Climbing Ethics -- Etiquette on Passing Parties


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Trad climber
May 11, 2010 - 03:28pm PT
binks go to climb in Marmolada and then we see... you are not all croft or alex honnold...

Trad climber
East Coast US
May 11, 2010 - 03:30pm PT
We let a party pass us on the Nose after the first Stoveleg. Then we caught them and passed them at Dolt Tower. Then they passed at night while we were laying around on El Cap Tower after we asked them to not go above us. They bivied at the base of Texas Flake and knocked down all kinds of el crappola on us every time they rolled over, picked through their bags, or breathed.

Next morning I caught them at the top of the Boot Flake. Thankfully I had huge amounts of gas from the can of 'beenie-weenies' eaten during the evening meal prior to our morning rendezvous. I made full use of the extra time it takes to go across the King Swing and the close proximity that is the small ledge at the top of the Boot on two members of that party. And I made no excuese... wait, let me clarify. I took pride in blowing forth the most foul, rancid, moist, noisy farts to ever grace the top of the Boot Flake before the thermal winds picked up. I mean we're talking blue clouds of smoke lingering in a seedy basement bar kind of hanging around. It was pure karma. Skid marks and white painters' pants be damned.

Social climber
May 11, 2010 - 03:31pm PT
You're right rockermike, the party passing should be courteous and ask permission. I'm just trying to point out that to those who feel entitled about staying slow in front of an obviously faster party that they should look in the mirror when calling those others jerks. Also, everything is on a case-by-case basis.

As far as getting an alarm clock, I got sour news for ya buddy, sometimes it just ain't that easy. This thread is supposed to be more moderate free climbing centered, but what about routes like the Nose through the months of May and June. It doesn't matter what time you start, you're still going to have to deal with parties. Besides, if the party being passed were truly worried about time and waiting even half an hour to get passed, they wouldn't be moving slow (but I recognize that that isn't always that easy).

As for me, I hate driving down the interstate behind two cars blocking both lanes, driving side-by-side, going the speed limit. Maybe I just should of got on the freeway sooner...

Gym climber
Boise, I dee Hoe
May 11, 2010 - 03:36pm PT
I ask to pass. You say no. I ask again. You say no because you are scared of rockfall etc with a party above. I say screw it and pass, and knock a rock down that kills you. Who is at fault and what would you do on either side of this question?
Mighty Hiker

Vancouver, B.C.
May 11, 2010 - 04:22pm PT
What about commercial climbers, who may have greater experience, skill and knowledge, but sometimes also have a greater sense of entitlement?

And what about those who 'camp' in the middle of popular routes, working on 'free' ascents?
Senor Pinche Wey

Big Wall climber
May 11, 2010 - 04:29pm PT
There is passed and then there is just chumped.

I was getting ready to climb Central Pillar one morning (dawn) and a party of three shows up from Canada. One of them says "Hey you left the lights on in your car" I run back down to turn them off (they weren't on) and they jump on the route. It was a good trick. They didn't know how to hand jam and after waiting a while we went and did something else.

It was hard not to snicker at them when they got caught in a thunderstorm later after spending the day getting to the middle of Pitch 3.
August West

Trad climber
Where the wind blows strange
May 11, 2010 - 07:02pm PT
I guess I'm not very sympathetic to the "you can't pass because I don't want parties above me", at least for climbs like well traveled Yosemite routes. Loose alpine routes might be different, but then again, for many routes in that category you can get around parties by taking variations (its not like you could stop every one on Cathedral peak from climbing just because you got there first).

As far as taking a half hour to pass. I can't remember the last time I passed a party where we didn't simul-climb through. That's not taking a half hour. If I'm not comfortable/fast enough to simul through, I generally won't pass (or will try to wait for an easier pitch where I can).

I don't have a problem with letting a party pass if they are clearly faster. Although in the situation described above, if it is bumper-to-bumper parties, then no, that is not a passing situation (and I generally avoid starting up in that scenerio).

I guess it saves arguments, but I have thought it a little strange that the party that first arrives at the base of a route, is first in line, regardless of how many hours (uh, I mean minutes) it takes before they actually start climbing. But otherwise, I guess you would just clip the rope to a piece 15 feet off the deck and come down "because you forget something".
The user formerly known as stzzo

Sneaking up behind you
May 12, 2010 - 12:53am PT
I'm just trying to point out that to those who feel entitled about staying slow in front of an obviously faster party that they should look in the mirror when calling those others jerks.

That's nice. It's just that you're wrong...
Josh Nash

Social climber
riverbank ca
May 12, 2010 - 03:39am PT
I'm so glad I climb in uncrowded areas......

Trad climber
Boulder Creek CA
May 12, 2010 - 04:28am PT
Best answer - go somewhere that has no other people.

