Climbing in Cyberspace: An Overview
Internet, surfing, URLs, home pages, World Wide Web, Netscape. Just a couple of years ago hardly anyone would have recognized a single one of these terms. Now they’re household concepts. Use and awareness of the Internet and the World Wide Web have exploded faster than rap bolting and hang-dogging. Anyone can be on the Net, from corporations to clubs, from universities to 10-year-olds. You need a personal computer (not even a fast one) and a $100 gizmo called a modem. Within minutes anyone with an available phone jack can be a few beeps, buzzes and screeches away from a universe of e-formation on any topic under the sun, including mountaineering, climbing, trekking and travelling.
Therein lies the Internet’s most hazardous booby trap — sheer info overload. Navigating it all and dredging up what you’re looking for can take time. And if you’re the type who gets easily diverted from your plotted destination, look out! You could visit most any mountain range in the world, check out several magazines, hear from famous climbers, learn how to climb big walls and chat with other climbers before you arrive at what you set out to find. To help AAJ readers find what they need without spending hours surfing, we thought it would be a good idea to give an overview of what’s out there and how to find it. The following addresses represent the highlights from many hours of surfing.
I used a commercial service to obtain a direct link to the Internet and the World Wide Web, and I used Netscape 1.1 to do my browsing. I used a coupie different search “engines” and typed in different variations of “climbing,” “mountaineering” and “outdoor recreation.” Sometimes I tried to get more specific and typed in something like “mountaineering in Bhutan.” In most cases, the results were quite similar. A list of 100 sources would materialize on my screen, sorted by the number of visits to each sight and listed 10 at a time. I then thumbed through the lists, often coming across many that I had seen before, and each time I saw something of interest I checked it out. Those of you who use online services such as AOL or CompuServe may have very different ways of surfing, but you can still use the same URLs I found.
One of the best guides to online resources is Outdoor Resources Online (http://www.azstarnet.com/~goclimb/rockhome.html). Under this source, look for Mountaineering Resources and Information Guide for links to university libraries and bookstores with good stocks of mountaineering literature, maps, gear manufacturers, mail order sources, magazines, climbing gyms, and other mountaineering-related Web pages. Other good sights for general surfing include Climbing and Mountaineering Resources: GORP (http://www.gorp.com/gorp/activity/climb.html), and Webtreks (http://www.webtrecks.com/mountain.html). It would literally take days to scrutinize every link listed in these sources.
More specific sights that are interesting include Outside Magazine Online (http://www.starwave.com/outside), which has up-to-date trip reports by such luminaries as Ed Viesters, Scott Fischer and Marc Twight. Marmot’s page, called Marmot Basecamp (http://www.Marmot.com/Basecamp), includes an interesting section called Peak Experiences, which is a forum for climbing and mountaineering experiences e-mailed from climbers around the country. Marmot’s home page also has a classified section in which you can advertise to sell or buy gear.
To find out about climbing in specific locations, search through the
above general sources, or try the format, “mountaineering in .” In a search for information on climbing in Bhutan, I came up with the web sights for several travel companies along with interesting tidbits like “Historical Background of the Bhutanese Refugees.” Under “Alaska,” I found good information on preparing for, planning and organizing a trip to the Alaska Range, along with information on how to obtain weather forecasts, guides and transportation.
The personal home pages are hit and miss. Some are so-so, others are quite interesting. A good example of what you can expect is the Mountain Modem (http://www.sisna.com/jackson/ctech/wwm.html), which has route information for the Tetons and vicinity, some personal submissions from local climbers, and links to other sights. John Middendorf’s Big Wall Page (http://www.PrimeNet.Com:80/~midds/) is another good personal home page with all the beta you need to get started on and psyched about big walls.
Finally there are the newsgroups, the most important one of which is simply rec.climbing, which acts as a bulletin board for news, discussions and information of all types. There are some rules regarding the use of newsgroups, so make sure you’re aware of proper Net etiquette — or you could get flamed. (If you don’t know what this means, trust me, you don’t want it to happen to you.) Happy surfing!