Why the Climbing World Needs Wesley Summers


  • Rules of behavior based on ideas about what is morally good and bad
  • That branch of philosophy dealing with vales relating to human conduct, with respect to the rightness and wrongness of certain actions and to the goodness and badness of the motives and ends of such actions.

When I first started climbing, I knew nothing of “climbing ethics”.   I had been taken out to a cliff one day by friends and friendly strangers and taught the basics of how to rock climb and not to die. One of these friendly strangers, a French climbing guide, thought I should be learning to lead right away. Soon I was clipping bolts on 5.6’s, toproping 5.9s and life was easy and good (and I didn’t die).

Then I moved to a different province. I wanted to climb but didn’t know any climbers or where the crags were. Eventually, I ended up at the doorstep of the local climbing gym. During my orientation tour of the facility, the lead wall was pointed out to me and I was told that, one day, I would learn how to clip bolts. First, however, I had to be able to climb 5.10s comfortably without falling.


I thought maybe the gym’s lead routes only started at 5.10, but no, they had bolted 5.7s, 8s and 9s…
I came to learn that lead climbing was seen as something of a status at the gym, something to be earned, to graduate too. “Newbs” toproped, experienced climbers lead climbed. I passed my lead climbing test and shrugged it off as silliness.

The thing is, as my climbing career progressed, these “rules” and attitudes kept popping up. Just climbing a climb was not enough– a climb also had to be done in good style. Toproping a climb to figure out beta was frowned upon (unless it was a very difficult climb or had bad falls..or did it have to have both? I don’t remember). Actually, top roping at ALL was generally frowned upon.

“Suck it up and lead it!” They would say…

Correct language became very important as well: Sending a climb with pre-placed draws was a pink point, NOT a red point. Sending a climb after a friend climbed it first was a flash and NOT an onsight.

Somewhere along the way it all seeped in and I found myself noticing and internally criticizing those who were doing it wrong: She used the tree and that was out. He clipped the bolt when he could have placed gear. He pulled on the draw. She was hangdogging. They ticked all the good holds.

I also became aware that some types of climbing were apparently “better” than other types of climbing:
outdoor climbing vs indoor climbing,
bouldering vs. sport climbing,
sport climbing vs. trad climbing,
sewing it up vs running it out.

Three examples of the above come to mind:

While climbing at the local crag, I tried to be friendly and start up a conversation by asking the guy beside me what gym he climbed at.
“I don’t climb inside,” he replied. “I only climb outside.”
“Oh,” I replied, “You rock climb outside in the winter?”
“No, I climb at (name of indoor climbing gym).”

Then there was this time a friend was working on a really impressive 5.12+ roof crack and he posted this photo on Facebook:

monumentThe first comment on the photo wasn’t “good job!” or “way to go man!” but a fellow climber pointing out the pre-placed cam.  They noted it made the climb easier and attached a link to a post on Mountain Project saying he should “knock at least a letter grade off if you do this”.

Finally, at my local crag last year, permission was given to some of the crags developers to install anchor bolts at the top of the cliff.  Until then, all of the routes at the crag had been lead climb only–the new anchors would allow some of the routes to be accessed and climbed by toprope.  Within days of the new anchors being installed, they were chopped.
The local climbing internet forum exploded: there were debates not only about the bolt chopping, but also about who can give permission to add anchors and bolts, what the right way was to install anchors and bolts and what the best kind was to use.
(There were even debates about the “right” way to chop bolts!  Apparently the chopper didn’t use good style)

“ Does it really matter if a particular climb is done in any particular “style?” Is there one “true code of ethics” that is admirably suited to all climbers?”

– Warren Harding, ASCENT 1981

I was getting kinda bummed out about it all, when I stumbled over a blog called Rock Climbing Life, written by rock climbing enthusiast and “guide” Wesley Summers. In his posts, Wesley gives the finger to the idea of “climbing ethics”: he bolts trad routes, projects climbs on top rope, “onsights” and “flashes” climbs he has tried several times and “free solos” boulder problems. He mocks famous climbers and climbing elitism, even dedicating a post to why we should discourage new climbers from trying the sport. His popular response to those who attack him is, “Do you even climb?”

