Climbing outdoors offers a pretty amazing way to stay sane during these difficult times—especially when medical experts agree that we’re all safer outside, in the open air. But let’s face it, everyone and their mom is heading outside to recreate right now, and the crags and boulders are so crowded that it’s starting to impact the climbing experience, the environment, and access.
Here are a few simple things that you can do to help ease overcrowding:
1. Embrace the crags less traveled.
There’s definitely something enticing about ticking off all of the 5-star routes in your area, but the “classic” routes are the ones most likely to be slammed, especially during peak hours. A 3-star tour can be just as fulfilling and offer even more adventure—plus, route stars are subjective anyway. The farther afield you go, the more solitude you’ll find and the more you’ll be alleviating overcrowding.
2. Perfect your timing.
Climbing at popular crags during peak hours—weekend mornings and weekdays after work—is a recipe for overcrowding. Try the weekend afternoon shift. You might be surprised that you can show up around 1 p.m. and find lots of folks leaving. Or try climbing midweek, in the mornings, for a more peaceful experience. With a little forethought, you can enjoy a more responsible and less crowded climbing experience.
3. Stay flexible.
Do some research ahead of time and have a couple of backup options if the parking area at your first-choice crag is slammed. We’d even recommend having backup activities as well. Bring your bike or your hiking boots and embrace some cross-training if the climbing area is too crowded. You could probably even squeeze in a ride in the morning and hit the afternoon shift for climbing. It’s all about being flexible.
4. Follow health and safety protocols.
Land managers are aware of how crowded climbing and other recreation areas are right now, and they are watching our behaviors closely. Make sure you bring a mask, and if the crag is crowded, wear it. Even if you’re comfortable without a mask, others might not be comfortable, including the land manager who controls access.
5. Be kind.
Be patient, kind, and respectful of other people’s space. We’re all stressed right now, and everyone exercises different levels of COVID caution, depending on their own personal situation. Err on the side of giving more space—we can still be friendly and social from 6 feet away.