Criticism is an art-form of the literary world, ancient and primordial. Funny, how it is increasingly absent in the feel good world of mountain culture. It’s lack there of is seen in everything from editorials to trip reports to gear reviews. Once upon a time a publication would not be afraid to take a potential advertiser’s product and give it a honest, level, impartial judgment. Nowadays, the reader should never take a reviewer’s published opinion seriously. They are most likely trying to placate their editor and probably hope to get sponsored by the very same gear company that they are reviewing. Or they are taking advertising money from the same company. So we are left with the observation that all products that are reviewed are awesome and we should immediately throw-away our still useful item and run-out and buy said new product post-haste. The same holds true in so-called editorials and in general most articles published in today’s skiing, climbing, biking and so on literature. Not too mention a vast majority of individual participant’s internet blogs. Currently, we are bombarded with feel good, self-gratification cheerleading in a variety of forms. Look at me, look at us. Are we not rad and insane? Don’t you wish you could be like us? Well, you better start trying harder. Buy this, go there. Nobody wants to offend or challenge. Many of the people at the heart of climbing’s so-called “Golden Age” refused to purposefully publicize and glorify their actions for the intent of making a living. If they were able to make a few bucks giving a slide show or selling a print then that meant a few more days on a wall. Long gone are the days of Doug Robinson writing about clean climbing, he’s off rap-bolting on Half-Dome in Yosemite while Yvon Chouinard is selling us the same yoga outfit with a different name every season.
I call them book reports on my blog. I do not want to read them and you should limit your reading of them. There is probably something more worthwhile for you to be doing anyhow. Rarely, anymore do I take the time to actually read blogs or in general any writings in the mountain rags. There is a copy of nearly every Alpinist sitting at my house, and for a decade I used to read just about anything Climbing and Rock and Ice published. A year ago or so I thought that The Ski Journal was becoming something artistic and unconventional. Then suddenly I was reminded that skiing sold-out a long time ago. Any sport that at its core is aligned with golf courses and real estate developments is definitively in need of a complete make-over. If it is not being done with a helicopter, in Europe by Swedes, or by one of their bros they are not going to be publishing it. Plus, just look at the gear. Its not like its that hard anymore. Sure, for some dude from Minnesota who gets to ski a few days a year it feels hard. But I am pretty sure the only way an proficient alpine skier is going to fall anymore is by hucking themselves off a cliff. Ask any photographer who has worked in the industry for a number of years and they will relate stories of the self-involved nature of the subjects and participants taking part in these sports. The Alpinist used to avoid posed photographs, surely their attitudes have changed by now, if not then bravo to them on their lonely journey.
That is fantastic that you saved, borrowed, were given, or begged the thousands of dollars to finance your trip to some far-off land. Good job. No epics? Super as well, we cannot all be mountain martyrs. Its nice when limbs or lives are not lost on our narcissistic adventures. But all the same, please give your readers a little depth, something to hold them and inspire them. Stop the name dropping and clique building. Its great that we love to share our experiences in nature with anybody who will listen. But what is the purpose of these adventures? Should it not be to deeply connect with that ancient soup that is at the very core of our matrix? If we are only inspired by the boasting of some meaningless numbers, cultural voyeurism, and social/business networking then we need to re-wire this mountain culture for its surely becoming nothing more then a bubble-gum adolescent hobby. Bring back some of that attitude and the spirit of independence that is the vital soul of the mountains. It actually is the act of experiencing our natural environment on its terms that is the most noble calling.
This probably just ruined my chances of getting sponsored. Damn.