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Before climbing was climbing, Tibetan salt merchants, Swiss goat herds, and other mountain peoples crossed semi-technical mountain passes for trade and grazing. Mountaineering was invented in the mid-Victorian era by the middle-class that emerged as a result of the industrial revolution in the nineteenth century. Today's climbers are heirs to this history.

For British men in the nineteenth century, mountaineering emerged as an expression of a middle-class identity that combined Victorian values of athleticism, exploration, and chivalry. Activities like mountaineering became identity statements through which middle-class Britons saw themselves as unique from the traditional British aristocracy. Through organizations like the Alpine Club and the Royal Geographic society, climbers coalesced into a community with shared goals, language, and outlets for publishing their achievements.

Since climbing has diversified and spread around the world. Climbers in every continent have adopted and adapted climbing as their own.

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