Also in This Area
Also in This Style
Posted on: October 6, 2008
Editor's Note: Those longtime fans of alpinist.com all recognize one name: Schooner, the detritus of the Alpinist community. With a hearty reminder to "keep it positive" in alpinist.com comments, one of our interns took the liberty to fabricate the following interview. Enjoy.
There is a person in the climbing world, a vigilante really, who has for some time kept alpinist.com looking over its shoulder. Schooner, the username of an individual who has in mere words ended the careers of climbers and journalists alike, has him(her?)self mostly gone under the radar. Some have claimed the anonymous marauder is simply an intern from climbing.com orchestrating a smear campaign against alpinist.com—others, that he is some 13-year-old punk.
As a former journalist and admirer of Schooner's work, I saw an opportunity for an interview and so, on an overcast day earlier this summer, I paid a visit to the seemingly humble estate of Mr. Schooner—an old weather-worn Airstream trailer situated in his hometown of Anchorage. The old tires and massive amounts of garbage lying in his yard were no doubt a deliberate attempt to sustain a low-profile presence in his community, though such a large figure within the climbing world could not possibly be hidden by any amount of overdue energy notices plastered to his door. He greeted me that afternoon from the roving seat of his rascal scooter. "I don't need this thing, but I don't like to walk when I don't have to. Plus, this helps me save my leg strength for huge approaches."
Reputed for his straight-forward, all-business attitude toward climbing journal criticism, I was surprised to find evidence of a laid-back home life, such as one of those cool empty-liquor-bottle collections you see in college houses (defying the norm, as usual, his were scattered around various portions of the trailer). With no closets or separate rooms to speak of, I couldn't figure out where Mr. Schooner kept all of his climbing gear. "I don't have any climbing gear and I don't need any. Everything I have ever climbed, which is nearly everything, has been free soloed. Sometimes I bring rubber bands to put around my hands so that they go numb—to make things a little more challenging—but I don't consider that gear." As we sat down to conduct the interview, the ominous glow of a Mac 128K, where Schooner types out his online lashings, spread across the floor behind him.
Me: What, Mr. Schooner, would you say is your greatest contribution to alpine-related journalism?
Schooner: Would you like a scotch?
Me: No, thank you. So, back to the question of the purpose of your work.
Schooner: I'm here to remind everyone that almost all climbing endeavors are sourced entirely from vanity and complete self-obsession, and that almost none of them are worth reporting.
Me: Indeed, as is apparent from many of your remarks on alpinist.com's NewsWire stories. On one particular NewsWire, "Davis Free-solos 5.11 on Castleton Tower," you wrote "Please leave this type of reporting for her blog and not pollute this site with such trivial reports... she has a blog, let her spew on that." Do you believe alpinist.com to be reporting irrelevant climbing news?
Schooner: Buddy, have you been living under a rock? That is the sole message of my life. I dare you to find one positive remark I have left on that smoldering wasteland of a website.
Me: How did you react to editor Christian Beckwith's announcement that Alpinist will be shifting gears and moving towards becoming "a fluorescent-colored, tights-wearing sport climbing mag from the 80s"?
Schooner: I don't agree with that move at all, as I noted in my remarks on the "Davis Sends Moab Testpiece" NewsWire. I tell you here and now, Alpinism involves nothing other than huge, snow-blown, ice-ridden ascents—huge commitment and nothing else. Are you sure you wouldn't like a Scotch? I was thinking of pouring a couple.
Me: How do you respond to the notion that not all of climbing or alpinism must involve unpleasant, dangerous situations to be noteworthy?
Schooner: My philosophy is already well documented on Alpinist's website, usually in the form of snide, under-handed remarks like "Yet again and again, another piece of internationally significant ascents in the courageous world of extreme alpinism," or "Incredibly well written dispatch with internationally significant news from the cutting edge of extreme alpinism."
Me: Some people accuse you of being a self-important web troller who does nothing more than criticize others' climbing accomplishments by measuring them against your own illusory standards. Is this a fair assessment of your contributions to the climbing community?
Schooner: In a word, yes.
(At this point in our interview, a siren began sounding and flashing, and Schooner pulled a quick u-turn in his scooter over to his computer)
Me: What the hell is going on?
Schooner: I have the RSS feed hooked up so that when Alpinist posts a NewsWire, I'm immediately alerted.
(headline: "Nasa Astronauts Send 5.17c on Mars, Minor Injuries Sustained From Space Parasites)
Schooner: See, there you go. The gravitational force that those astronauts were fighting is only a fraction of the force experienced on Earth, because Mars is smaller than Earth.
(he swiveled his scooter back in my direction, with his finger to his head)
Schooner: See, I know these kinds of things because I'm smarter than those bozos they have running alpinist.com
Me: In a way, you really are a vigilante of the alpine journal world—your technology helps you keep a close eye on the goings on; you are obviously careful to hide your enormous talent in a shroud of mystery; you are a dark and misunderstood figure—like Batman.
Schooner: Hell no! I scale buildings twice as high as he does, and I don't need a million dollar suit either, just this pair of stinken' Hanes!
Stinking is right. At that point, he asked me to fetch him his "writing whiskey." I was unable to conclude my interview, as Schooner became enraptured in typing a new comment on the Alpinist website, thrashing and throatily growling strings of profane gibberish as he mashed his palms into the keyboard . Though it was not a pretty sight, it was still a vision of genius at work. Unfortunately, unstoppable multi-billion-dollar media forces such as Alpinist have chosen to antagonize this honest critic, featuring him on their upcoming Halloween feature "The Monsters of Alpinism." I thought hard about this as I stepped out the door to a yard full of hissing raccoons, and was happy to know that there is at least one man on this planet who will not be impressed by anything anyone ever climbs, ever. My hat is off to you, Schooner.