Big Wall Passing Ethics


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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.

Trad climber
May 19, 2008 - 10:19am PT
"it is better to pass by than to pass on" or other ways of saying, in passing
I was leading my 70yr old wife on a 2 segment aid climb of center of Moby Dick and a party was wanting to go by. No problem, so we let them free-buzz by us at mid pitch. It was sort of amusing anyway. I had to haul her up the overhang at the end of the first pitch.
Y-all have a fun trip where-ever

Mountain climber
May 19, 2008 - 10:35am PT
I am an average speed wall climber. As a result, I have been passed 3 times on a wall:
Once with a partner when NIAD pair went by.
Twice when soloing.

All 3 were good experiences. The key is to try to set up the pass on a ledge and not hog all the anchor bolts.

On the Nose, when the Nose-In-A-Day team was catching up to us, we got to a ledge, brought all of our stuff up, and were over to one side. We left one anchor bolt free and the middle one was very accessible. When they came up, we never had a cluster because the two teams were always separate. It was nice to take a break and chat with those guys. They really did not hold us up for long.

The 2 times I have been passed while soloing were similar. The 1st time, I could see the other team coming, I gathered everything up and off to the side without using the entire anchor and ledge.

The second time was on Zodiac and I did not have the luxury of a natural ledge. I was flagging my ledge and set it up on one side. When the party of 2 came up, they used the open anchor bolts and the belayer sat on the ledge with me. It was nice to actually talk to someone after 2 days on the wall.

In all 3 cases, I was talking to the passing party when they were about 1 pitch below me (I took the initiative). The passing was coordinated. You can use the down time of a pass to reorganize and eat.

But, in all 3 cases, the passing party was clearly faster.

Trad climber
The state of confusion
May 19, 2008 - 10:52am PT
This is a great thread folks.
Thanks for all of the comments/tips. . .

Where you want to be
May 19, 2008 - 11:06am PT
Tez- If only we were all as considerate as you. We'd have a lot fewer problems.
My room-mate told me this anecdote, and maybe it belongs on the "Overheard" thread, but here goes:
His friends were on the captain, when the Huber brothers came blazing up below them. They yelled above, "Climbers on Salathe! Can we pass!? (or whatever) We are on SPEED!
To which my roomie's friends yell down, "Climbers below, we are on WEED!"

someplace in-between
May 19, 2008 - 01:26pm PT
While not on a wall I thought this story worth contributing.

Last year while climbing the Steck Salathe my friend Dave and I were passed by a couple of French climbers that didn't want to miss their flight the next morning. We were not moving at snails pace by any means (we out distanced the other free climbers that attempting the route that day) but the Frenchies were French freeing so the were moving faster.

The first time the tried to pass the leader tried to step over me without even asking while I was belaying dave on the first wide overhang of the route. Frenchy's partner was about 50 feet below us and I knew we would end up overlapping and tangled for more than just one pitch. In addition, Dave was now out of view and in unknown territory (at least for us). Anyway I stuck my palm into the guys chest and a said something along the lines of "you're going to have to wait a bit buddy, when the time is more appropriate we'll let you pass". He gave me quite the sob story about their plane and explained that things are different in France. I didn't really care and insisted he wait. It was a good thing too because about 5 minutes later Dave had gotten off route, taken a fall, ripped a piece of gear and banged up his ankle in the process.

Anyway, we finished the pitch and then allowed the party to pass. We took a little comfort in watching them struggle to move up a 5.9 squeeze and then resign to French freeing using the face outside of the chimney. I was also very glad I'd held my ground because it could have been pretty nasty if Dave had fallen onto the frenchmen.

Anyone else ever experience something like this?

Toker Villain

Big Wall climber
Toquerville, Utah
May 19, 2008 - 01:44pm PT
Anybody read Culberson's account of being on the Walker Spur and having a rude euro push by him, pull off a big rock which barely misses him, and kills a party of two below?

