Photo: lzf/Shutterstock

How to Piss Off a Rock Climber

Student Work
by Colm FitzGerald Oct 10, 2014
Give unsolicited beta.

If someone fails multiple times on a climb, sure give them a few clues. But giving a step-by-step “map” to a complete stranger who hasn’t asked for your advice is ridiculous. Personally, I enjoy the exploration, the unknown — deciphering the rock. There are many techniques one can employ to complete a climb and someone’s height, body type, strengths, and weaknesses will dictate their style. Nevertheless, someone yelling advice while I’m gripped out of my mind, 25 feet up on a boulder with no idea where to go is unsolicited beta I’ll take any day.

Leave your trash at the crag.

This is unacceptable. Rock climbing venues are typically areas of stunning beauty (Stoney Point and Riverside Quarry being two exceptions) and soiling it with your garbage is sacrilege. This includes cigarette butts and finger tape. The number of climbers who find no issue with peppering an area with micro-trash is shocking. If you pack it in, don’t be a scumbag, pack it out. At a local climbing area last year, a friend of mine witnessed a girl tossing a beer can into the creek. He yelled at her to pick it up. “But it’s empty,” she said. The only thing empty in this situation was her skull.

Leaving excessive tick marks on the rock is also frowned upon. Please brush them off before you leave. It’s visually unpleasant and perhaps not everyone wants to know where every single hand and foot hold is on the route. Be a steward of the land, be mindful of your impact, and perhaps even leave the area more beautiful than you found it.

Short-rope the leader.

Picture this: You’re attempting to red-point your 5.12 project. You sink your fingers into a gritty crimp, tighten your core, press hard on your right toe, and pull through the delicate crux. Elated, you move onto easier terrain, when all of a sudden the rope goes taught and you’re yanked off the rock. You’ve just been short-roped. Your belayer has failed to feed out enough slack for you to progress. Whether he/she was hungover, distracted by an extremely attractive, spandex-clad individual, or dealing with a kink in the rope, you’re absolutely livid. You had the climb in the bag and now you’re hanging in space, with the lingering burn of failure in your Schwarzenegger-ized forearms.

Lie about sending a climb and/or the style you did it in.

Perhaps nothing makes a climber’s blood boil like a liar. There are no rules as to how one should climb per se, but lying about your style is unforgivable. In pursuit of first ascents, ego undoubtedly comes into play. And throughout the history of modern climbing, there have been many stories of magnificent accomplishments later proven to be false.

The most infamous being Cesare Maestri’s claim that he climbed Cerro Torre in Patagonia in 1959 during terrible weather and in alpine-style (moving quickly using minimal gear). Tragically, his partner Toni Egger was swept away by an avalanche while the two were descending. Egger’s camera and supposed summit photos went along with him.

Many doubted Maestri’s ascent, and he returned to Patagonia in 1970 to silence his critics. This time however, he drilled tons of bolts and created a new line, the Compressor Route. These tactics only intensified his detractor’s doubts and within a few years many leading alpinists were positive that he hadn’t climbed Cerro Torre in 1959. His descriptions of the route simply didn’t match those of others who had attempted it.

More recently, climbers such as the late free-soloist Michael Reardon, alpinist Ueli Steck, and sport climbers Fred Rouhling and Bernabe Fernandez have come under fire for their claimed ascents. By lack of photographic evidence, no upholding track record, or being unable to repeat their feats, these men’s claims have serious detractors in the climbing community. But there may be just as many believers as non-believers. Seemingly impossible climbs can be done given the right conditions and preparations: perfect weather, intense and specific training, proximity to the said route, etc.

Some climbers are liars and some are just ahead of their time. If climbers in the 1960s — with their homemade gear — were told that in the future, a skinny kid from the Czech Republic named Adam Ondra would climb 95 5.14ds and harder before his 22nd birthday, do you think they would have believed it?

“Gang” top-rope a route using the fixed anchors.

A typical sport climbing route will end with two fixed anchors. If you lead the climb and lower off — no problem. But if you and three friends thread your rope through and spend an hour dragging it over the anchors — no bueno. This past August, I spent a fun morning climbing moderate routes on volcanic stone at The Warming Wall in Mammoth Lakes, California. But at the top of one route, I noticed the anchors were almost half way worn through. This is caused by the friction created by excessive top roping.

Someone invested a large amount of time and money to equip this route and their efforts should be respected. The solution: make your own anchor and clean it when you’re finished. Use two opposing quick-draws or use a piece of webbing/cordelette and some locking carabiners. Make sure your anchor is equalized and . . . voila! There you have it. No need to ruin hardware prematurely or leave a potentially fatal situation lying in wait.

Throw a tantrum when you fail (unless you’re Adam Ondra).

Rock climbing is all about having fun. Yes, it can be extremely frustrating falling off that same desperate move dozens of times, but no one wants to hear it. Unless you are an adamantium tendon-ed freak and falling off a V16, there’s really no need to throw your chalk bag into the trees. Yelling profanities at the top of your lungs and making excuses isn’t going to help you either. If you channel that massive amount of energy you waste bitching, you might actually be able to send next go. Remember, the best climber in the world is the one having the most fun.

Be a “spraylord.”

We all know one of these people. Always yammering on about grades, how they flashed this, onsighted that, and how “easy” that V7 is. Let’s face it, grades are so subjective, so specific that besides being used for safety reasons and personal benchmarking, they’re totally useless. As the Finnish bouldering powerhouse Nalle Hukkataival says, “I’m attracted to beautiful and tall lines, not just three really hard moves you can try from the ground.” Some of the hardest climbs in the world are probably awkward, painful, and completely uninspiring (not like I know, just making myself feel better because I’ll never climb them).

There’s no sweeter feeling than jumping on an inspiring, unknown route or boulder problem and climbing it start to finish. No expectations, no anxiety, just climbing. Some of the best boulder problems I’ve ever done were unrated, and that’s how it should be.

How about this rating system: either you can do it, or you can’t.

Discover Matador

Save Bookmark

We use cookies for analytics tracking and advertising from our partners.

For more information read our privacy policy.