Ettiquette on passing / allowing others to pass on multi-pitch climbs?


Original Post
Sean Cooney · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2013 · Points: 5

Last Saturday I was climbing Johnny Vegas and Solar Slabs. My party arrived at the base of solar slabs behind another party and followed them up Johnny Vegas. At the large ledge, we began simul-climbing up Going Nuts. I arrived at the top of the 2nd pitch right as the follower of the party ahead of us arrived at the belay.

Knowing we would drastically outpace them, I asked if we could go ahead even though this would delay them by about 15 minutes. At first they resisted, so I said that if they did not let us pass, that I would pass them anyway at the first, safe opportunity. At this point, they relented and let us go.

As anticipated, we topped out, ate lunch, re-racked all our gear, and were halfway down the rappel before they topped out.

My question based on this experience that I wanted to pose to the Nevada community is: What is the ettiquette for passing slower parties, if they are not keen to do so? If the party above says "No" is that the final say or passing safely allowed if you are clearly climbing faster?

smurray47 · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2014 · Points: 0

disclaimer: i'm not a Nevada local

I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that unless the route is so wide that you don't need to overlap at all, there is NO safe way to pass a party that explicitly did NOT consent to be passed, especially if you're simulclimbing. Yes, I know it was a climb that is probably way below your limit. But he could fall, one of you could have a freak fall, you could take up a spot for pro that he really needed, it goes on and on.

If someone asked me if they could pass, and then if I declined, indicated that they were going to pass anyway while we were leading, I would probably report them to the managing organization of the climbing area and try to get them banned for unsafe behavior.

After reading about the route though, the MP description says its an excellent place to pass people. But it also says the climb is only two pitches, and you said you didn't intersect until the top of the second pitch, so I don't really know what was going on.

Eric Engberg · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2009 · Points: 0

Are you sure this doesn't belong in the 'Why Euros are better thread"?

Sean Cooney · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2013 · Points: 5

@smurray 47: Thanks for the response. The top of Going Nuts is a large ledge (good for 20+ people) that you traverse to get to the top of the second pitch of Solar Slabs. There is tons of room to pass there without having multiple parties at a single belay.

Also, I did not mean passing a party while they were climbing, but rather climb around them while they were changing over at a belay by taking a line that avoided the belay.

smurray47 · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2014 · Points: 0
Sean Cooney wrote:@smurray 47: Thanks for the response. The top of Going Nuts is a large ledge (good for 20+ people) that you traverse to get to the top of the second pitch of Solar Slabs. There is tons of room to pass there without having multiple parties at a single belay. Also, I did not mean passing a party while they were climbing, but rather climb around them while they were changing over at a belay by taking a line that avoided the belay.
That makes more sense. I feel FAR better about this situation than trying to simulclimb around a group that is also moving. I tried to temper my post with my ignorance of the situation.

That being said, why exactly were they resistant? Did they not believe you were fast enough that it wouldn't affect them? In my experience I've had the opposite problem. I've had parties offer to let me pass them when I didn't really want to and hadn't even asked. I usually decline unless its clear they are MUCH slower/a group of three or something. Was the conversation friendly?
Christian Mason · · Westminster CO · Joined Jul 2007 · Points: 83

Passing another party, on rock is fine, provided it's done safely and consent is given.

My understanding has always been that the etiquette dictates that the party to the route first has the final say though. If you're not comfortable being stuck behind a slower party, just make sure you get to the climb before them. You may choose to accept the risk of climbing under another party, but it's not acceptable to subject someone else to that risk without their consent.

will ar · · San Antonio, TX · Joined Jan 2010 · Points: 215
Eric Engberg wrote:Are you sure this doesn't belong in the 'Why Euros are better thread"?
Haha, I was in the Dolomites a few years ago and while I was starting up the first pitch of a climb 6 guys from the Italian Army showed up for "mountain training" and decided they were going to climb the same route as us. They weren't fast enough to pass so we basically spent about 3 pitches with 8 climbers on the same pitch. They seemed to think that was totally normal.

Back to the OPs question: I generally ask politely and respect the wishes of the party above me, but I don't think they necessarily have the final say. I've passed before without out consent and would do it again if I feel the situation warrants it.

