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Grasping at Draws: 32 Random New Rules to Unite the Community

The ties that bind

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Rule No. 58.Vitaliymateha Photograph

Open any email from a brand or retailer since March 2020. What does it start with? “In these unprecedented times … ” or some other recycled nonsense before they inevitably either A) ask for you money since the coronavirus pandemic has put them on their heels, or B) beg for preemptive forgiveness for whatever racist acts they either facilitated or deliberately overlooked before everyone said, “Enough is enough.”

They’re right: These are unprecedented times. But don’t look for solace in the status quo. The world is in upheaval—hopefully for the better—which means it’s time that climbing also took a long, hard look at itself and made some changes. As your self-appointed arbiter of right and wrong (hey, my name’s on the Climbing masthead as a contributing editor, whatever that means), I’m here to help—it’s 2020, and it’s time we rewrote the rules.

Still, not everything was bad, and some rules from the days of yore remain timeless. Like No. 643: Knot your rope ends when rappelling. Or No. 1003: Fixed draws are not bootie, but fixed cams are. However, it’s time for an update. And it’s also time for the rules to reflect our sport’s growing social conscience. So may this non-exhaustive list of new statutes serve as your Torah. With one hand on the book and one to the heart, repeat after me: I solemnly swear, while I get better at climbing, I will be better to climbing, all praise be to thee, my physical and mental savior of vertical pursuits. Amen.



Pack your own chalk.

In fact, buy chalk right now. You don’t have enough and you know it, you bum—unless you want to Venmo over $5 for topping off your bag “real quick.” Ditto for crag snacks.


With so many people climbing hard these days, the following are now irrelevant designations for 99 percent of climbers: redpoint, onsight, flash. The new designations are as follows:

  • First try: You do the route or boulder on your first try regardless of prior knowledge.
  • IAD: You do the route or boulder in a day (IAD) and do not require a revisit.

  • Sent: You climb the route or boulder after any number of tries.

Note: I understand why onsighting feels like a thing. When, though, was the last time you made a pure onsight? With the amount of chalk covering popular climbs, the glut of YouTube videos, or the offhand knowledge that there’s a jug by the anchors or a kneebar rest somewhere, it’s futile to register a proper onsight nowadays on what is clearly a sliding scale.


Ask before offering your brilliant beta to other climbers.


Your gear pile at the crag is not to occupy a space larger than a folded-up crashpad.

At the gym, keep it in your bag if not using it. If bouldering at the gym, your wallet, phone, keys, and water bottle must not be in the landing.


Red-tagging a route (keeping it as a closed project) is valid only for a set period before the project enters the public domain:

  • Traditional: One attempt per hour of route cleaning
  • Mixed: Day of bolting + 1
  • Bouldering: Sight seen
  • Sport: EGNR [Estimated Grade of New Route] – HIADS [Hardest IAD Send] x 3 = _________ days. (For example, 5.14a – 5.13c = 2 x 3 = 6 days)


Dogs are to remain leashed at all times.
If your dog doesn’t do well tied up, then give him his own personal time outside, devoted solely to his exercise and well-being, then leave him at home—instead of utilizing everyone else’s patience, time, and energy at whatever crag Denali is currently terrorizing.


The voluntary closure of Devils Tower in June is now required.

This is about respect, setting aside a single month each year during which we can begin to repay the debt we owe the Indigenous peoples from whom we stole this land. For a group of outdoor enthusiasts who respect the environment and who will lash out at litterers or violators of wildlife closures, it’s been a huge blind spot not to extend this same respect to fellow human beings.


Politely correct poor and dangerous behavior—distracted or incorrect belaying, bad manners, environmentally destructive actions, etc.


Unless behavior is detrimental to the environment or access or otherwise unsafe, keep your opinion to yourself.

Yes, this includes griping about it later on Mountain Project.


Be open to being corrected.

You probably don’t know shit about shit.


Pick up trash when you see it and carry it out—even when it’s not yours.


Roped Climbing


No, you can no longer get a burn in real quick.

