Climbing gym etiquette is similar to many other sports unwritten rules. While they aren’t posted anywhere, they aren’t written down, you are expected to know and follow them. Failure to do so will leave you thought poorly of or even disliked.
The climbing gym is supposed to be a fun, safe place to work on improving your climbing when you can’t make it to an outdoor climbing area. Knowing indoor rock climbing rules will allow yourself and others to enjoy their time there!
Climbing Gym Etiquette – 5 Unwritten Rules
Like many places, a lot of the unwritten rules of bouldering indoors and climbing gym etiquette will make sense when you hear them, but might not be things you’d think of on your own.
Here are five things to remember when you’re climbing indoors!
1. Pay Attention To Your Surroundings
Unlike outdoor climbing, routes indoors tend to be fairly close together and if the gym is busy you will be climbing around others. This means you should pay attention to your surroundings and make sure you aren’t about to place your hand or foot on someone else.
You should also watch out for top-rope setups and routes and avoid stepping where you think someone might be climbing. While it can be a pain, it’s the only way everyone will get along.
On a similar note, make sure you aren’t leaving chalk, keys, water bottles, or other belongings in fall zones. the last thing you want is for someone to come off a wall and land on any of your gear. Likewise, watch where you’re walking. The only thing worse than a climber falling on stuff you left around is a climber falling on you because you’re standing in a bad spot!
Lastly, before grabbing a climbing pad or other gym equipment, make sure someone isn’t already using it!
2. Share Space
If the gym is busy and there are multiple people waiting to do a route or a problem, take your turn and move to the side. Sharing is something we learned about in kindergarten, but it still applies in a climbing gym!
If someone is working on a tough route that you want to climb, ask them to join in. Likewise, if someone looks like they are waiting to climb a route or problem you are on, ask them if they want to join in!
3. Keep Noise To an Appropriate Level
There are noises that are natural to a climbing gym. The heavy breathing of people working hard, the occasional grunt while you strain in an especially difficult position, or a groan after a tough or disappointing fall.
Every once in a while you’ll run into a climber that thinks that every move needs a scream of exclamation or that yelling at everyone and everything is a good idea. It’s not. It’s annoying. It messes with other climbers
4. Nobody Likes Unsolicited Advice
In the climbing world giving out unsolicited advice is known as “spraying beta”. This is simply a bad idea and doesn’t make anyone think well of you. First, you will often be wrong. Second, your armchair climbing is more likely to point out the bad spots of a route or problem than help the person climb it.
If someone asks you for advice, by all means, give it! But if they are doing fine on their own don’t worry about it or just move along. Even if they are struggling with a move or problem you can solve, let them figure it out unless they ask!
5. When In Doubt, Ask
This is a pretty simple rule, but one I always try to follow. If you’re not sure if someone is using a piece of equipment, area, or route, ask. If you think you might be in the way, ask. If you want help with a route, ask.
The climbing community as a whole is great, helpful, and supportive, you just have to ask!
What to Wear to A Climbing Gym
After you know the etiquette of a climbing gym, it’s helpful to walk in looking like you belong there. Normal gym clothes are a good bet for a climbing gym and really anything that gives you good movement (no skinny jeans!). You also want to stay away from baggy clothing as it tends to get in the way.
For guys, a well-fitting tee shirt or sleeveless shirt paired with a pair of workout shorts is perfect. For the ladies, a good pair of yoga pants work with any top you’d normally wear to another gym!
Basically, if you have gym clothes, you have climbing clothes as well!
For shoes, I normally just wear a pair of sandals or slip-on’s to the climbing gym. I will be wearing my climbing shoes in the gym, and if you don’t have a pair yet you can rent some from the gym.
You do want an actual pair of climbing shoes to wear, so either buy a pair or rent them at the gym. Really nothing that isn’t made specifically for climbing is a good idea if you are following good climbing gym etiquette.
The Final Pitch
Following good climbing gym etiquette is easy to follow. Simply remember to use caution while climbing, pay attention to others, share the space, don’t be annoying, and ask for help when you want it.
If you do all of these things, you’ll find yourself welcomed in any climbing gym and will be able to do the sport you love and probably meet new friends as well!
Growing up in Fresno, CA, Yosemite has always called to Robert. From camping trips as a kid, he quickly became a regular to the parks granite walls.
His favorite, and most difficult climb to date is Serenity Crack at the Royal Arches in Yosemite, rated a 5.10d. Robby spends most of his time bouldering these days, and loves the Camp 4 Boulder area.