Big Wall climber
Fresno, CA
May 19, 2008 - 01:54pm PT
Grab the slow leader by both ankles. Yank hard! (unless you're chewing Aaron's anti-masturbatory gum) You will then have clean sailing until you reach the next wanker. Wash, rinse, repeat.
Toker Villain

Big Wall climber
Toquerville, Utah
May 19, 2008 - 02:14pm PT
note; make certain "wanker" is unarmed

Trad climber
Montague, MA
May 19, 2008 - 02:52pm PT
Last month my girlfriend and I were climbing at Cathedral in New Hampshire (not a big wall), but:

We hit up Still in Saigons a 2 pitch climb you need to rap. As we we're about to toss our ropes down, I took a look and saw a dude starting the first 20 feet of the first pitch. I decided to just wait a few for him to move cliff left. I looked down 2 minutes later and he was passed the first pitch belay. I asked him if he wanted me to toss our rap ropes and get out of the way of the pitch 2 anchor or wait. He said whatever doesn't bother me. But if you wait, we can rap together. Sounded good, we waited for 5 minutes while he belayed his 2nd, chatted, then rapped both pitches with our two ropes combined for one rap. It slowed us down 10 or 20 minutes, but we gained time only doing one rap, and both he and I were courteous, it made for a better experience and was pleasant. I was fine losing 10 minutes in the day. (We had driven up 3.5 hrs one way for the day (7hr round trip), so every minute counted.)

We next walked over to Toe Crack/Repulsion (upon the other parties recommendation for a dry route on a Spring Thaw day). The regular start was wet, so we took a 80 ft traverse in from cliff left. It was 5.7 and slabby with small features in one section, and a possible swing down on to a ledge if you fall. You end the thin traverse by down climbing 5ft onto the belay ledge. If you slipped making the move into Toe Crack you'd hit the ledge. I made quick work of it and put my gf on belay. She's a little skiddish on traverses (fell from modern times in the gunks, then subsequently learned how to prusik for the first time). She gets about 20 ft up the pitch and a European dude, who came up the hill already racked, starts up behind her. I think, hmm maybe he's doing Turner's Flake (goes straight up mid traverse). My gf gets to the tricky spot about 10 ft from the belay ledge, where you pull your gear, smear through the tenuous crux, and if you slip hit the belay ledge 5 ft right and 5 ft down. She's a little concerned and taking her time. Welp, here comes Mr. Euro, climbs up right behind her (10ft earlier I asked where he was climbing, and he said he was still figuring it out). She makes the traverse move just as he enters into the same move. She downclimbs into the belay leaving in my higher piece, just as he steps over, her, then my belay, then downclimbs to our right, crosses his running rope accross my skinny 8mm anchor slings, and proceeds to setup a belay 10 ft right and 5 ft up from us.... So he says, "don't mind my rope"... So my gf is a little frazzled, but fine, so I grab the 4 pieces from her, we flip the rope and start heading straight up into Toe Crack. It's thin right off the belay, you want to get something in so you don't slip and land on your belayer directly below you, or hit the ledge. Instead of just moving a few feet and placing, I am dealing with crossed lines, his rope running accross my first piece belay sling and flip-flopping the biners attached to it. Mr. Euro has put his 2nd on belay and his rope is bobbing up and down, while running accross right where I am trying to jam my toe into the crack, dodge my gear, his rope, my rope, etc. So I get past the first 15 ft, and the pitch is cruiser, I get to the anchor tree and setup a belay. I call down to my gf and tell her she's on belay. Then I'm waiting 5 minutes, I yell down and say what's up. She explains she waiting for Mr. Euro's 2nd to essentially step all over her and our anchor just like he did while leading. Mr. Euro's 2nd clears my gf, and she starts climbing. As I am belaying her, Mr. Euro pops up onto my ledge. Essentially steps over me and continues climbing. Again crossing his rope accross my face, then my anchor slings. I am belaying my 2nd, while his rope is running and bobbing back and forth in my face. He sets up a belay 20 ft above me. The 2 seconds arrive almost simultaneously and have to wait for eachother, un-mix the cluster f*ck, Mr. Euro's 2nd has to clamber over me and my anchor (on the real belay ledge I might add). My gf finally clips into the anchor and asks what's up. I said well, I planned on linking into Thin Air (2 more pitches to the top), then hitting up Pine Tree Eliminate (on an upper tier). She said, well what about the party now in front of us, I said "right, that's why i said planned...". Mr. Euro now 20 ft above me, though about a 2 minutes behind on the belay changeover, now launches into Thin Air, while another party (inexperienced, but doing fine on Thin Air, 5.6) is mid-pitch. He crosses and basically steps over the other leader. He then crosses their line and gear and continues into the route. There was another party above the now tramped on party, Mr. Euro comes into them, crosses their lines, links the 2 pitches and essentially halts both parties on Thin Air while his 2nd comes by to climb in and around the 3 crossed lines.