If you're going to pass (with our without consent) I find it's best to do it while the other party is stopped for a belay changeover. Stay close behind the follower and either simul or link pitches past when they stop.

Christian Mason wrote:just make sure you get to the climb before them
I have this theory that the people who are most likely to move at a glacially slow pace on a popular moderate multipitch will show up significantly earlier than anyone else. My strategy is to show up later in the day for those types of routes when most people are off, almost done. Maybe not a great strategy if everyone has to rappel the route for descent.

Sean Cooney wrote:My question based on this experience that I wanted to pose to the Nevada community is:
As a former local I'm not sure there is a Nevada ettiquette, but thanks for asking. Most of the climbers you run into on a popular route are probably from out of town anyways.
John Wilder · · Las Vegas, NV · Joined Feb 2004 · Points: 1,500
Sean Cooney wrote:Last Saturday I was climbing Johnny Vegas and Solar Slabs. My party arrived at the base of solar slabs behind another party and followed them up Johnny Vegas. At the large ledge, we began simul-climbing up Going Nuts. I arrived at the top of the 2nd pitch right as the follower of the party ahead of us arrived at the belay.
Based on that climb and the pace you suggest, I'd be hesitant to let you pass as well, as if you were simul-climbing and took almost as long to climb the same amount of rock as a party pitching it out, I wouldn't believe you'd be able to keep ahead. Obviously that wasn't the case, but the other party can only go off of what they've seen so far if they don't know you.

My general policy is if you're obviously moving very fast and competently, I'll let you pass at the first opportunity to do so safely. I recently did this on Ginger Cracks and with a little timing and work on both parties part, we were delayed about 2 minutes each and everything was great for both parties.
Sean Cooney · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2013 · Points: 5

Thank you everyone for the thoughtful and courteous replies. I appreciate them and will keep them in mind for future encounters.

@smurray47 - Yes, they believed they would climb faster. The whole exchange before we passed was respectful, but not necessarily friendly. On the rappel down we thanked them for letting us pass and they were friendly.

@Christian Mason - Agreed about getting there first. And usually I am first there, even if it means crawling out of bed at 2am.

@John Wilder - my first post wasn't clear. The party ahead had started up the 2nd pitch of Solar Slabs when we started the 1st pitch of Going Nuts, so we were moving considerably faster. I can see why they were reticent because they were unaware that we covered the same ground in less than half the time, so they reasonably assumed our pace was similar to theirs.

Bill Lawry · · New Mexico · Joined Apr 2006 · Points: 1,407

I like that last bit, Sean. In short, when asking include some kind of objective data that shows you are faster.

Might still not get the nod but should make it more likely.

kenr · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2010 · Points: 9,632
will ar wrote:I was in the Dolomites . . . spent about 3 pitches with 8 climbers on the same pitch. They seemed to think that was totally normal.
Yes, in Europe lots of times the Leader of the lower party will come up to the bolt anchor and clip in -- about two seconds after your Leader departed to climb up your next pitch.

Without apology ... "Hello nice day out here, isn't it?"
The lower-party leader then builds his anchor around yours, then his partner(s) climb up -- and hopefully wait until you yourself depart before they come up to the anchor and clip into it.

Nice bolted multi-pitch routes in Europe are a precious resource to be _shared_

. . (Just like driving on the inadequate pre-automobile-design road network of Europe is be thoughtfully shared, unlike USA where there's a feeling that whichever car is ahead on the road has the "right" to hog the road).

"Speed" in the Dolomites means ... not dying in afternoon lightning storm (frequent around there).
Refusing to let other parties overtake is endangering them.

Not saying that's the right way for USA or for Red Rocks Nevada. But it is a common attitude in Europe, and it hss a rationale in Europe.

