Crag Etiquette 101

Learn the basic nuances of proper climber behaviour in the crag with these key tips and essentials of crag etiquette

The crag is a sacred space that for many serves as an escape from the strains of the real world. It’s also a communal area that we as climbers need to respect and share generously to ensure it remains a safe and happy place. In addition to the fundamental rules of climbing that you may learn at the gym, there are a few unspoken laws that kick in once you hit the rocks.

Here’s a quick guide to the basics of crag etiquette:

Keep It Quiet

The number one rule of adventuring outdoors is to minimise your impact on the environment and the people around you, and that extends to noise. Be mindful of your volume levels and keep things in check to avoid disturbing the surrounding wildlife, residents and your fellow adventurers. Although we all love some good motivational beats, it’s best to keep the subwoofer away from the crag. That being said, if it’s a fairly secluded area and there aren’t any other climbers around, it’s probably safe to play some tunes at a reasonable volume. 

As for human-generated noise, feel free to cheer on your buddies, share beta and enjoy some banter – just keep things respectable and be mindful of the reactions of your crag-mates. Most importantly, ensure that you aren’t disrupting any climber-belayer communication – safety first!

Keep It Clean

As much as we want to connect with the natural world, it prefers to remain undisturbed and it definitely doesn’t want any memories of our visits. Whatever you take into the crag, ensure that it comes back out with you. Even organic waste like apple cores and banana peels can wreak havoc on delicate ecosystems; whether it’s made by people or planet, make sure it ends up in the right place. Conversely, if something takes your fancy – like a cool rock or a super cool rock – take a picture and leave it where it is. “Take only photographs, leave only footprints” and all that jazz. That extends to human waste – find a nice private place far, FAR off the path and at least 200m from any water source. Dig a properly sized cat hole, and pack your toilet paper out with you. You can find a full breakdown of environmental etiquette and waste disposal in our Leave No Trace article.

As for the walls themselves, the same rules apply. Remove any tick marks you may have made, brush away excess chalk, wipe away any blood (it’s best to keep it inside of you to begin with, but the outdoors is a wild place) and avoid leaving any quickdraws up unless you will be back in the next one to two days. 

Keep Pets (and Kids) in Check

Tiny beings of all varieties are adorable, until they roll all over the pads and stick their faces in the peanut butter. If you are bringing your little darlings to the crag with you, ensure that they can behave, and prepare to step in if things go awry. Consider keeping your pet on a leash, or at least in arm’s reach; even if they are well trained, there are some people who may be afraid of your fuzzy friend and it’s nice to make sure you’re not upsetting anyone else’s visit to the place we all share. 

Intervene Graciously

There will come a time when you are enjoying a bright and beautiful day at the crag and the sun illuminates a display of immense stupidity that hits you right in the soul. Maybe a belayer’s reaching for some chippies with the hand that should be on the dead end of the rope, or someone is dragging their rope around in the nice, gritty sand. Whatever the case may be, keep your composure and try to give the offending parties the benefit of the doubt – they’re probably new to the game and don’t have any malicious intentions. 

Approach the climbers and intervene in a respectful, friendly and open way that makes it clear you are only looking to keep everyone safe and happy. That being said, do not hesitate to get involved ASAP in a physical capacity if the situation is urgent – it may be rude to push someone out of the way or grab a rope that isn’t yours, but it’s worth it when lives are on the line. This video by the American Alpine Club breaks everything down nicely.

Don’t Spray Beta

One of the golden rules, to be obeyed both in the doors and out the doors – don’t spray beta. The thing that draws so many of us to climbing and keeps us hooked is the problem-solving dimension; half the fun is figuring out how to squish and stretch your body from point A to point B, so let people enjoy the puzzle. If someone does seem to be struggling, you can always approach the and ask if you can show them some tricks that you use.

Importantly, particularly outdoors, keep your voice down when discussing the technicalities of a climb at the crag, just in case the people near you are hoping to go for an onsight or solve the riddle themselves.

Share the Space

We’ve talked about this throughout the above points, but it bears repeating: the crag is a communal space that welcomes all of us, and we should treat it accordingly. It’s always fun to rock up to find that you and your mates have the place to yourselves, but more often than not you’ll meet some fellow explorers, and you’ll need to be conscious of their experience. Keep out of people’s space, especially if they’re climbing or belaying, ensure that your gear and baggage is grouped together out of everyone’s way, and keep any smoke (cigarette or otherwise) far away.

At the end of the day, the crag is a place to make great memories, and even better friends. So head out, be safe, play nice and climb strong!



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