Becoming A Modern Dirtbag by James Lucas

Aug 22 • Climbing Culture • 12211 Views • 1 Comment on Becoming A Modern Dirtbag by James Lucas

Every day 500,000 outdoor enthusiasts* put on a pair of rock shoes for the first time. But with every new climber joining the tribe, differentiating yourself from the rest of the pack becomes more difficult.

by James “Peaches” Lucas. Spoiler alert: this story is published in Volume 6. 

Dare to be different! Embody the true essence of climbing and become a Modern Dirtbag.

Look The Part

Buy synthetic pants made for climbing the North Face of Gasherbaum V. Rip holes in the knees and make a slight tear by the right rear pockets. Sew crooked stitches to mend them. People will think two things: offwidth mountaineer and haute couture. Wear loose clothes made from thin fabric. This will make you look skinny and poor.

Accessorize with the hottest fashions. The chalk bag purse is the latest and greatest item to hit Modern Dirtbag fashion. After all, dirtbags need a place to keep their headlamps, and the carabiner holding your keys. Biking home from a hipster bar? Pull out your 18,000 Lumen headlamp from your trusty chalkbag/man-purse, clip that magnetron keychain to your belt loop and single speed away.

Have the Gear

New harness. New rope. New crashpad. New rack. New Shoes. Eight pairs of new shoes.  Two of the same kind and size. Everything new. Then buy a Sprinter van. A new one. The tall model. The long one. The longer one. Outfit it with solar panels to charge your cell phone booster. Speakers. Swivel seats. Wood interior. All wood interior! Forget pine. Use cedar, cherry, mahogany. Carpet. Granite counter tops. Memory foam bed. Refrigerator for cold Pellegrino. Extra space for unused cams, a portaledge and a place for your loofah.


Honestly, nobody cares how hard you climb or if you even do climb. The real Modern Dirtbag rarely leaves the confines of the Internet. They spray. Be stoked that your Dad gave you his old Canon 5d Mark 3. Take a selfie hang dogging a sport project. Email it to your iPhone 6. Post it to Instagram. Hashtag it. Hashtag the grade. Inflate the hashtag grade. Hashtag everything.

Literally #everything including #mylifeisbetterthanyours.

Remember that one.

Update your scorecard. Misspell Bunny’s Crack. What the hell, call it La Dura Dura. After all, it’s only a couple letters.

Update your Twitter account by chopping up Robert Frost poems. Make them into haikus. New Facebook Status: ERMEHGAWD! I saved $500 on my plane ticket to Rocklands!!! Plus a 12 day lay over in Font!!! Note: the Modern Dirtbag can afford $2,000 plane tickets but are insanely stoked when they save any money. So go with three exclamation marks on any post. Minimum.


Being able to travel all the time is a luxury few people can afford. The schoolteachers, carpenters and working class warriors at the crag will wonder how a Modern Dirtbag can pay for a yearly trip to Spain. Be sure to distract their trust fund assumptions by talking about your “work”. Describe your career path as that of a fresh faced social media guru with a passion for budget travel, exploring the outdoors and promoting the art of the American road trip. That reeks of authenticity. Complain about your lack of funds. Explain that you survived a whole week off seven pints of chocolate milk. That’s $7.70. Hide the $350 Whole Foods Christmas gift card from Aunt Janice.

Pick a Destination

Travel to a place where lots of other climbers hang out. The Red. Yosemite. Indian Creek. Squamish. Rifle. Never shower. That’s essential to being a dirtbag right? No showers. Be dirty because you’re lazy. That’s so cool. Never climb. Just hang out. Hang out a lot. Be ubiquitous. #Imhereherehere. Never forget #mylifeisbetterthanyours. Be the first person to show up at the morning coffee spot. Be the last one to leave.

Just say, “Dia de siesta.”

Then roll your eyes and add, “That’s Spanish for rest day.”

James Lucas moved into a cave in Yosemite after his beloved station wagon died on the way to El Cap. Even though he has no money, no home, no girl and no ambition in life, he’s still climbing.

*fictional statistic

This piece is an excerpt from Volume 6. 

Please consider subscribing to The Climbing Zine. It’s $17.99 a year for two issues, and this greatly helps us produce free web content like this. Check out the FREE preview


About us: The Climbing Zine was started in 2010 by Al Smith III and Luke Mehall. It continues to the day with the mission of representing the true essence of climbing. Our crown jewel is our printed version, but we also do the interweb thing, and Kindle

We have also published four books: Graduating From College MeAmerican ClimberThe Great American Dirtbags and Climbing Out of Bed, written by publisher, Luke Mehall. 

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One Response to Becoming A Modern Dirtbag by James Lucas

  1. […] dirtbag has detached from its roots. Today there are articles written on how to be a modern day dirtbag. Could it get more bluntly ironic? I respect the […]

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