Ken
Bill Kirby · · Baltimore Maryland · Joined Jul 2012 · Points: 40
kenr wrote: Yes, in Europe lots of times the Leader of the lower party will come up to the bolt anchor and clip in -- about two seconds after your Leader departed to climb up your next pitch. Without apology ... "Hello nice day out here, isn't it?" The lower-party leader then builds his anchor around yours, then his partner(s) climb up -- and hopefully wait until you yourself depart before they come up to the anchor and clip into it. Nice bolted multi-pitch routes in Europe are a precious resource to be _shared_ . . (Just like driving on the inadequate pre-automobile-design road network of Europe is be thoughtfully shared, unlike USA where there's a feeling that whichever car is ahead on the road has the "right" to hog the road). "Speed" in the Dolomites means ... not dying in afternoon lightning storm (frequent around there). Refusing to let other parties overtake is endangering them. Not saying that's the right way for USA or for Red Rocks Nevada. But it is a common attitude in Europe, and it hss a rationale in Europe. Ken
Sorry to derail the thread but wait a minute.. so no one drives the speed limit in the left lane in Europe? They don't brake check you when you come up behind them at 75-80mph? You flash your lights and they get outta the way?

Damn, if I wasn't such white trash I would retire there.
Tylerpratt · · Litchfield, Connecticut · Joined Feb 2016 · Points: 0
Bill Kirby wrote: Sorry to derail the thread but wait a minute.. so no one drives the speed limit in the left lane in Europe? They don't brake check you when you come up behind them at 75-80mph? You flash your lights and they get outta the way? Damn, if I wasn't such white trash I would retire there.
<3
Em Cos · · Boulder, CO · Joined Apr 2010 · Points: 0
Sean Cooney wrote:... I asked if we could go ahead even though this would delay them by about 15 minutes. At first they resisted, so I said that if they did not let us pass, that I would pass them anyway at the first, safe opportunity. ...
Just to throw in another perspective, it is pretty obnoxious in any context to ask someone a question when you actually don't care about their answer. If you intend to pass regardless of their reply, then don't ask if they mind. Say something like "Hey, we're going to pass you at the first safe opportunity, I think here and now would work well.... " and then you can discuss logistics of passing. If you ask if they're ok with it, and they tell you they are not, respect that and wait.
ErikaNW · · Golden, CO · Joined Sep 2010 · Points: 40

Em wins for voice of reason (again)!

Nicholas Gillman · · Las Vegas · Joined Jan 2015 · Points: 301

I don't know that a hard and fast ethical stance exists as far as the local community goes as far as passing , but the idea of "You should have gotten up earlier" was imparted to me by guys I climbed with when I first moved here and I've had that echoed back to me by other locals.

smurray47 · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2014 · Points: 0

I really agree with what Christian Mason said about subjecting someone to the dangers of climbing underneath you without their consent.

Yes, these climbs are a shared resource, but in North America at least there's a pretty strong tradition of "first come first serve" when it comes to the routes. If I made the decision to climb below someone and ended up getting hit by a dropped cam or rock, I would chalk it up to my bad judgement and "its what happens when you climb outside"

If I was climbing outside and was passed by a couple of speed demons who in their haste dropped something or knocked off some rocks and was hit and/or injured, I would be absolutely furious.

Adventure Chumps · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jul 2015 · Points: 5
smurray47 wrote:I would probably report them to the managing organization of the climbing area and try to get them banned for unsafe behavior.
In what universe does this managing organization exist? This isn't the gym....
Adventure Chumps · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jul 2015 · Points: 5
Nicholas Gillman wrote:I don't know that a hard and fast ethical stance exists as far as the local community goes as far as passing , but the idea of "You should have gotten up earlier" was imparted to me by guys I climbed with when I first moved here and I've had that echoed back to me by other locals.
So if you start a route at 6 am and I start at 1 pm and still catch you, I'm expected to wait behind you until you finish the route? People need to work on their efficiency on smaller routes instead of getting on the bigger stuff and holding everyone up.
Mike Brady · · Van Diesel, OR · Joined Jul 2014 · Points: 551
Adventure Chumps wrote: In what universe does this managing organization exist? This isn't the gym....
I am completely amazed that this wasn't the first reply
smurray47 · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2014 · Points: 0
Adventure Chumps wrote: In what universe does this managing organization exist? This isn't the gym....
I'm confused, do you not understand the concept of land/access management? The BLM, state/national parks offices, some crags are even managed through a local climbers coalition teamed up with a private landowner.
Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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