/ ARTICLE: 10 Ways to be a Better Climber in 2020

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UKC Articles 31 Dec 2019
Climbing into 2020. 2020: an Olympic year in which Sport Climbing will make its big debut. Not everyone can become an Olympian, but there's nothing to stop anyone from upping their climbing game on rock or on plastic in 2020...

...Made you look! This isn't a training article. Rather than reel off tips for pulling harder in 2020 - since we've had plenty of these in our skills and technique articles this year - we thought we'd do something a bit different and suggest ways to be a 'better' climber towards the environment and others...



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mrphilipoldham 31 Dec 2019
In reply to UKC Articles:

I was half expecting this to be ‘pull harder’ but I’m pleasantly surprised! Bravo  

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Flinticus 31 Dec 2019
In reply to UKC Articles:

My first thought on reading the headline was actually in line with your surprise!

It would be great if UKC could feature / promote organisations repurposing old gear or selling gear made from recycled materials. I've got a 30m ripe sitting on the floor of my gear cupboard looking for a new use. I don't need all 30m for a dog lead!

What about car sharing & carbon offsetting?

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sjminfife 31 Dec 2019
In reply to Flinticus:

Your local dog trainer may use the rope. One of mine found a home with one.

Steve

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pasbury 01 Jan 2020
In reply to UKC Articles:

Good points all.

Also don't just clean up the crags, pick up rubbish on approaches and even when you're out walking the dog.

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scoth 01 Jan 2020
In reply to Flinticus:

> My first thought on reading the headline was actually in line with your surprise!

Me too. And thanks UKC for this welcomed article.

> What about car sharing & carbon offsetting?

Car sharing for sure. But the more I read into carbon offsetting the more skeptical I am, especially for flying. As I understand it, there is still a lot of uncertainty on the actual science of carbon sequestration rates from planting trees, restoring peatlands etc. Also the Guardian article in the link illustrates the voluntary off set market can be unreliable in actually being certain that one gets your bang for your buck i.e. the actual amount of global heating your journey creates is offset by the equivalent amount of carbon.

But perhaps the most pressing issue is one of equity. The science in the recent IPCC 'Land and climate change reports' shows us that the world doesn't have enough suitable land area to actually grow enough trees or restore enough land to sequester carbon to maintain a liveable global temperature and feed ourselves. So given there is a finite supply of 'offsets' then surely it's better to prioritise these to developing countries to help bring people out of poverty. The science indicates that even with offsets we cannot carry on with our high emitting lifestyles and expect most other people  in the world have access to cheap energy they really need right now.

So may be the right thing for a climber is simply not to fly.

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Smythson 01 Jan 2020
In reply to Flinticus:

https://dirtbagsclimbing.co.uk/

Nice people and do custom work if you let them know what you want.

S

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Presley Whippet 01 Jan 2020
In reply to UKC Articles:

An interesting article for those of us who dislike being told what to do  

Some good points and elements which are industry self serving. 

Explaining my thinking:

1. Flights, it is only later in life that I have had the means to make multiple flights a year. I don't have long left, I will continue to enjoy cheap flights while they last and call my early years my offsetting period. 

2. Support the community, can't argue with that. Remember the supporting groups too though, air ambulance springs to mind. A minor niggle but I would argue that cac is a charity run by a climber for the benefit of all rather than serving the climbing community. 

3. Introduce others, this is where the industry bit starts. The main drivers for increased participation come from those who make money out of our sport. More punters, more cash. The crags are quite busy enough for most of us. I am not advocating closing the doors. I quite happily introduce interested friends, help out those who need it but I do not feel an active push to increase participation is of any great benefit to Joe Climber. 

4. Greener Gear, thinly veiled buy more gear, throw away your old stuff and buy the new green stuff. The new green stuff is actually the old stuff with a green sticker and a 10% mark up for your trouble. Greenest option is use your stuff to death. This links to 5 and 9.

