I recently read a post by Megan Hine, discussing the fashion of becoming an ‘adventure blogger’. She essentially made the point that there is a lot of ‘false epicness’ on social media, seen first hand by heading for what she thought was a remote waterfall in Iceland, only to realise it was at the side of a main road. If you take a photo from the right angle, you couldn’t see the car park. It’s actually a super interesting read and something I’ve seen a few times recently – Link here. We are all guilty of cropping things from photos because we want a prettier image. Even the first photo in this post on Schwarzsee was taken 250m from the chairlift. However, it’s our responsibility to disclose this and not be a part of the false epicness!
She also used Snowdon as an example. The perceived difficulty level is low because of the well trodden paths/numbers who summit, but if the weather turns and you’re not prepared?
Well, you only need to look at the Mountain Rescue statistics for that one!
Reading this got me thinking about our responsibility as outdoor bloggers to be honest with those who follow us.
The majority of the posts I read, and indeed the bloggers I follow, are pretty honest…
Lots of ‘jesus that killed me’ or ‘it was a lot steeper than anticipated and I thought my lungs may explode’ – Equally, I’m seeing a lot of people who are not being honest and are making out that many things are easily accessible when, in some cases, they really aren’t. There are so many people I see who do things that even we all think are crazy but are brushed off as being easy for the bravado factor or the Instagram likes.
I’m all for trying new things, but these new things should be attempted in a way that’s sensible and, most importantly, within your abilities.
Social media is mostly to blame for this, I think. I see people coming up with wonderful, wintry mountain challenges to raise money. Admirable? Yes. However, I know that a few of these people don’t how to navigate in the mountains, don’t know how to walk in crampons or use an axe to self arrest, don’t know how to get down safely in a whiteout. I’m 99% sure that this perceived ‘easy day in the hills’ is because of social media.
“Well I saw XYZ Blogger doing X peaks in the Cairngorms last winter within a few days!”
Yes, but XYZ Blogger also went on a number of courses beforehand, has extensive winter UK and alpine experience and can navigate even in bad weather. Of course, it’s partly the responsibility of XYZ Blogger to mention in the post that they have this experience and if you don’t, it may be worth hiring a guide. There’s no shame in that.
As you all know, I’m a huge believer that everyone should GetOutside and enjoy our beautiful countryside, but do so responsibly, bloggers too! I know that I and most of my fellow GetOutside Champions include mapping information for our walks, and always take a map with us, but there are many outdoor or adventure bloggers who will write up their walks, and not mention a map, or what kit they took out with them.
This may not seem a glaring issue to you. You know where you’re going, you know Snowdonia like the back of your hand, perhaps? But those people who see the cool photos on instagram and want to recreate it? Well, they may not have the same knowledge, they may not know what to take, and here we begin to see problems…
People trying to summit Snowdon in flip flops, people getting hypothermia because they didn’t dress appropriately and the weather came in, people attempting a ridge and not realising how exposed it is, people who get lost because they thought it would be an easy route to follow and ‘the person on Twitter didn’t take a map’ (this is one I’ve heard first hand).
It’s something I saw in Chamonix and Zermatt too. People trying to walk on to the glaciers without crampons or an axe, people heading to altitude and feeling sick because they didn’t acclimatise, people trying to get that money shot of the Matterhorn & paying something like 50 Euros to get the cable car up and back because they weren’t confident or fit enough to walk it, then assuming (wrongly) that they could just bimble on over to Schwarzsee in their birkenstocks, trainers and leather shoes…
The day I was up at Schwarzsee, it was covered in snow, people were attempting to walk down to the lake and falling all over the place. There was a reason most of us were not… we were in mountaineering boots, had poles and were prepared.
I mentioned to a lady that it probably wasn’t a great idea to walk down in the aforementioned birkenstocks, she ignored my advice anyway and spent a good five minutes moving a centimetre at a time, before eventually stacking it in the snow and needing a hand up, thankfully uninjured as it was just a light slope. The amount of people who didn’t look at the weather before heading up there was just incredible. Just because you can get the cable car up and down, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t dress appropriately for the conditions.
However, when we’re posting out epic adventure blog posts, we should also be responsible and make people aware of the kit they should be taking out, making sure they know how to read a map and use a compass to reach the places they want to safely, or to recommend courses they could take if they want to learn to navigate, even showing them the basics ourselves if we can.
Ultimately, we are all responsible for our own actions, but the point I’m trying to make is whether it’s our duty as outdoor bloggers to educate people? Or at the very least let them know the background – fitness, experience etc… If we, as regular outdoorsy folk find something horrendous, then it’s probably fair to say that those heading out on their first forays in to the wild are going to struggle.So why not make them aware of that before they go?
By all means post the steely photos, but be responsible about it and consider the impact it may have.