‘Seven Sins’ Of Indoor Climbing

‘The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the inequities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men.’ –Ascents 25:17

Photo credit: Petzl Sport

Winter is coming (supposedly). And when (if) it does, it’s curtains for outdoor rock climbing in cold climates. We all know what that means: Our climbing gyms will become veritable refugee camps for dirtbags and newbies alike, all vying for stoke.

But while the influx of new foot reek and left-behind water bottles is a boon to the indoor climbing industry, it’s not without its drawbacks.

Poor climbing etiquette will abound for the cold months ahead. Gird yourselves for these predictable peccadillos and inevitable indiscretions. Beware the Seven Sins of Gym Climbing.

Spraying Beta

To start, we should address your free advice: If we didn’t ask for it, we probably don’t want it.


There’s a fine line between good guidance and obnoxious over-coaching. The whole point of climbing, aside from not falling to your death, is psych; achieving a deep, meditative focus where nothing exists but the problem ahead.

That’s not easy to do if you’re hollering up instructions like a game of Twister.

Grunting And Shouting

What better way to make your 5.7 look and sound like a 5.13 than with a well-placed “AAAAHHHHH!” or “HUP!”

But grunts in an indoor gym should be like tequila at breakfast: necessary sometimes, but completely inappropriate all the time — especially if there’s kids around.

A good rule of thumb: If you can still hear the echo of your last “HAREKH!” don’t do it again. We’re not staring because you’re amazing, we’re wondering if you’re having an aneurysm.

Not Wearing A Shirt

Unless you have feathers or a dorsal fin, your body is not as remarkable as you think. So pretty please, if you’re inside, wear a shirt like the rest of humanity.

This is how it feels, not how it looks. Put a shirt on. Photo credit: Red Bull
This is how it feels, not how it looks. Put a shirt on. Photo credit: Red Bull

When you’re out on the crag, under the sun, go ahead and get gnarly — a little vitamin D never hurt anybody. But the energy-efficient fluorescent track lighting in the gym isn’t helping your body any more than looking at it is improving our experience.

Keep it on, Rambo. Humble tops macho.


Keeping your shirt on is the first step to being a conscientious climber. Not bragging about your last climb is every other step.

Everyone thinks their last climb is like their baby: incredible, one-of-a-kind, and a source of immeasurable pride. But, like almost every baby, it’s actually not that amazing to anyone else, and it’s probably a lot messier and weird-looking than you realize.

Wall Hogging

Part of the psych is entering into a zone where it’s just you and the wall. Unfortunately, it’s not just you and the wall. It’s everyone else who paid and took time out of their day to be here.

If you need to step back and think through a problem, then you should literally take a step back and let someone else give it a go. Sharing is caring.

Distracted Belaying (Creepy Leering)

The climbing gym is a hive of activity and generally cool people, so distractions abound. But while belaying, someone is counting on you to keep them from visiting the trauma center. That’s not the time to watch other climbers or try to make a new friend.

Which brings up creepy leering. Distractedly staring at other climbers can go from curiosity to full-on creepster. Typically fellas, this means you. The gym is for climbing, not for prospecting Tinder swipes.

Of course the climbing gym can be a great place to make new friends. Just focus on being a safe, respectful human being.

Chalk Etiquette

Chalk is the mystical spice of climbing. Even free soloists need it. It’s as common as it is personal: some like it chunky, others demand super fine. Short of wings, it’s what allows us to touch the sky.

Credit: BBall GIFs

Chalk must be used responsibly, however. Remember: It’s for your hands, not the wall. There’s no need to slather the holds in Unicorn Dust and send a cloud of your powdered hand-sweat raining down on everyone below. That’s not dandruff, it’s chalk (and maybe a little dandruff; looking at you, dirtbag).

Also, if you’re on the other end of the spectrum, maybe you should invest in a $5 bag of your own, Moochie McBorrowson. How is it that you’ve managed to pay for a membership, shoes, harness, and own some form of transportation, and you don’t have chalk?! That’s like going on a moon mission and asking to borrow someone’s Tang — How did you make it this far?!

Knowledge is power, folks. Be nice, be humble, be clean, and you should be just fine this winter climbing season.

Adam Ruggiero

Adam Ruggiero is the editor-in-chief of GearJunkie and a fan of virtually all sports and activities. From biking, running, and (not enough) surfing, to ball sports, camping, and cattle farming — if it's outside, it's worth doing. Adam graduated from the University of Minnesota with a BA in journalism. Likes: unique beer, dogs, stories. Like nots: neckties, escalators, manicured lawns.