While his posts are brilliant, the angry replies Wesley receives are somehow even better, mostly because they expose some of the attitudes he is poking fun of:


Other actual replies to his posts:

 “Just stay home, there are enough chodes coming to the gorge already, we’d be fine without another.”

“Get off the TR nipple”

“So bolt the snot out of routes so your self important retro-Patagonia clad rigid stem cam toting gym rat can hang dog on it?”

“Go top rope in a gym.”

“Is not an onsite ascent the highest form of style? Or do we dumb things down and make climbing “safe” for the masses?”

“Wes, go home and play with your barbie dolls. The crag is a place for men to climb, not you!”

So… I would just like to  say Thank You, Wesley Summers.
Thank you for making me laugh and reminding me to not take climbing so seriously.
The climbing world needs you.
I look forward to more posts and hope one day Chris Kalous has you back on the Enormocast!

Your fan,
Anna O

 “I have often been asked why I seldom, if ever, write my views on all this ethics business. In thinking about it, I realize I don’t give a damn.”

– Warren Harding, ASCENT 1981

The time a nut went through my friends ear…. (Warning: photos w blood)

Matt: “Hey Anna, do you have some extra water?”

Anna: “Yeah sure, help yourself.”

Matt: “Thanks! Steve is bleeding everywhere and we need some water to wash him off.”


We were out climbing one weekend with my friend Steve who was stoked on bolting this heinous overhanging sport route.

Steve was placing traditional protection to keep him close enough to the wall to bolt on rappel.  Being a sport route, he was having difficulty finding good placements.
He eventually managed to place his smallest offset nut in a crumbly, flaring slot.

He clipped his daisy to the nut,

Weighted it,

And…It held!


Steve told me later he didn’t hear or feel anything when it happened:

Apparently he was reaching over for the drill clipped to the side of his harness when suddenly his body was in the air, swinging away from the wall.
And his ear felt really… wet?
He reached up, touched it, and his hand came back covered in blood.

“Uh, guys…” he yelled down, “I think I might have ripped my ear off?”

steves ear

Steve’s ear after some cleaning up

It turns out the nut had had so much tension on it that, when it blew, it shot out at my friend’s head like a bullet.  It hit Steve’s earlobe, and the force of it literally exploded his ear, tearing a hole clean through.

(It had so much force it didn’t just go through the ear but also hit the back of his head and left a contusion:

back of steves ear

Where the nut hit the back of Steve’s ear!

 Steve was fine: a friend packed his ear with a bunch of gauze and we climbed the rest of the day.  He probably would have just gone home after too, but I talked him into seeing a doctor—he got a tetanus shot and 4 stitches in the front AND back of his ear.

(7 days later he made me remove the stitches so he didn’t have to go back to the doctors. After watching a few how-to videos on youtube–yes, apparently there are instruction vids on how to remove stitches from an ear–I took them out using the light of my head lamp, nail scissors and tweezers)

Things Steve Learned:
According to him—nothing.  Quote: “Shit happens.”

 Things I learned:

  • Ears bleed a lot.
  • A first aid kit at the crag is handy
  • You can only get stitches within a certain time period after an accident, so if you think you may need them, don’t wait for tomorrow!
  • If you miss removing a stitch your body will push it out on its own..no worries!  (it can also cause an abscess…check with your dr.)

(If you’re interested, YouTube link on how to remove ear stitches:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8k4XO2Q7snk )

Confessions of a Rock Climbing Addict?

Ad·dic·tion [uh-dik-shuh n]  noun

the state of being enslaved to a habit or practice or to something that is psychologically or physically habit forming, to such an extent that its cessation causes severe trauma


Hello, my name is Anna and I am a rock climber.
I haven’t seen my family in almost 2 months. I missed Thanksgiving (Red River Gorge trip).
I missed Christmas Eve story telling (Potrero Chico). I missed my birthday party (Indian Creek). I missed Easter dinner (Seneca Rocks). I missed Canada day camping (Daks).
My dad tells me he loves me via facebook message.


Hello, my name is Anna and I am a rock climber.
My friends are also all rock climbers. When we are not rock climbing, we talk about rock climbing, using jargon no one else can follow. Or we watch movies about rock climbing. Or read magazines about rock climbing. Or listen to podcasts about rock climbing. If we go to a restaurant, at least one person tries to climb the side of the building. A one-armed chin up contest at a party is not unusual.
I used to have non-rock climbing friends, but I haven’t seen them since the weather turned warm.


