If no one's on route, is there a line?


Original Post
tooTALLtim · · Boulder, CO · Joined Apr 2007 · Points: 1,200

If there is no one climbing the route, is there a line for the route, or can you jump right on it?

Scenario: You and a partner get to the base of a climb. There is no one climbing on the route.

You already:

  1. hung your bags 
  2. racked up 
  3. single coiled your rope so it is not a mess that needs to be flaked
  4. urinated elsewhere

All you need to do is:

  1. tie in 
  2. put your shoes on 
  3. get on belay
  4. climb

You encounter a party near the base. They are still spread out, not racked up, bags aren't hung yet, and chatting amongst themselves. You exchange pleasantries, and find out you're both going for the same route. They say "Well, we got here first."

Do you:

  1. Wait patiently for them get racked, hang their bags, pee, flake their rope, and all the rest.
  2. Get on another route.
  3. Tell them that you're ready to fire and will be getting on the route since there is no one on it.
BigNobody · · all over, mostly Utah · Joined Nov 2013 · Points: 10

Laugh and start climbing . Climbers are a passive/aggressive bunch, emphasis on passive.

Firestone · · California · Joined Nov 2015 · Points: 509

Last one on the rock is a lizard posturing in the sun! I would start climbing and say "see you up there!"

Lena chita · · Cleveland, OH · Joined Mar 2011 · Points: 240

Depends... How pleasant do you want to be? Are you going to be super-quick about climbing this route, or are you projecting it? How many people are in your party?

If there is another route option, this is a warmup, and I don't care which route I would do as a warmup, I would just get on another route for the sake of maintaining a pleasant crag atmosphere and not being confrontational.

If there is no other warmup, there are only two in my group, and I know that we both would climb the route quickly, I would politely reassure the other party that we would be very quick about it and get out of their way in no time, and then get climbing.

If this is THE route I came to the crag to do, but I will be slow on it (a project), I would ask if I could work into a rotation with these people. And if they are unpleasant about it, I might leave and come back another day.

Usually these sorts of confrontations happen on easy routes (up to 11a), and/or with larger groups... I've never had anyone working on harder routes treat the route as their property. people working on harder routes might be spending a long time ON the route for their turn, but they also rest a long time in between, and don't mind other people getting in rotation, climbing on their draws, and exchanging beta.

So,  a thing to keep in mind is that often the people in this large group being inefficient and monopolizing one route at the crag simply don't know any better. You can get all confrontational with them and get them pissed off at you, and turn this into a battle, or you can be nice. I bet if you don't think in terms of those 3 rigid options, but instead engage them in a little bit of chit-chat, asking where they are from, what are they hoping to climb, etc, they might be nice in return and let you go first.. Sometimes... 

John Wilder · · Las Vegas, NV · Joined Feb 2004 · Points: 1,530

Depends on how fast you are and how fast you think they are.

tooTALLtim · · Boulder, CO · Joined Apr 2007 · Points: 1,200

Additional details:

  • this is a multi-pitch trad route
  • there are other climbs nearby that are similar in grade
  • only one other party at the whole formation (three total)
  • the route you both want to get on is a classic (Climb of the Ancient Mariner)
ollieon · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Nov 2012 · Points: 40

I'm confused by your order of operations. So you flaked your rope and racked up, and only then did you realize there was another party at the base? It sounds more like you got to the base, saw the other party was getting ready, then racked up as quickly as you could to try to get in front of them.

I would say get there earlier next time. Or wait for them to start, then simul past them, ideally on the crux pitch.

Andrew Krajnik · · Plainfield, IL · Joined Jul 2016 · Points: 250

I'm with Lena. The outdoors are huge, there's enough room for all of us.

I've been on both sides of this situation. If I was the first party there, but we're not ready to climb, I'll happily invite them to go ahead (assuming they're ready to go, and aren't planning on projecting). I'll also invite them to clip into my anchor, if I have one set. (My main destination is Devil's Lake, where toproping is common.)

If I'm the one who got there later, I'll just climb something nearby until the route is clear. (My wife and I climb with our sons, so we'd rather not jump ahead of you knowing that we have four people climbing.)

In both scenarios, things remained friendly and free of animosity, and we met some pretty cool people in the process.

Edit: I started typing before the extra detail was posted. My reply is based on single pitch experience.

David Deville · · Flagstaff, Arizona · Joined Oct 2013 · Points: 40

You just have to have a quick and honest discussion about which party is likely to be slow/fast. In my experience most slow parties don't want someone up their ass the whole time and obviously fast parties don't want to be stuck behind a slow party. If you aren't sure how fast you will be and they seem confident, you should just wait for them; if they are actually experienced they will hurry up once they realize you are waiting on them.

I'd lean towards the party ahead of you having the final say though, and it looks like there are plenty of other climbs in the area as long as you brought a full rack. I'd imagine the only reason that climb has more stars is because it's full of bolts; the other, more trad oriented climbs look better IMO and nothing is very long. If it were me, I'd probably just go do something else first.

Andrew Krajnik · · Plainfield, IL · Joined Jul 2016 · Points: 250

Out of curiosity, what did you? (Given the detail, I'm assuming this wasn't a hypothetical question?)

Eric Fjellanger · · Unknown Hometown · Joined May 2008 · Points: 840

I see you are from Boulder.

Doug Hemken · · Madison, WI · Joined Oct 2004 · Points: 5,382

For me another factor would be how far I traveled to do this route.