5. Recycle/donate, see above. There are a number of groups which collect used outdoor gear for the homeless and the refugees. I am not sure I would be thanked for mine at end of life. Ropes slings etc are an issue, there is only so much you can do, only so many doormats, belts etc you can make. My local sailing club has taken some from me but I am one climber in an area of hundreds. 

6. Volunteer, yes, please do so. Keep the community vibrant. Watch where you volunteer though. Most is fine, some is unpaid labour for another's profit, this is more apparant in other sports than climbing but is creeping in here. 

7. Respect the rock, again please do but also try to filter out those self appointed arbiters of what is right and what is wrong, if you followed their advice, you would never go out. 

8. Clean up, and thank those that you see doing the same. I often bump into a couple on scafell who go out for a run with a carrier bag and bring it down full. Lovely to see. 

9. Bottles, whilst single use bottles are the poster child of the reduce plastics campaign, they are not that bad if used to death. No need to go out and buy a new bottle as your new year's resolution, simply re use old drink bottles. Cheap gin comes in plastic bottles and these raise a laugh. More industry self serving. 

10. First aid, self rescue. Absolutely, make sure you have these skills. And that the jumars are in your rope bag, not in your rucksack at the top of the crag. 

As I said, some good advice and some sales pitch for the industry. It would be refreshing to see a similar, industry independent article. 

Health and Happiness to all. 

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Flinticus 01 Jan 2020
In reply to scoth:

Some of that makes sense, some doesn't in the real world. You can carbon offset by preventing mature forest being felled, thus preserving vital established habitat. This will be lost if you wait for developing countries to instigate carbon offset programmes. And would they? Why worry if you get bang for your buck or exactly match your catbon footprint? Err on the side on excessive offset and research what you pay into amd look for ones with multiple benefits. My prime aim in offsetting is actually preserving / restoring forest and habitat. In my view this is not our world but that of all life on earth.

Personally I don't fly for climbing and look to minimise my footprint. Offsetting is for the elements difficult to eliminate.

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GrahamD 01 Jan 2020
In reply to Presley Whippet:

Some good points there, especially about using (and repairing) stuff through its full functional life.

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Flinticus 01 Jan 2020
In reply to Smythson:

Thanks. I've emailed them. 

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Flinticus 01 Jan 2020
In reply to GrahamD:

Yeap. I've sent my backpack to Scottish Mountain Gear for a new top closing system after the original material worn away and tore on my Golite Quest pack.

Only downside is the time it is taking to fix. About 2 months. I think they've been busier than usual.

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Tom V 01 Jan 2020
In reply to UKC Articles:

For me there's an irony in being reminded to respect the rock while also being advised to consider contributing to a bolt fund.

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Presley Whippet 01 Jan 2020
In reply to Tom V:

Respect the Rock is one of those all things to all men phrases. 

Respect the Rock means Respect the Rock. 

I think I have heard something similar to that recently. 

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scoth 02 Jan 2020
In reply to Flinticus:

That's an interesting approach you take, especially around 'excessive offsets'. Do you have any links as I'm curious to see how this is worked out? Thanks in advance.

> You can carbon offset by preventing mature forest being felled, thus preserving vital established habitat.

I'm assuming you are referring to schemes under 'REDD' (reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation). While these schemes are one of many ways to reduce/stop degradation, I'm also aware that they are highly contentious in terms of being used to offset emissions from rich countries.

> This will be lost if you wait for developing countries to instigate carbon offset programmes. And would they?

I understand this is what the equity part of the Paris Climate Agreement is all about. Developed countries have a responsibility to pay and offset developing countries emissions. But as yet this hasn't really happened to the extent that's needed. Therefore, it's not solely up to developing countries to instigate.

> In my view this is not our world but that of all life on earth.

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Flinticus 02 Jan 2020
In reply to scoth:

> That's an interesting approach you take, especially around 'excessive offsets'. Do you have any links as I'm curious to see how this is worked out? Thanks in advance

I was referring to my calculated carbon fpotprint for certain activities. These are available online. I complete a few, take the highest and add a considerable margin for under-estimation.

