Learn some of the rules for navigating the rope climbing area with consideration and safety.


By Abi Cotler

Are you new to rope climbing in a gym and wondering what etiquette you’ve gotta get down?  Climbers are generally an unwieldy lot but in a sport that carries a certain level of risk and, now so much popularity, there are some rules to understand so that everyone has an enjoyable experience.


Here are some basics to follow to keep your cool-cred—and safety—in tact:


  • The most important thing you need to do when you enter a ropes area is to always be aware of your surroundings. Make it a habit to know where people are in the gym at all times. Complacency increases the risk of disrupting another climber’s enjoyment, uncomfortable situations, accidents and injuries.

  • Walking through a busy climbing gym has been compared to crossing a crowded street—with the threat of meteors falling on you at any time. Keep your head on a swivel so that you don’t inadvertently walk underneath someone rappelling directly above you.

  • Also be aware of where you’re standing while you wait to climb and do your best to stay out of another climber’s fall zone. If someone falls on you, it’s your fault. The climber has little control over where she will land so it’s up to you to stay out of her way.

  • Keep yourself and all of your belongings out of potential fall zones, too. Your seemingly innocuous water bottle can become a hazard for everyone around you. Also, lead belayers need room to move around. If any loose items get in their way, it can be very dangerous. They may trip, lose control of the rope which may cause the climber to fall unexpectedly.


  • If someone is on the wall already, they have the right-of-way. Before you start a climb, observe the path of the route (the holds will all have the same color). Sometimes the route will intersect with other problems, which could potentially lead to a traffic jam on a wall or dangerous encounter. It’s also a good idea to stick to the route you started with so that other climbers can anticipate where you’re headed. Using the occasional hold from another route is ok, but if you go rogue and change routes mid-climb, you may increase the risk of colliding with someone else. This applies to both ropes and boulders (link out to boulder piece).

  • If people are projecting something (that’s climber speak for working on finishing a tough route) and you want to try it, just ask if you can work in—it’s done all the time. Similarly, if you see someone hanging out by something you are projecting, ask if they’d like to hop in the rotation.

  • Share the rope. While it’s understandable to want to train endurance, spending 30 minutes on the same rope during rush hour can be really hard to work with.


  • Monitor your volume. It’s important for climbers and belayers to be able to communicate; be mindful of how loud you are so that you don’t drown anyone else out.
  • Use chalk responsibly: don’t chalk up too much; too much chalk on a hold is just as bad as no chalk on your hands.
  • Don’t Spray Beta. Not everyone wants unsolicited advice about how to climb a route. For many people, solving the problems on their own is a huge part of the satisfaction in climbing. If you want to chat about a climb, it’s best to either ask first if someone wants advice or just let them know if you generally liked the route or not and leave it at that.