Sunday, June 3, 2012

Ethics - The Dos And Don'ts of Climbing Part II

Aubrey Wingo With Ethics in Climbing
By Aubrey Wingo

Hello again, Crimp Chronicle readers! We had such a wonderful wave of positive feedback on our previous Climbing Ethics article that I felt the need to use your suggestions, and ones of my own, and keep the ball rolling to continue educating you. When you are out in the climbing gym, think of these topics and ask yourself: Am I this guy/girl? Be proactive and be respectful. If you read these and feel like commenting, feel free to do so below and I will respond as soon as I can.
Remember I am always looking for more topics so if there is something that irks you, let me know.

Risk Management - We All Have a Responsibility

Spotting is an interesting topic in gym climbing and can be viewed in many different ways. Spotting, for those that don’t know, is the act of protecting a boulderer from injuring themselves, especially their head and neck, if they take a fall or have the potential of falling on something other than the floor or pad. In this writer’s opinion, everyone should spot but only if you know how to spot and feel that it is appropriate for the situation, even if you don’t know the climber. It is our responsibility to protect each other as best as possible in such a dangerous sport. In top roping or lead climbing, this responsibility is placed upon the belayer. In a bouldering scenario, there are typically multiple people who are going to be able to take on this responsibility. However, knowing how to spot properly is also essential. If you are uncomfortable spotting someone because you are not sure how, or maybe the climber is much larger than you, suggest for someone else to give them a spot or inform them that you are going to be unable to spot. Don’t be afraid to ask for a spot either. If you are a climber, and you think there is a good chance that you can fall, call to your fellow boulderers and ask if one of them can give you a spot. This is a community and all of us should be able to come together to give someone a hand.

Help Your Fellow Climber
Don’t get me wrong, there are many times that I do not want to be bothered while I'm climbing, but like in the spotting section, we all have a responsibility to our fellow climber. Naturally, some of us are going to be more knowledgeable about climbing than others and there are some things that the more experienced can pick up on. What I mean by this is that experienced climbers may be better at seeing errors or making suggestions to fellow climbers to keep the community as a whole out of harm’s way as best as possible in such a dangerous sport. For example, if you happen to see that someone’s harness is not doubled-back, tell them! If you see someone’s knot and it looks wrong, tell them! If they are tied in on the wrong rope, tell them! I think you get the point. One of the main points of climbing that a lot of people forget is community and we do what we can to protect the community. You would never let your buddy climb with bad knots, and just because you don’t know someone, doesn’t mean, in the climbing world, that they are not your buddy.

Vocal Belaying and Headphone Use
An important aspect in climbing is communication and in this, a good type of belayer to become is a vocal belayer. Now you might think that your climber is the smartest climber on earth, or they are super strong which means they can climb through anything, but if that person is doing something wrong, it is wise to let them know. For instance, if you are leading, and your climber manages to put their foot behind the rope, don’t assume that because they are an awesome climber, they’ll figure it out, or they’ll climb through it. Tell them immediately! Be a vocal belayer! It is also absolutely out of the question to belay with headphones. I know, I know that new dubstep song is really awesome but you can certainly wait the 30 seconds it will take for the climber to finish the route. You need to be 100% aware of your climber the entire time. People should not be climbing with headphones either to stay aware of their surroundings or to be able to hear your vocal belayer.

Being Oblivious
This one takes more of a personal responsibility for risk management. OPEN YOUR EYES! I should just end the paragraph there but for those who are oblivious might not be aware of what I’m talking about. There is always so much going in the gym at one time that climbers must be aware of everything that is going on around them. If you are walking through the bouldering area, make sure you are not standing in any potential fall zones. That means being anywhere behind a climber while they are on the wall or where they could swing out and hit you. Don’t stand around in the lead room if you are not doing anything because, more than likely, you are in the way of someone. Use your head and think about your surroundings!

Informing the Staff about Holds
I see this constantly and, as a routesetter, it drives me crazy. When a hold spins, this offers a hazardous potential for falling. Routesetters do their best to immediately fix these problems as they become aware of them and they want to know as soon as possible, so if you accidently spin a hold tell a staff member, or preferably a routesetter, immediately so we can address the problem. I know your attempt on that route was really exhausting and everything, but you can manage getting to the front counter without passing out. Blood on holds is another issue. If you’re not informing a staff member immediately about blood on a hold, then that’s just gross. That biohazard is on your hand, and trust me, chalk does not dry that up! The bottom line is do not hesitate to ask for assistance and make sure to inform other climbers about that spinner until a staff member can address it.

Common Courtesies - Don’t Be That Guy/Girl

Chalk, rubber, sweat, skin... all of these things are constantly making our climbing holds grimy and sometimes impossible to hold. In efforts to prevent this griminess, climbers use brushes of many kinds to improve a hold’s texture to its original quality. There is a common courtesy that once a climber brushes a route or boulder problem, the climber is now entitled to have first dibs on climbing the problem before anyone else since they put the work into brushing it. In other words, if you immediately jump on, or touch anyone’s freshly brushed holds, you’re going to look like a big jerk. Now if a climber brushes the route and sits back down or seems like they aren’t prepared to jump right on it, ask permission as a courtesy to jump on the route that they work on. I would even suggest re-brushing the route once you climb it. This can be applied to many situations in climbing. The more often the routes are brushed, the longevity of the quality of the hold is preserved. If you are climbing a hard top rope route, and you thought the holds seemed grimy, do a quick brush for the next climber. Remember that this can be applied to inside and outside climbing.

