Climbing tips for safe and fun crag days

We are in the middle of spring and most climbers have already visited their local crag or hit the road to a summer destination. The rocks are busy and the parking lots are full, so having a plan before you leave home will help you have a successful day at the rock.

Busy days: Be prepared for the crowds and show up early. As the cliffs get more crowded, it pays to bring the most up-to-date guidebook so you can find a potentially quieter wall. Have a plan-b if the parking lot is full.

Check your nodes: Always check your knots before climbing. Always check your partner’s knot before he climbs. Check the knots three times before weighing the rope after cleaning an anchor. Safety must be the number one priority on the crag.

Be a good insurer: Don’t stay far from the bottom of the climb. Always think about where you will go if the lead climber falls. Do not make a short rope or give a hard grip.

Communication: Don’t let the excitement of outdoor climbing cloud your judgement. Good communication with your insurer is essential. Know your calls, from insured to secure. When you are at the top and threading the rope to descend, make sure your belayer knows how to take the slack.

Belay with an Edelrid Jul2. Photo by Brandon Pullan

Weather: It’s spring, so be prepared for sudden thunderstorms and changeable weather depending on where you are. If you’re hiking at a higher elevation, remember it’s likely to be colder and windier.

To wear a helmet: These days most climbers start indoors and transition outdoors. You don’t have to wear headphones inside as there are foam floors, bolts are not far apart, outlets are bolted to the wall and everyone watches over everyone. But outdoors, bolt distances vary, touching the ground is a possibility, routes meander and create rope management nightmares, holds can break and things can fall from above. There are far more dangers on a sport cliff than at your local gym. Always wear a helmet.

Loose rock: The freeze/thaw process triggered by cold temperatures is one of the main contributors to rock loosening. If you’re climbing a notoriously loose route, check each hold with a little bump before trusting it. If you accidentally knock over a rock, then yell “Rock!”

Equipment and food: From rope bags and pole clips to belay goggles and belay gloves, be sure to pack all the gear that will make long days on the crag more comfortable. Also bring water and snacks for times between climbs.

Climbers at Electric Avenue in Cheakamus. Photo by Brandon Pullan