Big Wall Passing Ethics


Discussion Topic

Return to Forum List
This thread has been locked
Messages 1 - 20 of total 59 in this topic << First  |  < Previous  |  Show All  |  Next >  |  Last >>
Chris McNamara

SuperTopo staff member
Topic Author's Original Post - May 18, 2008 - 12:09pm PT
I just got the comment from a SuperTopo user:

"We're thinking of doing either the Nose, Salathe, or Triple Direct and the crowds are probably our number one worry.

I would be most interested in a section about etiquette and practical issues on crowded walls in terms of waiting. For example, how does one wait for a day to get on a wall; is there a line, do you have to stay there to keep your place, can one climb through the night and pass parties that way. "

Got me thinking that there should be a place in the big walls book that addresses these questions (and in the meantime post it on the big walls page).

So ill take a crack and answering the questions and would appreciate any other feedback before i write up a little paragraph for the Big Walls page:

My answer
whoever starts up the wall first is first in line until you work something out differently. Its customary and best for everyone involved, to let a much faster party pass. It takes some extra time to the pass, so either the faster party usually jugs a fixed line by the slower party or vice versa

The tricky thing is when you get an only slightly faster team behind a slower party. When this happens, don't pass. The extra time of passing and dealing with the cluster of two parties at a belay takes extra time and takes away from both teams big wall experience. In general, only ask to pass if you feel you are MUCH faster and CONFIDENT you can blast ahead.

As far as starting up at night to pass, this is ok as long as you work it out with the team being passed before hand. Again, its important that you are confident that you are MUCH faster team in order to get good spacing and make the experience pleasant for everyone.

When you are fixing pitches (e.g. fixing pitches to Sickle on the nose). The team that fixes pitches first, is first in line to start the route. They should try to haul all their bags that day to sickle and start at very first light if there are other teams behind them. If the team first in line knows they are going slower than teams behind them, they should let the faster teams fast. However, the faster teams should start at first light or earlier if possible.

As for speed climbing, its best for everyone involved, to not try the nose in a day when there are 5 parties on the wall.

Sport climber
San Francisco
May 18, 2008 - 12:28pm PT
this is specially true if you are soloing a trade route ..

when on tangerine trip, i worked out 2 passes on the same day, it meant that i only got to do one pitch that day, but it made everyone happy, and i didn't have to worry about letting folks pass after that day ..

when soloing you want everyone to be ahead of you, so you can take your time .. unless you're really good, soloing will always take longer than climbing with a partner ..

fist clamp
May 18, 2008 - 12:31pm PT

For clarity on the 'if you pass fix a pitch'. Do you mean for the party passing to go ahead and fix the pitch for the party that is getting passed? If you do that they will probably have no problem. I would think.


Trad climber
San Diego
May 18, 2008 - 12:41pm PT
Maybe I am just idealistic. But if I came in from far away to climb a route on El Cap, I wouldn't want to "skip" any pitches by jugging a fixed line fixed by the passing party. Just this last week in Zion we had a similar situation with a party that was actually moving pretty slow and had some "issues" offering to let us jug their line since we had already waited for them for a while. We declined, though it wasn't that long of a climb.

Then again, I can see if its late in the day or something of that sort and you HAVE to continue moving.
Toker Villain

Big Wall climber
Toquerville, Utah
May 18, 2008 - 12:49pm PT
Nobody has addressed the issue of rockfall (and "gearfall") risk being enhanced.

If a party is keeping up a fair pace I say they get to choose if overtaken. The lower party can see darn well that the route is occupied.

This gets more complicated on trade routes (but not if its a trade route that I put up. I just say, "Get out of my way. I was here first!" LOL)
Toker Villain

Big Wall climber
Toquerville, Utah
May 18, 2008 - 12:54pm PT
Oh yeah, and what about the pussies that do a free pitch on a wall and then want to haul while the second sits on his butt waiting for a toprope instead of just jugging?

