20 People You'll the Climbing Wall

© Andy Caley

Climbing walls are growing in popularity and attract a variety of characters from all walks of life. If you've been visiting your local wall fairly regularly, you'll no doubt have people-watched and pigeon-holed a few stand-out individuals or groups. Can you distinguish a Beta-Cheater from a Beta-Bleater? A Beanie-Boulderer from The Powerscreamer? Have you been subjected to the Lycra-Lover yet?

Here are 20 stereotypes that may feature at a wall near you.

Main Indoor 8m Wall busy with members  © Andy Caley
People (and animal) enjoying a wall session. (c) Andy Caley

1. "All the gear, no idea" AKA The Gear Freak

In every wall across the country and possibly around the world, there is at least one person who could be called a bit of a gear-freak. Before they have even got to grips with knots and belaying, they've already purchased their own helmet, harness, shoes and chalkbag​, not to mention their cows tails, ascenders and the portaledge for that imminent ascent of El Cap. There's no denying their enthusiasm, but it's often a bit 'fur coat, no knickers.'

Tell-tale identifier: Lots of clinky jangling noises from the excessive and mainly very shiny kit dangling from their gear loops. Numerous visits to climbing hardware company websites listed in browsing history. Unhealthy obsession with newly-released kit.

My rack  © Gary Bardrick
My rack
© Gary Bardrick

2. The Overachieving Child

There's always at least one...the child who onsights your projects with ease, then proceeds to lap it 10 times (doing their homework or playing with Lego in their rest breaks.) 

Tell-tale identifier: The smallest but best climber in the wall. Accompanied by an entourage of parents, coaches and even more talented younger siblings...

3. The Serial Top-Roper

This individual likes to hog lead lines and top-rope their projects excessively.

Tell-tale identifier: You never see them lead anything. Ever. "I'll just work that section once more, John."

4. The Beanie Boulderers

​You've heard of the Bikini Boulderers, but the Beanie Boulderers wear even less clothing. Their peculiar appearance includes a naked torso juxtaposed with a beanie on the head. Scientific studies have shown that this breed of climber loses heat from their head rapidly, hence the beanie, whilst their torso gains heat through the strenuously core-intensive and "futuristic/next-level" moves that they execute. 

Tell-tale identifier: Topless, beanie-wearing boulderer. Usually in the age range of 16-30, and usually male... 

Once a boulderer, always a boulderer.  © Fraser
Once a boulderer, always a boulderer.
© Fraser, Oct 2009

5. The Golden Boy/Girl

This is the local hero that everyone hates admires. Like the aforementioned overachieving child, they make your projects look easy.

Tell-tale identifier: A well-honed physique, surrounded by fans and quite possibly adorned with sponsorship logos.

6. The Beta-Cheater

This person never gets on a route or problem until they've seen every possible solution and figured out the best way after watching everyone else fail. They just never can work it out for themselves! This type nearly always avoid problems that they know exploit their weaknesses.

Tell-tale identifier: A 'stalker' of all the good climbers, always nagging people for beta then flashing every problem (antidote - sandbag them with the incorrect beta).

7. The Beta-Bleater

Unlike the aforementioned Beta-Cheater, the Beta-Bleater takes pride in sourcing the best beta and shouting it out to every climber on every route or problem at every opportunity. Somebody give them a loudspeaker!

Tell-tale identifier: The loudmouth of the wall, constantly going on about "sneaky heelhooks", "cheeky kneebars" and the elusive "sly toe scum with thumb-sprag". Whatever that means...

8. The Chief Complainer

Nothing is ever good enough for the Chief Complainer. The bain of the centre management, they are never happy with the price, the routesetting, the music, other people, the youth clubs, the competitions. 

Tell-tale identifier: The grumpiest person in the wall. Even grumpier than you feel when the Overachieving Child strolls up your current project.

9. The Wall Rat

This breed of climbers has never touched rock and has no intention of doing so (and good for them). The climbing wall is their social, sporting and occasionally working environment in which they feel right at home. New routes, new holds and the local bouldering league are highlights of the Wall Rat's dusty calendar year. They pretty much become part of the furniture and require forced removal from the wall at closing time.

Tell-tale identifier: Pale appearance, encyclopaedic knowledge of all routes, problems and features on the wall. Annual membership since the wall opened and #1 on the Top 1% of Users list.

A young Wall Rat  © UKC Articles
A young Wall Rat

10. The Downgrader

Overly-confident and dare you say it, a little arrogant - the resident Downgrader takes pleasure in taking away from your achievements. 6b+? "It's 6b at most!" 7a? "Never! None of the moves are worth even 6c!"

Tell-tale identifier: Downgrades every route publicly, but bizarrely you never see them on any of the routes themselves. Most probably a boulderer...

11. The Cheapskate

The Cheapskate never seems to have enough money to buy their own chalk, brush or tape, despite these items costing relatively little. They treat them as a commodity at the climbing wall - a casual dip into your chalkbag when you're not looking, a desperate plea for a handful of chalk to transfer into their bag and to "borrow a bit of tape" (AKA half the roll) which - let's face it - you'll never be wanting back once it's blood-stained and sweat-soaked.

