Ask Answer Man: Are Tick Marks OK?

He knows climbing. And he KNOWS it.
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He knows climbing. And he KNOWS it.
Bouldering Tick Marks Answer Man

Illustration by Brett Affrunti

Someone at my local bouldering area must think he’s f@*#ing Banksy. How do I deal with all these tick marks? —Emily L., via email

Oink oink, chalk police! Nah, irresponsibly excessive tickers are the wieners of the climbing community, like those kids in grade school who tracked their finger under the sentence just to get through the read-aloud portion. They’re already below you.

This brand of dolt usually doesn’t respond well to confrontation, but you could try some good old-fashioned wise assery: “Hey Jackson Pollock, you going to clean that off?!” But calling him out publicly also risks making you look like a self-righteous D-bag. If you love your crag, you likely already pick up others’ trash, so why not also start cleaning up the tick marks, too? Set an example.

Some plain old water and a scrub brush should do the trick. Serious case? Bring a power washer or buy a can of denatured alcohol. Yeah, I know. It’s a little intense, but sometimes that’s what it takes. The reward? A clean scene. And climbers learning it’s not OK to make tick marks so prevalent. 

How do I know when it’s time for my gear to be retired?—Kelsey G., Scottsdale, AZ

Check its IRA. This is not some crack about retirement and finances. I don’t understand those IRAs. Apparently one’s for if you’re rich now, and the other is vaguely associated with Van Halen. Neither of which are me. I digress.

But seriously, check its IRA, or Impending Reality of Accident. Look at your rope. Does that Fozzie Bear–looking sheath make you a little bit nervous to use it anywhere but the gym? Waka Waka, time to Tossa Tossa! Do the grooves in your quickdraw biners make you wonder how sharp an edge needs to be before it makes one rope into two ropes when pressure is applied? Replace them.

Most of you probably have good instincts, and this isn’t like risking a night of horking over the toilet if you venture to eat pizza that sat out too long. This is your life. If you have enough doubt to debate the issue, go shopping.

I want to get into route development. Problem is, I have no idea where to start. Help. —Dean R., Emeryville, CA

I’m gonna keep this one short, not because it’s a simple topic, but because if this gets wordy my editor will start cutting out awesome jokes in favor of “useful” advice. Boring!

Anyway, drilling holes, rope management, gluing bolts. These things require guidance, training, and practice. But it’s not rocket science. Any twerp with a computer can find a tutorial in the time it takes to tie a figure eight. But it’s better to find a mentor. Someone developed the routes that you started climbing on, right? Talk to them. Get a real sense of the techniques and style that built the area where you climb. Is your area largely trad and you want to bolt sport lines? Is that OK? Maybe. Maybe not. Is your area primarily sport climbing and you want to do an X-rated FA on gear on something that would otherwise be bolted? Is that OK? Maybe. Maybe not.

Understand that FAing may seem like a pursuit that’s purely for you. You find the route, you clean it, you equip it (or figure out the gear), and then you send it. But the larger truth is that your name will be attached to something others will enjoy. Or shit on as a disgrace. 

And other topics...

Are there any good training books out there?
Try something simple to start, like Dr. Seuss. 

How can I stay clean on my road trip?
Avoid interstate saloons and other unsavory stopovers.

Can someone actually please tell me what a pecker is?
What are you, 12?