One of the beauties of outdoor climbing is the absence of strict rules. The environment this freedom creates allows us to enjoy the sport on our own terms and be creative about how we pursue it. It also means that to maintain a healthy atmosphere, the climbing community needs to absorb and pass on some lessons about how best to use our crags. What follows are some of the more contentious issues in climbing etiquette and how to approach them.
It’s common in Squamish to end up sharing a multipitch with other parties.
If you’re climbing above a much faster party, it’s best to allow them to pass you when they catch up. They are sure to appreciate it, and you will have far more fun climbing without another team hot on your heels. If you’re in the position of being the faster team, ask the other party politely if you can climb through and be gracious about it. Newer or less confident parties might be uncomfortable with other teams climbing around them, so explain what you plan to do. Consider if you truly do need to pass them as well. Is there an alternate pitch you could use to get around the other team? Are you sure you will be able to maintain your faster pace?
Climbing in large groups
Big groups at the crag should be avoided where possible. They often end up dominating a crag unintentionally and shutting out others. If you do end up going out with a large group, try to pick a less busy crag, and don’t monopolize the most popular routes. If other parties show up, be proactive in letting other climbers know your plans. If several people are going to be climbing the same route, try to offer people outside your group a chance to climb the route in between, and avoid leaving ropes hanging on routes you aren’t climbing.
Dogs at the crag
Crag dogs are a contentious issue in every climbing area. Dogs are allowed at almost all Squamish climbing areas, except Paradise Valley (the critical salmon spawning sites mean dogs are strictly prohibited).
With that being said, dogs are often best left at home. Consider how busy the crag is likely to be, your own dog’s temperament, and what you would be able to do if your pup is having a hard time that day. I only bring my dog to quiet crags; and only if someone is going to be able to supervise him the whole time, my partners are okay with it, and I’m prepared to take him home if he’s not behaving.
Many areas, including the Stawamus Chief and Smoke Bluffs Park, also prohibit off-leash dogs, so ensure you abide by the posted rules 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 Squamish resident and Squamish Access Society board member. Go to squamishaccess.ca for more information on SAS.