Week 11: No Mountain Too High

"it is not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves" - Sir Edmund Hillary

Climbing isn’t about how far or fast you climb, or even what you climb; it’s about perseverance and establishing identity. These three stories show just how important it is that everyone has access to climbing and how much the mountains can teach us.

The Trans Pioneer Scaling the World's Tallest Peaks

Artwork by Callan Shore

Run Through:

Erin Parisi dreams of climbing the Seven Summits, and she is well on the way to becoming the first trans person to do so. Katie Coakley covered Parisi’s story for The Guardian in 2018. Parisi, who is now 42, has climbed for much of her life, but being trans adds some new obstacles. The climbing world is not always welcoming or accessible to the trans community. Many climbing organizations have strict requirements on levels of estrogen & testosterone, and in order to finish the Seven Summits, Parisi will have to travel to Tanzania, which can be dangerous for queer folks. In 2018, Parisi started TranSending, an organization to support other trans adventurers in reaching their goals. “You can’t accuse me of hiding if I’m standing on the top mountain of every continent saying, ‘Here I am,’” she said.

On Review:

  • Coakley focuses a bit too long in the beginning on Parisi’s old identity and the way in which she transitioned. She even mentions Parisi’s her dead name.

  • Nikki Smith is another trans climber in the public eye. Outside wrote about her in a similar way to Coakley, talking heavily about her dead name and transition.

For the Love of Climbing: Tokenism in the Outdoor Industry

Artwork by Callan Shore

Run Through:

Kathy Karlo of Climbing Magazine discusses whether the movement to increase DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion) in the outdoor space is going far enough. Karlo points out that efforts by outdoor companies and organizations to improve DEI are often simply tokenism or marketing ploys. In the context of brands, tokenism is the problematic act of pretending to improve diversity by showing one person from a marginalized group in an ad campaign or preaching equity while not actually making concrete change. Karlo says, “it’s important that we examine what kinds of waves of change we are creating and why. At this incipient stage, it’s all too easy to misfire.” Karlo suggests that if we truly want to make the outdoors accessible to all, brands need to push DEI on social media and help people in cities to get outside.

On Review:

  • I would also add that brands must enact DEI with their employees and team members. This might entail prioritizing equal pay, intolerance of hate speech, gender neutral bathrooms, etc. in the workplace.

  • Another article on this topic was published by Outside in 2018. It takes a more extensive look at which brands are succeeding at increasing DEI and which are failing.

The Iconic Crag at the Heart of the Hong Kong Protests

Artwork by Callan Shore

Run Through:

Outside Magazine’s Wufei Yu writes about a crag in Hong Kong called Lion Rock that has become a crucial part of the Hong Kong protests. In April, Hong Kong citizens began to protest policies that would allow China greater control over the city. The protests have only escalated since. The climbing community of Hong Kong decided to participate, and because these protests have been characterized by inventive and hidden resistance, they act in the silence of night. On Lion Rock, the climbers hike up in the pitch black and rappel down the mountain to hang anti-government banners, which read anything from “murderous regime” to “fight for HK.” Yu says, “climbers on the crag have to remember the locations of the bolts by heart as they execute the operation without headlamps to avoid police detection.”

On Review:

  • I came across an article that similarly captures the resistant spirit of Lion Rock. Lai Chi-Wai was 8th in the world for climbing until he became paralyzed. In 2016, he climbed Lion Rock in his wheelchair, using only his arms.

  • In order to have full context for this story you may want to read further on the turmoil in Hong Kong.

More Resources:

So glad you checked your email this week! Now, climb on!