The weird climbers’ quirks newbies need to know

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So you are new to climbing? Welcome, climbing is an amazing sport and like all sports, climbing has its own lingo, etiquette, and quirks. Being new to the sport you may not notice or bother yourself to find out what these quirks are. To help prevent potential awkward situations for new climbers here is what you’ll need to know when you are among seasoned climbers.

Claiming a clean send on top rope

Top rope climbing

If you are new or just started climbing there are a few things that climbers are very particular about. On top of the list is climbing a route clean. If you are still climbing on top rope then this does not apply to you. You should not even go around telling people you’ve sent a route if you did it on top rope. Although there isn’t a rule per se but, it will annoy most climbers. Claiming to have finished a route on top rope is like claiming to have finished a marathon but on a treadmill. It is not the same.

To send a route clean is the ultimate achievement for a climber. In order to make such a claim and earn the respect of your fellow climbers, you must first climb the route on lead. You cannot rest by hanging on the rope or continue from where you fall. It has to be done on lead ground up. Period.

Only use what you are suppose to

Bouldering

Honesty is a very important virtue for a climber to have. Because if you don’t other climbers will point it out. To claim a clean send you cannot use anything that is not intended to be part of the route. You cannot use other color holds or pull on a quickdraw or bolt hanger. You cannot grab the side of the wall if it is not part of the route. You must reach the last hold and clip your rope to the anchor. If you can do all that you can claim the send and you have to earn the right to boast to other climbers of your achievement and they will be happy for you. But if you “cheated” and other climbers saw it they WILL point it out to your face. I am not sure if there is a term for this behavior but this is what climbers do (maybe is a pride thing).

Being a safety police

Yes, you’ve got your belaying certification. Well done! Maybe you are the best participant out of your group and passed with a gold star on your SNCS level 1 and 2 certificates. Disclaimer… we instructors don’t give out stars to our course participants no matter how good you perform 😂.

With your certification, you might think it is your responsibility to ensure everyone else belays with absolute safety in mind. No slack of more than an arms-length always is in the proper belay stance, eyes always on the climber and blah blah blah. Yes, safety is very important and all regular climbers know that. However, whether we choose to be totally safe to the letter is a whole other matter. So think twice before you jump in and nitpick at other climbers’ “bad habits” especially if you’re new to the sport.

Providing unsolicited beta

Most people would love to get a tip or advice when it comes to doing something hard. But being generous with climbing beta is not a good thing. To many climbers on sighting a route can be a big deal and we might not want to lose the opportunity for an onsight attempt. By sharing beta about the route will ruin climbers’ chance for on-sighting. However, if you are climbing with your friends and you want to be an ass feel free to be generous with your “questionable beta”.

Giving ultra safe belay

belay safety
Lead belaying

Yes, safety is the most important thing when it comes to climbing. Because you need to be alive and injury-free in order to climb. Hence learning to lead belay safely is one of the first things a new climber getting into leading needs to learn and practice. However, a safe belay does not equal to a tight belay. There is nothing a climber hates more than having a tug of war with the belayer when trying to clip into a draw. Having slack in your belay is not unsafe in fact it is necessary. As for knowing how much slack you need in order to give a good belay that will take loads of practice.

Complaining about routes being sandbagged

Photo Credit: Powerclimbingcompany.com

Discussing climbing grades can be a very touchy subject in the climbing community. No matter how the conversation goes climbers and route setters can get offended either way. So it is good to not jump to conclusion that the route is under graded after your first attempt. This is especially the case if you are new to climbing and yet to have experience different styles of routes.

Different gyms cater to climbers of different skill levels. Gyms that are more focused on attracting new climbers tend to have routes that are more beginner-friendly. Meaning sending a 6a grade takes minimum to no effort. However, if you start visiting other gyms and find the 6a routes feel like a project route that doesn’t mean the route setters don’t know what they are doing. Different route setters have different styles and there are many opinions as to how a route should be graded. I believe Adam Ondra sums it up beautifully in his video.

Yes, there will be routes that you think are under-graded and your ego may be hurt because you can’t onsight it. Although, you are able to onsight 6b routes at the gym you frequent. If that is the case it is more likely that the routes you are used to are over graded. So the best way to determine that is to climb at different gyms and outdoor crags to try routes set by different setters.

Climbing outdoors allows you to try routes established by climbers from a different era and you’ll know just how different routes are being graded.

Welcome to the club

You might not fully understand why climbers have these quirks. But give it a couple of years and you’ll understand why we behave the way we do.

Welcome to the club.

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