Ban on Route Names Sparks Debate

Posted on: September 30, 2010


In response to the announcement from the Swedish Climbing Federation banning offensive route names, Colorado climber Stewart Green posted this photo on his climbing blog. He remarked that Wounded Knee and Sitting Bull, route names found at the French climbing area of Secteur Biographie, Ceuse, could be considered both offensive towards Native Americans and honoring to the Sioux. Should names like these be banned? [Photo] Stewart M. Green

The international climbing community is somewhat bewildered after an announcement in August from the Swedish Climbing Federation's chairman, who proclaimed that all offensive names on climbing routes would be banned.

The announcement came after sport climber and historian Cordelia Hess found certain route names offensive at a crag in Gaseborg, Sweden. She told a Swedish newspaper, Dagens Nyheter, that the Nazi-themed names, such as Swastika, Himmler, Hitler and Third Reich, "trivialize the suffering of Jews during the Holocaust."

Sure, these names are offensive, but should they be to subject to legislation?

Swedish alpinist David Falt wrote on his blog soon after the announcement: "The names appear only in a printed topo not on the crag. The topo is protected by the laws ensuring freedom of speech. What is the world coming to when politics will decide route names?"

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By tradition, deciding route names is an honor given to those who first ascend a route. Often these names are inside jokes between climbers. For many, to legislate the naming process would take away the fun and spontaneity that leads to these names in the first place.

Professional climber Sonnie Trotter said, however, that "most of the time crude names are [the result of] people just trying to get a rise out of others, trying to stand out." Trotter avoids certain contentiously named climbs as a way of showing his disapproval.

Sweden isn't the only place with potentially offensive route names. Just outside of the Canadian mountain town of Canmore, Alberta, you can find Premature Ejaculation on Chinaman's Peak. And while Chinaman's Peak has since been renamed Ha Ling Peak after the railway cook who first climbed to the summit, the former name is still used commonly, often without anyone giving a double-take to its political incorrectness.

With that, a big question arises: in addition to banning offensive route names should we be renaming every peak or route name that we now find offensive in our 21st Century state of enlightenment? "It's a debatable subject that will go in circles for eternity," Trotter said. "Some route names that offend some people don't offend me, and vice versa, so it's all a matter of opinion."

It would seem, then, that it is only up to climbers to decide. They are, after all, the only ones reading the topos. Offended? Colorado-based climber and writer Stewart Green recommended climbers simply give the routes less offensive names. He calls this method "grassroots censorship."

Sources: e9climbing.blogspot.com, climbing.about.com, haaretz.com



Comments
edaggett

I like how climbers define themselves with properties like "freedom from rules". They also are quick to claim they climb only for themselves, and not for the recognition of others. Yet, the majority of climbers stay exclusive to others routes and those who don't, feel the need to put their own name on it for others to follow in the future. CLIMBERS ARE THE BIGGEST GROUP OF HYPOCRITES ON THE PLANET.

I'm a climber, but damn.... I hate climbers.

2010-10-05 10:07:03
Iamundernodisguise

If you let people get to you... you lose.

Climbing to many is considered an art. More than a sport with clearly defined rules and regulations especially considering the component of adventure. Should an artist always tip-toe on the feelings of the world? Careful not to hurt anyones feelings?

The route names in question seem silly to me especially since they are not directed at anyone. Wounded knee is a historical event... if the route was named "I wish I was behind the machine-gun at wounded knee" I could see the bigotry and hatred.. but simply naming a route off of a historical event shouldn't be so highly criticized.

I think that people should lighten up about things. Climb more, complain less.

-Nate Pappenhagen

2010-10-03 22:09:09
Iamundernodisguise

If you let people get to you... you lose.

Climbing to many is considered an art. More than a sport with clearly defined rules and regulations especially considering the component of adventure. Should an artist always tip-toe on the feelings of the world? Careful not to hurt anyones feelings?

The route names in question seem silly to me especially since they are not directed at anyone. Wounded knee is a historical event... if the route was named "I wish I was behind the machine-gun at wounded knee" I could see the bigotry and hatred.. but simply naming a route off of a historical event shouldn't be so highly criticized.

I think that people should lighten up about things. Climb more, complain less.

-Nate Pappenhagen

2010-10-03 22:09:08
eek

being of mixed race, and hearing racial slurs to my mother and myself I have spent a lifetime ignoring them, and being larger of a real person than many people, but in this case I have to say, " Pull your panties out of your ass and CLIMB!!!" On the rock nothing else matters, and when your done pushing your limits a reminder that there are those out there not yet comfortable with themselves to rid hate. At that point feel blessed, whatever the route is named, that you your panties aren't your head ;)

2010-10-03 22:02:59
AlpineEssence

The American Alpine Club censored Carl and Vinnie's Kahiltna Peak route names in the AAJ, how bout that?

2010-10-03 06:49:45
AlpineEssence

The Swedes have been getting angry about offensive things for centuries...

2010-10-03 06:43:39
chewtoy

preban post edizs

2010-10-01 12:22:29
No1nprtclr

And does someone know how to erase or modify a comment posted? Would be nice, as I didn't need two nearly identical posts posted. Hint, hint webmaster, webdesigner..... whoever can take care of that, uh yeah, that would be great..... and you can't have my red stapler!!!!

See how easily people are swayed off topic........LOL

2010-10-01 11:48:43
No1nprtclr

Oh, there was the comment about incitement, well true, but we all choose our actions. No one chooses our actions for us!!! Everyone needs and should think for themselves!!! Especially in this case, it's a route people climb, not a theatre with people in it. So in reality, the incitement comment doesn't apply!!! We should really stick to the actual topic at hand, naming a climbing route, not theatres with people; but I know people are easily swayed off topic.

