Crusty Corner: Choadspotting—A Gym-Season Primer

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Crusty Corner is a column written by Climbing editor Matt Samet, a climber of 30 years. When he's not at the gym or the rocks trying to stave off the inevitable performance decline of middle age, you can find him in his basement playing Xbox.

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A confirmed Finger Kissio releases magnesium carbonate into the air, allowing others to breathe in the particles graced by his superior fingertips.

Rocktober is here—crystal-clear skies, great temps, ultimate friction. Yippee-skipee!

Oddly enough, there don’t seem to be any sending nicknames for the months of November through February. “Meh-vember,” “We might be able to get some pitches in-cember,” and “Screw it, I’ll go to the gym-uary” don’t really have the same ring. It’s that bleak, horrible, sleeting, snowing, lightless time of year when all the Mountain Project forum posts are taken over by ice/mixed weirdos asking if Twizzledix Stix (WI4 M3) is in or trying to sell their banged-up gear to clueless newbies. Meanwhile, the rock is only in condition a few hours a day every other Thursday, and the only chains you’re likely to touch are the ones you slap on your tires to get over the mountains. Plus, it’s the holidays, which means spending money on someone other than yourself, which will be a foreign notion to most of us climbers.

Still, there is hope—a way to keep things exciting and fresh. It’s a game called “Choadspotting” in which you, much like an avid birder, try to spot various specimens of obnoxious climber-humanity at the rock gym during your workout. You can Choadspot while climbing or while resting between burns, or even head into the gym to Choadspot on a rest day! Think of it as “cross”-training and a way to keep your gym stoke high.

I’ve assigned a point value to these twelve Choads, from 1 to 10 eggplants; the more eggplants, the more annoying the specimen. It has taken me repeat visits to the gym to finally spot some of these, but the effort was worth it and has, I believe, made me a better, more well-rounded climber.

1. The Junior-Team Horde

Traits

Arrives en masse at the gym around 3:30 on weekday afternoons, spilling forth in a tumble of hyper, ankle-biting humanity from the cavalcade of parental Lexus and BMW SUVs double-parked in front of the gym doors, trailing a wake of harnesses, brightly colored rock shoes, Snak Paks, and stuffed-animal chalk bags in its wake.

Plumage

Very easy to spot—these critters will all be wearing the same-colored T-shirt with a team logo on it; there may also be one barely engaged adult nearby, perhaps a “coach,” giving nominal supervision as the kiddos, as if one single organism, take over various sectors of the gym, running about, screaming loudly, flinging themselves at the climbs without interruption and making it impossible for anyone else to climb.

Habitat

The whole, entire gym—nowhere is safe! Run—run away, now!

Notes

You know how one, single piranha isn’t that scary? “Oh, cute little fishy, I don’t need to worry about you with your itty-bitty teeths!” Well, how would you feel about sharing a bathtub with 30 of them?

Choad rating

(Out of ten)

🍆🍆

2. Crashpad Klatcher

Traits

Posts up on the pads right in a prime landing area and proceeds to get deeply involved in an endless, meandering personal conversation on their struggles with carb cycling despite the obvious presence of other climbers nearby who want to use the wall. Usually travels in packs of two or three; I’ve even seen a Klatcher bring a golden retriever into the bouldering cave with her—yes, a giant, hairy, smelly dog right there under the landing!

Plumage

Big, loud, word-filled, lip-smacking mouths.

Habitat

Right under the best bouldering walls.

Notes

Approach carefully—when provoked with a “Hey, do you think you guys could relocate so I can climb here?”, the Crashpad Klatcher will often get defensive, and may even accuse you of eavesdropping or “not being sensitive” to his personal drama. You may have to ask gym staff to intervene with one of those noose-poles like dog catchers use.

Choad rating

(Out of ten)

🍆🍆🍆

3. Finger-Kissio

Traits

The ostentatious kissing/blowing of the fingertips after chalking up, but prior to pulling onto the wall; may or may not also involve the excessive scrubbing of holds. There are a few theories about this little-understood gesture: It’s a mating ritual, meant to attract fellow Finger-Kissios; it’s a show of dominance, meant to intimidate non-Finger-Kissios; the climber has intractable OCD.

Plumage

Long, slender, oh-so-kissable and perfectly chalked dainty fingers.

Habitat

Any problem you’re working on, only climbed in better style after a prolonged finger-kissing session.

Notes

One of the best things I’ve seen in my life, ever, was when a Finger-Kissio came over to the problem I was trying, cut in front of me, segued into full minute of brushing and finger-kissing theatrics, then proceeded to punt on the first move, hit the mats, kiss his fingers again, and then skulk away silently, not making eye contact, his head held low in well-deserved shame.

Choad rating

(Out of ten)

🍆🍆🍆🍆🍆

4. The Autobelay Hog

Traits

Does lap after lap after lap on the autobelay, heading back up on the wall immediately upon touching down without ever looking around the gym to see if anyone else is waiting. Has a bizarre, Rain Man–like ability to climb up, and sometimes up and down, for hours without stopping.