So Mr. Euro effectively halted 3 parties on 2 different climbs and slowed me down by a half hour on 2 pitches (that's alot for 2 pitches) and never asked. I really wish I had clove hitched his line mid-pitch. What an absolute ass. We rapped from the route, not wanting anything to do with him and his cluster-f*ck. That ate a good chunk out of the afternoon, we ran around looked for some more dry pitches, did a few things on the lower left wall then headed for beers and a drive home.

That experience just sucked, and though there was no-epic and we weren't hauling or trying to make time, it doesn't make me want to cooperate with passing parties anytime soon. I tried to make communication with him, but he pretty much had a holier than thou attitude and just kept tromping on us. I am usually a bit mroe confrontational, but for some reason didn't pipe up that day. My gf asked me later why I didn't react normally, don't know why, but wished I had.
Toker Villain

Big Wall climber
Toquerville, Utah
May 19, 2008 - 03:03pm PT
Popeye, do you carry a knife?

Mr. Euro could be politely asked how he feels about spontaneous free solos.

Trad climber
The state of confusion
May 19, 2008 - 03:07pm PT
I like the rack across the face. . .

Trad climber
San Francisco, Ca
May 19, 2008 - 03:07pm PT
We once let a party pass. They were faster but ended up bailing so we had to let them (and help them back across a pendi) pass going the other way too. Prolly a half a day in time lost by the time it was all said and done.
Fat Dad

Trad climber
Los Angeles, CA
May 19, 2008 - 03:31pm PT
Let's see:
The Nose: had my fixed lines to Sickle poached by "faster" parties on at least three occasions.

The Shield: launch day we arrive to find a party of four (intent on the Triple Direct) jugging our lines on the first three pitches, taking special care to saw the lines across an edge that we had pulled the lines taut to avoid. One day lost.

Next day, we launch but find that a party has fixed a line on top or our lines on pitch one. We jug anyways and, when we reach the top of pitch one, have Kaiser von Bismark super Euro and his weird Euro friend (dressed in purple) with one aider show up demanding that they were going to climb the Salathe.

We tell him he's going to have to wait and he goes ballistic, throwing rocks, stomping his feet and literally flexing and groaning like he's the Hulk.

We're ready to break down our anchor on pitch one but can't because super Euro starts jugging. I tell him if doesn't chill that I'm going to drop his line, so he backs off momentarily.

Some we're at the top of our lines and ready to do the rest of Free Blast to Mammoth. Now Super Euro is pissed because he can't jug our second fixed line, which was our lead line and we're starting to use. I launch up pitch four and french free it in about 30 min. Not good enough for Super Euro. He's still doing the Hulk while he and his weird buddy crowd my partner at the belay.

Realizing that their not going to pass us, Super Euro issues a final curse: "Jew vill never climb ze Shield" and raps off.
We top out four days later never having seen Super Euro again.

Long story short: people who poach fixed lines are inconsiderate losers. They should be condemned to a purgatory of standing in line at Rockcreation for the blue top rope to open up.
Toker Villain

Big Wall climber
Toquerville, Utah
May 19, 2008 - 03:36pm PT
You're too easy on them Dad.

Kill 'em all and let God sort 'em out. A bit like an insane person with a submachine gun; they might not mean to endanger but the danger they pose could kill me or my partner.
Sorry Bub, better you than me. Stupid=Dangerous

Social climber
Charlevoix, MI
May 19, 2008 - 03:38pm PT
Hey Popeye,

That sucks. I wonder if they were asses or as#@&%es. The difference being an Ass has no clue that they are being an ass, I'm an as#@&%e, and damn well know when I'm acting that way.

Mostly I like to have a good time and will let people pass if my team is slow, never happened, but I'd be willing to do so. I have waited many hours at belays for slower parties. I usually just chat it up with the others and call it good. This has all been on Trad Trade lines, so you get what you get. You're better off quizzing the Taco for unknown classics to avoid this problem when first traveling to an area.

