Being respectful of other climbers will make for a more enjoyable experience for everyone.
By Joseph Legotte
Beta noun :
The physical and mental path in which a climber ascends a rock wall, artificial or otherwise.
Beta is a hot topic at gyms and crags. You can’t pass the bouldering area without hearing a chorus of voices shouting at different climbers on the wall. However, most beta I hear bandied about describes how to move a limb to some hold or space on the wall.
“Get your left leg up; move your right hand,” are examples of the typical beta directed toward people. From my experience observing a lot of climbing, the climber usually has a good idea of where they need to go–the problem though lies in how to arrive there. It’s not necessarily a lack of skills in reading the map of colorful holds or chalked bits of rock; the challenge is usually not understanding the mechanics of how the body needs to function to follow that map. Just telling someone where their next limb needs to go is about as constructive as encouraging a climber to hold their breath longer or engage their core less. Yet for some reason a large amount of the community hasn’t learned how to offer more valuable beta. Not only that, but there’s still a rampant problem where people seem compelled to offer unsolicited and unwarranted beta. Beta is not a tool to use in search of pride, superiority, or hubris. Rather, it’s a tool that deserves great care, deep knowledge of movement, and a respect for the individual strengths and weaknesses in body and mind of the climber in question. Beta-giving can be one of the most divisive elements in climbing, but I know it has potential to build a stronger community.
Here are five ways to give better beta during your next climbing session:
Knowing how your body operates and moves across the wall is crucial. If you cannot pay attention to when you engage your core, when you decide to pull with your feet, or relax and sink down into a position, it will be hard to translate that insight to someone else. Take time during your warm-up to feel your body. Notice how when you squeeze your core you are more likely to keep your feet on the wall in the cave. Pay attention to the pressure you put into feet on slopey foot holds, and how you engage lines of tension through your feet to your torso. These are the types of tips that will help your partners move up the wall more effectively.[/vc_column_text][mpc_textblock content_width=”100″ font_preset=”preset_2″]Athletic Empathy[/mpc_textblock][vc_column_text]Athletic empathy is a concept that has been brought to the climbing world recently, and it involves imagining what it would be like to climb in another person’s body. If you’re a 6-foot-tall muscular dude, providing beta for your 5-foot lady friend can be difficult, but not impossible. Observe how your friends and partners climb to better understand how you can translate your own experiences into something that makes sense for their body. This takes an amazing amount of effort, concentration, and trial and error, but is extremely rewarding in the end when you can successfully put yourself into their shoes.
Not Everyone Wants Beta
Many of us like figuring out the moves on our own, and playing to our strengths. Be sure your beta is warranted before offering it. A polite inquiry as to whether your buddy would like you to “spray them down” with beta is the best place to start. It’s much more embarrassing to shout beta at someone on the wall and have them come down and resent you for it. We all reserve the right to solve the problems and routes unhindered by outside influence. And as I said before, most beta I hear is extremely unhelpful for the climber, and oftentimes just giving encouragement is enough.
Are you spraying beta across the gym for hours just to prove how good you are? Are you purposefully climbing something right after someone falls off to show them how it’s properly done? Ask yourself why you feel compelled to give beta in the first place, and be sure your intentions are positive. Seeing your friend send a long-standing project or push new limits can be just as—if not more—rewarding than doing the same yourself. A strong desire to help those you climb with improve is a great foundation. Surround yourself with positive energy and the collective aspiration to have fun can carry everyone a long way. There is such a thing as a “team send.” Cheer your friends and partners on, and if you can help them along the way with valuable beta here and there, it’s all the better for everyone!
Never Give Up
I’ve watched friends throw their hands up in frustration, concluding that a problem is impossible. So many people have proven this wrong in the climbing world—many of them professional women who tend to be shorter and are relentlessly directed away from powerful and dynamic climbs by their peers. Michaela Kirsch’s send of The Golden Ticket in the Red River Gorge is a perfect example of this. She was the first woman to do the route, and what drove her on was partially the fact that it was classified as a “men’s route” due to the nature of some huge moves. She never gave up, and finally stuck the crux dyno and proceeded to dial it in. Especially outside, there is almost always a way for anyone of any stature to crush. An iron will and dedication, along with creative problem-solving, is required to overcome certain obstacles in climbing, so believe in your abilities and lean into the positive energy from outside sources to accomplish your goals.
It takes a long time to become comfortable with these concepts. The hard work you put into learning how to provide better beta will make the climbing community and environment a better place for everyone. We all want to try hard and help each other, so let’s ensure that positivity and altruistic intentions guide us in the journey to become better beta sprayers.