Your First (or Next) Climbing Tattoo

climbing_tattoo_coffeetapeclimb.JPGWe are a tattooed generation, and there are many reasons why we decide to get our designs: Some have meaning, some look cool, some were on sale, and some just seemed like the thing to do at the time. So why not get a tattoo that tells others something about your favorite sport? You’ll show other climbers your dedication to all things rocks and your pain tolerance after withstanding someone jabbing a needle into you for hours on end–so of course you can cling to sharp, overhung crimps–and you’ll show non-climbers just how brave and reckless you are for attempting to scale cliffs.

Now, when choosing your image, there are a few routes you can follow:*

Choosing something meaningful:

Why not remember your first multi-pitch lead by tattooing its old-school line-drawing topo on your calf? Or you could ink your longest or fastest or most impressive ascent the entire way up your leg. It’ll be a unique, black and white classic.

If I were Tommy Caldwell, I’d want this tattooed down my leg. Dawn Wall topo from
Or you could remember your first send at each grade by listing the climbs down your forearm or right oblique. If you’re trying to impress others, I’d suggest making sure you’ve sent at least V11 or 5.13b before attempting this one.

Alyse Dietel has my favorite “Hitchhiker’s-Guide-to-the-Galaxy”-inspired motivational tattoo.
Motivating yourself:

Want to climb 5.14? Why not motivate yourself to train by tattooing your goal on your wrist or forearm or forehead? Have more than one goal? Turn them into a list. The best part: When you’ve finally sent, you get to have your tattoo artist permanently mark it off your list.

Want to be less of a wimp? Try tattooing “try hard” or “just do it” or “be brave” on your wrist to get you through that crux move, sketchy gear placement, or highball top out. You can also remind yourself to “breath” or pick your favorite motivational quote to write on the inside of your forearm.

(Attempting to) look hard core:

Mark your pulleys. Finger tattoos are in, and you’ll look like a badass grabbing everything from granite crystals to quarter-pad door frames with your pulleys marked.


Well…it seemed like a good idea at the time:

Alex Honnold’s face on your bicep. Or on your back. Everyone knows who he is, and now they’ll remember you too.

Pick your favorite athlete’s abs and have them tattooed on yours. You may not be as strong or sculpted as they are, but at least now it’ll be easier to pretend.

A classic stick ‘n poke of a stick figure climbing. No it won’t look perfect, but it’ll have homemade personality.

A carabiner. It’s like hanging one from the rear view mirror of your car but even less practical.

Or you could save the 50-350 dollars you’d spend on a tattoo and go climbing for the week or weekend instead…

*Disclaimer: There is absolutely nothing wrong with getting a climbing-themed or any other tattoo. This list is purely meant for fun, and not to poke fun at anyone who might have or want any of the tattoos above. I have not personally seen any of the above ideas put into practice, but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist. (And, if you know someone with a tattoo of Alex Honnold’s face, please let me know–I’d love to see a picture.)


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