Essay: What is a newbie?


by Gideon Lasco
Two persons can be defined relative to each other in terms of the amount of knowledge and experience they have. This relationship, if applied to hiking, means that two hikers can be defined with respect to each other as “newbie” vs. “tunay na mountaineer“, baguhan vs. batikan, among other polarizations, most of which I find inappropriate. And the parameters for this relation are usually quantitative experience “Ano nang naakyat mo bundok?” (What mountains have you climbed?) or the ability to practice Leave No Trace principles, or affiliations (Anong grupo nyo ser?) among others.

In this short piece, I will argue that this kind of relationship, based on asymmetry of knowledge and experience, can be used for the better or for the worse.

It can be used for the worse because it is an invitation to arrogance for some, who thrive on the ignorance of others as a means of feeling good about their so-called “knowledge’. The tendency to rant about how newbies behave is newbie behavior in itself. The mark of an experienced mountaineer does not lie in the tendency to identify or criticize the newbies, but in the ability to teach and inspire them.

This kind of behavior is problematic because that knowledge will be limited in relation to others more knowledgeable, moreover, knowledge is not absolute; you cannot impose your philosophy, for instance, that anyone who hires a porter is less of a mountaineer. There are absolute measures of hiking knowledge, but the rest are just preferences.

Moreover, asymmetry of knowledge can also used to mislead “newbies” into joining activities of questionable value, or for profiteering. We have seen this happen in the past few years.

On the other hand, newbies ought to behave in accordance to the unwritten rules of hiking. Being a newbie is not an excuse; the worst newbie is the one who thinks he’s not a newbie. Why is this behavior so bad? Because it precludes learning from others; by saying that you are knowledgeable, you have shut the door for knowledge. There are instances where knowledge has to be offered in an intrusive way, if failure to do so becomes a sin of omission. Examples include telling hikers to pick up the trash they left behind; or calling out a poor rope technique. Still, in most cases, the best envelope for knowledge is scented, as though to invite; it must be delivered in a nice way.

Because the definition is relational, I suppose everyone is a newbie with respect to another, more experienced person; someone who has climbed Mt. Pulag may look down on another who has climbed Maculot, but wait till Romi Garduce shows up in the trail. I’m sure Romi himself will not be as boastful. The Persian proverb says it best: The more you know, the more you know that you do not know.” I alluded to this when I once posted something like this: “The more you climb, the more you know that you’ve climbed only a few.”

How can we make the most of this asymmetry? Let me count the ways. One, the relational distinction between two hikers identifies who ought to teach. In other words, the proper way to channel feelings over this asymmetric relationship is through teaching and learning.

Two, the newbie role should make the newbie take advantage of his situation by learning from the people around him, whereas the experienced hiker must have the impetus to teach and share. Indeed, the only justification for calling someone a ‘newbie’ is if you willing to teach him, and to get him out of that label as soon as possible. “Newbie”, then, is a learning role, outside of which the term is a non-entity.

Three, the asymmetry preempts all other bases of comparison, and in acknowledging its existence, all parties involved acknowledge, too, that this asymmetry can be overcome. It orients everybody, thus, positively, towards the acquisition of more learning. The kuya has to act mature before his younger brother, and they then build each other up: an entirely synergistic relationship emerges.

In summary, I think that “the newbie stage” is a very real part of the process of learning, whether in hiking or other fields. Being called a newbie is not an insult; in fact, it ought to be a period of joy. Love for learning must be an indwelling desire among newbies, as well as respect for elders, which is based on the acknowledgment that the experienced hiker may not be always able to relate to your joy (let alone pride) of having climbed Pulag, or your excitement over jumpshots, or your indignation over some trash left in Pico de Loro, as if the trash just appeared yesterday.

On the other hand, no hiker should look down on “newbies”; we were all newbies once, and newbies still. Instead, let us freely share whatever we have learned and experienced. Let us be trail signs, not thorns, to those who wish to climb mountains.

March 15-19, 2012

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12 Comments on "Essay: What is a newbie?"

12 years 2 months ago

hi sir. last week lang i climbed mt. pinatubo. and it was really an awesome experience. i have tried trekking once and it wasnt that difficult. so eto n the real deal, the mt.pinatubo experience. grabe lang. eto yung gusto ko. eto yung sinasabe nila na find something you will love to do always. i am definitely a newbie. naiisip ko sumali sa group of hikers/mountaineers or whatever you call yourselves 🙂 kase di ba mas maganda sharing passion with others na ganun din yung passion. basta. gets niyo na yun 🙂 e newbie nga ako so medyo i feel inferior. thanks to this article, it really helped. wish me luck mga sir 🙂 kakaririn ko na to.

12 years 3 months ago

very well said sir! as someone commented, id like to put emphasis on 'leave no trace' and common courtesy. some people are just too loud especially when other campers are already trying to sleep. and i feel bad seeing litter along the trail.

12 years 3 months ago

Nice essay. I just experienced a wonderful hike last Saturday as a newbie among the best veterans I could have ever met. I was the most "kulelat" in the group, but everyone else were encouraging and mentored me patiently, to the point of even telling me where exactly to place my feet while negotiating difficult parts of the trail. I will keep this experience in mind if and when the time comes for me to mentor other newbies.

12 years 3 months ago

ganda po….. Sir Gid Share ko lng Po ito sa FB ha Hehe Para Malinawan Ang Nakararami

12 years 3 months ago

newbies or long theres a passion for climb for mountain and adventure.dis regard all the hitwords from them..