2010-10-01 11:45:12
No1nprtclr

That's it, I'm going to Sweden and naming a route the Richard Cranium Governmental Mammorial Route. But darn the luck as that basically was taken by a route put up by Mark Twight in France: the actual route on Les Droites was "Richard Cranium Memorial".

"'What about speech that "could" cause physical harm (i.e., moderate incitement), but not certain.'"

In my opinion, I don't feel that words can "cause" physical harm. If someone is offended, fine, whatever: get over it, get thicker skin. After all it's "words", not rocks, guns, knives or anything physical. If someone hurts themselves because of "words", then they have a mentally issue to begin with!!!

Besides, you could climb for a lifetime in South America, the rest of Europe, Himalaya, without even missing the climbing in Sweden. And for less money in some cases. Ban Sweden as a climbing destination!! The only good thing that came from Sweden anyway was Volvo and Saab!!! And besides, the woman complaining is a "sport climber"!!!

2010-10-01 11:37:25
Schooner

And, by the way , Sweden does have a Judaic midget in their parliament who owned a movie theater that caught fire. Again, libel. Let us try to get the facts straight fellows.

2010-10-01 03:34:49
Schooner

Germany does not deny pornography. That was totally wrong.

2010-10-01 03:32:05
singlefeldspar

Funny. You are partially correct. It is part grade school (perhaps orthoclase) and part adulthood.

2010-10-01 01:21:33
chewtoy

k-spar we are in agreement. orthoclase?

2010-10-01 01:08:03
singlefeldspar

Yelling fire in a crowded theater is not an example of actually banning speech. Rather, it is an example of when speech (in the US) can be punishable as opposed to being protected by the First Amendment. The same is true for speech in Germany in which the existence of the Holocaust is denied. Ok, maybe I am being too technical. I'll accept that. The more important point is that any ban on speech always has a gray area. In your example, people might agree that speech which causes great risk of physical harm (i.e., yelling "fire" in a dark and crowded theater, thus causing chaos in the dark and the likelihood that someone is injured in the mad rush for the exit) should be punished. However, what about speech that just makes someone upset? What about speech that "could" cause physical harm (i.e., moderate incitement), but not certain. What about speech which is "offensive" but also makes a political or social point (i.e., "Nazis suck ass" - trying to say that the Nazis were bad, but using a curse word which might offend others to make your point)? It's a slippery slope which could possibly be avoided if people use better judgment when making the statement in the first place. On the other hand, as pointed out, sometimes people use "offensive" names for new routes for the very shock value of it - possibly without trying to be offensive. I guess we will see what the punishment is from the SKF if someone uses an "offensive" name route and how they define "offensive." Slippery slopes are hard for people to climb!

2010-10-01 01:01:51
chewtoy

single feldspar? MDD? —— Any goverment can ban both speech in either the written form or vocal. Ours ussually doesn't, but there are exceptions: classic ex. Yelling fire in a movie theater.

That said, European countries have different freedom of speech laws than we do. ex. Try finding a Nazi flag in germany or an anti-semetic phamplet..

2010-10-01 00:50:28
singlefeldspar

Technically, you cannot ban the naming of a route. That is, if I climb something and give it a name, nobody can stop me. The real issue is whether you can ban the publishing of the name of a route. Again, this cannot be banned. The most a government or climbing group can do is impose some sort of punishment or retribution for doing so. That being said, routes need names so they can be referred to. Determining what is "offensive" becomes a somewhat arbitrary decision that will be based upon the standard used. For example, in determining whether something is "porn" in the US, the Courts look to the general community standard of what is offensive. So, can anyone tell me what is offensive? Of course not. Instead, a judge or panel of judges listens to evidence presented and tries to make a determination. Do they know better than the rest of us? Of course not. Does the standard change over time? Of course it does. The reality is that any time you try to limit free speech, arbitrary barriers are put in place. Perhaps if people would focus upon naming their routes with consideration for others (whatever that might actually mean), such restrictions would not be required. Then again . . .

2010-10-01 00:19:06
chewtoy

background:

Recent swedish election results and votes for the swedish equivlant to the Nazi party point to a rising anti-semetic, racist, anti-immigrant movement.

That said, Is my route "Midget Porn" offensive?

Is so, to whom?

2010-09-30 23:29:05
Da Bizzler

Well, I guess there's no more reason to keep putting up routes anymore...

2010-09-30 21:04:52
steve_b

The community has ways of self regulating over time without resorting to sterilising bans. I've seen many offensive route names abbreviated into more family-orientated versions in guidebooks.

"By tradition, deciding route names is an honor given to those who first ascend a route"

While this is true in many areas it is not ALWAYS the case. In some areas it is common for routes to be named by the person who bolted them regardless of whether they redpoint them or not. Sometimes harder 'last great problem' type routes acquire a name from various people who spend time working on them before someone else inevitably sends.

2010-09-30 19:16:53
vengetind

The problem is more than that. The Swedish Climbing Federation (SKF) new route name policy is a reaction to local politicians threaten to close the crag if the names aren't changed. SKF chairman have said that the climbing federation have no power to change names of routes or ban route names. The new route name policy is to be consider as a "recommendation" and a way for the climbing federation to be cooperative with the authorities threatening to close the crag.

2010-09-30 17:01:01
samh

The only route I've ever had the pleasure to name received a pretty silly yet childishly offensive moniker.

2010-09-30 12:01:04
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