Instant forfeit of lead party rights if you ask me.
Its a wall for chrisakes! Learn the protocol!

Trad climber
May 18, 2008 - 01:24pm PT

You and me, lets do the Nose. With Wayne Merry.


Vision man...ya gotta have vision...
May 18, 2008 - 02:13pm PT
Funny how many stories you hear from climbers about letting a pushy, supposedly faster, party pass only to end up slogging along behind them while they cluster along. One thing worth adding might be the idea that if you're going to push up someone's ass to pass, you better continue to push on hard to justify the pass.
Toker Villain

Big Wall climber
Toquerville, Utah
May 18, 2008 - 02:17pm PT
You better hope that your last comment isn't misinterpreted. LOL

Gym climber
berkeley, ca
May 18, 2008 - 07:20pm PT
If you're going to be passed, sometimes you can help make it happen more quickly.

Get an anchor point ready for the leader to short fix on.

If the team in question is not an IAD party that is short fixing anyway, you can start belaying the leader while your partner gets their bag off and their second starts jugging. It's a little extra work on your part, but it might spare you night crew.
Toker Villain

Big Wall climber
Toquerville, Utah
May 18, 2008 - 08:00pm PT
Jumping somebody's ropes on pitches they hadn't even climbed???!!


WTF are these jerks?
Somebody even messes with my ropes deserves to do a close inspection of a pistol muzzle. He doesn't co-operate fully I'm claiming self defense.
Its absurd. They expect ME to put my life in the hands of a stranger (or worse)?
No way. There are hidden risks to climbing depending on who you (try to) climb around.

Hobart, Australia
May 18, 2008 - 08:18pm PT
I think that only if the below team is very experienced, and much, much faster than the team they are trying to pass, should passing should be attempted.

It can be a very dangerous clusterfuk otherwise.

Since "in-a-day" teams intersecting with bivying teams generally meet this criteria, the "in-a-day" team should be granted some courtesy by the bivying team, but it is up to the passing team to negotiate the process prior to the event.

The faster team might have to be patient for a few hours, as the timing of the pass is always the key. Two teams simultaneously leading on a pitch is generally a mess. An optimal time to pass is when the second of the slower team is nearing the completion of the clean (but not yet at the belay). Then, if the faster team's leader can leapfrog over, and set up a separate belay above the slower team's belay, the process can be pretty seamless.

No matter what, passing always slows both parties down.

There's no easy answer, 'cept to climb in the off season.
Mighty Hiker

Social climber
Vancouver, B.C.
May 18, 2008 - 08:31pm PT
I've heard that the standard technique in the Alps for 'guided' parties is to simply climb over the other party, whatever they may think. Which must occasionally lead to words if not blows. I'm fairly sure that I'd share opinions with Ron as to how such behaviour could be deterred.

One of the reasons I wouldn't want to climb in the Alps - crowds and climbing, especially alpine climbing, aren't a good combination, and can be less than pleasant. Solitude is a desirable thing.

Seems pretty straightforward good manners. If you choose to climb behind another party, you're assuming the risk that they'll drop something on you. And you have no 'right' to pass them, although good manners and bribes may help. If nothing else they may want to avoid the risk that you'll drop something on them.

Peter tells a good story of his Regular North Face of Half Dome and Nose of El Capitan in a day climb, with John. About 1988? They were half way up the RNWF, and wanted to pass some climbers. An hour or two delay would have been fatal to the one day outing. Peter caught up with them first, and was doing his best - he's quite a polite fellow. But getting nowhere. Then John arrives at the belay, and suddenly the climbers were all smiles. "Of course you can pass, Mr. Bachar." :-) But I bet they were still courteous about it.

