A Gumby’s Guide to Gym Etiquette

Whether you’re a first-timer in the gym or a double-digit pro, below are your Ten Commandments for gym-climbing behavior. These tips may not have been mentioned in your initial gym orientation, but you should follow them as carefully as you tie your knots. 

  1. Respect the line. Before beelining to your favorite route and chucking your rope down, ask or at least look around. Make sure no one else was waiting to go next. If you’re bouldering, then be patient when approaching the wall. If there’s a horde of waiting people, use your best judgement to determine when it’s your turn. Also, the gym doesn’t issue VIP passes for 5.14 climbers. It doesn’t matter if you’re about to send the gnar. If other people were there first, it’s their turn.
  2. Hold off on problems other people just brushed. Unless they say you can go, then they brushed the holds for themselves and intend to get on them immediately. They don’t want your shmarmy hands greasing up their fresh holds.
  3. Do you really need to campus something that someone else has been projecting for the last hour? If you’re really keen to campus, look for another problem or board that’s available and isn’t going to make the more moderate climber self-conscious. Be respectful and considerate of others. 
  4. Wear your shoes. No bare feet on the wall. Seriously. Gross. Also, please don’t go to the bathroom in your climbing shoes. No one wants to grab pee- and poop-coated holds.
  5. Zip the beta. Most people enjoy figuring things out for themselves, and chances are they’ll figure out better beta anyway. If someone asks, of course, have at it.
  6. Think before you grunt (or yell), especially in a small, quiet gym. Not everyone wants to hear how hard you’re trying and people especially don’t want to hear your vulgarities from across the gym. Remember, climbing is supposed to be fun, and gyms tend to be multigenerational. Keep the volume at a reasonable level and your language in check. 
  7. Don’t yard-sale your stuff in the fall zone. Set your phone, water bottle and chalk pot neatly next to you so other climbers don’t have to worry about rolling their ankles.
  8. Resist giving unsolicited spots. Accidents often happen when unsuspecting climbers receive spots from others who don’t really understand how to give a good spot. If you’re in a gym with good padding, spots are rarely needed. If the pads are sketchy, then ask before getting involved with another climber’s fall.
  9. Reconsider wearing headphones. Honestly, it’s really not a good idea to be on the wall with music blaring. I once witnessed someone almost deck from the top of a 35-foot wall because he forgot to clip into the auto belay and couldn’t hear other people’s warning shouts over his favorite tunes. Even if you’re just bouldering by yourself in the corner, headphones may prevent you from realizing a small child has just escaped the playroom and run underneath you.
  10. Wash your hands. Don’t be that guy or gal in the bouldering cave getting your Cheeto-fingers all over the holds. Some gyms may leave  holds up for months, or longer, so minimize your contributions to the collective crust. 
  11. Bonus tip! This was probably mentioned in your gym orientation, but it really can’t be overstated: Be aware of your surroundings! It’s frighteningly easy to walk underneath someone when you’re on your phone, talking with friends or thinking about grabbing a snack. Unfortunately, the reality is that if someone lands on you, the fallen climbing is more likely to be hurt than you are. Many o’ legs have been broken via unsuspecting passersby.

Feature Image by Jess Chambers

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