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mcquain2 03 Jan 2020
In reply to UKC Articles:

Great idea for a post and timely/topical in this more-climate-aware era 

I did some experimenting with the calculations for flying from Ireland to Spain and compared against taking the ferry direct, or the ferry to France and driving, etc. and seeing what came out worse (surprisingly, flying was the same as taking the ferry to the UK, driving across and taking a ferry into France and driving from here!). I also included the numbers for whenever I am in a position to get an electric van....

https://www.nealmcquaid.com/personalblog/2020/1/3/what-are-the-emissions-for-traveling-from-ireland-to-spain-by-diesel-or-electric-vehicle

(If anyone is interested, the spreadsheets are linked at the bottom of the post if they want to play with the numbers themselves).

Post edited at 18:40
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Presley Whippet 04 Jan 2020
In reply to mcquain2:

Thanks for that, an interesting article. You do however ignore time in your thinking which is a significant factor in many peoples decision making. 

Taking it further, assume you are staying at your destination for a fixed time, say a week. What CO2 value would you assign to each additional overnight stay? Probably too complex to estimate but may bring the methods of travel closer to parity. 

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Offwidth 04 Jan 2020
In reply to scoth:

I would argue you are assuming things will just continue in the same bad way and so being overly negative about carbon offsetting. We are already approaching an economic tipping point where wind and photovoltaics will become cheaper than (the pretty cheap current) oil and gas prices for electricity generation. In the meantime an awful lot of forests and boglands need protecting as well as replanting and planes are getting more fuel efficient. You can also chose a bespoke carbon offset yourself by supporting charities that do other good carbon work for the environment. As an example Moors for the Future (supported by many including the BMC) are replanting sphagnum moss...a major carbon sink.

https://www.moorsforthefuture.org.uk/our-work/restoring-blanket-bog/planting-sphagnum-and-moorland-plants

https://thebmc.co.uk/peak-district-walkers-learn-more-about-one-of-the-UKs-biggest-natural-restoration-schemes

In reply to Natalie

Excellent article.

Thanks for mentioning the BMC charities including the Mountain Heritage Trust (which could do with some cash donations at present, to process a surge in artifact donations). You missed the BMC Land and Property Management Trust which allows the organisation to buy and maintain land with severe access risks. The BMC also coordinate clean ups alongside Surfers against Sewage through the Hills to Oceans campaign.

https://intouch.thebmc.co.uk/hills2oceans/

https://thebmc.co.uk/land-management

Post edited at 12:41
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Offwidth 04 Jan 2020
In reply to Presley Whippet:

Some good points but can you give more detail on what you mean by issues with 'respect the rock'? In contrast to what you say my impression is most UK crags are seeing no change in overall usage numbers and most are so quiet they are getting out of condition and only the honeypots are rammed. I think most climbers can see when there has been a lack of respect for the rock but solutions depend on the rock type and traffic. I'd say the most urgent problem at present is damage to boulder problems when climbed damp with dirty shoes and overbrushing: the popular areas on the softest sandstones are the most vulnerable.

I simply think you are wrong about commercial outdoor groups as there has been little change in numbers of these outdoors in half a century and their outdoor behaviour has been improving in my experience. They do a valuable job in introducing kids to climbing, indoors and out, provide work for climbers, run facilities for all of us, etc.

Post edited at 12:57
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Presley Whippet 04 Jan 2020
In reply to Offwidth:

> Some good points but can you give more detail on what you mean by issues with 'respect the rock'? In contrast to what you say my impression is most UK crags are seeing no change in overall usage numbers and most are so quiet they are getting out of condition and only the honeypots are rammed. I think most climbers can see when there has been a lack of respect for the rock but solutions depend on the rock type and traffic. I'd say the most urgent problem at present is damage to boulder problems when climbed damp with dirty shoes and overbrushing: the popular areas on the softest sandstones are the most vulnerable.

I mean what I have already said on the topic. Deriding folks for climbing in less than perfect conditions given the uks climate won't get you anywhere. RtR is a catch all phrase, to me it means no chipping. Getting hung up on petty minutiae like wearing boots or trainers, taking a damp meter to the crag or having Jeeves polish your shoes for you is snobbery and certainly won't help with the participation levels you desire. 