Tell-tale identifier: Any person who has asked you at least once to borrow some chalk. The likelihood is they never ask the same person twice. They're cunning like that. The person with a mummified finger and a battered Colgate toothbrush that is probably more effective at brushing teeth than removing ingrained chalk and sweat.

12. The Overqualified Instructor

They've got all the tickets going, always have their eyes on the weather forecast in the Alps and have designs on becoming the mountain guide of all mountain guides. Despite their ambition and competency, for whatever reason this person has never made it out of the chalk clouds and rental-shoe scented climbing wall.

Tell-tale identifier: CWA + Abseil Module, CWLA, SPA, ML (Winter and Summer), MIA...and an air of misery whilst longing for work in the outdoors.

13. The Regulars

Similar to the Wall Rat but on a slightly less extreme scale, the regulars are a cliquey tight-knit group of friends who turn up on the same nights at the same time. They do more socialising than climbing, but are at the heart of the community and keep the cafe going at least. They also have all the gossip.

Tell-tale identifier: They're the first to renew their annual membership and will post smug photos on social media from the annual "Team Regular Go Large in Kalymnos" trip.

14. The Outsider

Every so often the Regulars, Golden Boy/Girl and the Wall Rat get a surprise when a foreign climber enters the wall - we're not talking of a true foreigner here, but simply someone from "the other wall." They stand out like a sore thumb, signing away their life at the desk to register and climbing on their own; using features and volumes for hands when everyone knows they're not in and doing star-jumps and yoga on the mats. It's just not a done thing here. 

Tell-tale identifier: Anxious look, significant amount of time spent working out the grades and circuits, generally breaking every rule in the book as far as The Regulars are concerned.

15. The Lycra-Lover

Somehow, tight trousers and Ronhills are back in fashion. The brighter and more outrageously colourful the Lycra, the better you will climb. Previously an icon of ridicule, the Lycra-Lover is now more respected than ever. 

Tell-tale identifier: It's not hard - you spot them a mile off. They live by the motto "Tight and Bright!"

Bringing the 70's back: Mr Lycra-Lover on a visit to Bowden  © Natalie Berry
Bringing the 70's back: Mr Lycra-Lover on a visit to Bowden
© Natalie Berry

16. The Liability

There's always one person - always injured, or if they're really unfortunate - having an accident at the wall. The First Aid box has been unearthed more times for this individual than for the total number of incidents overall. An ambulance is constantly on standby and nobody wants to spot or belay them in case the blame gets shifted. 

Tell-tale identifier: Forlorn-looking, clutching onto an ice pack with a plaster on their finger and a bizarre gizmo for treating the latest of their soft-tissue injuries.

17. The Wannabe DJ

With such a cross-section of society, it's safe to say that the music choice of a climbing wall will rarely satsify everyone. Yet there is always one climber who will demand that their iPod be plugged in to the sound system for the ears of the climbing cohort to be subjected to some obscure taste in music. 

Tell-tale identifier: "Can you change the music?" "Can I put my iPod in?" "But...I find techno so RELAXING!"

18. The Powerscreamer

Inspired by videos of Chris Sharma and Adam Ondra screeching their way up 9a climbs, The Powerscreamer/Drama Queen adheres to the logic that screaming and shouting will get them up the campus board. This isn't just the occasional outburst of effort, but a constant shout or scream on every move once difficulty sets in.

Tell-tale identifier: The one making all the noise, who attracts looks of bemusement and disgust from fellow wall-users. Most likely also a Beanie Boulderer...

Naomi Buys screaming for power  © Rock Over Climbing/ Beanie Boy Images
Naomi Buys screaming for power
© Rock Over Climbing/ Beanie Boy Images

19. ​​The Arguing Couple

Climbing can be a wonderful activity to take part in with your other half, but occasionally you may encounter some domestic tension manifest itself in the form of a climbing-related argument. There wasn't enough slack, too much slack, you needn't have shouted beta - how dare you try to help? It can be an awkward experience for fellow climbers in the vicinity. 

Tell-tale identifier: It's pretty self-explanatory. Problems are exacerbated when one partner is burning the other off, or is experiencing redpoint stress.

20. The "I'd rather be outside today but..." Person

This is the climber who claims to have grandiose plans to climb outdoors at evenings and weekends but something always gets in the way and they end up back at the wall. They appear to have an aversion to indoor climbing and pretend that outdoors is superior yet secretly prefer indoors.

Tell-tale identifier: Won't stop moaning about weather, conditions or how far away that crag is 20 minutes from the wall. Suspiciously shiny nuts and cams.

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29 Oct, 2015
You forgot to add the moany old git who goes on about 'bouncing youths' and 'it wasn't like this in my day' along with 'the competition problems aren't real climbing', refusing to dyno and trying to do everything statically. And failing. Andy F
29 Oct, 2015
Also, "oh, you cannot climb it? Just dyno/skip that bad hold and just go for the next one" guy is forgotten! I have to admit, I've done that myself and felt bad about it. But it was actually easier on such a problem and could never get it right without skipping a sloper.
29 Oct, 2015
Also the cheating tall person who can reach holds that you can't, and the moaning shortarse who can't reach holds that you can.
29 Oct, 2015
Are they related to the 'its easier if you just campus everything' guy? Andy F
29 Oct, 2015
I didn't realise that Buzzfeed writers did guest articles for UKC.
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