Rock Climbing Etiquette

Climbers are one of the most environmentally friendly user groups. They are usually conscientious, follow the rules, and pack out their trash. Help keep up the good reputation by following the general principles established by Leave No Trace, a national nonprofit organization committed to minimizing environmental impacts by recreationists:

  • Plan ahead and prepare.
  • Camp and travel on durable surfaces. Pack it in, pack it out.
  • Properly dispose of what you cannot pack out.
  • Leave what you find.
  • Minimize use and impact from fires.

In addition, follow these specific principles when rock climbing:

  • Do not chip or drill holds.
  • Use removable protection. Bolts and pitons permanently change the rock.
  • Do not use motorized drills in wilderness areas. Placing bolts is a privilege; follow the rules.
  • Consider the overall environmental impacts of developing a new area or route. Traffic, trails, and disturbance to wildlife may follow.
  • Leave anchors that blend in with the rock. If you place bolts on a route, leave a fixed anchor at the belay, or leave a sling, and make them as invisible as possible.
  • Do not rappel directly from trees. Use dull colored slings and rappel rings instead; trees can die if they are rappelled from repeatedly.
  • Consider choosing a chalk color that blends in with the rock, or using none at all.
  • Clean up after yourself. Spend a few minutes cleaning up before you leave.
  • Keep the noise down, especially in urban areas. Be sensitive to the solitude enjoyed by residents and other users.
  • Park where you should, and keep a low profile along the road too.
  • Ask permission-private land is often open to climbers; help keep it that way by checking with the land owners if you have any doubt about access privileges. Follow regulations, and respect closures (for example, for nesting raptors).


College degrees are offered in this subject, but here we do not need to get that deep. For climbers, it is common sense to:

  • Be kind to climbers, land owners, and other users. Be sensitive, not a nuisance.
  • Do not hog routes.
  • Do not pressure other climbers to hurry up with your favorite climb; do something else while you wait.
  • Do not mislead other climbers about the characteristics of a route. “Sandbagging” can be dangerous.
  • Be cautious about sharing routes. Be certain of the safety system’s security before climbing on any rope (one of the authors once had a close call when a climber offered to let him use his top-rope-the climber had threaded the rope directly through a sling instead of through carabiners).
  • Be quick to help in an emergency. Keep your eyes open, step in if you see a life-threatening situation developing, help if you can if there isd an accident, let the person with the most medical experience take charge.