Top ten bouldering dos and don’ts

Posted by Rob Dyer on 25/10/2014
Photo: Alex Messenger

Farewell long summer days. Hello crisp mornings and cold evenings, sticky slopers and solid crimps. At last, bouldering season is here. But whilst you crush project after project, remember that the rock is your friend, not your enemy.

As climbers we all undoubtedly have some impact on the crags and boulders on which we climb. But this season, take a few minutes to think about how you can minimise your footprint at the crag. None of this is rocket science, and it comes down to a few simple principles: don’t do anything that might damage the rock, think about how your behaviour could affect others and leave the crag in a better condition than you found it. In a word: respect.

1. Park smart

Nothing leads to anti-bouldering feeling faster than a pile-up of badly parked cars blocking access.

Share cars. Think before you park. Try to be considerate and don’t block gates or entrances. Often by just parking a short distance further away you can completely eliminate any issues, meaning less stress for you and less work for our access team.

2. Be toilet trained

Nothing spoils a day out like stepping in a pile of someone else’s shit.

Try to use the toilet before you go. If you get caught short then bury your poo (around six inches deep to increase decomposition rates) and carry a zip-lock bag to pack out your toilet paper.

3. Go easy on the gardening

Think you’ve stumbled across the next bouldering mecca? Try to keep gardening and cleaning to the minimum required to make a problem climbable. Make sure you’re not removing any rare species before you get stuck in either. Removing big areas of moss or ivy may look good from a climbing perspective, but often significantly scaled-down cleaning will still make something perfectly climbable and is less likely to attract negative attention.

If in doubt about developing new areas, then give the BMC access team a call. We promise not to steal your project.

4. Clean your boots

This ridiculously simple tip is one of the easiest ways to reduce your impact and will also help you climb harder. With clean rock shoes, the sticky rubber we shell out hard-earned cash for will work much better and the rock doesn’t polish as quickly – a winner all round. We’ll trust the great Johnny Dawes on this one: “If somebody cleans their boots well, you can tell that they care about the rock and that they care about themselves, because, obviously, if you stand on a smear and your foot’s clean, it’s both good for the rock and good for you”

5. Consider others

When out and about, try and be aware of how your behaviour might affect others at the crag. Are you screaming wildly as you fall off again? Is your dog eating something, or someone else’s lunch?

Is everyone else at the crag glaring at you?

6. Brush off chalk

To us, chalk is totally normal. But we’re not the only users of crags and to non-climbers chalk can be incredibly unsightly, so minimise your use of chalk and tick marks.

Once you’re finished, brush away as much chalk as you can with a soft brush. If you need to mark a hidden hold, use a piece of tape instead of a tick mark.

7. No Wire brushing

This is a very aggressive method of cleaning and can cause serious damage to the rock. Why? On certain rock types such as gritstone, where a hard outer layer protects soft rock underneath, wire brushing can break through the outer layer and cause accelerated erosion.

If you need to brush holds, use a softer nylon or horse-hair brush.

8. No Chipping

We shouldn’t really have to tell you this, but if there’s one cast-iron rule in our sport of no rules, it’s never chip the rock. However, despites this, every year a crag seems to fall foul of a phantom chipper. Chipping not only lowers a problem to the chipper’s level, but also often leaves unsightly rock scars.

Leave the chisel at home.

9. No Blowtorching

In the past, blowtorches were sometimes used to quickly dry wet holds. But climbers quickly realised that applying such a direct heat wasn’t great news for the strength and stability of the rock.

Leave the blowtorch in the DIY store. Use a towel to soak up water on wet holds instead.

10. Don’t leave litter

Don’t leave anything behind after a session, including finger tape, banana skins and fag butts. For extra crag karma, pick up any litter you find out there.

Rob Dyer is the BMC Access and Conservation Officer for England. He’s happiest lashed to the side of a big wall, but we’re slowly converting him to bouldering.

Watch How to boulder responsibly on BMC TV:

Find out how to care for rock when using chalk on BMC TV:

Watch Dave Mason, a top boulderer from Sheffield, explain how he got started climbing, on BMC TV:

Watch One Dog and his Man on BMC TV:


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Anonymous User
24/10/2014
Don't leave cigarette butts?

How about not smoking?

Shouting is not ok because it might annoy someone, but forcing them to passive smoke is ok?

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