British Climber Problems: 70 Quirks of the UK Climber Article

© Gilly McArthur/@gillymcarthur

We all know that Brits are typically perceived as grumpy, tea-drinking so-and-sos with stiff upper lips, right? But what defines the quintessential 'British climber?' When we're not sitting it out in the café waiting for the rain to subside, we're predominantly trad climbing on short rocks while complaining about conditions, weather and Brexit. It's not nice to stereotype, of course, but for the sake of humour (and we do need some of that right now) we gathered some common habits, experiences and foibles of the typical - or perhaps it should be atypical - British climber...

*Thanks to Gilly McArthur (Instagram:@gillymcarthur) for the brilliant illustrations and to those who contributed their 'problems.'

British Climber Problems

  1. People who don't 'get' trad climbing.
  2. People who don't 'get' gritstone.
  3. Waiting to get on a busy route and losing patience, but resorting to queuing politely in a typically British manner.
  4. Falling off, being unable to express the inner turmoil and instead apologising to your belayer: "Sorry."
  5. When your mate ticks your project and you pretend to be happy but you really resent their success.
  6. When someone asks to borrow chalk and you agree to a light dusting, but squirm when they agree to 'help themselves.'
  7. The shame of resorting to the clipstick (especially when abroad).
  8. Topping out and feeling smug, but not wanting to lose your stiff upper lip.
  9. When you want to improve but don't want to be seen to be 'training.'
  10. Brits who shout 'Allez!'
    Malham  © Gilly McArthur/@gillymcarthur
    © Gilly McArthur
  11. People who say 'The Peaks' rather than 'The Peak.'
  12. People who don't know who Ben, Jerry or Johnny are.
  13. When non-climbers ask if you know Sir Chris Bonington.
  14. When non-climbers ask if you have 'done Ben Nevis.'
  15. US grades.
  16. Emphatically defending the UK trad grading system as the best data point in the universe but having zero consensus as to what it means.
  17. Forgetting your waterproof.
  18. Walking great distances to sh*t crags.
  19. Walking short distances to sh*t quarries.
  20. When the cake supply runs out at the crag.
    © Gilly McArthur
  21. Preemptive angst.
  22. Retrospective joy (a handshake, no high 5s)
  23. People who haven't done anything on grit.
  24. When your belayer doesn't give enough slack, but instead of complaining you apologise for pulling the rope up too quickly.
  25. When you agree to take your own rack but secretly hope you end up using your partner's.
  26. When you get one of their nuts stuck and would rather hack at it for hours than bear the thought of buying a replacement.
  27. Simultaneously extolling the virtues of onsighting while working a 10-year redpoint project at Malham.
  28. When someone talks of 'crushing' or 'sending' a 'rad' route.
  29. When you don't own a copy of Ken Wilson's Extreme Rock.
  30. Your mate, who owns the full collection of Wilson's books (all first editions).
    © Gilly McArthur
  31. Being overtaken by a foreign party on an alpine route. 4 times over.
  32. Getting pumped on anything >15m.
  33. Strong youth.
  34. Competition climbers.
  35. 'Climb Britain.'
  36. Strong foreigners.
  37. Trying to avoid other Brits at the crag abroad.
  38. The weather.
  39. Brexit.
  40. People who use hexes.
    Hex  © Gilly McArthur/@gillymcarthur
    © Gilly McArthur
  41. The sun (when abroad, obviously).
  42. Forgetting the suncream.
  43. Remembering it and having to put it on.
  44. Living in the knowledge that you'll never know for sure what the true grade of Three Pebble Slab is.
  45. When you can't jam.
  46. When you can't decide whether it's 'sticky damp' or just damn wet.
  47. When the 'connies' aren't tip-top.
  48. Punters.
  49. Elitists.
  50. Midges.
    © Gilly McArthur
  51. Indoor climbers.
  52. Top-ropers.
  53. Boulderers.
  54. Trad climbers.
  55. Seemingly embracing trad climbing, but secretly cacking it.
  56. Bolts.
  57. Pegs.
  58. Scottish winter 'AKA Type 2 Fun'.
  59. Knee-pads.
  60. When you wear your 'European' brightly coloured outfit for the first time and receive looks of disgust/bemusement. Better stick to 'Slate Grey' or 'Stanage Brown.'
    © Gilly McArthur
  61. When you go to Font for the first time and get an ego check.
  62. Other people on the UKC forums.
  63. When the tea supply runs out at the crag.
  64. When there is no English guide to cover your holiday crag and you have to struggle through a local one in a foreign language.
  65. Pronouncing anything and anywhere abroad. "Buoux"? "Fountainblow!"
  66. When your down jacket is 20% down and 80% duct tape.
  67. When you run out of excuses.
  68. When you turn up to the crag hungover.
  69. When you don't get down before Last Orders.
  70. When you get down for Last Orders, but it's your round.

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3 Sep, 2018

I climbed Sunai (E1 5b) on Sunday, a somewhat bold E1 sandwiched between another E1 and a VS formed from a huge crack. My Dutch climbing partner found it hilarious that I stubbornly refused to put protection in the VS despite risking a leg-breaking ground fall.

I was unable to offer any sensible explanation.

3 Sep, 2018

'When your down jacket is 20% down and 80% duct tape.'  Eek, guilty as charged!  Once wore it to a rather posh dinner party. Had been bolting earlier, so there was still a fairly liberal coating of dust. Suffice to say, my partner wasn't remotely amused.

Loved the article - and the illustrations!


3 Sep, 2018

"When you run out of excuses."

Pfft, as if :)


3 Sep, 2018

Surely a true British climber would be smug in the knowledge that the true grade of Three Pebble Slab is E0?!

3 Sep, 2018

Ron Hills

Believing that a fleece jacket is suitable for any occasion, no matter how formal

Climbing something, anything in the rain because you've driven hundreds of miles to the crag

Having umpteen rucksacks but only ever using one

Hating gritstone but not saying anything because everyone else says it's the business

...and much else.  Good article!


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