Jumping into the climbing community comes with a crash course of new terms and unwritten rules. In your eagerness to get involved, it can be easy to commit a faux pas and end up offending the very people you’re trying to impress. Keep reading to learn more about these breaches of etiquette and how YOU can best avoid them!
(1) Don’t Beta-Spray
Every climber knows the feeling: you walk into the gym, get ready to hop on a new set, and immediately get ambushed by a stream of comments from an overly enthusiastic climber who seems keen on telling you every detail of every single problem. Though generally well-intentioned, the act of beta-spraying, or telling a climber extensive details about a route without request, is frowned upon within the climbing community. “Spraying” robs fellow climbers of the opportunity to solve the puzzle of climbing complex routes. It can turn climbing from the unique, mental sport we love into a series of pull-ups and step-ups, without complexity or finesse.
To avoid this breach of etiquette: Ask first before offering advice. Consider something along the lines of “Hey! That’s a really cool problem you’re on. Would you like some advice on the move you’re working on, or would you prefer to figure it out yourself?”
(2) Don’t Intersect Routes
Unlike beta-spraying, which is just annoying, intersecting routes with another climber can lead to serious injury. There are few things more annoying than, midway through your favorite project, being forced to play twister with another climber who failed to read their route. This sort of situation can also lead to disaster if a climber takes a fall and hits a climber intersecting below them (not to mention the hazards of loose rocks and dropped gear).
To avoid this breach of etiquette: Read your route. See if there are any points along your climb that could intersect with someone already on a neighboring route. Make sure to take into account the way someone might layback or flag off a hold and whether they might swing a certain direction when taking a fall.
(3) Don’t Sit Under Someone Climbing
Sitting underneath a climber is almost never a planned action. Generally committed due to either laziness or lack of attention (even by the best climbers), this faux pas can lead to injury on the part of the climber or the “sitter” if the climber happens to drop off of the route above our reclining friend.
To avoid this breach of etiquette: Do to the number of people who unintentionally sit under climbers, it takes a village to avoid this act. If you see someone in the “fall zone”, politely ask them to move from under the climber. As an individual, always stay attentive. Make sure you aren’t sitting under a route that someone is about to do and, if you see someone about to start a route, make sure to move!
(4) Don’t Climb a Route After Someone Brushes It (Before They Do)
Brushing routes, especially in the muggy summer months, is almost a spiritual action of climbers. Along with the physical benefits of removing grit and sweaty chalk, a thorough brushing can help psych a climber up for the route ahead. Due to the time and labor-consuming nature of brushing, it’s generally deemed to be best practice for the person who brushes to be the first one to touch the route. There are, of course, exceptions to this rule. If someone is brushing for you and shows this by making it clear that they want you to go first, hop on and express your gratitude.
How to avoid this breach of etiquette: Wait your turn. Make sure that the individual who brushes the route has the opportunity to climb before you do. If you want to climb directly after the route is brushed, make sure to bring your brush along on your trip!
(5) Don’t Boulder in a Harness
Bouldering in a harness is the best way to not only come across as lazy, but also anger your gym supervisor. Depending on the quality of the gym floor pads, the sharp buckles of a harness can scuff or damage pads and bruise a falling climber.
To avoid this breach of etiquette: Take your harness off before you switch to bouldering. Not only will you avoid damaging the gym floor, but you’ll also be more comfortable!
(6) Don’t Let Your Kids Run Around Unwatched
Getting kids into climbing is great. There’s no better way to develop our next generation of climbing than bringing them to the gym or the crag. However, these young climbers aren’t always the best at spatial awareness, meaning that they may run underneath or over the gear of other climbers without meaning to. It’s crucial to prevent children from getting squished by a falling climber, but equally important to avoid shaming a child in such a way that alienates them from our sport.
To avoid this breach of etiquette: Teach children how to interact in climbing environments. Inform them about “fall-zones” and explain why it’s crucial for them to avoid intersecting routes.
(7) Don’t Be Rude to New Climbers
Every climber starts out somewhere. None of us came to the gym or crag with knowledge of every term or faux pas and not everyone has the opportunity to grow under the mentorship of a group of experienced climbers. In order for the climbing community to continue growing in a healthy manner, it is essential that every climber welcome our newest climbing partners. This doesn’t mean that it is essential to take on a teaching role, but it does mean that looking down on new climbers is, in itself, a breach of climbing etiquette.
To avoid this breach of etiquette: Treat new climbers as you wish you had been treated when you started climbing. For some, this might mean generally being kind to new climbers as they enter our world. For others, this might mean an active teaching role, showing new climbers “the ropes”.
(8) Don’t Put-Down Another’s Project
Let’s play a thought-game: One of the top climbers in the country visits your home crag. Over the course of a session, she flashes all the tough local routes. You also happen to be at the crag on that day and, after getting your favorite tank-top signed by our professional hero, tell her that she should try your notoriously futuristic project. She appears interested for a second and then scoffs, “Oh, that one. I flashed it this morning. Super easy.” The feeling you’d get, of sadness and possibly bitterness, happens at all skill levels. Putting down someone else’s project doesn’t make you a stronger or better climber. It just hurts the development of your peers.
To avoid this breach of etiquette: Be motivating and positive instead of negative about another’s project. Someone sending something they worked hard on is something to celebrate, no matter the grade. Everyone prefers to spend time with someone who brings the stoke every send, rather than the person just looking to score cheap points by belittling those around them.
(9) Don’t Leave Your Gear Laying Everywhere
This breach relates closely to sitting underneath a route. Though the person who leaves their gear under a route leaves the situation unscathed, the same cannot be said for the unfortunate climber who takes a fall onto a harness, helmet, shoes, or bag. Loose objects on a crashpad can heighten the risk of a twisted ankle or leave bruises on the unlucky climber. Beyond this, scattering one’s gear around a gym or climbing area is generally a nuisance for everyone around. It can be a trip hazard and lead to confusion about who owns which equipment.
To avoid this breach of etiquette: Keep your equipment together in one place and make sure that it doesn’t rest within the “fall zone” of any climb. Bringing along an easy-to-stuff bag can help you keep loose items organized and out of the way.
(10) Don’t Be Creepy
No one likes a person who infringes on the autonomy of others (unasked for power-spotting) and makes inappropriate comments in the gym. These actions not only make the speaker come across as creepy, but also make others in the local community feel uncomfortable or even unsafe. Avoiding these unsolicited gestures can help your local climbing community grow in a way that is healthier for everyone. Of course, this doesn’t mean that you can’t be friendly. Climbing is inherently a social sport. Just stay aware of the social dynamic you’re in and avoid making others feel uncomfortable.
To avoid this breach of etiquette: Actively think about what you’re saying and how it might impact those around you. Remember that others perceive things from their own set of lived experiences and therefore may respond differently than you may expect. In these situations, listen and be respectful. A local community becomes healthier through understanding and empathy, not by trying to convince someone else that their experiences aren’t valid.