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Climbing tips: - The unwritten rules:

Posted on March 06 2015

Climbing is an activity with no fixed rules. You can climb up any bit of rock in any style and no one is going to have a go at you. Probably. One of the problems with getting into a sport where there are no rules is that really there are some, we just don’t write them down, or tell anyone about them. So with this in mind here are a few pointer/guidelines (definitely NOT rules!)

1: Honesty

Climbing came into being as an activity due to the interest of rich Victorian gentlemen (and the occasional lady) in the romantic notion of conquering mountains (mixed with a bit of science). In these primitive days where GoPros came in the form of unwieldy wooden boxes the size of microwaves much emphasis was placed on the infallibility of a gentleman’s word. To this day little has changed. Although pictures or videos may now back up a would be ascensionist’s claims it is still de rigueur to take a person’s word for their achievements. After all most of the time no one else cares what you have climbed and there is so little to be gained from lying about it simply isn’t worth it. There has been notable doubts cast on some very high profile ascents but unless there is hard evidence to the contrary the ascensionist’s word is always accepted.
So whilst there are no ‘rules’ against lying it is worth remembering (especially as the sport becomes ever more commercialised) that honesty is held in high regard amongst the climbing community. The only person you’re cheating is yourself.

2: Overtaking

On popular multi-pitch routes it may be possible to overtake a slower team above. This is the cause of some of the biggest disputes at the crag. Like most disagreements in life it occurs when one or both parties are behaving like dicks. Situations can be complex but most could be amicably solved by simply being polite. Arrogance is often at the heart of most of these disputes, either people’s reluctance to be over taken by a faster party or a firmly held belief within a team that they should be in front for some reason.
On approaching a slower party, start by being polite. If it’s a long route and you are low down chances are they will simply offer you the lead. If they don’t remain behind them for a few pitches. If you are obviously moving much faster than them ASK if you could pass. Wait until you are on easy ground or for when both members of the part are at a belay. Remember they will have to wait for both you and your second to pass them before they can continue so be considerate. If they refuse you the lead despite your superior speed and politeness there may be a number of reasons but it’s likely they’re being dicks. At this point you can either be a dick as well and simply climb over them or you can just chill, enjoy the climbing and ignore the arseholes above. Remember every situation’s different and that having a team above you doing all the route finding may have helped you climb faster. It can be pretty embarrassing being overtaking by a team you passed earlier but think how much worse it would be if you’ve been a dick about it.

3: Tick marks

Pretty simple this one, if you use chalk to mark a hold make sure you rub it out when you leave. Aside from detracting from the ascetics of a venue you don’t want to hear how people flashed the problem it took you hours to work out! It’s also worth thinking about whether you actually need that tick mark in the first place. On some rock and in areas with little rain (like roofs!) you’re tick marks may scar the rock for years!

4: Left gear

If you’re on a route and you find some gear someone’s left behind its your lucky day! Gratefully receive your gift as karma smiles down upon you. Give it a few weeks and you’ll be the one retreating in the face of an approaching storm, throwing gear into cracks and making pacts with anyone who’ll listen about the quantity of gear you’re willing to loose in exchange for survival. Obviously don’t take the piss. If you climb a pitch someone’s just bailed off, give them their gear back when your second retrieves it!

5: Chipping/drilling

Pretty obvious again but worth remembering, if someone finds you at a crag with a chisel stashed in your bag your likely to find it inserted into you. Depending on how forgiving they’re feeling will depend on its exact location in you but rest assured it will be IN you. To avoid being mistaken for a vampire don’t chip holds, however sharp/shit they are. The same goes for drilling. If you want to pull on pockets go somewhere sunny on holiday, don’t trash your local crag, however blank. Just because you can’t get up it doesn’t mean someone else can’t. Consider yourself warned.

6: Brushing

When you’re at a wall or crag you’ll see other people scrubbing holds in a seeming desperate attempt to make them bigger! Hopefully this isn’t the case! Chalk can build up on a hold and decrease the friction between your skin and the rock. On bullet hard rock giving the hold a quick rub with a soft bristled brush ( can alleviate some of the difficulties. Unfortunately as climbing has increased in popularity there has been damage done to some boulders. Brushing on soft rock, with wire brushes, or when the rock is wet should be avoided at all costs to limit any damage.

Hopefully some of these tips will prove helpful in your navigation of climbing etiquette. There’s not really any secrets to it, be polite and don’t trash the crag and you shouldn’t have too many problems! Happy climbing.

Thomas King

Overhang Ltd


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