5 Ways to Ease Overcrowded Crags

If you've been climbing outside for the last couple years, you've likely noticed a big uptick in the number of cars you see in the parking lot, the litter and trash you see along the trail, and the climbers you're sharing the crag with. As the popularity of climbing continues to grow, so does the impact we have on natural resources, especially at the most popular crags. Overcrowding is a real issue that takes away from everyone's experience, not to mention gets the attention of land managers in all the wrong ways.

A crowded crag on the Colorado front range can see lines of three to four parties waiting for routes.

Here are a few simple things that you can do to help ease the burden next time your head out:

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. Don't be a junkshow.

We've all been there. You're halfway up a route, glance down to say something to your belayer, and realize your gear pile looks like you're planning a garage sale. When the crag is crowded, we all have to share our space with everyone else. It's only right to do your best to keep your footprint as small as possible. Keep your gear contained in one area, and whatever isn't in use in your pack and out of the way.

5. Be kind.

Be patient, kind, and respectful of other people’s space. Pandemic or not, this is just basic human decency, and we'd all do well to practice it when we're at the crag. Err on the side of being as careful and respectful as possible—it costs nothing at all and will absolutely have a positive impact on those around you.

      Don't Be a Junkshow Sticker

      Artist Latasha Dunston created this unique, holographic sticker to remind us not to be junkshows at the crag.
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      Did You Know?

      Parking is one of the leading causes of climbing access issues. Many climbing areas are located in tight canyons or accessible only from the side of the road, where parking is limited and can be dangerous. Climbing areas that are accessible through residential areas often share parking with other users in the neighborhood. Illegally or dangerously parked cars are one of the first issues that land managers flag. Do your homework to learn where it is OK to park. If the parking area is full, climb somewhere else instead of parking illegally.