Can we trust “sponsored” rock climbers?

How do we know if Adam Ondra has actually climbed 5.15c?

Did Ueli Steck really solo Annapurna’s West face?

Is Daniel Woods’ sit-start of The Ice Knife really V15?

We as climbers like to believe there is something sacred about our sport. Short of a few European boulder cups, we generally don’t have throngs of screaming spectators, or massive arenas in which we climb. By and large, we pursue our sport in seclusion, surrounded by majestic vistas, towering rock formations, and a handful of close friends. We celebrate small victories, and even large failures. Clipping the chains on your long term project can taste just as sweet as retreating off your summit push due to bad weather, as long as you surround yourself with good people. But there’s a dark cloud looming over us, and it has nothing to do with the weather.

We all read the magazines, watch the movies, and ogle over the photos and articles of the latest and greatest routes put up and sent by our favorite climbers. We get inspired, and find the mental toughness to stick it out for another work week so that we can get out for two days on the weekend and shred out on the rocks with greater ferocity than the week before. This has always been the role of the sponsored climber: Get the rest of us off our asses.

This was all well and good when being “sponsored” meant that you get a schwag -bag full of climbing gear from Black Diamond every 3 months filled with shoes, chalk, and maybe a rope. Today, however, climbers such as Alex Honnold, Sasha DiGiulian, Ueli Steck, and Adam Ondra, get more than just a new pair of rubber shoes. These, and dozens of other “pro” climbers, are making millions of dollars in sponsorship deals. Alex Honnold is backed by companies such as Goal Zero. One look at his Facebook wall, and it’s clear he has become a corporate shill:


That’s not all… Do you ever wonder what the best climber vehicle is? Sprinter van? Westfalia? Wrong! It’s an Audi! That’s right, here’s Ueli Steck showing us dirtbags what to save our coffee house tips on:

Then there’s Red Bull. What real climber even drinks this stuff? These climbers would have you believe that the only way to become the best, is to get a massive caffeine high every time you tie in to a rope:


The list goes on and on. When we’re talking about big money, there is only one constant. There will always be cheating when the incentive of money is on the table.

  • Lance Armstrong doped.
  • Jose Canseco doped.
  • Ben Johnson doped.
  • Barry Bonds doped.

Why? Because the better they performed, the more money would be thrown their way by sponsors. The only difference between the above list, and professional climbers, is that at least other professional athletes have to undergo drug testing.

Now, I’m not saying that all or even any pro climbers take steroids… but are we just supposed to take their word for it? I can’t climb V15 yet, and not many people outside of the inner sanctum of top level boulderers can, so how do we know Daniel Woods’ latest V15 send isn’t actually a V14, or V13, or even completely fabricated? Instagram photos can be Photoshopped. Maybe a lot of these routes and boulder problems that sponsored climbers claim to have sent don’t even exist. Who actually goes out to verify these things?

When there’s big money on the line, athletes are known to bend the rules, or even outright break them. We shouldn’t think that climbers are immune to this. If Ueli Steck can claim to solo Annapurna without any evidence – – surely Bob from the climbing gym can claim the same. In fact, just last week I chugged back a can of Red Bull, cranked up my tunes on my Goal Zero speaker, and sent North Americas very first 5.15d. I named it, Prove me wrong, bitch!

I’ll take my Audi now, please.



32 thoughts on “Can we trust “sponsored” rock climbers?

  1. Sponsorship deals for climbers are not worth millions of dollars – this isn’t the NBA. Yes, some of them get paid, but the amount is pennies when you compare it to other professional sports.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. “Millions of dollars,” huh? Interesting.

    It must SUCK to be so jealous and feel so insignificant that you’d want to lash out at people who do something significantly better than you ever will. It’s almost like you think the guys you mentioned wouldn’t be climbing if they didn’t have sponsors. And yet, without a shred of evidence, you felt it necessary to slam people and, in essence, call them liars.

    I’ll never get cats like you. I really won’t. Deal with your own inferiority dude. It’s not necessary to bring others down because of it.


  3. You’re absolutely right Wes. Now that there is millions of dollars ups for grabs, climbers, like all other pro athletes, are whoring themselves out to corporate interests and employing all kinds of questionable behaviors when it comes to truthfully reporting their achievements. However, I’ve recently noticed that the new women climbers are some of the worst offenders, often reporting sends that suggest they are climbing nearly at the level of men! Their boyfriends often encourage this behavior for their own gain… Women are also sneakier than men and often attach a “cause” to their efforts to gain more $$$ than a man could :(. So, while men have historically been the biggest cheats and liars, women are making up ground fast!

    Thanks for getting the truth out and exposing the “TOP” climbers for what they really are!


  4. You might be on to something, because Alex must be clearing thousands of dollars a year to pimp out his van the way he has now! Maybe he’s going to have climb that Asian tower live on TV so he’ll have the major cash on hand in case his van ever needs an engine rebuild or transmission, you know, something major!

    Oh by the way, who’s sponsoring this pair of climbers? They look pretty good to me!


  5. Serious? You see the work of all this pro climbers? They deserved it a little no? Think a minute, they train three or four times more than you, take risks and give us the opportunity to discover their results with videos, pictures, talks,… They can earn money no? And even more, they’ll never earn more money than all the politics, footballers, nba’s players,… So for me, here you’re a little wrong men or jealous? Try to do a solo like Alex, to climb mountain as fast as Ueli, to flash routes as Adam,… Finally, don’t forget to have some : Respect


    • > they train three or four times more than you
      The instructors at my local gym have told me that none of those dudes train *at all*. It’s just genetics, they’re totally good straight off the couch!


  6. Wes, I know you do this for the laughs but I actually find myself agreeing with a lot of what you have said here about pro climbers. They suck. Now please return to your earlier, hilarious persona, “The Clueless Noob”.
    Devoted Reader


  7. Honestly is you’re spending your time complaining about these dudes you’re not enjoying climbing. Sure all these so called pros are climbing harder than you and possibly faking someof it but if you’re having fun progressing in your climbing, who cares?!


  8. Pingback: Other blogs to follow: Climbing edition | Action in SolitudeAction in Solitude

  9. Wait, didn’t write a blog about all the FREE gear you got in the mail once people started hearing about your blog? How is that any different, other than they are better climbers so the get more? Quit worrying about other climbers and up your own game.


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