To Share or Not to Share
The mountain adventure dilemma.
Illustration by Morgan Krieg
BY COLTON BORN
I t was the summer of 2016 and I was helpless. I’d been living in the Flathead for a few months, didn’t have many friends, and was captivated by the mountains. Unfortunately, being born and raised in suburban Minnesota, my upbringing afforded me zero mountaineering experience. So, I did as any good Gen Zer would: headed straight for the internet. That’s when I found Summitpost, an online forum that provides crowdsourced information about mountains around the world, including how to climb them.
It was the summer of 2016 and I was helpless. I’d been living in the Flathead for a few months, didn’t have many friends, and was captivated by the mountains. Unfortunately, being born and raised in suburban Minnesota, my upbringing afforded me zero mountaineering experience. So, I did as any good Gen Zer would: headed straight for the internet. That’s when I found Summitpost, an online forum that provides crowdsourced information about mountains around the world, including how to climb them.
Not long after my discovery, I found myself heading up the summit ridge of Mount Brown in Glacier National Park, fueled by a Summitpost description of the route (and naïveté). Let’s just say the ridge was spicier than my flatlander legs were used to, but I loved every second.
That day was a turning point. If it hadn’t been for that piece of sandbagged internet beta I stumbled upon, my life would undoubtedly be different today–I would even go so far as to say I wouldn’t be the person I am.
A life lived outside is good for the soul, and it’s core to our culture in the Flathead. And therein lies the problem.
For decades, Montana has been known as a particularly tight-lipped community when it comes to publicizing outdoor experiences. Whether it’s the Bitterroots, Cabinets, or the Crazies, many top shelf areas in our state have been concealed under a ‘do not publish’ ethic for a myriad of reasons.
For starters, safety. Simply put: it’s unwise to give someone with more stoke than sense the keys to a route that could get them in way over their head.
“A life lived outside is good for the soul, and it’s core to our culture in the Flathead. And therein lies the problem.”
Furthermore, many accomplished outdoors people would prefer to spend their time actually in the mountains rather than posting about them. A deep streak of humility in many first class athletes causes them to refrain from sharing their stories for fear that it will tamper with the motivation behind their pursuits, causing them to value the photos taken on their latest expedition rather than the experience itself.
Finally, there’s the gatekeeper complex. As people migrate to Montana, bringing with them a different way of life or different ethics, it’s the natural response of the local to withhold. Our knee-jerk reaction is to protect the place we love from the invaders who will inevitably ruin it for everyone else.
Social media has only added another dimension to this conundrum. Am I risking my credibility by posting this photo or tagging my location? Is my post going to be the thing that blows up this spot?
All of these factors leave us outdoor folk with a heavy question to ponder: to share or not to share?
As with most good questions, the answer isn’t black and white. However, I think there’s one thing we can all agree on: the outdoors makes people better. It heals us, opens our hearts, and reminds us of how small we really are in this ego-obsessed world. I think we’d all agree that humanity would probably be better off if everyone simply spent a little more time outside.
I think back to myself in 2016: watching the sunset from somewhere I never thought my feet could possibly take me, all because some keyboard warrior decided to share their knowledge on the internet. Sure, I was in over my head, but I was fully alive.
In the beta economy, I’ve certainly received much more than I’ve given. Mentors, friends, and complete strangers sharing their experiences have given me the tools to step out, find adventure, and grow. My hope moving forward is that I’m granted the opportunity to do the same. Nobody owns these mountains, and I hope to have a long career of sharing their secrets with other wide-eyed newcomers who, just like me, are looking to take a step into the unknown.
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