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Crag Etiquette

6 Tips for a Snag Free Crag Day

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, Leave No Trace principles, and keeping things in perspective. Below are a few specific crag behaviors to avoid or practice.

Know the Area

Every crag has a specific style and level of tolerance, resulting in etiquette unique to that site. At some crags, locals will rip you for breathing through your mouth in a cave because, “It increases humidity!” In other areas, locals will wonder why you forgot to bring the circus of pads, videographers, and production assistants.

 

The best way to abide local etiquette is to familiarize yourself with the history of the area and who the locals are, and treat them with respect. The majority of climbing guides and Mountain Project site descriptions contain information on local ethics. The Access Fund also often includes “local pet peeves” for listed areas online. Read whatever tiny nuggets you can find to 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 may be what you do at your parents’ house, but it’s unacceptable at the crag. Picking up Clif Bar wrappers and climbing tape, as well as keeping chalk in your chalk bag remain the basic essentials of crag etiquette.

  • Stay on trails when hiking to and from the climbing zone. If there aren’t established trails, avoid stepping on vegetation, or cryptobiotic soil in the desert.
  • Fingers, backpacks, and old tape gloves tend to shed tiny bits of tape. Before you leave the crag, do a sweep to pick up these little bits of debris, along with rope, banana peels, and other trash.
  • Carefully dispose of human and pet waste, and never go to the bathroom beneath a route or boulder problem—that just stinks.
  • Avoid throwing your crash pads, backpacks, and ropes in the vegetation.

Turn Down the Volume

Noise remains one of the most overlooked forms of crag pollution. From bumping the latest Lizzo hit to shouting beta, loud climbers impose their noises on 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 can be disruptive to other climbers.
  • Know when your beta 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

Most of us are all in it for the same reason: to send some routes and spend a little time outdoors. Be considerate of your fellow crag mates and everyone will have a better time for it.

  • If you’re 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 eyesores.
  • If someone is climbing below you, 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.
  • When climbing at crowded crags, pick routes or problems that you will be able to climb quickly and efficiently to avoid congestion.
  • Leaving a top rope on a climb all day is poor form. If you have a rope on a route, be actively climbing on it or willing to let another party hop on.
  • Be willing to share anchors with other parties on nearby routes.

Tag your gear with colored tape or another visual mark so you avoid arguments about who that cam belongs to.

 

Be Patient

It can be frustrating to travel to a crag in search of a little solitude only to find people waiting in line for routes. Try to approach the growing crowds at your local crag in stride—on the upside, more people are getting out and sharing the sport you love, right?

  • If there are other people in line to climb a route, think about trying something different and always respect the queue This goes for climbing long trad routes as well.
  • Climb the most popular routes on weekdays to avoid crowds.
  • Avoid congestion at the warm-ups by starting your climbing day early—or very late!
  • If you decide to climb a route with another party on it, be patient; the climbers ahead of you have 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, pets, and 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, keep it leashed. Dog fights at the crag stink for everyone involved—aside from the general chaos, 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 hangry sport climber.
  • 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 kids.

 

There are hundreds of ways that a good day of climbing can turn ugly—stay away from wrecking the climbing experience for yourself and others with inconsiderate or irresponsible behavior. Take care of the crag and it will take care of you.