Thursday, February 4, 2010


I've been thinking about climbing ethics a lot lately. So I thought I'd throw down a list of some of my main issues and some other ethics that others have mentioned as well.

1. The Dab. (To come in contact with the ground or an object outside of the climb itself whether it be a person or tree)

Okay with all ethics there seems like there could be some grey area. For me if I'm climbing a problem I haven't done before no dab is allowed. Now if I've climbed the problem before cleanly the dab becomes a bit less strict. Feet touch the ground... Red Card. Eject. Sorry, but you have to treat the ground like its acid. You can keep going if you don't use the part that touched the ground... even when topping out (That's right, drag your body over the top... most likely you'll still be called out). Now if you're trying a problem which requires a super close spot, on red-point, if you swing out and touch the spotter. Sorry Red Card. Please step off the problem and begin again. This sucks I know. Sometimes its no ones fault. You probably could have held the swing but the spotter fearing for your life attempted to prevent you from dying. Still...

2. Spray down. (To inform someone of beta while their climbing)

This is a tough one because 9 times out of 10 the persons goal is to help you succeed while climbing. However every now and then it's a sandbag. Some people do it intentionally, others unfortunately not. Here is an example. You hit the crimp for the first time and someone screams right foot by your left hip. You hike it up there and then damn, you're screwed (The guy yelling is either more flexible or shorter, stronger, more talented or just good on crimps). What ends up happening is you fall off. Only to stare up in disbelief at the foot hold that you should have used making the move do-able. Now this is a two way street because sometimes you're in a desperate situation and without a little spray you might fall.

"Jug on your left."

This is fine. Unless their trying to on-sight the problem. Then you've stolen the on-sight from them... Tricky.

3. Power Spot. (To take weight off a climber to enable them to do a move or climb to a high point.)

I'm not so concerned about this. But people I know are against this. Some see a difference between a power spot and stacking the pads to reach higher holds. To me they are one and the same, but to others there is a difference. The power spot is fine by me as far as working a boulder problem. However you can't say you've done the problem with a power spot no matter how little weight was taken. This falls in to the issue in number 1 The dab.

4. Tick Mark. (To draw a line or dot above or below a hold. To allow the climber to know exactly where and how to grab the hold.)

Seems like a none issue right? Wrong! Travel to France and you will see a road map drawn on every boulder guiding you to holds that may or may not be of any use. Some people see tick marks as an eye sore. I don't mind them. However if they are longer than 3 inches they look brutal. I like to think in Squamish it isn't a huge issue (What with the amount of rain we receive each year). However, my ethics tell me that all tick marks should be removed after each session on a boulder or route for that matter. Keep them short and only place them when absolutely necessary. That means try the problem first. I know some people who are against them altogether. They enjoy learning the problem without the visual aids. The trick I use sometimes is to just simply chalk the holds in advance. This makes the problem move visible...

5. Cheering/Encouraging. (To shout positive words to inspire the climber to succeed.)

Seems like a no brainer, right? Hearing "Come on!" ten thousand times in a four move problem can be a bit distracting. I'm not against this per say... I am just against distracting a climber through cheering. Screaming "YES!" after every move, or husky whispering from my spotter can cause me to forget my main objective and think about other things. Also please! Please! If I'm warming up without a pad don't shout "Come on!" "You can do it!" Most likely I've done this problem before... It kills my ego... Sorry. I find it very distracting... To the point where I might fall off. Things that bother other people I know are yelling "Breathe!". This kind of makes sense. They've been doing it their whole lives and they haven't needed a reminder before. Some people don't like the different language encouraging. For me no funny voices or half-assed efforts made facing the wrong way not watching the action. "Come on man..." In a lazy voice. What's the point of that? Better to be silent.

6. Spray. (To brag about your climbing accomplishments or your friends ascents.)

Hey I get it. You almost sent the problem in your running shoes! But guess what princess, I don't care! That's right. I know your name is John and you're working the "Mandala", but I already know ten people who have done it. Hell one of the guys I know flashed it.

Spray; we all do it... Well most of us anyways. You're psyched you sent your project and you want everyone to feel as good as you do at that moment (I call it my inner ball of happiness.). There are ways of expressing this right and wrong. Right: Tell your friends who you've been forcing to spot you for the last 6 months. They'll be happy... (that and they don't have to go back there with you anymore.) Wrong: Telling a random stranger/Strong guy.

"Hey do you know so-in-so?"

Other guy. "Ya."

You. "I did Techo!"

Wrong, wrong, wrong. What the hell is the person supposed to say after that? This actually happened to a friend of mine. I thought he should of been like:

"You did?" "That's soooooooo AWESOME!!!!!"

Then screamed for everyone to come touch this god like person.

7. Lying (Do I really have to explain this?)

We all lie! When you do it about climbing it's weak! It's your ego talking. You want people to be impressed. It sucks big time when you get caught. I heard a funny story about a guy at the local brew pub who was bragging to some girls about sending some long route.

"Ya we crushed it." Shrugging modestly.

However his friend overheard this conversation.

"No you didn't! You fell all over the place on that."

Guy "Well you didn't send it either!"

Friend "Ya well I didn't say I did."

My ethics on this are simple. Don't lie unless you want to be busted. Also I don't accuse people of lying about climbing. It's more fun to speculate behind their back.

"How the hell did he climb that when it was raining all day?"

7. Top Rope Rehearsal. (To climb a boulder problem on top rope then later climb it without rope.)

Now I have nothing against people who do this. I've come close to this kind of thing myself. When I climbed "Desire" back in the day I cleaned it with a rope then climbed it with a rope a few feet away with the thought in mind if things got too hairy I could grab the rope. I never ended up touching the rope but in someways I always felt it tainted the ascent.

Now back to rope rehearsal. I think it's fine, however I just don't think you can say you bouldered the problem after you've climbed it with a rope. It's now "Head-Pointing" or "Soloing". I think there is a large difference between bouldering and Head-Pointing. One with bouldering you're climbing into the unknown and you're forced to figure out moves for the first time. I believe it's a little like onsighting as compared to flashing a problem. You have less of an idea. Now Head-Pointing does make sense; you're making sure that every hold will take your weight and you're figuring out the beta without endangering yourself. Making the problem as safe as possible. I think for my "Ethics" I don't care either way or how you climb something... Just don't say you bouldered it when you didn't!!!!

Just kidding...

Anyways I'm sure there a many other points I can bring up but I'll think of them later and maybe do a follow up post.



Fras said...

Good post Matt...Soooooo stroooong! Har har har.

Anonymous said...

Great post. Can’t wait to read the next ones :)