Rock Climbing Etiquette for Beginners
Updated: Sep 21
Are you new to climbing and have no idea how to behave properly at a crag or in a climbing gym? Well, look no further. Below is our rock climbing etiquette guide for new climbers and the not-so-new ones who need a refresher.
Don’t (Over) Coach (Don’t Spray Beta)
Everyone gets excited about the progress, and it can be easy to get a little over-excited. We learn new things and figure out ways to overcome obstacles we thought were impassable when we started. It’s an awesome and rewarding experience!
How would you feel if someone took that away from you? We want to avoid telling other climbers how to climb, giving them too many tips, or giving out unsolicited advice. If another climber approaches you and asks for help, by all means! This is called “sharing beta” and is one of the most fun parts of the climbing community.
If you find yourself yelling instructions up at beginner climbers, we call this “beta spraying.” You may want to tone it down and let them figure it out for themselves. After all, figuring it out is half the fun!
Keep Your Noises Under Control
Trust me, we get it. When you’re working hard and crushing it on the wall, sometimes you have to let out a grunt! There’s a reason tennis has garnered a reputation for its exclamations, exhalations, and calling out.
And just like with beta-spraying, a little bit is to be expected! A lot is just a little bit rude.
A lot of times, we see pro climbers in videos turning it into a show! And you know what, if you’re crushing 5.15, you probably should grunt a little more than average. For most of us, though, the experience can become frustrating for climbers around us in the gym. Give your environment a little thought and try to be considerate of the people around you. A good rule of thumb with the noises is: if you wouldn’t do it outside in front of your neighbor's house, maybe you shouldn’t do it on the wall.
Similarly, a potty mouth on the wall is almost always inappropriate. You can always find kids running around climbing gyms. Even when you think you’re in the clear, that’s always when you drop the F-bomb, turn around, and see the little kid. Let’s avoid this situation for everyone’s sake.
There is a big difference between being proud of yourself and an ol’ fashioned brag session. Jumping off of a climb and being psyched that you topped it is one thing, but approaching every climber in the vicinity to tell them about it? Yikes… What did your mom tell you about bragging? If your answer is “that it’s awesome,” maybe you should go brag about that to her.
For most of us at the gym, trying our hand on these plastic holds every week, climbing is a pretty insane challenge! We are all for being psyched with you about your climb. Just don’t drag it out! So try not to brag too much or for too long, no matter how proud you are of your achievement. Tell your friends later -this is a place to work together and celebrate each other’s accomplishments. Also, seriously, keep your beta to yourself. That’s rock climbing 101. Come on now.
Hogging The Wall
Sharing is caring.
A simple rule to keep in mind is: think about your climb a few steps away from the wall instead of directly beneath it because someone else probably wants to climb.
It doesn’t matter if you’re eight and waiting to play Street Fighter at an arcade or 38 and are one of the people waiting to climb a wall, waiting is never fun. And when you have to wait for someone who can’t make up their mind on their beta or whether or not they want to try, it can feel like forever.
The exciting part of climbing is mastering movements, one after another, and conquering a vertical barrier.
The least exciting part of climbing is helping someone else climb. Known as “belaying,” this is what makes top roping a two-person outing. One dutiful climber has to stay on the ground, pulling in slack through their belay device, ready to catch their climber if they fall. As you can imagine, it’s pretty important, to say the least. But every session, it never fails: there’s some bored belayer caught staring off into space and not paying attention to their climber.
Sometimes it’s a brief, simple distraction, and nothing comes from it. But if you look away just as your climber falls, your climber might fall a couple of extra feet or swing into the wall. Always focus your attention on the climber you’re helping. Their safety is in your hands -it’s just the right thing to do.
Climbers will often (see: almost always) rub powdered chalk on their hands to help them grip the wall as it gets steeper. Some take a little. Some take a lot. And some take way too much.
A handy gauge is if you think you might be using too much, you definitely are. This is an aid, not a magic powder -using absurd amounts of it won’t make it any more effective. In fact, using too much will actually make the holds more slippery! You don’t want to be the climber who is creating big puffs of chalk everywhere they go and leaving a trail of over-chalked and slippery holds for others to grab.
Also, while we’re on the topic, try to bring your own or use a close friend’s. Chalk is important-you should buy it with your shoes and other gear. Borrowing from strangers may be okay once or twice, but you can outstay your welcome quicker than you might think if people think you’re mooching.
Rock Climbing: And Now You Know
Ultimately, rock climbing, like any other sport, is a social activity. You step into a public space and interact with strangers for an hour or two… or more, and in that time, you want to treat everyone with the same respect you’d like to receive.
How you act on and off the wall matters. So put your best foot…er, hand forward whenever you can.
Understanding climbing etiquette is important, just like getting down your communication and climbing commands.