Mighty Hiker

Social climber
Vancouver, B.C.
May 19, 2008 - 03:41pm PT
Few tools are handier while climbing than a pocket knife.

Edit: I would never advocate violence in relation to climbing, except in genuine self-defence, and then limited to the needs of the situation. But climbers who are overly concerned with territory, and "rights", do need to remember we have a shared resource, and behave accordingly.

It behooves parties who wish to pass others to behave in a courteous, civilized manner. They have no "right" to pass, and should be prepared to be refused. As it is usually possible to see in advance that you'll be below other parties, some foresight and preparation would be wise. It's much like buying a house near the airport - if you don't like the possibility of noise, go elsewhere.

I recall that Aleisteir Crowley pulled a gun on someone during a Kanchenjunga expedition a century ago. Though not for trying to pass him.

Social climber
Charlevoix, MI
May 19, 2008 - 03:43pm PT
Mighty and Ron,

Why the talk of cutting someone's elses line? You know neither of you are going to do that? Are you?

Toker Villain

Big Wall climber
Toquerville, Utah
May 19, 2008 - 05:07pm PT
There are cases where I would Prod. Unfortunately some people can be very callous regarding other people's safety feeling that their speed "entitles" them to endanger others. Having spent time in a wheelchair caused by rockfall resulting from a party that detoured around (via the easy "descent" route) and then climbed above me has perhaps given me a less forgiving perspective.

You ever spend time in a wheelchair Prod?
Brian in SLC

Social climber
Salt Lake City, UT
May 19, 2008 - 06:02pm PT
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.

Curious what route? We did the Trough on Saturday. Surpised we didn't catch anyone, but, also surprised it wasn't jam packed when we got there (although we stepped around a pretty good que at the base). Mustabeen good karma. I had a similar partner who reminded me before the trip that although he'd bouldered at the gym, he'd never climbed outside before. Got to hear him scream yesterday when he fell following a pitch. Too funny...

Speakin' of Koreans, anyone run into them at Suicide on Saturday, or, Tahquitz on Sunday? Holy COW! Amazing amount of personnel. Seemed like they were havin' a good time...

-Brian in SLC

Social climber
Charlevoix, MI
May 19, 2008 - 09:45pm PT
Yo Ron,

Never spent any time in a wheel chair, sorry to hear about your experience. I did once get kicked out of a rite aid for racing their handicap carts though, does that count?

That is all besides the point, my guess is that if faced with the same situation you would not resort to a potential murder to save yourself from the same plight? Just saying…


Social climber
May 19, 2008 - 10:12pm PT
hey there all... say, i had always wondered about this---the passing bit....

(course i dont climb) but i know these issues come up on those long-hauls and i always wonderered what you all would do...

i remember surfers going through their set of troubles, too, as crowds pick up....

i learned alot here from many situations... say, as to the language bit.... too bad you cant justs get some international signs to hang down to someone....

oh, my.... you know---a flag that says "no"... the one with the LINE through what ever symbol you need.... there, that's what what i was going for... :)

if someone is passing wrong---- use it... now a day, everyone knows that language...

Trad climber
May 20, 2008 - 09:13am PT

I got passed on Lurking Fear a couple of years ago by a Swiss team doing a push ascent. They caught and passed us on pitch 4, both of us leading the pitch at the same time,with virtualy no slowing down on our part or theirs. I was determined not to be passed in mid lead. The leader made a comment that it was tough going because I had left my pro in all the best placements. For us getting passed was no big deal but it sounded like that wasn't the case for the big wall camping party above us. They got passed on one of the traversing pitches and were held up big time, at least that was there side of the story when we caught up to them the next day.

A few of the funny comments made; Swiss guy to big wall camping team at the belay they are sharing "Do you mind if I sh#t?". When given the ok "Do you mind if I use your poop tube?" Not ok. And the sh#t bag tossing began.

That evening we could hear the Swiss team (think it was them) on Thanksgiving Ledge were they ended their in a push attempt and spent the night, throwing sh#t bags, water bottles and empty cans at dusk. We thought they had to much stuff for a push ascent, with the second jugging with a large pack.
Toker Villain

Big Wall climber
Toquerville, Utah
May 20, 2008 - 10:55am PT
Having been to their country a couple of times I can assure y'all that they don't crap into bags and toss them. How disappointing!
Normally I am quite impressed with the swiss, but apparently they fielded some poor ambassadors, still if I was belaying I wouldn't just stand by if some euro tried to barge through onto the pitch my partner was leading. If he doesn't have the courtesy to ask then NO WAY is he going to get a pass!

