Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Secret Stashes: Necessary or Selfish?

Back whenever I first moved to Chattanooga, I was totally unfamiliar with the concept of a "secret stash." Back in Franklin, the problem was more about finding the rock than keeping it a secret. Also there weren't enough climbers around to have to worry about access being ruined by the community. Now that I'm in Chattanooga, it seems I hear about a new secret boulder or project just about every time I go to the climbing gym.

So what is a secret stash and why is there a debate over them? 

Well a secret stash is a climbing area kept secret by those who know about it for a few reasons. Usually the main reason is that the climbers understand that if hoards of gumbies* attacked the climbs access would very quickly become an issue. That means secret stashes are often times on private property. I've heard that out west this isn't as much of an issue because the boulders are in non-wooded areas and everyone knows where they are. Well in the southeast, our boulders and crags are neatly tucked away into the forested landscape surrounding the cities. As they said in Heart of Stone, you can literally walk off a trail and find a brand new boulder field no one's ever climbed before.

Another reason boulders are kept secret is so that the climbers themselves can work their projects or develop climbs without having to worry about someone else coming along and sending their project. I know it sounds somewhat selfish and immature, but it happens all the time.

Before I had climbed at secret boulder fields I thought they were dumb. I thought that climbers were selfish little kids with a toy they were unwilling to share. I wanted that toy. Then I climbed at a place most people don't know about, and it totally changed my mindset. Instead of waiting my turn amongst throngs of people, I climbed whatever I wanted. Instead of looking at rocks so covered in chalk that it might as well be route tape, I saw boulders that had never been touched! It was a really awesome experience and it's funny that I'd never had that feeling before. Being able to develop and climb boulders no one has ever seen is a special sort of thing. It's way more mental than the purely physical pursuit of hard climbing.

Before climbing invaded the internet, (I'm kind of assuming here) people didn't find out about secret stashes unless they were physically taken to the crags, meaning they were personally invited and therefore understood whatever sensitive issues the area faced. Nowadays all it takes is one sick picture on deadpoint or 8a to bring the climbers a running. I'm not so sure that's a good thing.

What do you think? Are secret stashes good for the community, or stupid and selfish? 
This is your chance to weigh in. I created this blog so that we, the community could talk about this stuff without having to worry about pissing each other off. There's no right or wrong answer, like your high school English teacher, I just want to know what you think.

*Gumby here meaning a climber noob. Someone who doesn't understand the etiquette and it's painfully apparent in the way they act.


  1. Now that I have climbed at all the major areas (LRC, Rocktown, Dayton, Fosters, etc.), I now believe my future projects will be at these secret stashes. Going off trail, searching, cleaning, and practicing your very own route is what makes climbing adventurous. Sending projects on virgin boulders becomes a personal thing. Also, we need to keep searching for the next amazing boulder field. Our Cumberland Plateau is littered with untouched boulders ready to climb...
    But since there are so many different areas, I don't think it's selfish to keep these hidden stashes actually a "secret." If someone is jealous of what others are doing, then they can take the time and search for their own rocks. Plus, since most of these places are on private property, it's best to keep the group size to a minimum.

  2. Well said. It makes me so happy that we live in an area where new rock is so readily available. I don't think everyone else is as lucky.

  3. I think conquering new challenge is in the human nature. We all want to be the first, the best, we try so so hard to archive new goals. As a very beginner, I do feel that urge too, for instance, Drew set up a very cool route today called the Blue Brothers and I stayed until very late just to jump on it to be the first one eventhough I knew by heart that I was going to hang like crazy, taking into account that I really tired and hungry.

    As much as this is a "trend" (as least how I see it) of the climbing community. I personally think that quality should also be considered as important as quantity. And, yes, there may be an unspoken competition out there, but climbing should be just as pure as the way it is.

    I may not have enough reputation to say these things but I really don't want to see rock climbing turning into a competitive sport like some sorts of vertical marathon. After all, secret stashes are not good nor bad, but why keeping yourself from sharing that frustration when not getting your project done at the end of the day or that awesome send on FB with your friends? For me, don't hide it, don'T have to show it, just let it be.

  4. You know going to a secret spot is no different then going to a new spot.
    - It is new
    - new place
    - new boluders / walls
    - new problems
    - new moves
    - new excitement
    - did i mention it is new.

    Now having been climbing for a short 4 & 1/2 years, I have noticed the extreme boom in the popularity of climbing indoors & outdoors. I have experienced crags all over the country, tripple crown, gym comps, trail days, and even chill days with friend. Sometimes you just want to get away from everyone and climb solo. I'm not talking about putting on some headphones and bumping some tunes nor am I talking about and after hours gym session nor heading to the local boulderfield by yourself. Sometimes it is nice to go to a secret stash and just find a new boulder with a truly aesthetic line or cool movement. Then break out the pads, brushes, & chalk. Cleaning it from top to bottom; removing all the liken, bugs, dirt, and chos. And then throwing on shoes, chalking up, and looks at the problem right before your first attempt. There is truly something about that feeling. Maybe it is the process or all the work you put into cleaning it. whatever it it is it feels good especially when you are working it. It is just simply good.

    I believe it is up to the discoverer of the secret stash to decide who they share it with or don't share it with. Respect is something we all need in this sport. We should just be respectful and not steal away someones City of Gold. ;)

  5. Well said guys. Thanks for reading.