The Top 5 Things Developers Say to Get You to Their Crag

Don't trust this man!

Route developers are a curious breed. They spend countless hours, money, blood, sweat and tears creating what they hope will be climbs that others will enjoy. They get dirty, they put themselves in scary situations, they trundle loose rock, they endure endless criticism about why they put the bolt there, where the anchors are, etc. And they generally do so without any regard for recognition, other than maybe their name in small, italicized print in a guidebook, or a brief mention on the Internet somewhere.

Many of them are also some of the nicest, most generous folks you could hope to meet, who just can’t wait to show you their sick new crag. Well, as a reformed bolter of choss, I’m going to let you in on a little secret: they are not sharing their routes with you out of the kindness of their heart, but really because they need some traffic to get the climbs buffed out so they can then score the FA on something you unwittingly helped them clean!

But it’s not always easy to get people who are used to well-worn cliffs to check out fresh climbs. They are probably dirty, don’t have much chalk pointing the way, and who knows about the quality. But these developers are also masters of deception, and they have a whole bag of tricks to try to lure you out there. Lucky for you, I’m here to blow the doors wide open on their dastardly schemes, and, in no particular order, these are the most common tricks bolters will use to get you to check out their scary as shit choss pile next classic crag:

You’ll love it, the climbing is your style.

A shameless appeal to the ego, this is usually enough to get you to listen, and might have you hiking up the approach before you know what happened. They’ll probably gloss over the parts of the climbing that you wouldn’t enjoy, like the slabby, runout finish, or the fine layer of dust covering all the holds. A couple probing questions might be a good idea, though a wise choss master will keep the truth secret until you are up on the route, and a cursory “Oh yeah, forgot about that section” might clear their conscience, but it’ll do little to assuage your fears.

There’s only a small band of choss at the bottom.

Chances are, if it’s getting developed in 2012, it’s not the greatest rock in the world, though it IS amazing what can be turned into climbable terrain these days. Be aware that if you grab “unapproved” holds, you’ll likely be taking them home with you, which is good for having some unique paper weights around the house, but bad for keeping the fun factor high.

The hike’s not bad, it’s only twenty minutes from the car.

These cardio monsters are used to carrying a backpack full of bolts, drill, ropes, cams, gallons of water, the kitchen sink, and whatever else up loose and crumbling hillsides. So when they do the hike without all that crap, sure it feels easier, and they probably do actually get up there in 20 minutes (also because they have all their stuff stashed at the crag…oops, wait, are we not supposed to talk about that?) A good rule of thumb is to double any times they give you, and that’ll put you closer to the truth. There’s a reason no one bolted this stuff before, and it probably wasn’t because it was too close to the road. Bring some sturdy shoes!

It’s a little dirty, but the climbing is CLASSIC!

After spending countless days scrubbing and brushing, and endless nights picking lichen out of their ears and eyes, of course it’s cleaner than it was! This doesn’t mean it’s still anywhere close to the manicured stone you are used to. If they tell you to bring a brush, red lights and alarms should be sounding in your brain. If they ask if you have a crow bar, make up an excuse, any excuse, to go somewhere else that day.

We just leave the ropes up because it’s easier for mileage.

This is a red flag! If you get to the cliff and there are ropes already hanging from the anchors, you are in CHOSSLANDIA! Run, preferably screaming with your arms over your head for effect, to the car and don’t look back until you get home. If they aren’t psyched to re-lead the routes each time, you are NOT going to have a good time!

To recap, these people are devious, and they will employ all the tricks in their arsenal to get you out to their new mega choss crag. What’s worse, they know that all they have to do is get you there, because once at the cliff, no matter how funky it looks, you might as well do some climbing, right?