Just eff off with that real quick. This seems to most squarely affect women, though male climbers have also been victimized by brash, puffy-bicep’ed brozos who are rarely “real quick.” As the story goes: A dedicated climber who has spent the day honing warmups, cooldowns, re-warmups, and managing pump, nutrition, water intake, and conditions finds the perfect moment below their project. Tied in and visualizing the send, our protagonist is interrupted by some nimrod loudly asking if they might just “Run up this thing real quick—it’ll only take a minute, I swear, I can even brush it for you.” No. You can’t. In fact, because you interrupted my pre-send meditation, there’s now a line. And you’re at the back, friendo.


When equipping a new route, consider shorter climbers.

Place the bolts such that shorties don’t have to lug up weird, homemade “stiffies” or death-grip the holds to hang draws mid-crux just because Lanky McLankerson can dunk a basketball.


If you can’t afford the proper bolts to equip specific rock types for hardware longevity, you can’t afford to bolt routes.


Gear is to be divided thusly among partners on the approach:

Partner 1: Rope, harness, shoes, water

Partner 2: Rack (and/or quickdraws)*, harness, shoes, water

*If there is no rack, partner 2 carries partner 1’s water. Sharing is caring.

Bouldering and soloing


Brush your tick marks.

Actually, quit making tick marks altogether. If your tiny beef brain can’t remember the location of the eight holds on your 11-move project, maybe it’s time you went back to the gym.


Pad stashing is banned.

I’m not sorry. Neither are the marmots and pikas.

Not sorry.Dave Willhite


Landings may be built and modified for new boulders.

However, for any landing for a problem graded V9 or above, the climber must also build a landing for a problem graded V3 or below. It’s called community service.


Free soloing is only to be accomplished solo.

Tacking on a social post or public proclamation makes your solo a supported climb, and therefore null and void. Your solos may be celebrated and discussed if witnessed or recorded by third parties, allowing for Alex Honnold’s El Cap achievement to stand. (Like Honnold, if you can convince your friends to risk experiencing the emotional wreckage of filming your grisly demise, knock yourself out.)

Caleb George


Boulders may be bragged about freely.

Once in Hueco Tanks, Honnold asked me what I’d climbed that day. A circuit of easy highballs, I told him. He said he’d done the same, having “bouldered” Sea of Holes (a 350-foot 5.10) and adding that it was a lovely, casual day. Use this loophole responsibly.

Rules for the digital age


Music is allowed at the crag only out of earshot of other parties.


We continue to support SBC.

Stop sending her DPs.


Actually, men, just calm down with the internet comments and messages already.

Chossy AF.


Name routes responsibly. Rename problematic ones.

This isn’t difficult—come up with a new name and get over yourself already. I assure you, preserving the legacy of hatred, bigotry, racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, antisemitism, and other shitty, oppressive behaviors masquerading as a “humorous” route name simply does not matter.


Support at least one of the following with a membership: the American Alpine Club, the Access Fund, or your own local climbing organization.


While our digital route databases are a priceless gift of collective knowledge, purchase climbing guidebooks, especially local ones. Guidebook authorship is a thankless, unlucrative job done by persnickety, curmudgeonly lifers with few passions other than their local choss. They need your support, and the rich knowledge you’ll gain from their tomes will lend perspective to your vertical pursuits.


Re: Rule #356. When you do pack out trash, there’s no need to make posts online.

Instead, let the subtle joy of saving the planet one energy-bar wrapper at a time be your reward.


Some people are sponsored because they’re amazing climbers. Some are sponsored because they’re amazing brand ambassadors. Some are sponsored because they’re willing to shill products. All are valid in the eyes of God. You and your fat thumbs are not God. Refrain from editorializing on the validity of each status. Resentment begets resentment.


When in doubt, do not comment.


If your first thought to Rule #1199 was “Fuck this guy, I’m right,” please delete your account and see a therapist.


Actually, maybe see a therapist anyway.

It’s 2020, and emotional wellness is imperative for us all.


Vote for the environment.

It’s where we belong.