A very long time ago, when the internet was a new thing and before social media had arrived. Imagine being a teenage climber, living many miles from the centre of the Universe, ie. Sheffield, climbing on obscure crags in the South Lakes, usually with your brother and often belayed by your dad. The chances are you're not going to see many other climbers (or be "seen" by many other climbers) but you're keen to progress and get better. Basically you're climbing well below the radar in a total backwater. It's the way it is, what you're used to. It doesn't matter anyway because you climb entirely for yourself. That's what climbing is all about, right?
Imagine being that same person in 1990, reading about the most important ascent in the world at that time, Ben Moon has just climbed "Hubble". Unlike most of us, this person is totally inspired and decides that he wants to follow in Ben's footsteps. He embarks upon a serious training schedule to get fit enough to climb "Hubble". He's geeky, unassuming and a bit shy but totally obsessed. He actually measures all the dimensions of "Hubble" and builds a replica in his parents' garage, reducing the size of the holds as he gets stronger. He rarely climbs outside, because he is so focused on training in his garage, besides he doesn't have a car and there aren't many locals to climb with anyway. On the days when he is getting close to repeating "Hubble" his dad drives patiently, whilst he warms up in the car during the long journey south to Ravens Tor. They always set off early to make the best of the cool conditions and after a few goes (and some progress) they're usually packing up by the time other climbers arrive at the crag. After a long time and a huge amount of effort and commitment eventually this "outsider" succeeds and realises his dream, he has just made the 3rd ascent of "Hubble". Respect! But he doesn't expect any respect or praise because he climbs for himself remember, he's not interested in being famous, he's just totally happy because he's really enjoyed the whole process, all the highs and lows during the last 4 years.
|Ben Moon climbing Hubble in 1990 (Ben Moon collection).|
Our young climber continues to develop his local limestone crags, always pushing standards higher but always under the radar. He even gets taken to France ('95) and Germany ('96) by us, where he enjoys playing on "Super Plafond" and "Action Direct", there's no pressure to actually do them, he's just happy to test himself on the individual moves (which admittedly seemed a bit odd to us at the time, but each to their own, we thought).
The years pass, our young climber is now grown up, at last he has a career, he's very happily married and he's a loving father too. He's continued to put up desperate problems on his local crags but he still operates under the radar, his friends think he's a legend and his hardest problems have achieved mythical status.
However times have changed, we're now living in the digital age, climbing has changed and there are very few of us who practice our passion discreetly. Many of us have become narcissistic and constantly striving for fame. It's not uncommon to video yourself as you work on your latest project, edit it and post it on your favourite social media platform(s) as soon as you have succeeded, where you can get instant recognition from your friends. Not only that, there are endless possibilities to easily troll people you disagree with or you don't believe, often anonymously and without censorship from these websites. No wonder we live in an era of fake news and conspiracy theories.
Sadly, such is the setting whereby some younger (and some not so young) climbers have been casting doubts regarding the validity of some of my friend's hardest ascents. How dare they? Who do they think they are? What gives them the right to question someone's climbing achievements from almost thirty years ago, just because there's no video footage or nobody witnessed the ascent or some hotshot isn't strong enough to pull on the holds? Climbing is so unimportant really, and many of us choose to climb to escape from adhering to any definition of a normal life. However, I have only recently found out about the drivel and hatred that has been written on various forums over the years regarding some of my friend's climbing achievements (including the 3rd ascent of "Hubble"). I am totally appalled by this and believe that some have gone way too far with their character assassination of him. They should be ashamed of themselves, but I doubt they will ever apologise for all the hurt they have caused. I have no doubt that my friend did these climbs (including "Hubble", despite not seeing him actually do it). His word is enough for me. End of story.