> I simply think you are wrong about commercial outdoor groups as there has been little change in numbers of these outdoors in half a century and their outdoor behaviour has been improving in my experience. They do a valuable job in introducing kids to climbing, indoors and out, provide work for climbers, run facilities for all of us, etc.

There is a very simple explanation to my opinion:

When talking with other climbers about their experiences, I frequently hear the phrases "had the crag to ourselves" or "only a couple of other teams on the crag".

I have yet to hear "great day out, crag was mobbed, could barely find a line".

Do you have data to support your claims about participation 50 yrs ago vs today. 

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Presley Whippet 04 Jan 2020
In reply to Presley Whippet:

> When talking with other climbers about their experiences, I frequently hear the phrases "had the crag to ourselves" or "only a couple of other teams on the crag".

Sorry missed a bit here, should finish "used to describe great days out".

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mcquain2 04 Jan 2020
In reply to Presley Whippet:

Hey, thanks for the feedback. You’re right - looking at just the transport is a narrow focus and time (and other aspects could also be considered: you could really go down into the weeds if you started thinking about heating and cooking solutions, etc!). 
personally, I try to avoid short trips. As you point out, the longer you stay the more you can spread out the carbon output....

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scoth 04 Jan 2020
In reply to Offwidth:

> I would argue you are assuming things will just continue in the same bad way and so being overly negative about carbon offsetting. We are already approaching an economic tipping point where wind and photovoltaics will become cheaper than (the pretty cheap current) oil and gas prices for electricity generation. In the meantime an awful lot of forests and boglands need protecting as well as replanting and planes are getting more fuel efficient. You can also chose a bespoke carbon offset yourself by supporting charities that do other good carbon work for the environment. As an example Moors for the Future (supported by many including the BMC) are replanting sphagnum moss...a major carbon sink.

Thank you for the peatland restoration link. I appreciate it’s something the UK really needs to be doing lots off over the next decade.

My post was attempting to offer a critical analysis on carbon offsetting, specifically flying to climb, but appreciate (such as the way in forums) it can appear I was negative about restoration/drawing down carbon. We clearly need to be doing a lot more of this, as well as all the things you’ve mentioned.

I just don’t think the right way to finance carbon sequestration schemes is to continue high carbon privileged lifestyles. The science clearly indicates we need to drastically reduce the amount of flying asap, as it cannot be fully decarbonised to the scale that’s required. Sadly for me It means no more hot rock trips to the Med.

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Offwidth 05 Jan 2020
In reply to Presley Whippet:

You were the one who raised it, so why don't you provide the data to support what you claim first?

When I was a kid in the 70s, like many in my local schools, I went away on an outdoor adventure week on the welsh borders, including climbing.  Talking to others from different areas of the UK as a young man it seemed pretty common then. From my own love of the wider British hills and mountains from the early 80s the only big commercial group outdoor growth I've seen is in bouldering groups and walking groups (most idiotic on the commercial three peaks 24 hour race).

I work on guidebooks, so climb on everything from honeypots to the most obscure crags and my experience is behavior of trad climbers is much better now than in the 80s, when I started, and much of that is due to targeted advice to groups. I've also climbed many times all day on a busy Stanage weekend without the need to queue or be put off by others there. People like you were moaning about exactly the same things when I first started but a few wise old men told me to ignore the rose tinted spectacles of the moaners. Those wise old men said the worst damage to the rock on crags was done with nailed boots and chipping and in ecological terms by the mass inappropriate removal of vegetarian. 

Climbing in the rain on most rocks is not damaging with experience and some minimal care, yet on soft sandstone it's simply destructive. On the top roping in trainers on damp days point, that the BMC and other organisations advise against : the inevitable bad footwork in dirty shoes will polish almost any rock. It's a bad idea, plain and simple, not an ethical nicety.  They ask climbers to ensure their own shoes are clean... I've never heard mention of Jeeves in this context before... is this your invention?

