Crag Etiquette: A complete guide for complete dickheads

Smith Rock chalk crag etiquette
Route-finding is a subtle art at Smith Rock… (Source: Reddit, Photographer Unknown)

The climbing community is small and well-connected. Forget six degrees of separation, there are barely two in any local scene. If you want to cultivate a reputation as a total flog in less than a single orbit around the sun, why not try some of these methods:

Leave your shit everywhere
When you get to the crag, make sure you spread your gear far and wide. Empty your backpack and spread your possessions around like a bowerbird on amphetamines. The more space you can occupy, the better. It’s public land which means you own it, so treat it as such.

Before you leave, ensure to leave a wake of destruction in your path – food wrappers, bits of tape, and most importantly, human waste. It takes time and effort to dig a 10cm hole or walk out to the nearest toilet, so just step a metre off the trail and cut loose. Or don’t even leave the trail. Your call.

Save brushing for your teeth
Everyone loves having their onsight destroyed by unsolicited beta, so be sure to tick every hold on your project and leave it for others to enjoy. Never brush boulders. Ever. Not even after they’ve become whiter than the turnout at a Donald Trump rally.

Rock and Roll ain’t noise pollution
Your musical taste is the paragon of aural excellence, so it stands to reason that everyone will enjoy your tunes. You may as well rename the crag “The Sausage Hospital”, because you’re going to be bringing heaps of SICK BANGERS. Nothing says “wilderness experience” like 100 decibels of Kendrick Lamar, or perhaps your favourite house mix. While you’re at it, why not consider aiding someone’s redpoint attempt with the soothing whir of drone blades.

Everyone likes dogs
If they say otherwise, they are lying, even those who’ve undergone traumatic canine experiences in early childhood. If anything, you’re doing them a favour with a little thing that psychologists call “exposure therapy”. Not all heroes wear capes.

Don’t ask. Assume. Leave the leash at home and let your furry friend run wild, preferably under the feet of anyone belaying. Or, if keeping an eye on your pet seems like too much hard work, why not tie it to a tree or post at least 100m away from you? That way, you’ll ensure your dog achieves maximum volume with its anxious barking. And that sign that says you can’t take animals into National Parks? It’s really more of a suggestion than a rule. Go nuts.

Save your gear, use someone else’s
You spent quite a few quid on your shiny climbing gear, so why would you want to wear it out via constant use? A much better idea is to run your rope through existing anchors. Who cares about the cost of maintenance and the safety of other climbers? Not you, that’s who.

Less culture than a tub of yogurt
By now, we’ve established that your experience and desires are more important than anyone else’s, so why not totally disregard all cultural heritage, both ancient and modern?

Art is subjective, so who’s to say that indigenous paintings or carvings might not be improved with the liberal application of stainless ringbolts? And as for burial caves, well those folks are dead so they probably don’t mind if you make yourself at home. More recent legacies needn’t be spared either. Sport climbing is all the rage these days, so why not retrobolt a few old trad classics for the benefit of others yourself. Don’t be shy to chip some new holds if the climb is too hard.

Wildlife, Schmildlife
When visiting National Parks, you should be the number one priority and any native flora and fauna should consider itself lucky to even get a look in. Particular disdain should be reserved for endangered plants and animals – if they wanted to survive, they should have evolved better.

Some key things to look out for are delicate orchids and ferns that grow from cracks in the rock. These are ruining perfectly good problems or routes, so get rid of them. If there are animal breeding seasons, they are probably inconveniently timed for spring which overlaps with some of the best sending temperatures, so you should probably ignore this. As long as you’re having fun, it doesn’t really matter if you disrupt the Peregrine Falcons from nesting, or if you’re overseas, disturbing a bear and its cubs. You’ve seen The Revenant, right? Nothing to worry about.

You do you
Remember, as long as you’re happy, what else matters? Alternatively, if for some obscure reason you would prefer NOT to be a dickhead, you could always do the exact opposite of everything mentioned above.

For more information on how to protect our crags from unsavoury and unsustainable behaviour, as well as needless closures and bans, check out The Access Fund’s Climbers Pact. 

Ryan Siacci, Esq.
January 2018

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