Amazing how territorial we can be though, at times.
Toker Villain

Big Wall climber
Toquerville, Utah
May 18, 2008 - 10:54pm PT
I've heard that in Europe overtaking parties will twist the other party's rope into a biner a second time to slow them down!
Mighty Hiker

Social climber
Vancouver, B.C.
May 18, 2008 - 11:28pm PT
Well, as long as no one gets their knickers in a knot! But I guess two could play the twist rope in carabiner trick, and many more malicious pranks. All the more reason for putative passers to be polite.

Trad climber
May 19, 2008 - 01:24am PT
I took a group of 3 super cool dudes from the gym that haven't had any experience on a long route before up an easy climb at Tahquitz on Saturday. I wanted something that I could solo if I had to (I'm no guide, and I don't want to fall with someone belaying who maybe hasn't used an ATC before) so got on a very easy, very popular climb. 4 parties arrived about an hour, and seeing a party of four, decided to try to catch up to pass. One was nipping at our heels, so we let them pass. They got off route and stopped 20 feet short of the actual belay. I ran up to the ledge and got the other 3 before they were racked for the next pitch.

Sometimes its better to stop and smell the roses.

Big Wall climber
May 19, 2008 - 01:25am PT
Ok. Here is what happened to my partner and I last summer on the Nose. We had climbed up to sickle the first day. Upon arriving there, we noticed a very large (over stuffed) haul bag on the ledge. There were fixed lines going down, but they belonged to the party that was ahead of us (Kyle & Klaus, 2 guys who everyone thought wouldn't make it). The pig turned out to belong to the 5 man Korean team who had climbed up there several days before hand. Once we fixed our ropes to the ground and hauled our bags, we headed down for one last night on the ground.

We were sleeping at the base where our ropes where hanging, when about 3:30 am, the Koreans arrived wanting to jug our fixed lines. Now their bag was up on sickle, but they had NO FIXED LINES to the ground. They also did not understand a single bit of English.

So after many attempts to convey to them that they needed to re-climb the first 4 pitches to reach their bag; we finally gave up. The fact that they simply jumped on our lines and never did ask, simply added to the frustration. I told my partner not to worry too much, because I assumed that they would be moving fast than us or the party ahead of us.

The next morning we jugged up to find the entire 5 man party still on sickle. Kyle and Klaus were in front of them leading the next pitch and there were at least 2 parties headed up to sickle. At this point we decided to do the walk of shame and head over to the column.

We made the best of the situation and had a great trip at the end of it all. Now we are headed back next week to hopefully grab the Salathe, as long as there are no Korean invaders.

My point to this post/reply was to point out other problems such as LANGUAGE BARRIERS!!!!! I hope this story has taught somebody something.

See all you valley guys soon.

P.S. The Koreans bailed 2 days later.

Social climber
The internet
May 19, 2008 - 02:05am PT
"My point to this post/reply was to point out other problems such as LANGUAGE BARRIERS!!!!!"

They probably knew exactly what you were saying.

Delhi Dog

Trad climber
Good Question...
May 19, 2008 - 06:50am PT
It kind of like golf (heh heh!)

If the players behind are really that much faster, you pull over when you can, let 'em breeze by, then your back at it.

Going slow has its advantages (can you say Chongo) at times...

The difference of course is the slow guys in golf can whack balls ahead of them and so "encourage" the slower team...
Not so on a wall, the reverse is true...heh heh

All kidding aside, I think in most cases common courtesy goes along way. Most parties have invested in the route anyway.

I can not explain Koreans...

Toker Villain

Big Wall climber
Toquerville, Utah
May 19, 2008 - 06:52am PT
Absurd MD.

You were right there and let them jump your ropes anyway?
Are you freakin nuts?
I'm sure a rack across the face will bridge ANY language barrier!


Fuggin commies thinks ropes are communal.
Messages 1 - 20 of total 59 in this topic << First  |  < Previous  |  Show All  |  Next >  |  Last >>
Return to Forum List
Our Guidebooks
Check 'em out!
SuperTopo Guidebooks

Try a free sample topo!

SuperTopo on the Web

Recent Route Beta