What was your plan B?

Andrew Krajnik · · Plainfield, IL · Joined Jul 2016 · Points: 250
ollieon wrote:

I'm confused by your order of operations. So you flaked your rope and racked up, and only then did you realize there was another party at the base? It sounds more like you got to the base, saw the other party was getting ready, then racked up as quickly as you could to try to get in front of them.

I would say get there earlier next time. Or wait for them to start, then simul past them, ideally on the crux pitch.

And this is a valid point. If there's someone at the base of the route, the first thing I do is ask what route they're preparing to climb...

BigB · · Red Rock, NV · Joined Feb 2015 · Points: 340

meh 1/10

tooTALLtim · · Boulder, CO · Joined Apr 2007 · Points: 1,200

We climbed it! I'm not big on waiting, especially if there's not one on the route.

We hung our bags a distance from the base of the route, as the descent trail doesn't go past the base of the route. We left our stuff about five minutes from the base of the route (closer to the descent trail), racked up, and walked up the hill ready to climb.

We got up there, and found another party near the base getting ready. Neither climber was racked up, and their stuff was spread about.

The conversation went something like this:

"Hi" "Hello"

"What are you guys getting on?"

"Climb of the Ancient Mariner!"

"Oh, so are we! But we got here first"

"Oh, that's cool. Well, it's a great climb, psyched to climb it!"

"Oh, so you're going to be passive-aggresive about passing us then."

"Nope, just going to get on it since there's on one on it right now, and you guys aren't racked and ready to go. We are."

"Well, we got up here first."

"That's great, I guess you win the hiking portion of the day. I came here to climb"

At that point, the conversation trailed off. 

If there's a party on the route, and you're next in line, then you're climbing next, I totally agree. 

But if you're still yard-saled at the base, and I'm ready to climb, why should I wait? Being polite? Because you hiked up there first? Fuck no.The party who climbs it first is the one who has their shoes on and are tied in, not getting sorted at the base. If you want to hang out at the base, then you can take your time and climb whatever's available when you are ready.

nathanael · · Riverside, CA · Joined May 2011 · Points: 289
tooTALLtim wrote:

If there is no one climbing the route, is there a line for the route, or can you jump right on it?

Do you:

  1. Wait patiently for them get racked, hang their bags, pee, flake their rope, and all the rest.
  2. Get on another route.
  3. Tell them that you're ready to fire and will be getting on the route since there is no one on it.

4. whine about it on mountainproject

David Deville · · Flagstaff, Arizona · Joined Oct 2013 · Points: 40

But did they ever have to wait for you after you started climbing? If you sped up it and didn't inconvenience them much then great. If you were bolt to bolt and/or constantly declustering your ropes with the other party waiting at every belay, then it was a dick move. You didn't finish your story; you just said "We climbed it!"

tooTALLtim · · Boulder, CO · Joined Apr 2007 · Points: 1,200

They didn't wait. I got about halfway up the first pitch, and saw them still at the base getting ready, when I got to the first pitch anchors, they had left. We saw them on Orange Julius from the adjacent formation (the Bookmark) an hour later.

We saw them after we descended, and they said "If you would have let us known it was going to take you 5 minutes to climb the first pitch, we would have let you pass" My partner apologized for not letting them know we are fast.

David Deville · · Flagstaff, Arizona · Joined Oct 2013 · Points: 40

I feel like we need the other party's take on this. If what you are saying is true, then yeah, going ahead and climbing first was fine. If you were actually climbing really fast then it's weird that they felt like they needed to go do another route. Maybe you guys weren't coming across as very friendly? 

I've only seen one party actually get fed up and leave the base of a route. Basically 3 parties all got to the base of a route in RR within 5 min of each other. We were first, but we had passed the other 2 parties like 15 min before when they got suckered off trail so they were a little bitter about it. They were planning to climb in two parties of two and asked if they could go first since we were a party of three and were eating sandwiches and chatting while racking up. 

We knew we'd be fast (double roping seconds, easy climbing) so we declined and one pair had a total hissy fit about it. The dude threw a water bottle or something and the woman just kept making passive aggressive comments about what a "cluster" we were. They decided to leave and hike for the day since they didn't think they would have enough time to finish with us in front of them (plenty of other options in vicinity as well). Their two friends stayed and one of them was generally unpleasant about the whole thing (definitely blamed us for her friends leaving). She at least admitted she was being a jerk, but said something along the lines of "we are PNW climbers and we know we will be a lot faster than you since we alpine climb, so we are just cranky". 

Once on route (~10-15 min later) we actually never held up the party of two that stayed and we saw them still on route after we descended (walk down) to packs around 1-2 in the afternoon. If we had let the two parties go ahead of us, I think we probably would have descended in the dark (this was in Jan). If they had showed up and jumped in front of us I'd have been super pissed! Also, the climbers that left certainly would have had enough time to do the route. Plus, you could bail from anywhere on it so it was really weird to me that they were so upset about it. 

I actually have another story about this same climb, but I feel like I'm rambling and I should get some work done. One of my favorite climbing memories happened on this route almost a year later.

Paul Deger · · Colorado · Joined Sep 2015 · Points: 35

And here I thought this was some Zen koan about route finding - not a school yard "me first" debate that is easily resolved with a friendly chat. Life is too short to make climbing one more stressor! Breathe, climb, get a beer!

t.farrell · · New York, NY · Joined Aug 2016 · Points: 60

Sounds like a matter best handled by the local police department. 

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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