Avoiding Amusement-Park-esque Lines at the Crag

Ideally, a route will look like this when you walk up to it: gear- and line-free.

When I visit Six Flags, I expect to wait in line for hours to get my 67-second rollercoaster fix. In fact, most of the day is spent anticipating thrills while standing next to hundreds of other people doing the same thing. I will wait 57 minutes to ride the Griffon at Bush Gardens; I will not, however, sit at the base of a climb for an hour simply waiting for it to open up.

To me, climbing should be freeing, thus I have issues with waiting in long lines to get on routes, even if they are “classics.” Why would I sit around and watch three other groups get on a climb when I could have had my hands on rock for two extra hours?

I’m happy to belay my friends on a route before I give it a burn, especially if it’s pushing my grade and they’re hanging the draws (I can be a wimp). And, 95.56% of the time, I don’t even mind giving a patient belay.  However, the idea of spending most of my day waiting to get on one or two routes doesn’t get me psyched to climb.

So, if you’re like me and want to avoid the lines and the crowds that create them, here are some tips:

  1. NEVER EVER visit Rumney on a beautiful weekend day between the months of May and October unless you’re planning to get there at 4am and catch the sunrise at the anchors (which would be cool).
  2. Climb at night, especially if it’s bouldering (though not at Lincoln Woods – see previous post).
  3. Get your cardio in, and choose a longer approach. As climbers, we can be lazy hikers, so the farther from the parking lot you walk, the fewer people you’re likely to find.
  4. Try out less-traveled crags that still have a handful of quality routes.
  5. Stick to crags where the sport routes start at or above 5.11; you’ll immediately lose the toprope guide groups camped out at the 5.7 next to the five-star 5.12c you want to hop on.
  6. Don’t be afraid to go out on days predicted to rain. I’ve done most of the moderate routes on Rumney’s usually packed Parking Lot Wall on days the forecast scared everyone away. It didn’t rain.
  7. Take a Tuesday off once in a while to hit up classics that are otherwise swarmed with weekend warriors on Saturday and Sunday.
  8. Climb when there’s snow on the ground. Bring a tarp to keep your shoes dry, unthaw your fingers with the hand warmers stashed in your chalk bag, and have a thermos of hot chocolate to warm yourself from the inside-out (and cause it’s yummy).

And if you simply must climb on a beautiful Saturday in October—I’m guaranteed to be out there too—try to get there early, or if you’re like my friends and me: stay late. Or give all those wonky 5.9 negative-three-star, anti-classics a try while someone else waits in line for Technosurfing; it’s the only excuse you’ll ever have for doing them.

Originally published October 7, 2014, on coffeetapeibuprofenclimb.blogspot.com. 

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