Climbing is based on ritual. We check the knots, double check, triple check even. “On belay?- Belay on.” clicks carabiner to show it’s locked There are variations of these customs, different denominations if you will, all holding the same core belief despite the varying practices. We bicker about which knot we prefer, which belay device to use, whether or not you can call yourself an actual dirtbag, but all maintain the overriding belief and value in the climbing community and greatness of the sport. In other words, climbing is like a religion.
As such, there are some rules to abide by -guidelines if you will- that feel written in stone for how well known and understood they are.
1) Respect thy partner
Communicate, encourage, be honest, and take turns climbing. Belay-tionships can turn into some of the best friendships, but that comes with being a good climbing partner. Listen to your partner, push them when needed but be ready to ‘take’ when necessary. Be reliable in showing up and ready to carry half of the gear in your pack.
2) Thou shalt honor the rock
Erase tick marks after use. Don’t urinate at the bottom of a climb. Respect the wildlife around a crag, and be willing to find another area if you’d be imposing too much upon it by climbing in that area. There is still a battle/delicate relationship between climbers being able to climb on private lands and the worries that the owners may have with people flocking to their property. We want to show them that we respect them and preserve the relationship for future generations for climbers. Lastly, never EVER climb on wet sandstone.
3) Thou shalt not be arrogant about safety
Dear goodness please wear your helmet, at least when belaying or when the rock is choss. Auto-locking belay devices should not be the only reason a climber does not deck. A coherent belayer should be somewhere in that equation- if possible. Also, it would be rad to not take time off of climbing from a concussion; trust me on this one. Take the time to check your knot; this is not a habit worth outgrowing. Being admired and even called daring can be cool, being alive and not broken is even cooler.
4) Thou shalt not judge another’s rituals (aloud)
As long as it is not a matter of safety, leave the climber to their rituals. I’m sure that they know it’s corny, superstitious, etc. If Billy Joe needs to sing to himself to calm his nerves as he cleans at the top, then let Billy Joe sing his damn heart out- as long as it’s not drowning out the communication between other climbers obviously. Grab your lucky chalk bag, say a little prayer, put your shoes on whichever order feels right, or what have you, and get out there.
5) Take out what thou takest in
This is just basic etiquette of being outside. ‘Take nothing but pictures; leave nothing but footprints’. Honestly, don’t even leave that many footprints and especially not off-trail. Look up permits ahead of time. Plan your timing to avoid having too many people at a crag. Don’t leave cigarettes, trash, food, etc at the crag or anything outside really. Bag it, your trash, your dog’s ‘trash’, anything of the sort.
6) Leavest thy speaker at home
If it is just you, in the woods, at a boulder with only your crew, and everyone is cool with it- go ahead and play music off of your portable Bluetooth speaker. If that is not the case, leave your speaker in the car or at home. I know that technology is exciting these days, but part of what makes the outdoors amazing is the distance from all that jazz. Go off the grid. Talk to each other, encourage whoever is giving the climb a go, listen for potential distress, be present!
7) Thou shalt not beta spray
Unless it is asked for, let the climber figure out that beta for him/herself. Part of the fun of the sport is problem-solving. It’s a mental game that we all rave about, so wait until it is requested before shouting out your beta.
8) Thou shalt not throw a hissy fit (wobbler)
We get it; you tried hard. We’ve all been there, desperate for the next clip or piece, near the top, or stuck on a section that we just can’t seem to quite solve. It blows. That being said, unless everyone else is also groaning, keep your whining to yourself.
9) Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s goods or skills
Climbing is an amazing sport that is rapidly gaining more and more attention. As you get into the sport, do not judge yourself too harshly against the other climbers at the crag. They may have 10 years of experience or more on you. They have been in your shoes and are not - should not- be judging you. Their rack took years of the unbudgeted blessing that are tax returns to slowly acquire. You’ll get there, with time and dedication, but enjoy the ride and the experience along the way.
10) Thou shalt respect thy gear and the gear of thy neighbor
This really should be a no-brainer. The stuff is not cheap and exists to keep you safe. Taking care of your gear helps to take care of yourself and make it last longer. If you’re borrowing gear then this rules applies x1000. Do not bring back someone’s rope, harness, or rack and have damaged them. Climbing gear is created to withstand a lot, but those careless micro fractures do add up.
Many thanks to this thread on Mountain Project for several ideas as well as many laughs.