Risk Exposure, Access and Booty
Unless you’re free-soloing or bouldering, your climbs will be completed or attempted with a partner. That means there are at least two climbers, one on either end of the rope, trusting the other. Sometimes, one of those climbers gets scared or uncomfortable. There are many reasons why, including exposure, height, health and relationship status, but the one I’ve seen the most is experience. One climber will always be more experienced than the other, which means their risk management and tolerance will be different from the lesser experienced.
While leaving your comfort zone is a big part of rock climbing, being pushed out is completely different. If you’re new to climbing, don’t let others convince you to attempt something that you don’t think is safe. Maturity in climbing comes with time and brings clarity about risk management, so if in doubt seek the advice of someone more experienced, like a guide. Seasoned climbers need to connect with new-to-climbing partners in an educational way to teach them about risk tolerance and vulnerably in the mountains. There are a lot of factors that play into safety, so take your time to understand risk management and consequences.
Access has been an issue for decades, and with more climbers than ever heading to the crags, it will continue to be a focus. There are access groups for nearly every climbing area in North America, so familiarize yourself with your local group. Access ends at the climb, but starts when you leave your house and deals with roads, parking, trails, parks and cliffs. More than once, a small group of climbers has caused land owners to close a crag to everyone due to their actions, so follow the rules of the land, be quiet and teach others to respect property. In Canada, there are currently access issues in B.C., Alberta, Ontario, Quebec and in the Atlantic provinces.
One of the biggest issues at crags and in the alpine is human waste. The best methods for human waste disposal vary depending on what kind of environment you’re in. You pack it out on a big wall and, in the forest, you bury it. Do some research before you go.
A long time ago, finding gear on a route meant that it was yours. Booty, from cams to quickdraws, was everywhere and it was fun to find. Nowadays, the polite thing to do is advertise that you found gear online to let the folks who bailed, or got it stuck, to get it back. If it’s your gear that you want returned, then offer a six-pack or dinner. That way, it’s win-win for the booty leaver and the booty finder.
Climbing is a big sport with countless people and issues, but at the end of the day it’s about being safe and having fun, so be a good mentor or protégé to keep everyone comfortable and stoked.