The law of the crag
You’ve settled on your destination and you’re on the way to the crag. Sorted.
But before you rock up and pull on, make sure your crag etiquette and behaviour is up to scratch.
Stuff that’s perfectly acceptable at the climbing wall may not be good practice at crag. This is important because our bad habits and practices can damage the environment and the reputation of climbing community, threatening our access to crags.
So let’s talk about rock climbing outdoors sustainably and how to minimise your impact on our glorious environment.
(Top tip; check the BMC RAD (British Mountaineering Regional Access Database) before you set off…)
We don’t like people blocking driveways and roads in the city, so we should avoid doing in the countryside too. Access disputes can arise from cars blocking entrances and roads so always opt for an extended walk over questionable parking. Remember a tractor requires more space to pass than your Kia Picanto.
Keep to footpaths
Let’s be honest, we’re not there for the walk-in and it’s all too tempting to take shortcuts when the crag’s in sight. However straying from the established footpath contributes to erosion and damages soils and vegetation. Stay on the pathway wherever possible.
When visiting the countryside, you’re visiting the homes of a whole host of fauna and flora, take measures not to disturb them by doing the following:
- Take note of signage with regards to livestock (keep your dog on a lead when required and close gates behind you). Livestock – such as cows and sheep – can be particularly defensive when pregnant or with young: be sensitive and keep a distance.
- Check the RAD for bird nesting restrictions (we’ve already mentioned this in part one, but it’s super important so worth repeating!)
- Avoid spreading your gear out around the crag and squashing plantlife.
- Don’t remove large bits of plantlife from the crag.
Respect the rock
It takes a day or two to set a circuit in your local climbing wall, but it took thousands of years for your local crag to develop its routes and problems. Rock is quite fragile, so there are certain practices we need to observe to ensure that we leave the climbs in good condition for the next ascensionist and the next generation of climbers .
- Clean your shoes to avoid eroding the rock. Climbing erodes the rock over time, leaving it polished, slippy and harder to climb than before. (For example, the smeary crux move on Not To Be Taken Away at Stanage is so polished that it’s allegedly a grade harder than when it was first climbed.) Giving your shoes a good clean will reduce erosion and polish as it will minimise the amount of mud and grit that is rubbing against the rock.
- Chalk is for your hands only, not the rock! Never brush chalk onto a hold as you would in a climbing centre as this contributes to erosion. (Read the BMC’s commandments of chalk for details).
- Brush off tick marks. A ‘tick mark’ is a line or dab of chalk drawn by climbers to highlight holds that they want to use when climbing outdoors. Keep them to a minimum and remove marks with a soft brush before you leave.
- Get to know the rock type. Some rocks are far more fragile than others and highly susceptible to erosion in certain conditions. Take the incredibly fragile Southern Sandstone: here brushing should be kept to a minimum and the rock needs to dry out for a few days after rain before you climb on it.
Respect other humans
Be aware of other people using the space and how your activities may affect them. Many people enjoy being outdoors enjoy for the peace and quiet of being far from the urban buzz, they may not want to hear your music!
When setting up bottom ropes, avoid ‘hogging’ and ‘bagsying’ routes and try not leave your gear in routes you’re not on so that others can enjoy them too.
Chances are you’ll spend at least a few hours at the crag, if not the entire day. We humans can produce an awful lot of litter and waste in that time so take a rubbish bag with you and carry it out. Never leave rubbish behind in the countryside, and don’t feel shy to pick up litter left by others on your way out.
It’s best to relieve yourself before you head out, but we all know that’s not always possible. Make sure you are prepared in case nature calls: bury your waste or carry it out.
With toilet roll, the best solution is to carry it out but you can also burn it. Always check local recommendations: burning loo roll in heatwave conditions or hot countries can cause forest or moorland fires.
Try to contribute to local economy as much as possible by contributing to a bolting or access fund or shopping local.
Introduction to Rock Climbing outdoors https://www.beyondtheedge.co.uk/intro-to-rock-climbing/
Beyond the Edge Ltd is based in Sheffield two hours by train from London and within easy travelling distance from Manchester, Leeds, Nottingham and other Northern towns and cities.
We are one of the UKs most experienced providers of climbing, walking, scrambling, mountaineering and navigation training courses.
Most of our courses are run in the nearby Peak District National Park which has some of the finest climbing, bouldering, walking and hiking in the world.