Practice & Ethics in sport climbing


28 October 2005

Practice & Ethics in sport climbing 
In sport climbing, compared to most other sports, there are few written rules or use of referees. Instead, the climbing community creates and circulates their own Practice & Ethics. Beginners are sometimes struggling to understand what is "normal" behavior and what's allowed and what's not. Over time, the general procedure has been modified and in different subcultures different ethics apply.  

We thought it would be a good idea to discuss and define good style as of today and also give some amusing examples of violations that are practised in order to receive sponsors, glory and points. We're not saying there's a definite line between right and wrong but the fundamental idea is: don't systematically push the border of ethics towards more subjectivity, instead, keep the spirit alive. Here is a list of what 8a thinks are practices within sport climbing that are frequently interpreted in different ways; Green, Yellow and Red card are given. We estimate that about 1/3 of all ascents would not pass community approval. What do you think? Bouldering ethics are on their way.

Sport climbing practices with different interpretations

Green Card -

Yellow Card -
Ethical dilemma
Red Card -
Ascent not valid!?
1. Onsight beta
This style means that you should not receive beta (information) on the route before climbing.
Talk and discuss with anyone who doesn't have beta on the route. Use binoculars. Ask questions like - Do you think I can do it? Belay but look down, once. Ask questions like: Does it suite my style? Read topo descriptions like - 'Crux at the third bolt'. Where did you fall off? Look at route when rapelling a neighboring route. Tick-marking by a friend.
2. Gri-Gri locking/Rope drag
Dynamic moves to footless often create pendel swings which may be stopped by Gri-Gri or by tight belay.
Provide enough slack so that the swing is not affected. Holding down the release and actively give rope.

A Gri-Gri that has locked due to a swing. Any rope drag due to tight belay, even if it's the belayers' fault.

3. Pre-clipping carabiners
Having the rope pre-clipped in a carabiner, like a top-rope.
One pre-clipped carabiner if it's for safety. Two or three pre-clipped carabiners if it's for safety. Three or more normally always means top-roping. Downclimbing is ridiculous.
4. Onsight reversing
In competitions you are not allowed to downclimb to the ground but outdoors?
If you reverse once after the first move or two, due to a wet hold, wrong sequence etc. If you reverse more than once. If you have clipped the second carabiner. If you systematically downclimb to practice moves. If you untie and rest. If you have clipped in 3 or more carabiners.
5. Cheating stones
Stones used for reaching the first holds.
If it's done and included in the grade by the First Ascent. "I did it with an extra stone to reach the start holds"! In order to ease an established start and keep the grade.
6. Grabbing/Clipping anchor
Use of anchor carabiners as an artificial hold. The route is defined by the crag not by the anchor.
Climb the mountain not the anchor, which means that the 'top' is often above the anchor. Finish by clipping an anchor which is placed below the top due to rope-drag etc. Pro-longing the anchor to avoid last move. Grabbing the anchor.
7. Flash/Onsight variations
Sometimes different routes have the same start or finnish.
When the shared part of the climb is more than a full grade lower, i.e. a 6c start is divided into two 7c+'s. When the shared part of the climb is three steps lower, i.e. a 6b start is divided into two 7a's. When the neighbouring route gives beta/info on the route that will be climbed.
8. Combinations/Variations
To combine neighburing routes and add link-ups, new starts and finishes to existing routes.
Create (1) much easier/ harder combination (new anchor) or variation with quality & new characteristics. Create (2) easier/harder combinations (new anchor) without a clear line, new characteristics or quality. Create (3) or more combinations, variations of the same grade and characteristics with no clear line. Downclimbing link-ups. Good training but not worth a name/grade.
9. Chipping/Chopping
Changing mother nature by drilling, hammering or sikaing.
Clean a route from loose stones.

Create a new hold to
make a superb route possible.kljklj..........kjkkl

Improve or worsen holds. Sika.
10. Onsight coaching
What are you allowed to yell?
General screaming - 'You
can do it', 'C'mon', 'Go on', 'Breathe', etc.
Instructive and adaptive screaming in order to coach. Yelling things like; 'the route goes to the right', 'the rest of the route is easy', etc.
11. Flash with beta
How much info is reasonable?
Getting as much beta as possible from other
climbers on the ground.
Look at the holds from a neighbouring route. Rapell down to look at the route to find the most obvious line.
11. Downclimbing - An old style, in order to claim as many pre-clips as possible.
If it is for safety reasons you can always start with one pre-clipped. Downclimb but not un-tie.  Climb the route. Later do the downclimb. Jump instead of downclimb.
12. Bolting trad climbs          

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