Personal Responsibility


Local climbers at each area have usually settled on some basic rules to play by, including standards for placing protection. Some climbing areas are more traditional, encouraging leading and placing protection "from the ground up." Other areas have embraced newer techniques, such as inspecting a route on rappel before climbing it, or placing bolts on rappel. You'll have your own opinions regarding protection, of course, but be sensitive to the climbing ethics and styles developed and demonstrated by local climbers.


Everything about mountaineering, including rock climbing, is linked to affection and respect for the environment and consideration for the travelers who come after you. The general rule is the same whether you're hiking, backpacking, alpine mountaineering, or rock climbing: leave the world the way you found it. Specifically on a rock pitch, this means avoiding permanent scarring of trees, rock, and vegetation. If possible, stick to clean climbing, using only chocks for protection.


You know by now that climbing is a balancing act in more ways than one. There's not always one "correct" technique fordoing something, and you often need to balance different factors in deciding on a course of action.

Likewise there's no simple set of commandments to memorize and mechanically follow to ensure safety. You may be called on to make life-and-dcath decisions despite incomplete knowledge, with no clear rule to follow, and without the luxury of being able to consult your favorite expert, even if that expert is on the other end of the rope.

Controlling the risks of climbing is a matter of understanding the reasons that underlie the techniques you've learned, being aware of everything that affects a safe choice, and being able to gauge all the consequences of your actions. And then making a decision as thoughtfully as time allows.

The important thing is that you'll be acting on knowledge, not ignorance; on deep understanding, not superficial rules. A climber who uses techniques without understanding them or who mechanically follows a set of safety rules is not thinking and is a danger to himself and fellow climbers. But learn the principles, make them yours, and you'll be free to do what we all want to do: climb hard, climb high, climb safe.

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  • kasey
    What are the personal responsibilities of mountaineering?
    9 years ago

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