We used to say that the density of the crowds in Yosemite decreased with the square of the distance from the road and the cube of the height above the road. Obviously that idea is obsolete.

If Yosemite has become a crowded climbing gym, how about deciding that politeness and good manners trump machismo demonstrations? Or are there now too many rats in the cage to allow civilized social behavior?

I like Walt Whitman's comment that in order for civilization to exist requires a back door to wilderness. And I always thought climbing was supposed to be a wilderness sport.

There is no shortage of rocks in the world. I realize that Becky tried to climb them all, but even he didn't come close. And there's lots more off planet.

I know this wiry old guy named John Young who climbed rocks on the moon. His opinion is that we have to get off this planet in order to save it, and we have to get off fast. I agree.

We just had an astronaut climb Mt Everest. I told him he should try El Capitan next. But I'd really like to see space travel transferred from military test pilots to wilderness adventurers.

We are just now reaching the point where some of this fine adventure spirit can help push exploring off the planet. The big money is still trying to launch motorhome sized spacecraft. It's not nearly so hard to launch something more like a motorcycle with a tent.

Have you ever looked at pictures of Olympus Mons on Mars rising 58,000 ft above the surrounding plains? And the 13,000 foot tall cliffs of the 600 mile long Valles Marineris make Yosemite look like some local practice rocks. And how many pull ups can you do in a gravity field where you weigh 38% as much as on Earth?

Or perhaps you'd rather just hang out with the local crowds...


Ice climber
Pomfert VT
May 12, 2010 - 09:27am PT
Cannon it seems that often the partys with the earliest start are the slowest. They sleep in the parking lot, wake up at 4,they sign the register as they leave the parking lot at 6am then god only knows what happenes from there. I wake up at 6am leave vt at 7:30 sign the register at 10.:00am take my time racking up at the base of Moby, climb as slow as I can and catch these guys on P3.. they are going to get passed one way or the other. I will be nice about it but it is going to happen. If you are that slow you actually do have an obligation to let a faster party through...

Trad climber
May 12, 2010 - 09:44am PT
If the route is stacked with people on a moderate multipitch such as Birdland, Olive Oil, etc, it is not ok to climb over the top of everyone. I climb fast, but if I choose to climb a crowded route I accept the fact that I need to get in line. If someone wishes to let me by, thats great. But for others to try and pass me when I am waiting on multiple teams in front of me on while I am on lead, so that if they fall they will strip me off, that is horsesh#t.

Ice climber
Pomfert VT
May 12, 2010 - 09:49am PT
I agree. If the whole thing is a conga line then either do something else or be content with the slow pace. If however You are the VW buss that has miles of open road in front of it and a 2 mile logjam behind it, pull into the breakdown lane and eat a ham sandwich.
Toker Villain

Big Wall climber
Toquerville, Utah
May 12, 2010 - 12:12pm PT
MeatBomb hits the nail on the head.
I got put in a wheelchair by a party that cut ahead of us.

If somebody absolutely refuses to wait and insists on doing something that threatens my life then I believe I have the right of self defense.

Your choice; leaded, or unleaded but with a very shortened rope,....

I'm one person you DON'T want to push by. Be polite to me and I'll be polite to you.

This is becoming a more and more important issue as routes get more crowded. I think it will be eventually addressed with a concept of consensus time "windows", sort of like "par" for the route.
If a party makes decent time then they have the option of denial.

Ice climber
Pomfert VT
May 12, 2010 - 01:10pm PT
I totally agree with you on that. If your moveing at a decent pace then the party below can take lunch or whatever to create some space between you and then all is good. If however you are seriously snailing it beyond reasonable then move asside and let the normal climbers play through.
August West

Trad climber
Where the wind blows strange
May 12, 2010 - 05:58pm PT
I don't disagree with the concept but what is a "normal" or reasonable speed. Lets say you are the highest party on a long moderate route (royal arches, EB middle, etc.), are halfway up the route and expect to finish the route in another 4 to 6 hours (with plenty of daylight) and the party immediately behind you could, if it passed, finish in 1 to 2 hours. Since your speed is not a snail's pace (that would be say 8 to 10 hours and a twilight finish), it's reasonable to not let the party behind pass? I don't think I'm buying that one.

Ice climber
Pomfert VT
May 12, 2010 - 06:47pm PT
If you have a 4hr head start on me and I catch you on P3 that is not reasonable. It ain't rocket science.. If the party below gains on you rapidly and makes up several pitches for your one pitch then you should yeild.

Trad climber
San Jose, CA
May 12, 2010 - 07:35pm PT
Hi Japhy, what was your rude passing party story?

