Rock climbing is an amazing sport that can be enjoyed by people of all ages and skill levels. As more and more rock climbers come to the outdoors, it’s important to remember some climbing etiquette so we can keep enjoying this beautiful area for years to come.
1. Leave No Trace Ethics
Rock climbing is usually done in outdoor areas that are sensitive to human impacts. The seven Leave No Trace principles should always be the overarching ethic you aspire to while enjoying the outdoors.
– Plan Ahead and Prepare — Know the regulations of the area in which you’re climbing. Pack out all your waste, including food scraps and litter (including wrappers). Bring a water bottle to stay hydrated, or plan on using natural sources for replenishment such as streams.
– Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces– Stay off of vegetation while hiking to climbs. This also means don’t park on vegetation, even if it means you have to hike a few extra minutes.
– Dispose of Waste Properly — Pack out all your waste including food scraps and human waste. Nothing is worse than turning a boulder and turd.
– Leave What You Find– Leave areas as you found them. Do not dig trenches for tents or construct lean-tos, tables, chairs, or other rudimentary improvements.
– Minimize Campfire Impacts– Keep fires small. Respect local fire restrictions.
– Respect Wildlife–Be sensitive to the plants, animals, rock formations, or other natural objects that are in the area and try not to disturb them.
– Be Considerate of Others–Don’t monopolize natural resources or say anything that might spoil a trip for others. Don’t be rude and don’t swear, yell, spray beta, or climb over other climbers without their permission.
2. Do Not Drag or Throw Crash Pads
Dragging crash pads causes erosion. If you need to move a pad, pick it up and place it in the desired area. Don’t throw pads. Yes, it may be easier to chuck your pad down the hillside rather than hike it out, but this will lead to erosion and possibly have the area shut down in the long run.
3. Don’t ‘Yard Sale’
Stay organized when packing and avoid clutter. Do not be the person who has the ‘yardsale’, where all of your belongings are strewn all over the place. This will lead to a cluttered climbing area and can be dangerous. Keep your belongings organized as to respect other climbers in the area.
4. Brush Off Excess Chalk/Tick Marks
You should always brush off excess chalk or tick marks after you are done at a boulder. Tick marks are helpful while climbing, but an eyesore to say the least. No one likes walking up on a boulder that has ‘field goal’ tick marks at the end jug. Brush off excess chalk, this will help maintain the integrity of the stone for years to come.
5. Follow Regulations and Local Ethics
If an area has questionable access, best to stay away. Locals may be working on confirming access, and any ‘illegal’ climbing can shut down zones for everyone. It can be tempting to clamber up boulders that aren’t clearly marked in some cases – but don’t do it! Not only is it illegal, but it’s also dangerous. Respect signage that restricts climbing.
Each area will have slightly different ethics, know where you are, and talk to locals to find out what their local rock climbing etiquette looks like and act accordingly.
6. Don’t Be That Guy With A Boombox
Climbing is a sport that requires intense concentration and focus.
It can be tempting to bring along your boombox, but it’s not the best idea, no matter how good Taylor Swift may sound! Check with the climbers around you if they are okay with music, and if there is any hesitation, that’s a no. If everyone is okay with music, keep the volume to a minimum, the next zone down shouldn’t be able to hear you.
7. Don’t Climb on Wet Stone
Rocks are porous. When it rains stone will absorb water leaving it vulnerable to breaks. Sandstone is the most sensitive stone requiring up to 48-72 hours to fully dry. Please don’t pull on sandstone after rain, even if it’s your last day of the trip. You could risk breaking the climb or becoming seriously injured.
Climbing is a sport that’s steeped in tradition- from the history of its development to how we communicate with each other while climbing. The Access Fund, an organization dedicated to protecting America’s world-class outdoor recreation areas and ensuring they remain open for future generations, has compiled some excellent information on what climbers should know about rock climbing etiquette and leave no trace when it comes to their time outside. Make sure you’re following these guidelines not just because they are good manners but also because if all climbers aren’t conscientious then our sport will fade away.