Mountain climber
May 20, 2008 - 11:00am PT
This thread is getting a bit off topic. What Chris was looking for is advise to climbers about the queue at the start, when is passing ok, and how to do it.

I have found the following helps if you want to pass:
1) It is important to take a few minutes to eat, drink, and be organized before you catch up to the slower party. Then you can approach them at a good clip.
2) Talk to them a bit and ask for permission to pass - if they say no, you are out of luck and should have started earlier.
3) If they give permission to pass (and they almost always do), ask where would be a good place to pass - perhaps even recommend an upcoming ledge.
4) When you do pass, be courteous and climb fast for the next pitch or two. Offer to fix a rope for them.
Toker Villain

Big Wall climber
Toquerville, Utah
May 20, 2008 - 11:31am PT
You are both right.

Trad climber
May 20, 2008 - 02:49pm PT
This April I was walking over to the south face of washington column with a friend to do my second wall ever. We didn't see any reason to spend a night anywhere near the route or haul since it's only 1100' and were very worried about getting stuck behind hordes with haul bags. We got to the base around sunrise and lo and behold there was a party sleeping at the bottom of the 3rd class section. We walked around them while they were still in their sleeping bags, but the level of anxiety has increased. Then we got to the base and found another 3 people sleeping on all the level spots. At this time I am starting to freak out. I asked the climbers about the situation on the wall above and it turned out that they all are lined up for the same route and there's more people above.

I ran up the 1st pitch and found 3 euros sleeping on the ledge. I inadvertently woke them up and asked if it's ok to pass. They were in no hurry and let us go ahead. At this point we are rushing like never before. I belayed my partner up the first pitch and he linked 2nd and 3rd to the dinner ledge. I got up there as fast as I could with my throat completely dry and soaked in sweat even though it was still about 7 am and quite chilly.

Well, what we found there surprised us. There was nobody on the dinner ledge and the wall above was completely clear. This is when my partner realized that he forgot his aiders in the pack at the base. However, he managed to rig up some slings together for jumaring. Well, we didn't see anyone the rest of the day, but were assuming that the whole circus is just a pitch or two below us the entire time. We were still very worried that they are going to catch up and we will slow someone down. I hate being slowed down and would never want to do that to others. On pitch 8 there is a 4" crack and some chimney climbing. Here is were we relaxed and decided that the Euros might have a lot of "fun" on that pitch and they are not going to catch up to us after all.

To make a long story short I don't think that they ever got to pitch 8 at the pace they were going. We ate our lunch at the summit of the column and proceeded to rappel the route. It seemed like a good idea, since we were not hauling - I highly recommend it (bring two 60s). We rappel and rappel pitch after pitch and there were no climbers in sight!

Finally we get to the dinner ledge and the whole circus (about 6-8 people) is hanging out right there with a single Euro sewing up the Kor roof like I've never seen before. The dude has not back cleaned a single piece of pro and has gear ever 2-3 feet even on the 5.8 section in the beginning. Others who were there ended up wasting their day watching this dude climb two pitches. Insane!!! My friend and I had a blast and were pretty happy that we passed everyone while they were still in their sleeping bags.

The moral of the story: if you think you are going to have to pass a few parties - make sure you set your alarm!

Trad climber
Chatsworth, CA
May 20, 2008 - 03:41pm PT
route rage

a climbers uncontrolled urge to do something rash, based on another climbers irresponsible act, that he/she will surely regret moments later.

Back on subject,
I've found that communication well in advance with the other party, usually sorts thing out.

Maybe we should carry a climbing CV with us?

List routes climbed,
free, french free, yarded on other climbers gear,
likes and dislikes,
you know:
I enjoy nothing better then a thin seam and A5 hooking moves.
My dislikes include, almond butter and bomb-bay chimneys with no pro.
How about incentives:
can pass for water, ok I really mean beer, but that doesn't seem fair since they dragged it up that far.
when you think about it, water is one hell of an incentive too.

Brings back memories of my first big wall (WCSF). We ran out of water at 2pm the second day. The three of us finished the climb and after a very long descent, made it to the valley floor about 4pm day 3. My wife looked straight at me and didn't recognize me. I've never been that thirsty before or since.

