One of the beauties of outdoor climbing is the lack of strict rules. The environment created by this freedom allows us to enjoy the sport on our own terms and to be creative about how we play it. It also means that to maintain a healthy atmosphere, the climbing community must absorb and pass on certain lessons on how best to use our crags. Here are some of the most controversial issues in climbing etiquette and how to tackle them.
It is common in Squamish to end up sharing multiple grounds with other parties.
If you’re climbing over a much faster group, it’s best to allow them to pass you when they catch up. They will certainly appreciate it and you will have much more fun climbing without another team chasing you. If you’re in a position to be the fastest team, politely ask the other side if you can climb and be nice about it. Newer or less confident parties may be uncomfortable with other teams climbing around them, so explain what you plan to do. Ask yourself if you really need to pass them as well. Is there another court you could use to get around the other team? Are you sure you can maintain your faster pace?
Large group climbing
Large groups at the cliff should be avoided where possible. They often end up dominating a cliff unintentionally and excluding others. If you end up going out with a large group, try to pick a less crowded cliff and don’t monopolize the more popular routes. If other people show up, be proactive in letting other climbers know about your plans. If more than one person will be climbing the same route, try to offer people outside your group a chance to climb the intermediate route and avoid leaving ropes hanging on routes you are not climbing.
Dogs at the cliff
Cliff dogs are a controversial issue in all climbing areas. Dogs are allowed in almost all climbing areas in Squamish except Paradise Valley (critical salmon spawning sites mean dogs are strictly prohibited).
That being said, it’s often best to leave dogs at home. Consider how busy the cliff is likely to be, your own dog’s temperament, and what you might be able to do if your pup is struggling that day. I only take my dog on quiet rocks; and only if someone is going to be able to watch him all the time, my partners agree, and I’m willing to take him home if he doesn’t behave well.
Many areas, including Chief Stawamus and Smoke Bluffs Park, also prohibit off-leash dogs, so be sure to obey the rules posted in each area.
In summary, communication can solve and avoid many possible irritations on the rock. Be kind and welcoming to your fellow climbers, and see how your friendliness pays dividends in your own increased enjoyment.
Alex Ryan Tucker is a resident of Squamish and a board member of the Squamish Access Society. Go to squamishaccess.ca for more information about SAS.