An Introduction to Crimp Culture


Crimp Culture aims to explore the culture surrounding the climbing community and examine how the sport impacts the lives of those who practice it.

head shot of the crimp culture author sam peckett
Sam Peckett, author of Crimp Culture

As a keen climber, something that has always stood out to me about the sport is the community. The sport itself is fantastic, and I’ve always found those who practice it are, too. From those you meet at climbing gyms and at the crag, to the people you meet outside of climbing and bond with over a shared interest, the community shapes how we interact with the sport.

And it’s clear that climbing is getting more popular. Climbing will be featured in the next Olympic Games. Free Solo, a film covering Alex Honnold’s ropeless ascent of the 3000 ft El Capitan, won the Academy Award for Best Documentary in 2019.

Vice has called bouldering “a trend for millennial men”, while the Telegraph calls climbing “a popular high for midlifers”. Guardian stated in 2018 that the sport has gone from niche to a “worldwide sensation”.

The Association of British Climbing Walls (ABC) stated that between 2017 and 2019, the number of indoor climbers increased by 40-50%, due to more climbers visiting existing walls and more and bigger walls on the scene.

It’s clear a lot more people are climbing now than just a few years ago. This growth and expansion will fuel development in the culture surrounding climbing, and that’s where Crimp Culture comes in. Crimp Culture aims to learn more about how we all fit into the climbing world.

bouldering in the peak district, derbyshire
Bouldering in the Peak District.

Climbing as a lifestyle

Climbing is regularly defined as a lifestyle sport (or an extreme sport, often by those who do not practice it). Belinda Wheaton, author of Understanding Lifestyle Sports: Consumption, Identity and Difference defines lifestyle sports as sports that involve, amongst other things, “attitudes and social identity” based around the activity.

The recent boom in climbing and its status as a lifestyle sport means many people will be getting the climbing bug, and getting involved with shaping the climbing “attitudes and social identity”. Crimp Culture wants to find out how the sport has impacted the lives of those who have recently started climbing and those who have been in the sport much longer.

Another aim of Crimp Culture is to investigate climbing’s culture from the point of view of those outside of the white, middle-class male1,2 category that regularly populate lifestyle sports.

To quote UKClimbing’s recent Black Lives Matter – Resources for the Outdoor Community Article: “The 2006 British Mountaineering Council (BMC) equality survey had 98% white respondents. The 2016 survey had 95% white, 3.3% non-white with 2.4% preferring not to say. The 2019 survey had 3.9% non-white respondents.

“Notably, in the online 2019 BMC equality survey, 0% of respondents identified as Black, Black British, Mixed: White and Black or Black: any other. Anecdotal evidence would also suggest that UK participation by black climbers is particularly low”.

Learning about barriers to climbing for those who aren’t represented is important in understanding climbing’s culture, and in helping to actively make it a more inclusive sport.

Through a mixture of interviews, research-based articles and whatever else reflects our community, Crimp Culture will be learning more about what makes us tick, what makes climbing so captivating, and how we can make our community more inclusive.

References:

  1. Bob Edwards & Ugo Corte (2010): Commercialization and lifestyle sport: lessonsfrom 20 years of freestyle BMX in ‘Pro-Town, USA’, Sport in Society: Cultures, Commerce, Media, Politics, 13:7-8, 1135-1151

  1. Belinda Wheaton (2004): Understanding Lifestyle Sport: Consumption, Identity and Difference.  Available at: http://search.ebscohost.com.mmu.idm.oclc.org/login.aspx?direct=true&db=nlebk&AN=116876&site=ehost-live (Accessed: 5 June 2020).

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