Become a Member

Get access to more than 30 brands, premium video, exclusive content, events, mapping, and more.

Already have an account? Sign In

Become a Member

Get access to more than 30 brands, premium video, exclusive content, events, mapping, and more.

Already have an account? Sign In


Gear Guy

Why Are Climbers So Cynical?

Why are climbers so cynical?

Lock Icon

Unlock this article and more benefits with 40% off.

Already have an Outside Account? Sign in

Outside+ Logo

40% Off Outside+.
$4.99/month $2.99/month*

Get the one subscription to fuel all your adventures.

  • Map your next adventure with our premium GPS apps: Gaia GPS Premium and Trailforks Pro.
  • Read unlimited digital content from 15+ brands, including Outside Magazine, Triathlete, Ski, Trail Runner, and VeloNews.
  • Watch 600+ hours of endurance challenges, cycling and skiing action, and travel documentaries.
  • Learn from the pros with expert-led online courses.
Join Outside+

*Outside memberships are billed annually. Print subscriptions available to U.S. residents only. You may cancel your membership at anytime, but no refunds will be issued for payments already made. Upon cancellation, you will have access to your membership through the end of your paid year. More Details

Why are climbers so cynical?

—John Fallon, Lima, Ohio

Cynics find fault for the sake of finding fault. Oscar Wilde said that a cynic is, “A man who knows the price of everything
and the value of nothing.”

In ancient Greece, Cynicism was a Hellenistic philosophy that rejected social norms and values, embraced a life of austerity, and criticized religion and
material wealth. It offered hope and freedom from suffering in a time of idolatry and bestiality. One of the founders of this new way of thinking was
Diogenes of Sinope, who lived in a jar, ate onions and carried a lantern during the day “looking for an authentic man.” He used his middle finger to
point at people and masturbated in the market. When he saw a peasant boy drinking water from cupped hands, Diogenes smashed his only possession, a
wooden bowl.

Diogenes’ example caught on and soon other Cynics were living like animals (“cynic” is Greek for “dog like”), fornicating like mastiffs in public
and criticizing anyone who was different. Diogenes himself was ultimately captured by pirates and sold into slavery. He died by holding his breath.
Today’s Cynics sleep in Sprinter vans in Moab.

I disagree with your (cynical) notion that all climbers are cynics, but agree that most are. Climbers routinely whine about “hard” clips, worn permadraws
and anchor carabiners and porta potties with no TP. While these are honest and accurate appraisals of our overrun shitholes-of-climbing areas, rarely
does the complainer take action. The sport of complaining about climbing has as many—if not more—participants than climbing-gym birthday
parties (with clowns!).

An enlightening fact: There are 2.3 million climbers in the U.S. Of these, only .5 percent have paid $35 to join and support the Access Fund, the noble non-profit that toils as endlessly as Atlas to keep our crags open and free.

Since most climbers complain at some point about access, this makes most of us cynics. Yet it is also true that if you complain long enough and loudly
enough, someone else will eventually do the heavy lifting. Therefore, the action of bitching is ultimately productive. This makes us not cynics, but

But back to your question: Why are climbers cynical?

Numerous scientific studies point out that cynicism is a defense mechanism caused by a traumatic childhood event. Your mother, for example, might have
combed your curly hair like a girl’s, then put you on the school bus anyway. Recovering repressed memories is as painful as extracting a wire bristle
from the pad of your thumb, but this is the first step down the winding path to happiness.

Now that we have established why you are a cynic, you can change your behavior through mindfulness meditation, or becoming aware of your cynical thoughts.

For example, when that puke with the Great Gabtsy haircut stepped on your ropetarp then yammered about how your project was “piss” for him, the cynic in
you wanted him broken on the wheel or at least have a mild seizure. Suffer thoughts such as these with a smirk. Being aware of negative thoughts is

Once you realize that you have negative thoughts, sit in the shade and make promise yourself: From now on you will think positively, e.g., that guy who
stepped on your tarp is simply stronger than you. He probably works out a lot. He deserved his success. If you didn’t spend so much time at work or
driving your daughters to soccer or volunteering for cancer-awareness events, you could climb as well as him. Celebrate his send and you will discover
new friends. Perhaps he will invite you over to his Sprinter van for a cold PBR. Just don’t hold your breath. Next!

This article appeared in Rock and Ice issue 213 (October 2013).