Plumage

Manic glint in eyes, glistening, sweaty brow, board-lasted rock shoes, weird, baggy, old chalkbag.

Habitat

Whichever gym has the most autobelays.

Notes

At my local gym, after a few too many of these specimens had built permanent nests, the management had to go around and put signs under the autobelays that said “Two-route maximum”—though, of course, if you never touch the ground, does it really count as a route? I blame this in particular on one Autobelay Hog, long since vanished after the new rules, who’d climb lap after lap after lap on the machines, remarkably charging up 5.7s and 5.12s with the same graceless, perspirating fervor.

Choad rating

(Out of ten)

🍆🍆🍆🍆🍆

5. Studious-Footwork Jug-Haul Warm-Up Guy (SFJHWUG)

Traits

The name says it all. You can find these specimens warming up, warming up a bit more, doing some final warmups, then having warmed up nicely, heading straight to cool-down, which is of course a circuit back through the warmups. There is no actual effort expended or trying or, God forbid, failing or falling in between. These types likely experienced some dark humiliation in the past that prevents them from exerting themselves—maybe pig’s blood poured over their head at prom. You’ll thus find them on 5.9 and 5.10 jug hauls, climbing with an affected slowness, looking down frequently to ensure that every foot placement on giant jugs is as precise as possible, standing high over their toes and making exaggerated lockoffs to reach the next grip because they are just so smooth at rock climbing.

Plumage

Tank top, performance shoes, jorts.

Habitat

Warmup climbs—the ones you are waiting to get on.

Notes

These specimens can be easily spotted through the raptor-like craning action of their neck at the anchors, as they survey the gym to make sure their superior technique has been noted.

Choad rating

(Out of ten)

🍆🍆🍆🍆🍆🍆

6. Campus-Juggio

Traits

Stomps into the bouldering cave either in approach shoes or bare feet, surveys the scene for any unaccompanied women, doesn’t look around to see who’s climbing next, then jumps on the wall and begins jug-campusing up and down the warmups. May also be wearing a harness and chalk bag since, you know, he’s just “warming up for the real thing”—with the ropes, we can surmise.

Plumage

Overdeveloped upper body from jug-campusing and weak, spindly legs that have atrophied with disuse. Hollow, onanistic circles under eyes. Tank top. Weird, homemade liquid chalk that reeks of isopropyl alcohol to dry the hands for jug-campusing.

Habitat

Jug hauls, usually anywhere there are female climbers nearby to “impress.”

Notes

As he arrogantly campuses that moderate problem you’ve been working on out the center of the cave, console yourself with the fact that 20 years from now Campus-Juggio’s shoulders will be so limp, dislocated, and useless he’ll need a full-time personal attendant to spoon boiled carrots into his mouth, hold his mingus-dingus while he pees, and wipe his backside when he makes poopy all over himself while matching Magnum PI in the day room.

Choad rating

(Out of ten)

🍆🍆🍆🍆🍆🍆

7. Headphones Choad

Traits

Has his headphones on, always, even though the gym already has music blaring over the speakers.

Plumage

Headphones or earbuds; intense focus in eyes that may also just be a blank, glazed look of incomprehension.

Habitat

Usually right in your way, consistently, always, as he works through his circuits, headphones on, not making eye contact as he cuts in front of you time and time again because, hey, man, he’s in the zone and these tunes are bangin’.

Notes

Perhaps if he took the headphones off, his brains would fall out—maybe it’s a medical condition. Score extra points for spotting a Headphones Choad-Finger Kissio-Campus-Juggio, and extra points again for burning one off.

Choad rating

(Out of ten)

🍆🍆🍆🍆🍆🍆

8. The Shadow

Traits

Climbs within a grade or half-grade of you and thus follows you around the gym like a lost puppy, semi-surreptitiously scoping the climbs you’re getting on to ascertain whether he or she might try them too—and perhaps do them in better style. Has been doing this for months if not years now, yet has never spoken directly to you. The Shadow simply lurks, and lurks, and lurks some more, waiting to get on routes as soon as you’ve vacated them then looking around desperately, his beady eyes flitting about the gym, to make sure you see his conquest. Bonus tip: Give your Shadow a nickname, and collect multiple Shadows like Pokémon Go characters. I had one for years I nicknamed “Paduccio,” and my wife had her own, “Gawkzilla.” I’m not sure where Paduccio went, but his successor, “Angry Ponytail Guy” aka “Bro-Man the Dab-barian,” has been a real barrel of monkeys!

Plumage

Crooked, Gollum-like fingers; yellow pupils; long, slithering tongue; unctuous skin—It wants the precious!

Habitat

Always within eyesight of whatever you’re climbing—but just barely, enough to have plausible deniability.

Notes

The only way back to the light is to confront your Shadow. Walk up, introduce yourself, and offer to go climbing sometime. Your Shadow will likely scamper off to the hangboards never to bother you again, having revealed himself to be nothing other than the Vanishing Specter of Climbing Jealousy.