Hopefully, you are now armed with the knowledge to keep yourself safe, and to spare yourself the indignity of climbing at these barely legit crags until some other suckers go and clean it all up first. To be really safe, just wait until it’s in the next edition of the guidebook, and then go have a look. By then it’ll at least have had 10 or so ascents and should be in somewhat better shape 😉

16 Responses to The Top 5 Things Developers Say to Get You to Their Crag

  1. I like to grind loads of chalk into the holds to give the appearance of traffic.

    Ryan February 21, 2013 at 1:26 pm
    • Good call, I find about a handful per hold usually does the trick! And don’t forget lots of tick marks!

      BJ Sbarra February 21, 2013 at 4:10 pm
  2. Don’t forget the classics: It’s the best thing I’ve climbed _______(fill in the blank with the following options)____

    This year = well of course, you haven’t climbed anywhere else but chossland.

    In Western Colorado = sure, it’s mostly choss.

    For a moderate route in the area = wait, you actually climb moderate routes?

    In ages = define ages? When was the last time you climbed a well-established classic? Didn’t you have a memory-altering concussion last year?

    Of course, I’m probably guilty of all of them.

    Mike February 21, 2013 at 3:11 pm
  3. Funny, creative topic, BJ. I love that you’re wearing flip-flops in the photo.

    D-Storm February 21, 2013 at 3:55 pm
    • I must have forgotten my shoes that day or something.

      BJ Sbarra February 21, 2013 at 4:21 pm
  4. Don’t forget the sunglasses, to help keep dirt out of your eyes, err, I mean…, since it’s bright out.

    Awesome list. I’ll have to adopt some these tricks.

    Luke February 21, 2013 at 4:46 pm
  5. Quite true, though i love the chance of checking out new routes. Isnt it so much fun to clean and reclean (forget the toothbrush, use the kitchen sink brush), throw out plenty of loose holds and hope you’re not going to cause a rock avalanche on your belay partner? 😉

    Chris February 21, 2013 at 11:57 pm
  6. As a principle route developer of the crag covered in this blog I gotta say, you nailed it! The other developers and I are guilty as charged. You warn against the brush or worse, the pry bar. Hell, we’ve asked people if they would loan their car jack to the cause for a day.

    But we never leave our climbing ropes hanging from the anchors. Well, none that are under 5 years old…

    Ken T. February 23, 2013 at 6:29 pm
  7. Now why would you alert the rest of the world to our best kept secrets?!?
    We need these folks to ensure development is finished.
    Now I’ve got to come up with new and even more creative lures.

    PS. My crags really are closer to the car, and the stone is always bomber.

    Mike Snyder February 28, 2013 at 1:21 pm
  8. Why chalk the holds? Always more fun to just chalk up a tennis ball and toss it at the cliff along the route!

    mascasa March 4, 2013 at 2:29 pm
  9. So true!!

    It’s funny how hanging a brush at the first good hold for other parties to help never works…

    Ian Barrett March 9, 2013 at 2:59 pm
  10. Soooo Classic, and partly true for sure! It’s wild what we will do for a FA!

    JOHN D March 19, 2013 at 10:12 am
  11. Rate everything really soft… word will spread.

    Sam Lightner March 19, 2013 at 4:07 pm
  12. Great article. I usually like to wait till just before leaving to remind them to bring a helmet.

    Gentry March 19, 2013 at 5:40 pm
  13. man…i have fallen for 3 of these for sure. should also add: “So, where is this new secret crag?”…”Oh, super close man…just meet me tmrw morning and we’ll drive out there together”

    Mike C. March 20, 2013 at 4:06 am
  14. figures i’ve only had these issues with the posts author…i stopped trying new crags after that 🙂

    “it’s definitely only 5.8, 5.9 top (it was 5.11+), and you’ll only have to belay me for 15-20 minutes to finish cleaning a few holds (it was 90-120 minutes i believe) and you can definitely wear flip flops on the hike in (but bj didn’t!).”

    ha! nice work. admitting you have a problem is the first step i guess 🙂

    dave downing February 8, 2014 at 8:10 pm
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