Climbers have given nicknames to thousands and thousands of rock climbing routes - and the names range from quirky to rude to bizarre. Clearly, this makes them an excellent candidate for imitation by a neural network, which specializes in these three things exactly. With the help of my friend Adrian Hill, a programmer and rock climber, I obtained lists of the named routes in Boulder, Colorado (4,527) and Joshua Tree, California (5,633).

Here it is in the early stages of training, attempting to generate Boulder routes with as little daringness as possible (i.e. a low “temperature” setting). The prevalence of “start”, “stare”, and “stank” is characteristic of a struggling neural network in a way that would probably be really interesting to have a linguist explain someday.

Start of the Stare
Start of the Wall
Spleen Ward
Whittle Stroker
Space Traverse
Wark Fly Dorf
Space of Cheek
Cracker Traverse
Wart of the Hood
Wart of the Door
Starg, The
Wart Face
Spleen Crack
Stank Traverse
Wild Stare
Start Fall
Spurt Face

At a higher temperature setting, the neural net still doesn’t fare much better at the Boulder routes. These don’t sound much like climbing routes - they could be anything. The neural net needs more training.

Murfon Cow Sprolf
Yourd of the Shire
O Dan Dawo P
Nire of the Bat
Slicny of the Never
Hot Ad
Eag of Nut Crack
Heller Pon Crack
Hen Shawt
Lo Dill

Here are the new climbing routes the fully trained neural net generated. Many of them end up a bit rude-sounding which is not an entirely unfair characterization of Boulder climbing routes.

Perfect (Crack)
Fight of the Buff Ponesharia
Miss of the West Wall
Warm Crack
Leg in Trangers
Dirty Dill
Ass Over
Raging Action
Storming the Cat
Velvet Quarter
Be Here?
Fire on the Lookout
Flesh Feat
Gut Dyno
Dirty Low Down In It
Eldoran Goats
Take the Pinks

And here are the Joshua Tree routes that the neural net arrived at after a similar training process. There was slightly more Joshua Tree data, which helped the algorithm produce actually rather convincing route names:

Cosmic Center
Knob Crack
Oh Chain
Spit Slab
Problem crack
Spite Crack
Pockberg, The
Frenky Road
Problem R
Morning Slumps
King of the Cell
Bubbles and Sugar
Orangish Crack
Bad Back
Holy Wall
Good Job
Ego’s Boys
Bongo Call
Sitting Mutters

It also picked up on the way Joshua Tree names like to use animals a lot - particularly dogs. Particularly poodles.

Chicken World
Don’t Bud Poodles
Shark Take
Folly Dog
Bear Dumble
Cat Brew 1
Burly’s Poodles
Tanga’s Bat Race
Buts Belly Goose
Love Bront Dogs
Dot Shatter Dogs
Slapshot Lizards
Chicken Problem 2
Dogstears and Short Sliggles
Bread Deads and My Lizards

I don’t know where some of its Joshua Tree route names came from, though.

Pows in My Falls
My Eat System
We Ken of the Air
Mumbles and Conception
Big Touch Aliens
But Darby and a Love Attack
Choset Hungocatter’s Loo Up the Poodles
Intersect in My Finger
Left Rocket
Pumpkin Beat
Amant My Fart
Mumbles and Woads
Roading Buns My Eanworsent
Mother That Hot Bolt Don’t Hell, Buttress
Borby Maw (aka Boogles of to the Sourdue Sock)
Chocolatrance Problem (aka The Boom Sag Poodle Boys A Pill-Bob)

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