Choad rating

(Out of ten)

🍆🍆🍆🍆🍆🍆🍆

9. The Yogi

Traits

Does a bunch of weird-ass stretching, acrobatics, and gymnastic warmup/cool-down yoga jive in the climbing environs. Takes up lots of space, self-importantly, and often in a handstand or while doing Pigeon Pose while tied in below the lead cave. May or may not actually climb, or if she does, it’s only for a very short period in between callisthenic gyrations.

Plumage

Yoga pants, halter top, iPhone, yoga mat strapped to back while climbing.

Habitat

As with most of the Choads, usually right in your way, with no self-awareness and/or intention of ever moving.

Notes

Though normally passive, the yogi may get between you and climbing by asking if she can “insert herself into your sphere” and then giving you a 15-minute discourse on how astronauts align their chakras—e.g., “Gravity doesn’t exist in some realms of existence.” Sidestep her before she takes the conversation to the “astral planes of Mercury’s retrograde” by stuffing beef jerky into your mouth and asking what a vegan is.

Choad rating

(Out of ten)

🍆🍆🍆🍆🍆🍆🍆

10. Mouth-Breathing Elastic-Banded-Shorts Shirtless Body-Odor Double-Digit Bouldering Guy (MBEBSSBODDBG)

Traits

His long moniker basically says it all—this overly muscled, often-Fabio-haired Neanderthal is all about double-digit problems, not wearing a shirt, and those high-waisted elastic shorts. I’ve more than once made the mistake of complimenting one of these specimens on his effort on a boulder problem, only to be rebuked with a sharp glare and a guttural, Silverback-like grunt meant, I’m sure, to remind me of my beta status.

Plumage

Hairy, stinking pits; hairy, oily back; hairy, greasy chest; hairy head; perennially pissed-off attitude.

Habitat

Bouldering cave, and glowering at you from the hand dryers in the bathroom. Also frequently lurks below those pointless double-dynos and paddle dynos setters like to set, and will dart out, barracuda-like, to defend his starting-hold territory. Watch your fingers!

Notes

Approach cautiously or not at all, especially if he’s just failed on his proj—rage levels are at an all-time high, and it’s likely that the “scent circle” released by his pheromone-saturated pits will keep you at bay anyway. Unless, of course, you’re into that sort of thing.

Choad rating

(Out of ten)

🍆🍆🍆🍆🍆🍆🍆🍆🍆

11. Gremlins

Traits

You know those tatted-up, white-dreadlock-sporting, ripped-black-jeans-wearing, junkie-head-nodding freaks who post up in front of coffee shops looking like extras from some indie flick about the 1980s Greenwich Village post-punk scene? Well, somehow these folks have found bouldering. Go figure…

Plumage

Sleeve tattoos, gelled hair, black jeans, ripped black T-shirt, eyeliner, chalk pot.

Habitat

Steep bouldering caves.

Notes

Gremlins travel in packs and will work on only the most difficult problems in the gym, taking turns sieging the moves, brushing, chalking, re-chalking (see “Finger-Kissio”), and blocking all access to the wall for anyone else who wants to climb. While they do spend most of their time sitting around “recovering” between burns, there’s usually so many of them gathered in a single spot that you have zero chance of getting on to climb. They also have a very long pre-climb ritual (shoes on, chalking, brushing, chatting, shoes off, more brushing, chatting, shoes back on, chatting, chalking…), so you never quite know when they’ll be hopping on. Suggestion: Scatter some free tickets to Death Cab for Cutie out away from the bouldering area and watch them romp off to pillage. Voila—the bouldering wall is all yours! (Note: Gremlins don’t usually show up at the gym until noon, so if you get in there before then, you’re good.)

Choad rating

(Out of ten)

🍆🍆🍆🍆🍆🍆🍆🍆🍆

12. The Grumpy, Judgmental Old Prick

Traits

Hangs out in the deepest, darkest, dustiest, most obscure corner of the gym, trying to somehow get a workout on the tiniest scrap of available wall in between judging everyone within eyeshot and wishing they would all just go away so he could train and get home to his Xbox.

Plumage

Off-brand basketball shorts, dirty, loose-necked T-shirt, chalkbag with waistbelt even while bouldering, sweatpants for pre- and après-climbing wear (go on over the shorts for insulation), salt-and-pepper hair, gym bag full of stale snacks.

Notes

The GJOP actually gets his sending energy from judging others, a time-honored tradition in our sport and a cheap, easy replacement for personal achievement. He’s been climbing for way too long—decades now—and only gets crustier by the day. However, he’s too much of a loser to do anything productive with his life, or that in any way makes the world a better place. Lazy, slothful, base, vile, ugly, unkempt, and uncouth, he looks a lot like the author of this article and…hey, wait a minute. That’s not cool, man. Not cool at all!

Choad rating

(Out of ten)

🍆🍆🍆🍆🍆🍆🍆🍆🍆🍆

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