May 12, 2010 - 08:01pm PT
Japhy is the fellow whose partner fell off Serenity Crack last weekend.

From his report:

The only explanation I have for this oversight is distraction and complacency. Brian MAY not have been 100% focused on the task (there were several things going on... party coming behind us and he was excited to take photos of the leader below... a few moments earlier on the last pitch, we were rudely and inconsiderately passed up by a speeding simul-climbing party; this bothered both of us considerably). I am equally guilty of the same distraction and complacency for not having noticed the absence of the backup.

Perhaps that might answer the question.

I was looking up the route the weekend before that and it was a total clusterf*#k at every anchor.

Since I have yet to chime in on the subject: my condolences to Japhy, and Brian's friends and family. Be safe, everyone.

Mountain climber
Kathmandu, Nepal
Topic Author's Reply - May 12, 2010 - 08:22pm PT
I was climbing Serenity Crack to Sons of Yesterday with my friend Brian on Friday. We started out at 10 am and topped out at 2:45pm, with a long lunch break at Sunset Ledge at noon.

On the last pitch of Sons of Yesterday, Brian led up. As he starts on the traversing crack, a girl comes up from below me and clips into one of the bolts of the anchor. I greet her, and she continues climbing the crack.

I asked her what she was doing, and she looked at me and plainly said, "I'm going to pass you." I responded and asked if she could wait at the anchors with me until Brian was finished leading the pitch. She refused and continued jamming up the crack.

Shocked that she was being so insistent, I told her "I'm not sure what kind of climbing ethics you observe, but what you're doing is very disrespectful."

She replied, "There is no reason why I shouldn't pass you. People do this all the time over here. Why shouldn't I be allowed to pass?"

At which point, I stumbled around my words defensively and said, "Well... I don't want you to compete with my leader for protection and to climb the ONLY crack on this pitch. Besides, he'll be done very soon."

"Well, then I won't place any protection." And with that, she continued upwards.

As she was just behind Brian, he fell unexpectedly. I caught his fall, and he went down just a foot or so from his last pro (red camalot). This was the first fall of the day, and shocked to find someone right next to him as he falls, he says, "Whoa, what are you doing?!?"

She says, "Dude, you just fell. Now let me pass."

Brian gets very defensive here and asks her to build an anchor right where she is and to wait for us to finish the pitch. Later he tells me how surprised he is that he fell in that spot and that it was totally unexpected (Brian, like me, has only taken 3 falls on gear, and each time, it is completely anticipated as we're pushing our limits; this slip on an easy 5.9 NOT because he was incompetent).

They argue momentarily mid-pitch (I'm not about the exact words). This whole time, the girl does not have a SINGLE piece of protection in the crack, and her last pro is one of the bolts I'm anchored to. She is traversing directly overhead of me, and looking below, there is not a single piece of pro for 30 feet. I understand that the whole upper crack on Sons is a BOMBER hand crack (I ran it out while leading too), but at this point, she is in a position that is endangering my partner and I if she fell.

Brian concedes, and lets her pass after realizing that she was very insistent on overtaking us. For the record, she finishes that whole pitch without a single piece of pro (90 feet).

Brian reaches the ledge at the top of the pitch behind her. The girl's partner arrives at my ledge and is moving swiftly (the two of them are simul-climbing the last two pitches, and are obviously very competent climbers).

I am very upset at this point and tell the guy, "Just so you know, your partner was being very inconsiderate to pass us up without permission. And I don't like that she didn't place any protection on the whole pitch."

He responds, "Well, sorry man... if you get passed up on a freeway, thats just the way it is," and continues climbing. Along the way, he manages to grab one of my quickdraws and racks it up.

When I notice that he has taken one of my draws, I yell up to him. He sheepishly admits that it looks just like his (it did), and clips it to one of our cams in the crack.

I climb up to join Brian. On my way up, I hear the three of them arguing. I have lots of words to say myself about the experience, but before I can say anything, Brian extends a hand out to her and says, "Hey, lets let bygones be bygones. How about we call it and move on."

They shake hands and are almost finished setting up a rappel. As I start spitting out angry words, Brian stops me and asks me to forget about it.

The guy mentions something about how they have "lots more climbing to do for the day," and the two of them disappear on rappel.

Brian and I spent the next 30 minutes atop that ledge talking about the incident. We had a lot to say about it, and decided to post the question up on Supertopo about passing protocol. In fact, our conversation atop the climb was so focused on the passing that we promised to each other that we didn't want to be talking about such a negative topic, and had to shake hands not to talk about it anymore.

Three rappels later, we reached Sunset Ledge.

And yes, this story is about my friend Brian who fell to his death that day.

I am extremely angry, but will refrain from naming any names. The couple who passed us are well known members of the local community.
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