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Offwidth 05 Jan 2020
In reply to scoth:

I think we will have to agree to disagree on flights. In the election coverage Caroline,  our only Green MP, urged against demonising those who only take one or two return flights a year.  The biggest problem is regular fliers and the answer is tax (on aviation fuel and on those who fly way more than averege):  20% of all overseas flghts are taken by 1% of the UK population.

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/sep/25/1-of-english-residents-take-one-fifth-of-overseas-flights-survey-shows

Lifestyles simply won't be high carbon when most electricity generation and a lot more  transport isn't carbon based, due to the economics. We are maybe a decade from the start of that, across the west (excluding the US).

Post edited at 12:11
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Dave Ferguson 05 Jan 2020
In reply to Presley Whippet:

what he said

I would add that until flights are taxed out of reach for most of us and I do think that day will come, I will continue to fly at easter, the memory of wet and windy cornish trips is still ingrained.

For me the main message to leave a greener lifestyle is just don't buy stuff. That pair of trousers, jacket or approach shoes (read fancy trainers) has traveled further than I will at easter and october put together. Fashion and the desire of the "industry" to bring out seasonal products (whats all that about) is to blame here. Don't fall for it, especially the "belief" that you get what you pay for and somehow overpriced products are somehow "better" or will last longer, its patently not true.

I'm still wearing stuff to climb in that I was 10 years ago, it doesn't need to come from an "outdoor retailer" any clothes shop will do, charity shops being a particular favorite, and yes I do still have more than one pair of ron hills, they might even be coming out soon to show how "green" I am.

The craze for nalgene or other expensive reusable plastic bottles also confuses me beyond belief. It just results in more plastic. Just pick a used pop bottle from the bin, rinse it and use it, when it wears out repeat.

We are in danger of trying too hard here.

Do volunteer with your local climbing club or first responder group, rather than give money to charity, give your time, its much more valuable.

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Offwidth 05 Jan 2020
In reply to Dave Ferguson:

Why not give time and money?  I certainly don't see flights being 'taxed out of reach' in the coming decades. Offsets are trivial compared to current flight costs... from about £50 for London San Francisco return, something that with gift aid most environmental charities would be very greatful for. It's plain mean not to offset but I'd advise avoiding most airline linked companies offering the service...find your favorite enviromental charity and donate direct with gift aid.

I'm completely with you on clothing (use extensively, reuse and repair) but a robust water bottle doesn't cost much, won't leak over your spare clothes in your rucksack if accidently crushed and lasts years. 

Post edited at 12:31
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scoth 05 Jan 2020
In reply to Offwidth:

I think we're mostly on the same page here. Frequent fliers certainly have the biggest burden, but even some of them are locked into flying due to their livelihoods. Personally, I wouldn't demonise them or someone who's saved up for a fortnight in Benidorm once a year.

I've just come to the realisation that I cannot justify an extremely high carbon activity to go climbing myself. The science tells me we cannot wait 10 years for new tech to come up board or allow the market to solve it, given the carbon budget for 1.5 degrees will be exhausted in around 10 years. So, given what's already happening around the world from 1 degree of warming, the prospect of what another .5 degree of warming scares the sh*t out of me.

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Offwidth 05 Jan 2020
In reply to scoth:

World change needs world level action... individuals can't do achieve that but they can protest.

Good for you on what you have done. I've managed to get my work to agree skype meetings for some intermational destinations where the rules said a site visit was required. People can make a difference at work or in private but should respect the views of others and not be too preachy. 

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Dave Ferguson 05 Jan 2020
In reply to Offwidth:

If you can afford to volunteer and to give money to charity too thats great but I wouldn't gift aid, you're just taking money away from the exchequer that could be used for public services.

regarding offsetting as a concept, I'm a little dubious, it smacks of modern day roman catholicism. Do something questionable and then "atone" for your sin. Not doing it in the first place has to be the gold standard. Off course paying £50 to an environmental charity is better than doing nothing, but the only way we are going to reduce the number of flights is to tax them out of existence. I don't blame the airline companies, they are just giving us want we want, changing behavior sometimes has to be forced, feeling guilty about flying and offsetting that guilt isn't going to make an awful lot of difference. 

