Enjoy unlimited access to Climbing’s award-winning features, in-depth interviews, and expert training advice. Subscribe here.
“She looked at you like you pissed in her chalk bag,” my boyfriend said, teasing.
I did, by the looks of it, seem to offend the girl. She glanced up at me from the base of the route looking like she’d smelt something sour. But is not all fair in love and war?
I had gotten on a link-up which bisected with the route she was already on, knowing full well one of us would have to come down. “To be clear,” I told her, “I’ll get off once I reach the intersection. I just want to try the transition part.” But I think I crowded her, because she looked pissed and then lowered off. So when I got to the intersection I gleefully continued up the route.
Our sport is growing and the crags are getting crowded. Like it or not, it’s survival of the fittest out there. Do you actually want to send the gnar? Then you’re going to have to get after it, elbows out. Guerrilla style. This is not a romp across El Cap Meadow. There are hordes of bone-crushing 12-year-old Instagram influencers (plus a few million overwhelmingly underprepared gym-climbing breakaways) wobbling up to the rock like freshly born calves. Your job: make them the veal that they are. This is serious. If you’re actually going to clip chains, then you may need to pee in someone’s chalk bag. Or, more specifically, you may have to stake your route out, clear away the choss, and set up camp. Some may call it route appropriation, or “not cool.” But you’ll be the last one laughing by the time you’re logging into 8a and typing out “Second go” and giving it the DG.
So if you’re ready to take a route on and then not let others on it until you’ve sent, here’s how to do it.
Four Steps To Hog a Route
1. Mark Your Territory
This is the most important step. Show up with your rope in hand and slam it down in front of the climb. Loudly. Then spread out all of your gear. (The more the better here—for a typical day of redpointing, bring: a crash pad, helmet, double rack of cams, sleeping bag, Aeropress, exercise ball and camping chairs—so that your perimeter is firmly secured. Tell your belayer to bring a bunch of extra shit too.)
2. Have a Posse
Next, establish your route’s queue, which should be entirely composed of friends or family who are weaker than you and just want to toprope-dog your proj between your burns. Ideally, they will be experienced enough to be competent belayers, but inexperienced enough to be impressed by your subpar attempts. They will be supportive and motivating, and always psyched for another TR burn. Make them excited about the prospect of becoming a 5.14 (or 5.13, or 5.12) belayer. Bonus: Bring extra bodies in general. The more kids and dogs and non-climbers with huge birding cameras, the better.
3. Become a Keeper
If someone does manage to infiltrate your lineup, then make sure they know that they’re doing all the moves wrong. Spray ‘em down—thick and heavy. You know all the moves, after all, so you’re doing a service by screaming that the crux sequence should be initiated with a cartwheel inside-flag, figure-4 variation. Duh. Alternatively, if that doesn’t seem to be working, try blasting music. Everyone loves that. And make sure to ask, when they’re about halfway up the wall, how much longer they plan on dawdling up there.
4. Appeal to Others’ Humanity
Talk loudly about how you’re definitely going to send the route next go so long as you get the right condis. (The previous condis just weren’t quite right, obviously.) This will deter climbers who want to project the route, as they would surely take too long and then obviously intentionally ruin your perfect send go. This cannot happen. Tell them you will just be five minutes. This may be a lie, but it’s better than letting that 10-year-old flash your route. (Think of the humiliation!) Luckily, given the short attention span of most children, chances are that even a true “five minute” burn will seem far too long, which might just motivate them to go find something else to flash.
If all else fails and you find that hogging a route isn’t for you, try making friends instead. Let the influencers in. Learn their names, share beta (the real beta), and commiserate about the condies together. Then ask them, nicely, if they’ll put a picture of you up on their influencer page… For your sponsors.