Take it easy,



Social climber
The internet
May 20, 2008 - 05:54pm PT
"route rage"

That sums everything up for me. It only happens when one or both of the parties involved are dumbasses. The rest of the time there are rarely if ever any problems. Summary for Chris: Don't be a dumbass.

Oct 6, 2009 - 01:27pm PT
I vie for the party that's furthest up on the route to initiate a 'pass.' Otherwise, who had the lack of forsight and planning?

Eddie Mo used to crack me up by asking the inquiring party queing up behind us, "How many walls do you have between you?" Then we would motor on, usually never to see them again.

Some Euros can be downright rude, clipping your pro and steaming right through while your leading the same pitch. I guess that's what goes on over there. The time it happened to me was at the Leap and I got the guy to back off only by being beligerent (and he believed me). Funny, at the summit we all chummed it up respectfully.

My wife and I were on Pingora where I was just finishing the first lead. We started at about 5:30am to beat the t-showers. Then, these two guys stroll up saying they just walked in from Big Sandy for a IAD ascent and wanted to pass. I said that I didn't see them at the base in front of us that morning, and that not to worry, you'll never keep up. (in other words, f*ck off). 'Good thing, as they were having difficulty pulling off the simple crux of the first pitch and probably bailed. We never saw them again...

Trad climber
San Clemente
Oct 7, 2009 - 06:37am PT
My 2 cents:
If you are doing a trade route, expect to wait in line and suck it up. Having been both the new slow party and the fast experienced party, we need to let the new folks have their space on the trade routes. My first attempts on the nose were screwed by faster folks passing me and holding up my climb. This same ethic applies to any long trade routes, not just big wall climbs. I see slow parties all the time on routes like free blast, fairview dome, etc... and always encourage them to not worry about who's behind them and enjoy their climb; i let them have their space.
I guess we could discuss which routes are "trade routes" and should generally have a no passing ethic. I'd say if you are on a trade route, the only time you should pass is if you are free climbing and someone else is aiding, as the time involved is so significantly different.

and ditto the "don't be a dumb ass" comment

Oct 7, 2009 - 09:07am PT
"till NO! I then said "fuk you" and took out my yo hammer and said I'm gonna beat it into your dumb ass brain about WTF we're talking about here."

Good morning LOL, thanks W.

Sorry I have no on-topic comment. Sorry to keep it drifting, but that was a standout. That they never showed up is the topper.
Karl Baba

Trad climber
Yosemite, Ca
Oct 7, 2009 - 09:20am PT
"I guess we could discuss which routes are "trade routes" and should generally have a no passing ethic. I'd say if you are on a trade route, the only time you should pass is if you are free climbing and someone else is aiding, as the time involved is so significantly different."

I guess that means "Nose in a day" is now out of the question?

Folks go on trade routes at wildly different speeds. Passing happens all the time and NEEDS to happen or the experienced people would pressure all the parties who are just getting their wall legs and will eventually bail into not starting in the first place.

Sure, things should be consensual, negotiated and cooperative, and I've had sad storys about letting people pass who slowed us down, but a "no passing" ethic is not practical as long as people bite off more than they can chew on a regular basis.



Big Wall climber
Peak District, UK
Oct 7, 2009 - 10:18am PT
Being considerately assertive - Another story from the Nose.

I was on a 3-month road trip in the US and my partner came to join me for a week (in fact 6 days!) to do the Nose. He landed at 11pm was in the Valley by 10am the next day and we were fixing by noon. Down for a night's sleep and we were up at 5:30am to haul and blast. His plane left 4 days later - we had no contingency!

A couple of American guys (Ben and Ben) already had their bags up there and beat us to the start so they were clearly in front - we established a good raport and watched them head up as we hauled.

Then an Italian pair arrived - immaculate new gear, all very shiny. They'd also got their bags on Sickle (not having bothered with the first 5 pitches) and asked to pass us. I thought long and hard then did the decent thing: "Yes you can pass BUT if we catch you up you WILL let us back past you - is that OK?" "Si - Yes, OK. Grazzi"

It was our first experience hauling so we weren't fast, but we arrived at Sickle to find the Bens were struggling a bit running pitch 1 into pitch 2 and the Italians hadn't moved. I called in the deal: "OK - so now you will let us past." There was an anguished discussion in rapid Italian - the guy who had shaken hands wanted to honour the deal but his partner wasn't so keen. In the end chivalry prevailed and we were waved through. WHAT A BLESSING.

