If you were to add up the ‘rules’ of climbing etiquette, the actual number may be relatively small, but the nuances of proper climber behavior are numerous and important.
A faux pas at the crag can mean the difference between getting helpful beta from locals and having them throw rocks at your head. For the most part, climbing etiquette comes down to basic courtesy, safety, and keeping things in perspective. For those that need a few extra hints, below are a few tips.
Know the Area
Every crag has a specific style and level of tolerance, with resulting etiquette. At some crags, the locals will rip you for breathing through your mouth in a cave. “It increases humidity!” they’ll scream. In other areas, locals will wonder why you forgot to bring the circus of pads, videographers, and production assistants. Know the history of the area and who the locals are, and treat them with respect. The majority of climbing guides contain a section on local ethics in the introduction. Read these tiny nuggets and they’ll help you stay out of trouble. Be especially considerate when making a first ascent. Gluing, cleaning rock, and bolting are all hugely important to the local community.
Minimize Your Impact
Showing up and leaving trash everywhere is what you do at your parents’ house. It’s unacceptable at the crag. Picking up Clif Bar wrappers, climbing tape, and keeping chalk in your chalk bag remain the basic essentials of crag etiquette.
- Fingers, backpacks, and old taped gloves tend to shed tiny bits of tape. When leaving the crag, sweep through and pick up these little bits of debris, along with rope, banana peels, and other trash.
- In addition, carefully dispose of human and pet waste. Never use the bathroom underneath a route or boulder problem—that just stinks.
- When arriving at a climbing area, keep from throwing your crash pads, backpacks, and ropes in the vegetation and stay on trails when hiking to and from the climbing zone. Protecting the climbing area will ensure that people welcome you back.
Turn Down the Volume
Many climbers head to the crags to escape the loud grind of their daily lives. Noise remains one of the most overlooked forms of crag pollution. From bumping the latest Miley Cyrus hit to screaming beta, loud climbers affect the people around them.
- If you want music at the crag, wear headphones.
- Providing tips on how to do a move on a route can be helpful, but screaming them across the wall annoys everyone around you.
- Know when your beta spray is unsolicited. Not every climber wants to hear the nuances of the route you’ve been projecting for five years. Keep the volume to a minimum, unless you’re sport climbing at the Virgin River Gorge, where the sound of a four-lane highway and jackhammers will drown your screams of “Mono, mono, gaston!”
- Throwing wobblers—emotional temper tantrums—is never acceptable.
Remember, it’s just rock climbing. Keep the crag peaceful by turning down your volume.
Consider Other Climbers
Think about other people climbing on the same routes that you are. Being considerate of other climbers will allow them and you to enjoy the climbing more.
- If you’re out bouldering, put chalk on your hands before you touch the holds; this keeps the rock from getting greasy after you’ve finished your salami sandwich.
- Brush the holds after you climb and erase tick marks. Most people like the adventure of deciphering a climb; tick marks can be confusing and an eyesore.
- If someone is climbing below you on a trad route, be careful not to drop anything or kick loose rocks. Also, try to avoid rappelling onto their heads.
- Be as organized as possible when meeting other parties on routes, this will facilitate the process of moving around each other.
- Pick routes or problems that you will be able to climb quickly and efficiently to avoid congestion on popular routes.
- Leaving a top rope on a climb all day can be seriously poor form. If you have a rope on a route, be actively climbing on it.
- Be willing to share anchors with other parties on nearby routes.
- Separate your gear as much as possible to avoid problems.
The most popular routes often have a ton of people climbing on them. If you’re patient while you’re out climbing, both you and everyone around you will enjoy the outdoors more.
- If there are other people in line to climb a route, think about trying something different. This goes for climbing long traditional routes as well.
- Respect the queue.
- Climb the most popular routes on weekdays to avoid crowds.
- Avoid congestion at the warm-ups by starting your climbing day early.
- If you decide to climb a route with another party on it, be patient; the climbers ahead of you have the right of way.
- Avoid chatting too much with the belayer, as this often causes them to lose focus and could lead to an accident.
Control Your Junk show
Keep a handle on your equipment, your pets, and your children to avoid trouble and irritating other climbers.
- Keep your climbing gear orderly and out of the way. Having three crash pads, two stick brushes, and eight chalk buckets directly below the start of a boulder problem aggravates everyone who wants to climb.
- If you bring an animal to the crag, make sure your pet is leashed and well-behaved before you take it out. Dogfights at the crag stink for everyone involved—aside from the general chaos from the fights, there can be vet bills. If your dog is nosing around in other climber’s gear, tie it up. I’ve seen dogs eat climbers’ lunches. This makes for a horrible situation as there’s nothing worse than a starving sport climber; they get really angry. And just as with human waste, clean up dog poop at the crag and pack it out.
- If you’re bringing children to the crag, make sure they are quiet and obedient. Crags are dangerous places, with rocks and gear falling constantly. Be careful with your children.
There are hundreds of ways that a good day of climbing can turn ugly—stay away from wrecking the crag with rude, inconsiderate behavior. Take care of the cliff and it will take care of you.