Dos and Don'ts when Outdoor Climbing
It is always nice to head outdoors and climb on some real rock but outdoor climbing is a privilege and not an entitlement. And this privilege has come under a lot of scrutiny of late, with access to a lot of climbing areas under threat.
Each and everyone of us are an ambassador to the sport when we go climbing outdoors and should be mindful of the image that we project to the non-climbing community.
1. Be Informed
Always check crag access information before the trip. Even if it is a crag that you have visited before, conditions might have changed. The crag might be closed to public temporarily for revegetation or wildlife conservation purposes.
When in foreign country, it is important to get local knowledge of the area, for example, carrot bolts are still used in some Australian crags, or that being lowered off fixed gear is frowned upon in some countries.
Online is a great place to source for information nowadays. For information on Australian climbing spots, my favorite is the Crag.
Park at designated parking areas where possible. When parking near residential areas, do pay attention not to block residential driveways or roads. Do consider parking slightly further away and walk.
Do carpool where possible. Not only does it make finding a parking spot easier, it also reduces carbon emission.
3. Dogs & other pets
Dogs are not allowed at some of the crags as the crags are part of National Parks. Always check before bringing dogs along.
Personally I also prefer to keep my dog on leash at the crag as some people might be afraid of or do not like animals as much as I do.
Also, the RedDog is not the most well behaved of dogs. She will likely try to knock over and try to steal the belayer's attention away from the climbers.
Nothing is more unsightly than rubbish at the crag. Do not litter. Do not leave anything behind. Do not think that it is ok to throw organic waste like fruit peel in the bushes. Leave the crag as you found it.
Pick up any rubbish that you see and take it with you, even if it is not yours. If you have to relieve yourself, do it away from established trails and away from the public. If there are public toilets in the vicinity, use it, do not be lazy.
Some of us like working out to loud music. Most climbing gyms also have their own favorite playlists, but it is not kosher to play loud music at the crag.
Firstly, not everyone might share the same taste in music as you. Secondly, some people might prefer to enjoy the peace and quiet of nature. And thirdly, loud noises can be a distraction to communication between the climber and belayer.
This is especially so for crags that are close to residential areas. Some people might prefer spending the weekend sleeping in.
6. Chalk Use
Chalk residue left behind on rock surfaces can be unsightly. It is also one of the key issues brought up by government agencies when citing bans on climbing.
Use chalk sparingly. I will admit, I do some times chalk up out of habit than need. If possible, switch to liquid chalk as I find that they are less messy and less likely to leave a mark. Instead of just coating over greasy palms, the alcohol in liquid chalk removes sweat and grim as it evaporates and reduces sweating. Resulting in longer, dryer feeling.
Try not to mark the holds using chalk. Especially on porous rock such as sand stone and lime stone. If you really need help spotting those holds, may consider using climbing tape instead. But do remember to remove the tape before leaving the crag.
Clean off chalk marks after climbs using a soft bristle brush. Do not use brushes with metal or abrasive bristles as they will damage the rock.
7. Top Roping
Never top rope on fixed gear as the constant friction from the climbing rope will damage the fixed gear. This might result in the gear wearing out or creating sharp grooves in the fixed gear.
Set up a top rope anchor or use a set of your personal quick draws when top roping.
It is also common etiquette not to set up top ropes at popular crags and hog the climb. Caring is sharing.
8. Climb within your Capabilities
Safety first. Climb within your capabilities. Wear a helmet. Only venture outdoors if you know what you are doing or have someone experienced to guide you.
If you do not know someone who can guide you, then join a climbing club, enroll in a course or join a climbing Facebook Group and ask if there's someone who's happy to take you. Climbers are usually really nice folks who believe in giving back to the community.
9. Do not damage the crags
Tread carefully at the crags. Do not disturb the flora or fauna. Do not break or saw off branches from trees. Do not chip away rock to create holds. Do not clear away vegetation unless you are authorized to do so.
Sandstone breaks easily when wet, do not climb on rocks that are still damp after a rain.
Only camp and light fires where it is permitted. And when camping, do refer back to above points with regards to parking, litter, dogs and noise.
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