When it comes to climbing there is an endless supply of tips, tricks, warnings, beta etc. Here’s a quick list of 10 things (in no particular order) that jumped out at me to mention when you are climbing outside or inside the rock gym. Enjoy!
#1 – Wear a Helmet – This is apparently still a topic. I get it you want to look rad in your shot, “pro climbers do it all the time”, “I left it at home…” You should always have your helmet on your head when climbing outside and especially when belaying and even walking around at the base of the cliff! I have personally been dinged in the head more times by marble and golf-ball size rocks standing around waiting to climb then I have fingers & toes. Without my helmet, a number of those would have been a hospital trip… As the belayer you need to stay conscious, you have someone depending on you to keep the rope secure, that is not a light matter! If you go down due to being dinged in the head by a rock there is a good chance your climbing partner is hitting the ground. WEAR A HELMET!
#2 – Don’t Belay Barefoot – I’m sure the first thought coming to your mind is “don’t tell me how to live my life” Here’s the thing when you are belaying a lead climber you have to be mobile and agile when needed. If you stub your big toe on that sharp piece of schist in Rumney, NH, step on broken glass in PMRP at the Red River Gorge, or step on one of these things like I did in Red Rocks you are more than likely not paying attention at that moment as your climbing partner is saying “Clipping” or “Take!”
#3- Pay Attention! – Whether you are spotting a friend on a boulder problem or belaying when someone is climbing you should be watching and listening to them and them alone. Being short-roped while clipping or toe skidding because your belayer is mentally off in la la land or chatting with a friend is no picnic. Those scenarios are the least of your worries to what can potentially happen if you are not attentive to your climbing partner. PAY ATTENTION!
#4 – Don’t Snapchat/Insta-Story While Belaying – This is a horrible trend and needs to stop immediately! We have over 20k+ followers on Instagram and we are seeing this happen at an alarming rate. I even saw a pro climber and videographer doing it via Instagram just a few weeks ago and we all cringed! This should really be common sense, if your partner is lead climbing you should have both hands free to manage the rope, not with your phone in your hand. This right up there with texting/snapchatting and driving -DON’T DO IT!
#5 – Scout out a Boulder problem & Fall zones – When it comes to bouldering nothing can kill your season quicker than a bad fall and a trip to the ER! Take a few minutes when it comes to working a new boulder problem to check out the sequence and landings. It is vitally important to know where to have the crash pads throughout the boulder problem. Having this worked out before you start climbing can make the difference between just blowing off a climb and taking a trip to the hospital.
#6 – Know your Routes, Count the Bolts, Add 2 for anchors & 2 more for Good Measure – Sport climbing requires quickdraws. Nothing can be more annoying or nerve-racking than being up a sport route and suddenly a draw short. It’s always best to have an up to date guidebook to reference the number of draws needed before starting a climb. When you don’t, you count the bolts and then add 2 for the anchors. It never hurts to have a few extra quick draws just in case A) You drop one (remember that helmet on your partner?), B) Feel a need to double up the bolt before the crux or C) Managed to miss a bolt when eyeing it from the ground.
#7 – Chalk management – we get it, you chalk bro! – in every rock gym there is that one person who takes a full hand of chalk and then decides to clap their hands emitting a massive cloud that makes the nearest vaper envious. Please don’t do it, it’s over kill. With some chalk brands costing a minor fortune for “superior” quality your wallet with thank you too. I use a chalk ball/sock to avoid doing exactly this.
#8 – Know Local Rules, Ethics & Etiquette – Nothing gets a crag shutdown quicker than someone not following the rules. One of the biggest issues climbing coalitions have to deal with regularly is something as simple as parking. It is your responsibility to know where you should park. If you are going somewhere new take the time to research the area, its rules, ethics and parking.
Some crags & parks only allow sport climbing while others only trad or just bouldering. Many crags have timed seasonal closures due to nesting birds, bats or other wildlife. There are even crags shared with local police departments and closed once a week because it doubles up as a shooting range. Every crag is different, has it own set of rules and you need to know them before you go climbing there!
#9 – Say Thank You to your Local Climbing Coalition and Search & Rescue(SAR) Volunteers – 99% of these folks that are part of a local climbing coalition & Search and Rescue are doing it as volunteers. They put in countless hours, effort and take additional risk to help develop our crags and make our community safer for all of us to enjoy. Give a few bucks & make a donation to these organizations, buy them a cup of coffee or beer and/or give them a hand shake the next time you see them! They are the unsung heroes of our climbing community.
#10 – Don’t get Complacent, and Take time to Practice – Whether you are a 5.8 climber or 5.14 climber always check your setup, remember basics and back up your gear. Always have your partner give the gear and system a look over. Practice building your anchors, your knots, your catches. Take the time to run practice drills, and possible emergency scenarios. Don’t get complacent just because it is an easier climb or you have done it a dozen times. Do you always tie a knot at the end of your rope before rappelling? Have a back-up placement in your anchor system? Do you know how to escape your belay? Take the time to learn and practice. When you drop money on new gear, set some aside to hire a guide for a session or two to go over how to use it all. I personally hire a guide for the day once a year just to go over gear placement, anchors, scenarios etc. It sets the tone & confidence for my climbing season and I learn something new every time I do it. The best climbers are the ones who go home safe at the end of the day.
Some helpful links to check out:
See something we missed? Of course, you did! There is always more to be added and we want to hear about it! Share your thoughts in the comments below!