Climbing Games
Climbing games, such as add-on, take away, grafitti, etc. can be great additions to your climbing training. However, there are some times where many people being involved in one game can seem overwhelming and dominating at one wall. Imagine you walk into the gym, stretch, put on your shoes, to look up and see a horde of ten people at one wall going right after another. Truth of the matter is that you are probably going to avoid that wall at all costs, even if your project is on that wall. Make sure to let people know what you are playing, maybe even introduce them to it if they’ve never played, but most of all, welcome them to the wall too. When the gym is busy, it might not be the best time to play such games on the primo bouldering walls, but it is your gym for you to use. Just keep it in mind!

Campus Cakewalking
Going back to the previous article on Climbing Ethics, the term “cakewalking” was introduced when talking about climbing another person’s project easily in front of them. One of our commenters mention “campus cakewalking” and felt that this need to be touched on. Well ask and you shall receive! Everyone remembers going on the monkey bars when you were a kid, and campusing is not much different, especially on more overhung walls. Like the last article, some people don’t necessarily appreciate you walking up to their project and campusing it right in front of them like they should be capable of climbing it like that. Use your head and consider the feelings of others! If you have the true need to campus, there are plenty of campus utilities in the training area.

The Ready Position
When a new bouldering area is set, or there is just a popular wall on that particular night, like mentioned in the previous Climbing Ethics, take turns! But how do you know when it is your turn? A ready climber is one that is already chalked up, standing in front of the wall, shoes on, indicating that they are immediately prepared to climb. If there are multiple climbers in the same ready position, that is where the need for communication needs to start. Don’t be upset if you are standing in the back against the railings, sitting down, without your shoes on, whatever the case may be, and another climber jumps up and start climbing again. The climber recognized that no other climber was in the ready position, thus he can take priority of the wall until there is another ready climber. So if another climber jumps in front of you, ask yourself: “Am I in the ready position?”

Bouldering Lounging
On the opposite side of the climber’s ready position, we shall bring up the climber’s resting position. This position can be whatever you would like... but not in the way of everyone else! Look, we all know that the floor is comfy and squishy and so wonderful to lay upon, but do you think that the best place for you t0 lounge is underneath where a climber can potential climb and fall on you? Sitting in front of the wall is fine, and we as climbers can understand that some places, especially at Aiguille, are a little tight and crowded when it comes to climbing areas, but don’t roll your eyes if someone asks you to move so they can climb a boulder problem or a top rope route. And don’t be afraid to ask a climber to move or be a jerk to another climber if they so happen to be in the way at that moment. As a note specifically to Aiguille climbers, the boulder cave is an area that get high amounts of traffic and has a greater area of potential fall zone. Try to stay out of the cave if you are not climbing to give room to the climbers that are currently on the wall.

Another great way to build endurance is through traversing, the act of climbing from side to side rather than up in order to get a good workout and work on footwork. This is more easily done on less busy occasions. However on busier nights, if you need to traverse, there is a level of hierarchy that needs to be followed. Rope climbers always have the right of way. This means that if there are people leading, you are not allowed to climb past them. For top roping, a traverser must yield to the climber and belayer. If the climber is out of fall potential range, a traverser may ask to pass quickly if the belayer allows it. For bouldering, use your manners. Yield to the climber if they are currently on the wall, and then ask to pass through to continue your traverse workout. Your traversing is an option of training which means that your priority on the wall is much lower. So if necessary, hop down and pick up traversing in a new spot to avoid potential collisions.

Please feel free to comment and I will be sure to respond to you! Look for my next ethics article next month where we take a look at Outdoor Ethics!
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  1. "...but for those who are oblivious might not be aware of what I’m talking about."


  2. Thanks as always guys! Can't wait to write the outdoor ethics article next newsletter!

  3. Just don't mention dogs and outdoors. That will open a huge can of worms. Also bringing babies or drinking while belaying. All touchy subjects that you would think would be no brainers but ignite passionate debate. See those subjects on mountain project if you want entertainment. Have fun and your team climbed very well at Nationals!

    1. I welcome a passionate debate! Babies and dogs are in the same boat. If you can keep it under control, and it's not bothering anyone else, that is your own responsible choice as a climber. Is drinking while belaying intelligent? NO! Is it something I'm going to recommend? NO NO! Are people going to make their own decisions? Sure they are, but if a climber is confident in their belayer? Go for it. It's your life in their hands and its your responsible decision as a belayer.

      Thanks Markie, we hope to do just as great this year!

  4. Thanks! Hopefully I'm curving those "idiots"!

  5. I love your articles - very balanced and articulate and fun to read. I did have a reaction to the topic of campus cakewalking that I thot I'd share: I'm a very beginning climber, and while there are others in my category, there are lots who are clearly at higher levels in the art. I don't get offended or feel .. like I've been snubbed or shown up somehow when they just sail on up or do some crazy rooftop action. Props to them! Maybe someday... The same is available in any other sport/art - someone does a flip skiing down a slope, riding a bike, playing an instrument.. making it look easy.. relative masters always campusing your projects. People shouldn't let that make them feel small or be shut down by that. Try pretending for a split second that it's your own brother/sister/best friend and feel a different attitude toward their demonstration of prowess. You can feel psyched for them and by them instead! :-)
    I guess too I don't feel it's up to others to lessen themselves when in front of me lest my ego suffer.


  6. This is a little late but I'll throw one out there
    I'd say I have never taken offence to someone campusing a route I've been working on, I know I am not an expert, and I know theres better climbers out there than me, I just give it a laugh. I personally really enjoy seeing others at peak.
    Used to climb with a guy who had insane power, but he had the flexibility of an oak, we all have our strengths and weaknesses.
    My reaction to campus cakewalking is ''I'm not even mad thats amazing''

  7. i like the climing sport and i will join the climbing courses. thank for sharing the more information of climbing sports and technique.