Totally agree with not travelling for meetings at work, the majority can be just as effective with online conferencing facilities.

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Offwidth 05 Jan 2020
In reply to Dave Ferguson:

You're being silly about gift aid. If it was a problem the government would regard it as a loophole avoidance scheme and legislate against it. Like most who use it I have confidence in the charities I support to spend the money well.

I really don't see flying overall as a major problem: only misuse of flying. In terms of a catholic analogy it might be the difference between sex in marriage and 'wilful fornication' (albeit it back in the real world I see current Catholic dogma as being as major a contributer to climate change as unnecessary flying, as the idiotic church view on contraception  leads to poor families in the developing world ending up being too large a burden on local limited resources).  On work and even on the enviromentalists front, I see some flight destinations as important enough to attend (and using a boat, aside from figurehead actions by the likes of Greta, wastes time that could be much better spent campaigning.... and cargo shipping in particular is a pretty enviromentally dirty business... one reason so many ships use flags of convenience).

In the end world political change is the only fix for global warming. To help the UK end of that is why I advised UKC to vote Green in safe seats. Climate change is arguably our most urgent and serious challenge, yet it was  too far down the list of concerns in the campaigning in the media last month, apart from for the Greens.

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Presley Whippet 05 Jan 2020
In reply to Offwidth:

I made no claims.  

There is a widely held assumption that participation in climbing and the outdoors has increased is backed by a number of factors:

I have lost count of the number of articles citing the outdoors as a growth area, the growth of supporting industries-somebody must be buying all that stuff, the increase in provision for the outdoors;more walls, trail centres, races, and the emergence of those oxymoronic mountain festivals. To name but a few. Given that, I will pass the burden of substantiating your claim back to you.

With regard to the trainers/top roping business. This is snobbery, a climber with a rack and a pair of rock shoes has no greater entitlement than a top roper in trainers. The nature of the routes climbed in such a manner means any wear would not be to the detriment of a rubber clad hone such as yourself. Similarly, routes which can be climbed wet tend towards having holds. 

You are wrong about gift aid. Public services trump charities, it is why they are public services and charities are charities (yes, there is some noise around the peripheries) 

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Offwidth 06 Jan 2020
In reply to Presley Whippet:

No claims eh?  You said:  "The main drivers for increased participation come from those who make money out of our sport. More punters, more cash. The crags are quite busy enough for most of us." 

Where are all these increases in participation on our crags due to those making money out of our sport? In my view you are talking nonsense and have certainly given no evidence for what you claim. Also, who appointed you to speak on behalf of "most of us" crag users?

Trying to hide a switch in your reply to "the outdoors" ( from "crags") will fool no one. Sure the outdoors has had more participants, but I even doubt most of those are due to "those making money out of our sport" (whatever you mean by "our sport "in the context of the "outdoors"... does that include outdoor team sports?)

Pretty much every trained leader of an outdoor group I know understands having beginners in dirty trainers on a top rope is bad ethics. Mountain Training assesses understanding of such crag ethics. Even so, this is all about ethics not about rules.. feel free to fight for the rights for people to be thoughtless vandals. Even for chipping routes no one gets arrested.

Unlike some climbers (whom I would regard as maybe being a bit OTT ethically)  I normally don't  have ethical concerns with experienced climbers trad climbing wet routes in boots or approach shoes (the main exception being on soft sandstones). In my experience way more people enjoyed such type 2 fun in the 80s than now.

I think you mean that you think I'm wrong about gift aid: just saying it doesn't mean its true. The government advice on the matter hardly indicates a problem.

https://www.gov.uk/claim-gift-aid

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Ram 09 Jan 2020
In reply to UKC Articles:

Lets murder some Tory land owners and plan trees on the high fells and moorland. 

Car sharing & carbon offsetting?

Give me a f*cking break, we used to hitch and sleep under brides, in Barns, caves,  and at the crags 

If you have unwanted ropes give them to the gypsies 

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