Climbing gym etiquette: Yes, it’s a thing


He looks at the large sign taped strategically between the entrance to the restrooms. Men to the left and women to the right: “Please do not wear climbing shoes in the restroom!” it reads.

He looks down at his feet, clad in brand new TC Pros, and shrugs. The clack of rubber against the sticky floor echoes as he enters the restroom.

Everyone has borne witness to this kind of unethical behavior. As climbers, when winter comes and the days shorten, we flock to the gyms. When we desperately try to fight the weak fingers and heavy legs that come from skiing hard, we flock to the gyms. When we seek to train harder for an objective, we flock to the gyms. So why is it that the values, courtesies, and ethics that are written in our code seem to disappear when we go indoors?

Perhaps it is negligence, perhaps laziness, and perhaps simply the fact that many indoor climbers are completely oblivious to rules that are not necessarily even invisible. Signs are posted everywhere in most gyms, yet they go completely ignored.

Climbing is growing in popularity extremely fast. It is understandable that newcomers to the sport often aren’t completely aware of the societal norms that are understood by more seasoned climbers in the community. Often these norms are broken unknowingly. The important thing that needs to come from this is the fact that when a newcomer is introduced to climbing, then they need to be taught that they are not only entering a gym but a community. It is every climber’s responsibility to be a good member of this community. How can we do this while climbing indoors? Here are a few suggestions to avoid being scowled at by both gym staff and the bare-footed, knuckle-dragging, ripper, wearing chalked up capris and a tank top.

Take your shoes off when going to the bathroom (That’s right, we see you).

This one should make sense. It is pretty easy logic to evaluate what happens when someone steps on a sticky bathroom floor and proceeds to put their feet on holds that everyone also puts their hands on. Don’t be that person.

Always be aware of your surroundings. Seriously.

We must remember that if someone falls on you, it is not their fault. It is yours. Look up. Look out. Always be alert. As much fun as climbing is, it is also extremely serious. Always being on alert will save everyone from being in a position that is dangerous or annoying. If you are in a small gym, then be aware of the space if you are with a group of people. If you are carrying on a conversation, taking selfies, talking about what you are going to make for dinner, then make sure you are not connected to an autobelay.

Don’t smother the holds with chalk.

Chalk doesn’t make you climb better any more than yelling out “Psahhhh!” does when you’re on a 5.9. Over-chalking is a real thing. Do you ever wonder why some people in the gym are carrying around toothbrushes? It is to wipe off all the chalk that didn’t need to be on those holds. Ask yourself, “do I really need chalk to hold on to this jug?” Moderation. Moderation. Moderation.

Don’t be a know-it-all and don’t spray beta.

The point of a problem is just that. It is a problem. We want to solve it. Don’t give us the details of how you gastoned that crimp and laybacked that pinch while simultaneously bumping your foot from some “secret” smear. We also don’t need to hear you talking about the difference between an open and closed crimp as your belayer proceeds to jump squat while giving you a catch.

Don’t be a creeper.

As much as we all love making friends, what we don’t like is the person that takes it too far too soon. The gym is not a place to look at people as though they are on a dating app. Don’t creep. Climbing well is way more attractive and noticeable.

In the end, the most important thing to take away from these indiscretions is this: By entering a climbing gym, you are entering a communal space filled with people that have like-minded goals. Ask someone if you have a question (as long as they aren’t climbing or belaying). Climbers are generally pretty friendly and most love to help out and be supportive. If you make a mistake then learn from it and move on. Be respectful, conscious, aware, and eager to learn. These are all lessons we can work on. In the meantime, get out there and have some fun!