Hello, my name is Anna and I am a rock climber.
I have a job. This job facilitates my rock climbing. When I am working, I am planning my next rock climbing trip. I am waiting for the end of the day so I can go rock climbing. I am counting down until the weekend so I can go rock climbing. When work inevitably interferes with my rock climbing, I quit. And move into my car. Until the money runs out. Then I get another job.


Hello, my name is Anna and I am a rock climber.
I wake up in the morning with claw hands that can take up to an hour to be able to open fully (actually, one finger doesn’t straighten fully anymore, but Im pretty sure I can get it back again). My right ankle hasn’t worked or looked quite right since I broke it bouldering. Neither has my left ankle—I broke that bouldering too. I have little to no feeling over the first knuckle of both my hands where I jam. And it is awesome.
I wish my fingers would hurry up and go numb too so I can climb hard finger cracks.


Hello, my name is Anna and I am a rock climber.
Rock climbing is not an addiction, it’s just something I like to do.
I can stop any time I like.

heart crack

What Rob Ford and I have in common

Climbing Rage

On a recent climbing trip, I was belaying a girl I didn’t really know on top rope
(a girl “friend” of a friend of mine).
She was super nice and friendly on the ground but transformed into a screaming, thrashing animal as she repeatedly struggled, flailed and fell at the crux.


I’m not one to judge though: I have been known to yell while climbing too.
Like, REALLY yell.
And unfortunately, my belayer too has ended up in the direct path of it.

Looking back, I’ll admit that usually * the yelling was undeserved.  Although, at the time, I
a) thought it was deserved or
b) didn’t realize I was doing it until it was too late.

So, Id like to use this post as an apology:
To my Belayer Friend, Im sorry I yelled at you that time.
I don’t think you are a F**KING MOTHERF**KER (or whatever else I called you).
I feel bad and kinda embarrassed that I called you that.
(I also don’t want you to GO F**K yourself.  Im not even sure how that is possible…)

And, although I’m sure you already know, I wanted to share some of the reasons why I was yelling.  Or screaming-Adam-Ondra-styles at the wall.  Or why I stormed away and vowed I would never climb again:

1.    I was frustrated.
The move was too big.  The hold was too small.  I was totally gassed.  The clip was in a stupid spot.  I hit my knee really hard.   The sun was too bright.  The rock was too sharp.  I was wearing the wrong shoes.  The ice was too hard. The crack was too big.   The crack was too small.  I was running out of time.  I just couldn’t stick it.  I was so close.  Rope drag!

2.    I was scared.
There was no pro.  I was super run out.  My last piece was bad.  I was going to swing.  There was a ledge.  There was a tree.  I was going to hit the ground.  I was pumping out.  I was so exposed. (Or at least it felt that way….)

3.    I was upset about something else totally unrelated

4. #1, 2 and/or 3 plus one (or more) of the following:

  • I was cold
  • I was hot/sunburnt
  • I was hungry
  • I was dehydrated
  • I was hung over
  • I was tired

So, to that girl “friend” of a friend of mine who yelled at me, I want to let you know that I understand. I get it. I’ve been there–It’s not me, it’s you.
And I’m not mad…It actually inspired me to write a blog post!
(I think that means in the internet world we are friends.  Or do you need to upvote me on reddit?  I dont really get the internet…)

BUT, just like me, you are going to have to learn how to deal with your climbing rage. Sometimes while climbing you are going to get frustrated.  or scared.  or upset.  or hurt.
or drop a piece of gear. or hit a rock with your ice tool. or pull a hold off the wall. or grab something gross-fuzzy-and/or-slimy inside and/or instead of a climbing hold.
But these are not good reasons to yell at anyone, scream at the rock, or throw your chalk bag on the ground and swear to give up climbing altogether.

Take a breath.  Relax.
Love and cherish your belayer
And Love and cherish your time on the rock

*Not always…even if it’s an easy climb you shouldn’t be smoking and texting while belaying me!


Suffering from…..CLIMBING RAGE!