If you’re new to outdoor bouldering, there are some key points to consider to ensure compliance with climbing’s code of ethics.
If you’ve not been bouldering outside before, you may be wondering what you need to know to ensure compliance and what to expect once you’re on the real rock. We’ve put together this handy guide with some of our top tips for bouldering outside to get you started.
Guidance on access, etiquette and ‘leave no trace’
There’s often important guidance on local access and ethics to follow when outdoor bouldering. Sticking to this code of ethics ensures that the relationships between climbers and land owners remain positive and we can continue to climb in the places we love for years to come.
Ahead of a day bouldering outdoors, it’s good practice to figure out if there’s any information you need to consider beforehand. Are there any restrictions on the crag you’re hoping to visit? Does the crag sit on privately owned land, are there any nesting bird concerns or limitations on parking and access?
Things to remember:
- Many crags have nesting restrictions during the summer months. You can find helpful information on access and limitations in your guidebook, the BMC site and UKC.
- Try to park in the designated parking locations for the crag you’re climbing at. UKC and your guide book will likely have the most up to date information on parking.
- Be respectful of others and try not to block gates, driveways, farm access and avoid verges where possible.
- Many of the crag car parks are run by the local countryside or national park organisations. The money spent on car parks often goes towards the preservation of the wild places and crags we enjoy so much.
Once at the crag, it’s also important to stay mindful of the natural environment you’re climbing in. Try to minimise any disturbance or disruption to local wildlife, flora and paths.
Things to remember:
- Respect local farmland and farm animals.
- Stick to designated footpaths where possible, popular beauty spots can become eroded quickly.
- Make sure you leave gates as you found them.
Respecting the rock
The code of ethics that climber’s follow when bouldering outdoors puts a heavy emphasis on respecting the rock. The rock we climb on can be delicate and vulnerable to damage from heavy traffic and chalk use. Ensuring that the crags and climbs we love are preserved for years to come is important. With that in mind, here are a few tips on respecting the rock.
- Don’t climb on wet rock (this can damage and erode the rock face)
- Don’t overdo it with chalk (this preserves the rock and the aesthetic of the area)
- Clean chalk marks off the rock when you’re finished (others may want to figure out key beta for themselves)
- Try not to over-brush the rock, especially on soft rock types such as sandstone.
- Clean your climbing shoes on a foot mat before you climb to avoid damaging the rock. Clean shoes give you a lot more friction on the rock as well as preserving the rock. Polished rock is often caused by dirty shoes.
A leave no trace philosophy ensures that we as climbers are leaving the areas in which we climb in the way we found them, or even a little better! There are a few key things worth remembering when it comes to the ethics of climbing outside.
- Don’t leave rubbish, tape, human waste, food scraps, chalk or toilet paper.
- Don’t light fires
- Respect wildlife
- Be considerate of other climbers at the crag.
- Avoid noise pollution ie. playing loud music
- Be mindful of local flora
- Consider if it's appropriate to bring your dog to the crag
- Take all your litter home with you or use local bins.
- Avoid having instant BBQs, or use them responsibly.
- Wildfires are becoming increasingly common during dry weather so please be responsible with anything that could cause fires.
- Try and use local toilets. If nature does call, bury waste far away from the boulders and footpaths.
The ethics of climbing in outdoor spaces has been established and nurtured by climbers for more than 100 years. Adherence to the guidance is a key part of climbing culture and the importance of respecting the areas we climb in grows as participation in our sport accelerates. Looking after the natural environments we climb in is an important part of paying forward this wonderful sport for future generations.
Before you head out, there are a couple of bits of kit you’ll need. To start bouldering outside, you’ll need:
- A bouldering pad (we recommend our Tri Fold pad for an extra reassuring landing!)
- Bouldering shoes
- A chalk bag and some chalk to go inside
- A guidebook of the area
- Some climbing tape
- A natural fibre brush
- Your phone to contact others, or the emergency services if you need to.
- Some snacks and water!
- A foot mat avoid transferring dirt and grain onto the rock
- & something to take your rubbish away with.
One of the most noticeable differences between climbing indoors at the gym and rock climbing outside is the type of landing you can expect to find. When you make the transition from bouldering indoors to bouldering outdoors, you’re going to want to invest in a bouldering pad. Bouldering pads are effectively crash pads made from layers of high density foam. They cushion your landing when climbing outside as well as making great sun-loungers, picnic benches and places to nap at the crag - we’re sure many a crag dog would agree.
Spotting and safety
Whilst bouldering pads are an essential piece of kit for outdoor bouldering, they should be used alongside effective spotting. When spotting, you stand below the person climbing posted to control a climber’s fall - the aim is not so much to catch them but to make sure that they fall in a more controlled way than they would without a spot.
So now you have everything you need to go bouldering outdoors safely and respectfully. While this is by no means a comprehensive guide to bouldering outside, we hope you found this a useful resource for making the transition from indoors to outside.