November 17, 2009 George Foster

Crag Politics: The British/American Divide

American: Say ‘Beta’ too loud in this place that we’re dwelling and you’ll get pounced upon like a doughnut at weight-watchers. Four-letters is all it takes to turn you into the most important person in the world, a chest-rubbing feeling i can tell you, able to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with, if only for a moment, Obama, Osama and Burt (Bacharach)……..debatable, but pillars in the communities they represent all the same. It’s like crack to these people and turns them immediately into salivating mules hee-hawing and yee-harring about the place in deranged delirium. Beta doesn’t just cover which hold to use, it goes right down to the precise intricacies of the left ring-finger’s optimum surface coverage on the third crystal in from the right on the fifth bump up from that starting sloper that you’re pulling on with the three fingers on your right hand, pinky sagging, thumb cradling that invisible catch 2cm out from where that freckle is on Sharma’s index knuckle when i watched him do it on ‘Rampage’. You get me?? THIS IS FUCKING SERIOUS SHIT MISTER!!!!!!
British: Beta? What the fuck is beta? You just pull on that one over there right? No? Oh yeah sorry that was ‘A Eliminate’ i was on…….’B Eliminate’ starts like that. Yeah. Nice one mate. I think i got a drop knee in there somewhere too then matched that piece of shit crimp over there. Maybe not though it was a while ago and the conditions were shit. What’s that?

American: Compliments the beta quite well as tick-marks usually accompany the cryptic, hushed verses of jargon-influenced information. EVERY little bastard of a resemblance of a hold HAS to be ticked. We’re not talking like in the little boxes that you get on a questionnaire here, it’s full on lines indicating again the exact positioning of your hands to. the. bastard. millimetre. It becomes all encompassing towards the state of mind when climbing to the point where if the hold is hit anywhere shy of the line (up a bit, down a bit, left a bit, right a bit), even if they’re still on (which it isn’t impossible to be guys and gals!!), they jump off and moan about having to hit that hold. JUST. RIGHT. What follows, in a flurry of dabbing and storm of chalk, is a reapplication of the donkey line (which is usually in the exact same place as before) before Round 2 commences. I wish i had a photo of the Iron Man Traverse (see Lovely Lines…. for description, as if you need one people) to show the tick marks that almost constantly adorn this beautiful piece of rock……IT”S ONE BIG HOLD! You don’t NEED tick marks. 
British: Are just as bad. Check out the forum on UKBouldering (no other sites are available) showcasing some of Britains ‘best’ examples. It’s a brush-hand-twitcher for sure.

American: Sprayers coat the rock in their useless spittle, screaming a near constant tirade of generally worthless beta as much to ‘help’ you climb the problem as it is to tell the whole world that they have perhaps climbed it themselves. In reality these sprayers usually have no idea how to climb the route themselves and have either heard a fellow sprayer giving it spray or seen some wad running laps on it. It’s confusing and dangerous – do you want to be responsible for fucking up my V1 flash dude!?! Didn’t think so.
British: See ‘Encouragement’ below. We’re so reserved it feels like a physical disability. Maybe it’s because we have such short memories that we forget that we’re stood on top of the problem we intend to spray on let alone know how we climbed the lump.

American: It’s all about being LOUD and VOCAL. WE ARE WITH YOU. STRONG. PROUD. YOU GOT THIS. SICK DUDE. These are just some of the adjectives and terms in the vocabulary of the “All-American encourager”. Does it annoy you reading it? It fuckin annoys me having it SHOUTED into my face from 2 yards away. Especially as i may only be able to do one of the 30+ moves, the baying crowd screaming “GOOD BURN MAN” before my sorry ass even hits the hands of the burly jock ‘spotting’ me. Sometimes it works, sometimes it is inspiring and sometimes i can feel Captain Crush inside me (NO Freud) fighting to get out. Maybe it comes from how they’re brought up over here, the team-sports mentality of a new nation perhaps? Where else is it ok for groups of ape-like rock-jocks to stalk around shouting single words at total strangers??
British: We don’t like loud noises. Talking in anything but a strangled whisper is just down-right rude old boy. We are the meek little kittens of the encouragement band-wagon hopping on to give our best little “Go on” or “Good effort” then hopping off when those bloody Yanks arrive. If you’re on it then i guess you’ve got a good chance of doing it so our being there and shouting at you won’t likely change that. The fact we’re there is testament to the likelihood of your succeeding, else we wouldn’t have wasted the time getting up in the morning to provide the pads that we’re hoping you won’t dirty.  

American: Similar in style to French/Continental spotting methods which came into prominence in the aftermath of the French Revolution when it was finally deemed acceptable to touch your fellow man. Over time it has evolved to take on a much more literal application of ‘touching your fellow man’ in the same way that programmes such as ‘Queer as Folk’ championed…..or at least that’s how it looks to the layman. I read very recently in a well known US climbing (hint hint) publication that it was allowed to ‘brush’ someone when they’re on a problem, not in the make sure they’re chalk-free and super sticky way, but to a) let them know you’re still there (as if breathing down their neck like a sex-starved teenager isn’t enough??) and to b) give them a little bit of ‘support’. Oh yeah we have a word for that too…..CHEATING.
British: No such thing. Once you’re on the rock you’re on your own. If another man touches you then it’s goodbye friends and family and either hello witness protection schemes or welcome to fiddler’s corner in prison. Arm’s folded, fag in mouth (Freud would have a field day with this post), collar up. Assume the position. We might kick the pad in the general direction that we THINK you may fall but that’s about it. Sorry. Oh you fell off and proper fucked yourself?? We’re still cool right??

Comment (1)

  1. dom

    Haha,too true. I remember we used to congratulate each other with a hand shake when we topped out a hard climb back home. If you did that here they’d think you were coming on to them or something.

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