Ask Answer Man: Clipping Your Toenails in the Gym is Gross, Right?


Clipping your toenails in the middle of the gym is totally disgusting—am I right?—Zack N., Augusta, ME


You are. And it’s not the only nasty gym-etiquette offense. For easy identification, I’ve made a list of the nastiest offenders and how they can de-grossify.

The Clipper. Those fungus-laced, ballistic stench-crescents cannot be contained—no matter how hard you try—and I don’t want to step on them or have one land in my chalkbag. Alternative: Clip nails at home, out by your car, or in the gym’s bathroom.

The Biohazard. We all know the mélange of moist awfulness that graces a bathroom floor. Don’t go in there in your climbing shoes only to sashay back out and smear every surface (and handhold) available with your toddler footwork. Alternative: Take 10 seconds to put on your street shoes or a pair of flip-flops. And wash your hands. You nasty.

The Yard Sale. You open your gear bag and spray forth stuff like the Mount St. Helens of chalk, nylon, sticky rubber, and beanies. Alternative: Every gym has cubbies. Full? Keep stuff you’re not using in your bag and neatly stow the bag somewhere.

The Bleeder. You huck big for a grainy jug, catch the hold, swing out, and rip a massive flapper in the process. Then you laugh, fill it with chalk, and continue climbing, leaking blood everywhere. Great job. Alternative: Head to the front desk for some tape and a Band-Aid. Then, march your ass straight to the bathroom (wearing appropriate footwear, see above), clean the area, apply the Band-Aid, and tape over it.

The Greased Pig. I see folks over in the workout facility wiping down machinery every time they use it. This is not a thing that greasy climbers seem to worry about as they slip-slide all over the crashpads. Alternative: A shirt helps. So does Speed Stick. And a healthy dose of self-awareness.

What’s the final word on booty?—Brittany S., Little Rock, AR

Wow, quite a softball for me, the Barry Bonds of innuendo. If I weren’t so tired from day drinking after my sesh, I’d be working hard to offend every humanities professor with a gender studies syllabus from here to England. Lucky for you, Deep Eddy vodka was on sale, so I’ll keep this schlort. I mean quick.

If you find a single bail biner or a lone piece of gear on a route and you can get it out, it’s yours to keep, but keep in mind a warped cam that’s been jammed in a crack for months might not be safe to use. Never take any part of a permanent anchor (quick links, chains, rings, etc.), fixed rappel station, or any perma-draws, whether they’re on every bolt of a steep climb or a couple that are strategically positioned for easier and safer cleaning of a traversing or roof-filled route.

Stashed gear (e.g., a guide company’s alpine cache) is not up for grabs, and neither is anything you find at the base: shoes, gear, sunglasses, etc. Either leave it where it is, or (if it looks abandoned or lost) earn some karma points by taking it with you and posting on Mountain Project or SuperTopo (or even Craigslist) that you found some gear at X crag on Y day, and actively try to find the owner. If no one responds within a few weeks, do whatever you want with it.

Can you officially say you sent a route like El Cap even though you only climbed the 15 easiest pitches on lead?—Max G., Monroe, NJ

Well, let’s clear one thing up: El Cap is not, like, a route. Shaming aside, the answer is both no and yes. Way back when, Tommy Caldwell and Beth Rodden free climbed the Nose as a pair, swapping leads. The second would follow (without falling I might add), and upon reaching the top, they celebrated with a collective ascent. However, as Tommy is wont to do, he set out to lead the whole thing himself (in 12 hours no less!) a mere two days later. He, as well as a host of other climbers, find value in complete ownership of a climb, i.e., sending every single pitch in a continuous push.

While sport climbing is slightly more black and white in its appraisals of particular ascents, big walls require more elaboration in style and technique. In your case, if you didn’t cleanly follow the harder pitches, then no, you did not send the route. In the end, being clear, concise, and—above all—honest about your ascent is what matters. But let’s not forget that you’re not Tommy Caldwell, and climbing El Cap, in whatever style, is righteously cool.

And other topics...

Do you need a car to be a dirtbag?With charm you’ll graduate to “Resident Dirtbag.”

Can I smoke at the crag?Only if you brought enough for everyone.

Is it OK to point out dabs to strangers?What are you, 12?

How redundant is too redundant?When you no longer get to climb.

Got a burning question about climber etiquette, customs, or values? Email