We started at midday and sped up the first couple of pitches and were invited to pass by the Bens - they were first-timers too and welcomed a "more experienced" team in front (little did they know we were making it up as we went along.) At about this time a cacophony of screaming Italian could be heard the length of the Valley. Our friends had run the first 2 pitches into 1 with their 60m lead rope, forgetting they only had a 50m haul line - this was stretched like a piano wire, with the leader a few feet short of the belay. The Italian lesson went on for some time (funny how you know what's being said without speaking a word...) until they fell out so badly that they bailed. It would have cost us a day being behind them, and that would have cost us the route.

As it was we made it to Dolt (despite my second lending the Bens our only headtorch and all our Big Cams a couple of pitches lower, on the mistaken assumption I was at the bivvy ledge!) We had a very enjoyable top-out and stayed pretty close to the Bens, who's company made the trip extra memorable.

Just goes to show - be considerate BUT be assertive.
Erik Sloan

Oct 7, 2009 - 11:03am PT
Nice thread Chris, thanks.

Chris Mac wrote:

"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."

I don't agree with these statement at all, and in my experience here in Yosemite I've seen that holding onto beliefs like these will only distract you from the awesome climb you have come to enjoy.

The first person climbing the route with all their gear is first in line. As soon as you fix lines and rap to the ground you lose that place, and anyone who also fixes to the same spot and gets up before you and is climbing the route before you has done so legitimately. Considering that at least half the parties that fix to Sickle end up bailing, what Chris suggests here amounts to a ton of lip service and far less El Cap celebrating than is worthy.

I always discourage people from putting too much stock in the plans that others fixing on a route are talking. In general if someone says they're blasting at 5am that means 10am, if they say 1pm that means 4pm.

I've climbed the Nose several times with five or more parties fixing to Sickle the day that we fixed, and using my 'walk up to the rock with your stuff and then believe who is going to be there and what the order is going to be' attitude I've never run into a traffic jam on the first day. What I find works really good when you're with a lot of people on a route is make it into a party by taking pictures of each other and silly jokes, ect.

As many people have mentioned passing usually does slow down both parties so definitely offer to fix a pitch if you are the passing party.

Love it!

Oct 7, 2009 - 11:18am PT
LOL...Werner, CLASSIC!

Oct 8, 2009 - 06:50pm PT
pass (bump)
Fat Dad

Trad climber
Los Angeles, CA
Oct 8, 2009 - 08:12pm PT
"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."

Ah, if people would only adhere to that rule.

Another big problem, like several folks have mentioned, is other folks jumping on your lines and jugging pitches they haven't actually climbed in an effort to "climb" the route.

When I did the Shield back when, we made the mistake of fixing portions of Free Blast and then hauling it (lots o' work that). Anyways, we showed up the morning of to jug the first three we fixed only to find a party of FOUR jugging our lines, which included them sawing the lines back and forth across edges that we strung the lines to avoid. They gave us a perfunctory "sorry we'll be out of your way" kind of line, but clearly had absolutely no concern for being in our way. We barely made Mammoth that night as this clusterf@#$ inched up before us all that day.

I'm not sure if there used to be so few climbers, etiquette was usually needed, but nowadays there appears to be very little of it as so many compete for the few popular big lines.

Social climber
Wolf City, Wyoming
Oct 8, 2009 - 08:24pm PT
Except if you're blasting w/o fixing and you go @ 5 and the jugtards go @ 9, you don't gotta wait; first come first served.
Toker Villain

Big Wall climber
Toquerville, Utah
Oct 8, 2009 - 08:24pm PT
I see jumping somebody's lines without permission as a serious threat for the very reason you cite.
Damage to fixed ropes is far more likely when they are jugged by gumbies who have no vested interest.
They can protest their innocence all they want from the crater(s) I would leave them in.
They should climb the pitches or get lost.

Trad climber
Pasadena, CA
May 11, 2010 - 04:03pm PT
There needs to be also an understanding about which party is going to use the natural ledges ahead for biving.
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