The Three Rules of Climbing

I didn’t create the rules. I just do my best to follow them. These were handed down to me by my buddy Andy. He’s a really smart guy and one of the best people you’ll ever meet. If you ever meet him. He’s notoriously difficult to schedule any time with and it’s incredibly rare that I (or anyone, really) get to climb with him.

As I’ve run into other climbers that have never heard of the three rules of climbing, I thought it a good idea to disseminate them here. I’ve also included a few thoughts on them as otherwise this would be an incredibly short post. It’s likely that I’ll add more thoughts later. If you’ve got any comments on these, please, I’d love to hear from you.

1. Look cool.

  • Climbing is cool. Simply doing it makes you look cool.
  • Note that being cool is not the rule, nor the objective, thus it is not relevant
  • consider wearing your harness to the climb. Not only do you look cool while not climbing, but this way you can signal to everyone else that you’re a climber. You could carry a rope, but that’s heavy and bulky and you could easily be confused with an arborist.
  • It’s hard to fuck this one up, but you can. I’m not saying you’re not going to look cool if you’re climbing with one of those fuzzy chalk bags that looks like a stuffed animal, but some would say you’re getting close to breaking this rule if you are.
  • helmets are not inherently uncool
  • It’s incredibly cool to refer to replace the term cool with “rule number one” as in “those shoes are pretty rule number one” or “this blog is pretty rule number one”

2. Have fun

  • Fairly easy to do. Climbers tend to be playful, easy going, care free. In the documentary Stone Locals climber guru Daniel Pohl put it best: “When we boulder, we are children.” I’ve meditated on that heavily and noticed that children are always climbing things, and adults are always telling them to stop.
  • Like all physical activities climbing releases dopamine and endorphins.
  • Climbing often takes place outside: Outside is fun for a great many reasons, not least of all because outside equals sunlight and sunlight equals vitamin D, whish helps boost your mood and your energy levels.
  • Parts of climbing just aren’t fun. Challenging your fear of heights is not fun. Getting sandbagged is not fun. Poison ivy, almost getting sucked away by streams on the approach, mosquitoes, tourists, people throwing rocks from the top of the bluff, sunburn etc. are not necessarily fun. Unless you’re weird. But in the end, climbing should be a relatively enjoyable experience. Whatever enjoyable looks like to you.
  • I have a whole philosophy about adventure and climbing transcending fun, but that’s a whole other blog post for some other time. Suffice it to say that for me fun is often more a biproduct caused by the success of accomplishing a goal, and less of a goal I’m trying to accomplish.

3. Be safe

  • For the sake of redundancy I’ll say it again: Be safe.
  • There’s a weird dichotomy with climbing: We preach be safe while doing something that is by nature not safe. I think likely “be careful” is what we mean, but it seems a bit negligent to say “be careful” instead of “be safe”
  • Safety is sort of relative in that when you’re doing something like climbing or riding a motorcycle or fighting a war you’re doing something inherently dangerous. You’re putting yourself at a greater risk of harm or death and doing it knowingly. Calculate your risk. Know what you’re risking and know why. Know that the risks you take have consequences for those close to you both physically and emotionally.
  • Know the consequences and be prepared to deal with them.
  • Have a care plan. Part of a good safety plan is planning for things going wrong. If you break your back or leg, how are you going to afford rent? Do your climbing buddies know if you have advanced directives? Health insurance? A specific hospital to go to? It’s easy to think that nothing bad will ever happen to you or that you’ll be conscious and aware if something does, but you may be incapacitated if things go to shit. Therefore it’s important to communicate any important information regarding your care or medical wishes to your climbing buddy/team.

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