climbing is an industry, with all the elements of a commodified recreation and a big part of that is the indoctrination of course-junkies. born of ideas usually taken from the huge spectrum of climbing print – whether it be Alpinist magazine or the endless hardcovers ruminating on Everest – a growing number of people seek to become climbers by doing courses. many of climbing’s processes can be fast-tracked by doing carefully laid out programs delivered by enthusiastic guides, in highly synthesized environments that remove most of the objective hazards. schedules ares compressed, elements are cherry picked, theres a minimum of repetition and a lot of theory. course content is carefully streamlined to fit the abilities of the seeking climber, days are designed to be comfortable and ‘customer driven’.
inch by inch climbing is turned into golf.
the blueprint of indoor climbing extends little towards real winter climbing and alpinism. the removal of as much discomfort as possible is like scuba diving in a swimming pool – at the shallow end. what makes the sagas of serious climbing worth reading is all the bits left on the cutting room floor after editing and dumbing down. the simple fact of alpine climbing is its not for everyone – it exists only for those who choose to rise to it.
if iceclimbingjapan has a mission its to be the antidote to overly synthesized alpinism. we aim to bring the romance of suffering back to comfortable climbing and de-bone the indoor mentality from a pursuit where it simply doesnt fit. if things are comfortable thats just by chance. our process is to take the fledglings, the dreamers, the brainwashed and the shortcut-seeking and baptize them into the cult of real climbing. we do this by immersion in the actualities of winter climbing, by pulling back the curtain on a pursuit where reliance on the illusion of control can – and does – kill people. we think the possible outcomes justify the means.
progress in climbing tends to happen out at the grim edge where the niceties of comfort are absent
winter after winter, expedition after expedition, trip after trip we provide the conditions for genuine improvement to climbers. some take the opportunity, accept it will be uncomfortable at times and shed old skins. others use the discontent to further dupe themselves into the illusion of control and get caught up in the distractions whilst the core reality passes by. only by immersion in the 24hr process of climbing, uninfected by elements like heated toilet seats, kitchen staff, tv and quick drives to the camp site, lets the full process of alpinism sink in and the stressor elements rise to the surface to be dealt with. afterall, if you cant shit in the woods, carry a big pack and melt snow the rest is pretty much useless.
drawing out the capacities to climb seriously is a process of catalyzing existing abilities so they can be acted on and see what the limits are – then seeing if the limits are good enough. some abilities are just basic ones that need reworking for a more committed environment, others are new and esoteric and need complete development. its rare to ever see an ability thats come into place unintentionally. we dont expect it.
we catalyze abilities not with gung-ho machoism, but with the process of carefully controlled failure. climbers are allowed to find the gaps in their abilities and play out ways of resolving them. the reality there are some things you are not fit enough to pull off, not informed enough to pull off, not smart enough to pull off and not brave enough to pull off – yet. that is the process that never ends and thankfully there is methodology for dealing with it. but dumbed down, ego-appeasing weekend courses that hide the nasty bits are not it. honing accumulated experience into functional ability doesnt happen in your comfort zone, all evolution needs agitating factors, all processes need a set of guiding principles to give direction. at iceclimbingjapan we use a tried and tested set:
- dont rely on superficial gear
- dont consider sleeping in a lodge a valid part of alpinism
- dont call backing off failure – but dont sugar-coat it as success either
- dont assume what you havent practiced will work for you
- analyse our choices within the perspective of a goal
- develop the bulk abilities that form the base for occasional stunts
- value perception and decision making as equals to physical ability and technique
- regard one-off heroics as anomalies, not abilities
- understand your current perspective may not match the situation
- understand that hard work appears as magic to those who choose not to see it
most of whats in all that wont be found in pre-packaged courses or general curriculum – turning out self-directing climbers tends not be good for business if you cant offer what comes next.
and when you get it right you get to come home again, not because you took the easy options but because you were prepared to make the hard ones – the difference there is profound. they are NOT two sides to the same coin. thats two different processes. transformation from a spoon-fed climber to an independent, self-perceiving one is a process of questioning and willingness to deal with the outcomes. not every climber is aware of this and many dont have the opportunity to find out. thats where we come in.