April 7, 2017 George Foster

Plaudits for artistic merit…..

Money for old rope this. It’s been a subject that’s raised it’s schward a few times in the past and, well, it’s raised it again. I’m talking, of course, about aesthetics…..


or esthetic

[es-thet-ik or, esp. British, ees-]


relating to the philosophy of aesthetics; concerned with notions such as the beautiful and the ugly.


relating to the science of aesthetics; concerned with the study of the mind and emotions in relation to the sense of beauty.


having a sense of the beautiful; characterized by a love of beauty.


relating to, involving, or concerned with pure emotion and sensations opposed to pure intellectuality.
Feel better? I hope so. 
So why am I dredging the depths for this theme again?! Well, I’m glad you asked. I had a chat with my wife the other day (not a rare thing admittedly) that particularly struck a chord with me. Now, a bit of background if you don’t already know, she’s what I would call a ‘shit hotclimber capable of some awesome things; in short, she could rock up to a crag (excuse the well-intentioned pun), pick near enough any route and be sure to climb it first time/first go. But. But, of those routes she holds no bias, nor bears no grudge as to what that route looks like.
Case in point…..’Franklands Green Crack’ at Almscliff. I look at that climb and am sick in my mouth. It just looks shit. The name alone should give you all you need to know. And yet it’s a Top 50 ‘classic’ as denoted by the ‘gurus’ at RockFax (it’s probably that nobhead Alan James’ favourite). The description has the line “…usually dryer than it looks – pity about the pigeon poo.” I’ve probably made my point here? Still that route remains one of the most popular at the crag. Why? Maybe because beauty is only skin deep. It is a magnificent trait to be able to see the good in something in spite of outward appearances. It seems it’s something that I need to work on? By taking the arguably blinkered view that just because it looks shite, it is shite, I have no doubt missed out on some potential gems in my climbing.
While I agree with myself (funny old thing) I would counter with the argument viewed in the guise of running. Those who read my post on London a week back will be familiar with my thoughts on the place and, to a more general consent, road running. Beating a cyclical path around Regent’s Park, dodging the rude bastards that inhabit that over-populated shit-hole, and trying to fathom the sheer excessive irony of the place (18st, 45 yr old business-men rocking Team Sky lycra atop £6,000 aero bikes) is just too much for me. Some people love it; they can look past all of that and see the beauty. All power to you.
To me, it’s hell. 
To me, there is no excuse in running or climbing for a lack of aesthetics. I appreciate that aesthetics is a personal thing and of course you’re welcome to your own opinion. To me, a striking line trumps all. I need this for motivation. Imagery is so important to me in this sense – it may even explain my unhealthy regard for maps. NERD ALERT. It comes down to the simple fact that you are the one choosing to engage with that subject, nature in this instance, because you have been drawn to it by the pull of its’ natural beauty. My teacher in the ways of aesthetics is none other than Mr Dave Birkett climber and, now, TV personality. The man has an eye for the sublime. Here’s one of his magical creations and a few more for your viewing pleasure……

E8/9 Scafell East Buttress……a rare beaut!

And, oh helloooooo…..

Dave MacLeod doing his thing in N.I.

One more, oh matron!

Tromso….pic from Jordi Saragossa

Hopefully that gives you a visual representation of what I’m trying to put into words. Life’s too short to do crap things. Disagree?? Let me know.

Comments (2)

  1. “I look at that climb and am sick in my mouth. It just looks shit.”

    Totally agree. Striking lines in beautiful places > pieces of shit in grotty places.

    I think there’s some exceptions though, where the shit factor can add to everything. So you can have a striking line in a shitty quarry for example, and it’s still dead good purely because of the line, and the shitty quarry can add character to the experience.

    But aye – life is too short to do crap things. If you don’t get that phrase tattooed then WTF u doin brah?!

    • Haha….hey Dave! Jeszcze mówisz po polsku? You’re bang on too, I always think of Master’s Edge at Millstone as a prime example. Literally a hole in the ground but that quarryman must have been Picasso’s love-child because mamma-mia that is a goooood line!

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