4 Tips for Talking to Other Climbers About Ethics

04/11/2019

Calling out a stranger at the crag on their behavior can feel… awkward. While you may do your part to abide by The Climber’s Pact—staying on trail, brushing off chalk, and respecting area closures, etc—what happens when we see other climbers disregarding these practices?

We want you to be an upstander, not bystander. This doesn’t mean being confrontational—it means starting a conversation kindly, in the spirit of camaraderie and education. Encouraging others to behave responsibly strengthens our commitment to the climbing environment and our commitment to each other.


Photo courtesy of © Andrew Burr

Tips for Effective Upstanders

  1. Strike up a friendly conversation first. If you see someone acting in a way that damages the environment or threatens access, start with a friendly hello and build some rapport. Ask them where they are from and if they have climbed here before.
  2. Stand side-by-side instead of facing the person. This subtle body language queue is less confrontational and allows you to look at the problem together, making the conversation feel more casual.
  3. Take a “did you know?” approach. More often than not, the person has no idea that their behavior is damaging, so give them the benefit of the doubt and share your knowledge kindly.
  4. Suggest an alternate behavior. End the conversation by suggesting a more sustainable behavior and include the person, and yourself, in the solution.

These are not new ideas. Leave No Trace has been encouraging outdoor enthusiasts to leverage the Authority of the Resource technique for years to encourage responsible outdoor ethics.

Sample Dialogues for Upstanders

Here are a few sample dialogues to help you put the upstander techniques into practice.

If you see someone cutting a switchback
“Hey, how are you?....This approach is grueling, huh?....Have you been up here before?... My name is John.... There were trail crews up here last spring working to control erosion and damage to plant life. I had no idea until I talked to them that cutting switchbacks and traveling off trail contributes to serious erosion and damage to plants and soils … If we all stick to the trails, this area will be much more sustainable for climbers and native plants and wildlife.”

If you see someone entering a climbing area that you know is closed
“Hey, nice day out, yeah? …. This is John, I’m Cindy. We’re headed up to Main Wall for a few pitches. Where you headed today? ... Just a heads up, that area is closed until August for raptor nesting … You should check out the crack up at X Wall instead … It’s important for us climbers to respect closures to ensure our access to these areas remains secure.”

If you see someone leave micro trash behind
“Hey, are you headed out for the day? … Did you get in some good pitches? I’m Cindy, by the way. This is a pretty great spot, yeah? … Can I give you a hand picking up these little bits of trash? I carry a small trash bag with me whenever I head out climbing. Too often these small bits, like climbing tape, orange peels, and those little corners of bar wrappers get left behind … It’s important that we pack out all of our trash to protect our climbing areas and the local wildlife, since even food waste like fruit peels can negatively impact wildlife.”

Next time you see someone who isn’t following rules or responsible practices, challenge yourself to be an upstander and say something. It’s not as intimidating as you might think, and you may even make a new friend. To learn more about responsible outdoor climbing ethics check out the The Climber’s Pact.

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