True Climbers And Those Not Worthy of the Term

This week’s post began as another post about psyche: getting closer to my trip, getting more excited, stuff i’ve written before and will undoubtedly repeat many more times again. However, while browsing Facebook earlier, i came across a video that added fuel to an already burning fire in my mind, regarding one climber in particular: Dean Potter.

There are not many people in this world that i truly do not like, and i like to think i can justify my dislike and disdain one way or another. In the climbing world, this man stands out from the rest and i’d like to use this week’s post to try and explain why.

In 2006, Potter defied and established access agreement in Arches National Park, Utah by soloing a route on Delicate Arch. It is famous in the States, as you can see from the link, and his actions lost climbing access to the Park for all, thanks to a stupid and selfish act with little or no repentance of the act, even after criticism had been launched at him.

He has also courted controversy slacklining in 2004 on the Three Gossips; Sandstone towers that are again in the Arches National Park. By placing bolts in the process of his line walk, he has brought this new and growing sub-sport under fire where it need not be. I’ve not had a lot of success finding much information about this episode, although i did find that i am not alone in my opinion and even the local newspaper from Jackson Hole, Wyoming produced an article on him highlighting his short-falls back in 2007.

He further riled me with his appalling contradictory attitude in Reel Rock 2011 – simultaneously stating that continually competing for the speed record on El Caps nose meant nothing, while repeatedly trying to beat others to this accolade. Hans Florine was his adversary; the difference was he had the decency to admit it meant something, instead of trying to appear above it all. If one doesn’t want to race, don’t keep turning up on the starting blocks. And most annoyingly of all is the publicity this all creates.

So why do i feel the need to start mentioning this now? It’s all to do with the aforementioned video. As much as i don’t like advertising these sorts of things, here it is:

Why oh why did he think this was a good idea? Since i took Tess into my company, she has experienced many new things, some that she loves and some she really does not and it can often be subtle to tell the difference. In general, things that are obviously alien to her (travelling in a car for example) are not appreciated but are unfortunately necessary. Abseiling down the West face of Tryfan in winter wasn’t part of the plan but had to be done at the time. She hated both of these, by the way – until it’s over. Then she’s as happy as Larry, running around and loving life once again; dog’s, in my experience, often have a short memory.

Other activities are taken on of her own accord: she loves paddling in water. However, she doesn’t like to be submerged, to swim. We tried it to see what she’d make of it, she wasn’t keen. Just because the dog likes to stick it’s head out of the window while you’re driving down the road, doesn’t mean it’s itching to find out what it feels like to travel at terminal velocity. At no point in that short film did i see anything resembling a dog enjoying what it was being subjected to. Instead i saw a confused and possibly scared little pooch at the whim of an idiot. “We love it up there” he says. I wonder if that truly is “we” as he states.

My point? Is it just that Potter is a fool, to be avoided? In a way, yes, and worth remembering next time his name or face tempt you into an article or a film. But in a broader sense, it is a plea to you: maybe sometimes it is wise to question your own motives. All of the actions mentioned above are done for the sole benefit of one individual, with little or no thought given to the community or others around him. Is this what we’re all doing? Personal gratification is an admirable goal but not to the detriment of others and sometimes it takes a step back to understand our own actions and their motives. I’ll be doing a spot of self-analysis after this, perhaps it is worthwhile we all do once in a while.

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