Climbing’s biggest debates: Music at the Crag

This one is becoming more and more of a hot topic as portable Bluetooth speakers become smaller, more powerful, and more amazing. There are some systems now that will allow you to sync up multiple speakers, so you could very easily make sure that the only sound people can hear at the crag is your music. That, coupled with the higher number of gym climbers transitioning to outdoor crags makes it far more likely that unwanted music is going to show up at the crag on any given weekend day.

I’m a musician. I love music. I love playing music, listening to music. Music is a huge part of my life. When I’m at the crag, I won’t force you to hear my music, and I don’t want to listen to yours. Even if your music is the same as my music, and I happened to have been listening to that exact song on the drive up, at the crag, I don’t want to listen to your music.

I imagine, that if you are so inclined to listen to music at the crag on a speaker, you’ve got one or more of the following reasons:

  1. I like my music, and I want to listen to my music.
  2. It helps me enjoy my time climbing.
  3. Hearing my music gets me into a good sending groove.
  4. I want to share my music with my friends because we all like this music and it will help us all enjoy our time climbing.
  5. My music is awesome, I believe everyone will enjoy my music, and all must bask in my mad DJ skills.
  6. I like my music. I’m sure others don’t, but I don’t care, because I like my music.
  7. I forgot my headphones

There might be others reasons, but I’m sure this covers most of them. Although I think that music is an instrumental part of most people’s lives (see what I did there), I don’t think the crag is the place to be playing music on loud speakers.

Safety: Climbing is an inherently dangerous sport. In order to prevent a lot of the potential catastrophes, belayers and climbers need to be able to communicate easily. I was climbing at Mount Nemo one evening. I was getting pumped. I had literally just clipped a bolt, and yelled “TAKE” to my belayer. On the ground beside him, there were some people playing music and he heard “SLACK”. He gave me some slack. I couldn’t hold on any longer and fell. With the extra slack he had given me, I fell 10 feet and landed on a ledge very unexpectedly. I hurt my ankle and had to stop climbing for a couple of weeks. All things considered, I got off lucky.

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Access: We are very fortunate that we are allowed to climb in the places we climb. Especially in Ontario, access to climbing areas is a fragile thing. There are plenty of landowners of the surrounding properties who do not approve of us climbing, and who are looking to find ways to shut down climbing. They believe we litter, destroy the environment, are loud, leave feces everywhere, break bottles, and deface the natural landscape. All it takes is for a few local hikers to band together and start a petition that our loud music is hindering their enjoyment of the outdoors for us to potentially lose access to some of our favourite spots. There’s already so many crags that have been shut down, we don’t need to give them any more ammunition.

Safety (part 2): I know of some people who have been seriously injured while climbing, to the point where people had to be evacuated to the hospital with life-threatening injuries. As climbers, we are a community. If one of us gets injured or dies, it’s felt throughout the entire community. It is also our responsibility to look out for one another. If more and more people start playing music at the crag, we’ll end up in a situation where something terrible will happen and someone will be crying out for help, but won’t be heard because someone REALLY needed to listen to some EDM while trying to send their proj.

Consideration: You may love your music, but I guarantee you that at least one fellow climber at the crag does not. For that one person, you might be totally ruining their day. Why does your enjoyment supersede theirs?

There are simply too many things happening at a crag already, and the consequence of mistakes too dire. The crag is not a club. It just simply isn’t the time or place to be blasting your music. If you must listen to music to enjoy your time outdoors, throw on some headphones so that you’re not impacting anyone else. Not only is it considerate, but you’re making the crag far safer, and helping prevent us from losing access to our beloved crags.