Leading, abseiling, top-roping and bottom-roping can all offer tremendous challenges and rewards to groups. Good practice is essential to ensure group safety, to minimise rock damage and ground erosion and to reduce conflicts with other users.
Abseiling and top-roping can neutralise large sections of popular cliffs for long periods of time, preventing other climbers from climbing particular routes. Repetitive top-roping can cause irreparable damage to high quality rock climbs. Through a combination of careful site selection and planning of the day’s activities, many of these problems can be avoided.
• Briefing sessions: Brief your group on the challenges that the crag presents but also on the environmental value of their surroundings. Highlight the ‘do’s and don’ts’ for a day at the crag.
• Boundaries: Set geographical boundaries for your group’s activities.
• Skills training: Carry out any rope work/harness training away from the crag, perhaps in the car park.
• Belay techniques: Ensure that ropes do not run directly over rock surfaces – even gritstone erodes quickly once the surface layers are worn away, particularly when lowering climbers on a tight rope. Use long slings and avoid top-roping with ropes running directly around trees to minimise root and bark damage.
• Repetitive use: Prevent excessive rock wear and polishing by avoiding repetitive abseiling, top-roping or continuously trying the same move over and over again on the same route.
• Unused ropes: When not using routes do not leave ropes hanging down them – other people may wish to climb the route.
• Footwear: Always use soft-soled footwear and encourage group members to clean their shoes before abseiling or climbing.
• Chalk: Chalk is not needed for beginners and should be used sparingly by experienced climbers.
• Falling rocks: Do not throw stones over the cliff edge and be careful about dislodging loose rock whilst climbing or moving around the cliff top.
• Descent routes: Always use the recognised descent paths to minimise ground erosion and avoid the creation of new paths.
Leave no trace: The exposed escarpments, open moorlands and sheltered dales of many climbing venues are important to different people for different reasons. Many people visit these areas to escape the crowds and find peace and quiet away from the hustle and bustle of urban life. Noise, bad language, uncontrolled dogs and litter can all detract from other peoples’ enjoyment of the countryside.
• Base camp: Establish a base camp area for your group. This should be a hard-wearing site (e.g. a cluster of rocks), which does not interfere with other users and is safe from falling objects.
• Respect: Explain the importance of respecting other climbers’ equipment, ‘do not trample on ropes’ for example.
• Noise & litter: Keep noise to a low level and discourage bad language. Take all litter home with you – some groups take litter bags to the crag to make this easier. Your group could even help to keep the crag clean by taking other peoples' litter home.
• Toilet facilities: Few crags are close to proper toilet facilities. Ensure your group knows that there are no facilities at the crag and ‘go before you go’ is a good philosophy. Perhaps schedule toilet breaks or if there is no alternative ensure a hole is dug to bury any excrement and toilet paper is removed - see Green Friday - be sanitation savvy
Green Friday - sustainable crag use, part 1 provides advice on planning your day at the crag, to avoid potential problems.
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