Monday, September 12, 2011

The Naming of Routes

Note: The following is a reprint. This article was first published online in 2008.

The naming of routes is a difficult matter,
it isn't just one of those holiday games;
You may think at first that I'm as mad as a hatter
when I tell you a route must have the most perfect of names.

When a climber makes a first ascent he or she secures a great honor. The climber claims the right to name the route. This honor has led to some very interesting names over the years. Following are ten of my favorites:
  1. Tammy Baker's Face (5.10c - Smith Rocks)
  2. Magical Chrome Plated Semi-Automatic Nuclear Enema Syringe (5.6 - Lumpy Ridge)
  3. A Dream of Wild Turkey's (5.10a - Red Rock Canyon)
  4. Meat Grinder (5.10 - Leavenworth - Yes, it's a crack climb...)
  5. Unimpeachible Groping (5.10c - Red Rock Canyon - Yes, this was put up in the late 90's.)
  6. Candy Colored Tangerine Flake Streamlined Baby (5.10c - Joshua Tree - Now called Illusion Dweller)
  7. Deck Chairs on the Titanic (5.9+ - Brown Cloud Rocks)
  8. Let them Eat Flake (5.12a - Reimer's Ranch)
  9. Be Sharp or Be Flat (5.10x - Catherdral Ledge)
  10. Smear Campaign (5.8 - Red Rock - Yes, it's slabby.)
There's a lot to the preceding route names. Some are intentionally funny, whereas others are descriptive. Some give you an idea of what was going on in the world when the route was put up and others give you an idea of what was going on in the first ascentionist's head when he did the route. The real art of naming a route exists in those names that are creative, funny and descriptive all at once.

A climber working out the moves on a previously unclimbed route.
This route became The Good Boy Scout (5.11a) on the Boy Scout Cliff.

I have had the opportunity to put up a number of routes over the years. Early on, I was primarily interested in giving routes funny names like Stuffed Animals on Prozac, Amish Girls Gone Wild and Don't Touch That in Front of Grandma.

As I got older, I decided that themes on walls were more important than individual names. I authored a new route next to a number of routes with the word "soup" in the name and called it Soup Nazi. There is a popular beginner and intermediate area in Red Rock Canyon called the Panty Wall. Every route on that wall are named after some form of underwear. My first ascents there are respectfully called Granny Panties and Tighty Whities.

Last year I had the opportunity to develop a new crag which we called, the Hamlet. Every route name on the wall is lifted from or is a literary allusion to Shakespeare's Hamlet. Routes on the wall include the likes of Goodnight Sweet Prince, The Play's the Thing, The Rest is Silence, and When the Blood Burns.

Back when I was putting up a lot of new routes I was always looking for name inspiration. That's part of the reason that I picked an easy subject for the development of the Hamlet. Recently I have discovered a new inspiration. I have two babies. One is seventeen-months old and the other is five-months old. I've repeatedly found that the things I say to the babies could make for some very funny route names. Here are a few examples:
  1. Time for a New Diaper (Definately for a scary route.)
  2. Don't Go Crying to Mommy (This route would have to be hard.)
  3. It's Jammy Time (This should be a climb that requires a lot of jamming.)
  4. Big Girls Don't Throw Oatmeal (or soup, or spinach, or pizza, there could be a whole wall.)
  5. No Bubblebath for Bad Babies (Probably a hard sport route that requires days of practice working on the route before it is able to be climbed.)
Anything and everything in life could potentially lead to a good route name. Indeed, perhaps the naming of the route is the easy part. Finding and climbing a new line is the real challenge, as well as the real adventure.

--Jason D. Martin


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the fun article...I'm still in shock that you have two kids under the age of 18 mths! Why no lines named after climbers?

Mind would definitely be Vanessa The Undresser :)

Jason Martin said...


This article was reprinted from a couple years ago. My kids are now three and four years old... But they are still 51 weeks apart!