbers are snobbish about their sport

A snob believes that some people are inherently inferior to him or her for any one of a variety of reasons, including real or supposed intellect, wealth, education, ancestry, class, taste, beauty, nationality, et cetera. Often the form of snobbery reflects the snob's personal attributes. For example, a common snobbery of the affluent is the belief that wealth is either the cause or result of superiority, or both.

There is no doubt though that to become a good and safe trad climber is riskier and takes a lot longer on average than to do hard sport or bouldering. So snobbishness is perhaps the case to some extent. There are very few if any people in the world that can climb to their physical ability on trad compared to sport on any given day. It is just too damn scary most of the time. And I suppose if and when you can run it out and climb well on trad it could result in a sense of superiority or snobbishness in some people.

I have said before that a place like Yellowwood is not for sissies which on face value is superior and may sound snobbish but actually all I want to do is entice people to come and climb there. HAving said that, only pretty good "elite" trad climbers will on-sight any of the routes at Yellowwood except Fun Time and Smalblaar. But we all can start somewhere.

The only route I have on-sighted at Yellowwood is Amrageddon Time more than 10 years ago and since then have failed on it 4 times. Humbling is it not? So what does that make me! Elitist, snob, hasbeen. Does it matter. Yesterday Willem and I climbed Fantastic Time (24), Willem flashed both hard pitches. The word snob and Willem you won't find in the same sentence except this one. But his effort was indeed Elite.

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