Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Why Don’t Women Pioneer More Routes?

A thoughtful article here about the preponderance of men pioneering routes. The author interviews Lynn Hill who was the first person to free climb The Nose” on El Cap. She says, in part:

"Society has told women they should be the supporting role. The biology is that women are more practical and reasonable in terms of taking unnecessary risks. We are not motivated to be the heroes.’
Then Hill offered a more light-hearted perspective. She compared the overwhelming percentage of male first ascensionists to dogs who pee on trees. ‘They're just marking territory,’ she said with a laugh.”

That’s a funny line, but is there more to it than that? Two other women climbers are quoted:

Another reason, she explained, ‘is the tremendously labor-intensive element. I think that can deter a lot of female climbers.’
Indeed, Adrian Hogel, of Boulder, is put off by the ‘dirty work’ of new routes. She said, ‘For me, the glory of doing a first ascent doesn't outweigh the difficult work it takes to accomplish it.’
A great point. After all, there are so many existing routes -- why bother doing new ones?
I asked local climber and prolific first-ascensionist Matt Samet what drives him to climb things first. He said that at 17 years old, after climbing a beautiful new boulder problem in New Mexico, he realized, ‘The best climbs might be the ones not yet ascended.’ But like Flemming and Hogel, he thinks that elbow grease discourages women. ‘So much of what you're doing is brute, ugly, filthy caveman labor that it must, on some primal level, click more with men,’ said Samet.”

Hmmm, are we getting closer to a reason? Women are so busy cleaning up the world from messy men, that they don’t want to clean rocks too. That could be it. But then I read this recent news article and I think this might explain a lot:

A man ice climbing without ropes in western South Dakota has taken the sport to a new extreme: he did it while naked.”

I think men are more willing to let it all hang out. (Unfortunately ladies, I could find no photos of this brave ice climber pioneering new routes I am hoping he had all of his front points in the ice so he wouldn’t fall.)

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