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10 Unwritten Rules of Climbing Gyms

From not wearing climbing shoes in the bathroom to encouraging with stoke

Have you ever stood there waiting for a route at the gym for what seems like hours? You’re not alone.

In all of the mighty gyms out there, from coast to coast to coast, there are climbers who walk the line between going unnoticed and perturbing everyone off.

Many of you new-to-climbing gym climbers might not know that in the world or outdoor rock climbing, there are unwritten rules. So below are some of the many unwritten rules of indoor gym climbing.

No Climbing Shoes in the Bathroom

While some climbing gyms have notes on their bathroom doors, it should be a given that you shouldn’t wear climbing shoes into bathrooms. You don’t want to put whatever is on those floors onto holds.

Bring a pair of flipflops or shoes to change into.

It’s Cool to Encourage with Enthusiasm

You can communicate with strangers at the gym without being a creep, just keep it light and positive.

If you see someone trying a hard problem or route just say, “You got this, giver eh!” or bring in some Spain and shout, “Venga, Venga!”

Positive reinforcement is one of the best parts about climbing in a group of motivated people. Keep it loud, fun and happy.

Encourage lead climbers on hard moves

Not Yours? Don’t Touch!

If someone is belaying a lead climber with their own rope, don’t touch it, move it or kick it with your feet. Ever. Unless they say you can.

Don’t move other climber’s gear from the base of climbs or boulder problems. It can throw people off their game if they see their expensive equipment being fondled by others.

Don’t Be Messy

As much as you shouldn’t touch another climber’s gear or rope, you shouldn’t leave a big mess that could entice others to move it.

If you’re not lead climbing, move your rope to the side or away from the climbs. Keep your nalgene bottles somewhere they can’t be kicked around. Keep your gear neat and tidy, gyms aren’t outdoor crags and there’s limited space.

And please don’t sprawl out some over-sized rope bag that screams “I’m a lead climber, look at me,” no one cares. Keep it snug and off to the side.

Keep those ropes more neat and tidy

Don’t Gearsplain

Unless someone asks about something, save the gear tech talk for friends and gear reps.

Gearsplaining to people who don’t care about the technical details of their equipment is one of the worst interactions at gyms.

Don’t explain your gear, their gear, the strength of ropes, why your harness is better than their harness or why you like one belay device over another.

Beta Spraying Bad

Do you like it when you’re trying your hardest and some random yells, “Dude, bump up that right foot, like really bump it up and then move your left hand to the gaston.”?

Random beta-spraying that isn’t encouraging, no matter how helpful it’s meant to be, can often be more distracting than productive.

Ask the climber, “Hey, do you want some beta?” If not, then save it. Most climbers like to work through the cruxes on their own.

Don’t beta spray

Watch the Profanity

Would you drop loud F-bombs at the grocery store, pub, coffee shop or dinner table? If you do, that’s weird.

And you shouldn’t be hollering or whispering any bad words at the climbing gym. There are often families, children and people who just don’t care that you know curse words, we all know them.

While it’s sometimes hard to control the volume of your voice, especially after agonizingly close sends and when long-term projects go down, the words you bleep out should be those of stoke and not profanity.

Hey Hangdog! Share the Route

A hangdog is a someone who rests on the rope for an extended period of time. On average there’s between 30 and 80 rope routes at the gym and between none and dozens of boulder problems.

It’s more difficult to hog-dog a boulder than a route, but don’t set up shop below a problem. After your attempt, step back to let others try.

As for roped routes, if they gym isn’t busy there’s less stress to get on and off. But if the gym is busy, give the route a few tries and then move along.

Don’t hangdog on the rope for what seems like forever to other climbers waiting for the climb. Visit the gym during less busy hours to project.

At busy gyms, keep moving or lower to let the next climber go

Respect the Gym Rules

Every gym has different rules and every gym is a place of business. They all pay huge amounts of money for insurance, rent and mortgages. So be nice and follow the rules.

While belaying is belaying, every gym seems to require you to do it slightly different. From where to hold the rope to where to stand. Just belay how they want you too and don’t complain.

Some of the many gym rules:
Don’t boulder higher than you should
Don’t go bare foot
Don’t sit and belay
Be attentive
Don’t use loose chalk
Keep your shirt on
Don’t walk below lead climbers
Supervise children
Keep good communication
Don’t check your phone while belaying
Keep your hand on the break line

Don’t Doodle With Chalk

It can be tempting to doodle on the blank wall with chalky fingers or little bits of chalk that haven’t broken up.

But drawing on indoor walls with chalk can lead to bad habits outdoors and teach younger climbers that it’s OK.

In 2017, there were a number of instances of indoor and outdoor chalk drawings. While most gym owners might not care, land owners and National Parks officials will.

Keep the chalk in your chalk bag, on your fingers and all over those greasy holds.

We’re lucky to have so many climbing gyms to train at. Let’s treat out gyms like we treat our crags and vice versa.

For a list of unwritten ice climbing rules visit here.

Chalk doodles!