Dumb Things Climbers Complain About: Crowds

Recently I was driving up a scenic road to a beautiful cliff on a perfect spring day, and as we got closer to the parking area, there was a part of me that was really hoping to see some other cars in the lot, to know that other folks were going to be out enjoying the day like us. Of course, no one was there, despite the fact that it was a perfect day, and many of the other local options were still seeping or buried in snow. As I pondered these things, I noticed with a smile how I was actually hoping to see some people, and how that is very different from how many people (myself included) usually approach a day of climbing.

We’ve all been there, you drive up to a crowded cliff, only to lament “Man, there are so many people here today!” or “I can’t believe how crowded it is!”. Of course, by being there yourself, you are a part of the crowd, but this minor detail seems to escape our notice most of the time. THEY are the crowds, we’re just climbers looking for a place to get some pitches in. This us and them attitude is really unfortunate, and in most cases completely unwarranted. You’d think the common bond of climbing would make us instant friends, hey you like rock climbing too? we should hang out! Instead there is this attitude of being different or better than others somehow, and not part of the dreaded “crowd.” I blame it on our American upbringing.

But I’ve had several experiences this spring that have changed the way I look at a busy cliff, (and I also happen to be married to the friendliest and most social climber I’ve ever met, which also helps.) I mean when you really look at what we are doing, rock climbing, we should be giddy every time we get to go out, thankful for the fact that we have so much free time, disposable income and health to pursue our passion. Having spent many days this year climbing in Indian Creek, I’ve hiked up to walls with 15 to 20 cars in the parking lot, ready for a crap show of people. What usually ends up happening instead is that we meet a lot of nice people, who are all out enjoying the same things we are. Lots of laughs are shared, and many times we find we’ve got mutual friends and other connections. And once the crowd becomes your friends, your perspective totally changes because its no longer us and them, it’s just us.

So next time you drive up to a “crowded” cliff, try a different approach: take a deep breath, smile and say to yourself, wow, isn’t this great, all these people are out enjoying this beautiful day with me. Who knows, you may even make some friends you’ll have for the rest of your life.

And if you want to see crowds, go climb at the Gunks on a Saturday in September and then tell me how “crowded” Scarface is when there are only 18 cars in the parking lot.

5 Responses to Dumb Things Climbers Complain About: Crowds

  1. Here, here! I completely agree.

    Its the kinda thing where if you met someone from “the crowded crag” in a line somewhere or an elevator, you might be happy to meet another climber. But heaven help them if they’re already on “your” route… This attitude that we’re all uniquely entitled to empty routes when “we” go out is pretty ridiculous.

    Eric April 22, 2010 at 4:44 pm
  2. I get your point – but I guess it all depends on the type of people in the crowd. Most of us love climbing because we get to be outdoors and practicing a sport in nature. If you have someone bumping music on the ipod speakers or a rowdy crowd of punks at the base it can ruin your day.

    But, like you said, you could end up meeting some really cool people or even a future wife/husband.

    Adayak April 22, 2010 at 5:18 pm
  3. most do complain of not getting on a route they want to do or can climb. i never had that problem and theres usually tons of climbs to get on (especially at the creek) and it is fun to see others send. quit whining or quit climbing , i say!

    jay brown April 22, 2010 at 8:05 pm
  4. I’m also a social climber, like your wife. I’m talkative, and I’m never in a rush to get on a climb, so I don’t really mind having other nice people around to chat with.
    Funny thing is: I usually can’t climb during week ends on account of my non-climbing wife and kids, but since I’m off during summers, I can still climb plenty during the week, when, as it turns out, there’s no one out but me and my partner. I have climbed at Rumney several times without ever coming across another party.
    However, I do complain about the people who openly complain about crowded cliffs, as they usually aren’t very willing to share and often kill the vibe for everyone else. Popular cliffs WILL be full of people during good weather week ends. It’s easy to figure out. And if that doesn’t fit your idea of a cragging day, well just find some lesser crag and leave us sociable people alone, you know?
    Oh, and I also complain about some morons in these crowds stealing lower-off biners from sport routes. The full rant is on my blog. Cheers!

    Stevie April 22, 2010 at 8:28 pm
  5. Hey! The Gunks are never crowded, well the hard routes at least. Its all about perspective…

    climberism April 26, 2010 at 12:56 pm
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