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Smartphones in the Outdoors: Do They Belong?

Last month, professional climber Tommy Caldwell posted to Facebook, "Feels crazy up here with this 40 mph up draft tonight. I hope it blows me right up this pitch …" By "up here," Caldwell meant his hanging camp located over 1,000 ft. up the side of El Capitan in Yosemite National Park, Calif. Caldwell was attempting to free climb what will likely be the hardest route on El Capitan if it is completed, and he provided live updates along the way with his iPhone.

The New York Times recently published an article about Caldwell and his use of an iPhone to provide Facebook updates while attempting the route on El Capitan.

The article states, "[Caldwell's] fans, a group that grew to more than 4,000 during his climb, could follow along in real time with commentary from the climber himself. No need to wait days, weeks or months for a print article or video."

If you followed Caldwell on Facebook throughout his climb, you saw pictures of life on the wall and read about climbing a 5.14 pitch by headlamp.

Climbers reporting on their accomplishments is nothing new. It's been happening for centuries. What is new is the immediacy with which it can now happen. As smartphones become more commonplace, so too is the ability to follow professional athletes in real-time as they pull off astounding feats. Rather than having to wait for a climbing party to reach the ground or return to base camp in order to get an update, we can follow climbers as they go and even interact with them. Pretty cool if you ask me. But, it also raises some concerns.

In The Times article, alpinist Zach Smith talks about the potential dangers of involving social media and real-time updates with climbing: "'I want to make decisions from my heart, my gut, my brain,' he said. He invoked Kodak courage, the idea that people tend to push harder when being filmed or photographed. 'Climbing mountains is a dangerous pursuit,' he said. 'When you mix in the potential desire to impress people, that's a very dangerous thing.'"

What do you think? Do you like following athletes that are using smartphones and social media in the mountains? Or, do you think this technology takes away from the experience of exploring wild places?

Posted on at 2:08 PM

Tagged: Climbing, Tommy Caldwell, Yosemite, facebook and iPhone

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