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Shouldn't Yosemite 'Soul Climbers' Be Called 'Bums' Instead?

February 18, 2001

Why did you publish Janet Reitman's article "Soul Men" (Jan. 21)? To publicize that visitors can use illegal drugs and camp wherever they want in Yosemite? To glorify people who steal sleeping bags by pretending to vomit? Was it a veiled high school membership drive for "underground Yosemite"? Or does Reitman want us to expel all climbers from our national parks because of these few outlaws? I expected to read an article about rock climbing. What was the point of this?

Karen Casey

Upland

*

The piece on the freeloading, stoned rock climbers in Yosemite was disgusting. Their no-rules code appears only to apply to them. How self-centered! If the 4 million yearly visitors to Yosemite had the same code, the park would have been shut down by now. John Muir must be turning over in his grave!

Val Loskota

San Gabriel

*

I'm a climber who goes to Yosemite as often as possible, but I do not live in the dirt (or in Yosemite). The whole concept of "soul climber" as a status level for climbers is ridiculous, elitist spew. ("Soul climber" sounds mighty poetic, but "climbing bum," "wall rat" and "hardman" have been the standard monikers for decades.) The article, to a degree, promotes snobbery and elitism in the climbing community--not to mention breaking National Park Service regulations. The petty attitude of climber elitism and self-absorption is not only passe, but something we have been working to dismantle in order to effectively negotiate our interests with government agencies and land managers.

Mike Ousley

Via the Internet

*

I'm disturbed by the exploitations of Bullwinkle, Jason "Singer" Smith and the other miscellaneous gods who feel they make up a "rarefied climbing elite." To be sure, these individuals have done some extremely difficult climbing--but nothing different than what Royal Robbins, Yvon Chouinard, Ron Kauk, John Bachar, Peter Croft and many others were doing years ago. It's sad to see Yosemite turned into an outdoor rock gym. There was a time when Yosemite was considered the University of Rock Climbing rather than a high school!

Ed Vasquez

Van Nuys

*

"Soul Men" was an aptly titled portrait of the Yosemite rock-climbing subculture in that it focused exclusively on men. But was it appropriate for the author not to delve into the role of women in this subculture? Other than the fact that one of the climbers Reitman profiled produced a calendar with photos of naked women climbing on desert rocks, not a single female climber was mentioned. Some of the best Yosemite climbers are women, including Lynn Hill and Beth Rodden. I'd be interested in knowing whether women form a part of this subculture or find it somewhat alienating.

Tom Jessor

Los Angeles

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