Finding gear left behind on a route – whether it’s a bail biner or a perfectly good cam that got stuck – is like hitting climbing gold. Climbing booty is nature’s way of rewarding poor, constant climbers for their hard and completely unnecessary work.
What Is Climbing Booty?
Anything that’s left in a route or at the crag could be claimed as climbing booty, aka crag swag. Sometimes no matter how hard you try you just can’t get a piece of gear out and have to leave it. Sometimes you need to bail mid-climb and leave a piece or two to rappel from. Other times you just plain forget to clean a piece.
Crag Swag Rules
Essentially, anything you leave at the crag is fair game for others to take. However, there are limits. These are our guidelines for what to do with found gear. Your ethics may vary but most climbers follow roughly the same ideas.
- Under $20 Is Fair Game – A couple of old biners, a nut, or an old cam are acceptable losses for most climbers. Anything more than that then you really should be trying to find the owner. Don’t be a dick.
- Leave The Stash – Bouldering pads, ropes, and bags of gear have probably been stashed for a project. Taking them isn’t cool, this isn’t booty. If stashing overnight isn’t allowed either pretend you didn’t see it or ask vaguely on a local forum if anyone’s lost it, no specific locations mentioned.
- Long Term Gear – Be wary of taking anything that’s meant to stay there. Biners at anchors were probably meant for others to use, not forgotten. Long term Sport routes done as a project commonly have a set of draws left in for a long time, these aren’t for you to take. However, leaving draws in at a relatively easy project is not cool.
- Ask Around – If you’ve found something more than $20 or something that has tags, ask around. Local climbing facebook groups often have lost and found posts, local gyms have boards, and Mountain Project or UKClimbing forums do the same job. If you don’t get any leads, it’s yours.
- Failure Or Friendliness – If you can’t do the route because you ran out of time, energy, skill, or good weather – that’s on you and the gear should be assumed taken. If a team bailed their route to help in an accident, they shouldn’t have to expect their gear gets stolen.
- Do It Yourself – Bailed on a route? Go back and get it yourself. If you can’t get back out the next morning with a new partner to put in the effort, it’s technically littering and other climbers are doing a public service by removing it.
- Universal Reward System – Returned gear comes at the cost of either one (1) four-pack of cheap beer (PBR, Natty Lite, Fosters – replace as appropriate) or a couple of pints at the local. Money is not allowed. Substitute for coffee and a donut or a few belays on the project as necessary.
How To Get Stuck Gear Out
Patience, practice, and a good nut tool are your friends. There are definitely certain groups of dirtbag van living climbers that will swoop in after an obvious bail attempt to claim some new used gear, and it’s accepted as a sort of robin hood situation.
Here’s where the nut tool comes in. Not only is it a necessary tool for seconders, but it also doubles up as a bottle opener and fire prodder for later in the day.
Wild Country Pro Key With Leash
A great nut tool that’s long, light, has a flat handle for shoving stuck nuts, plus a great retractable leash so you don’t drop it – leaving your own crag swag to be found.
Metolius Torque Nut Tool
The Metolius Torque is a little beefier and has an excellent advantage on it. The four holes are the most common sizes for nuts on bolted routes, meaning you can tighten up basically any loose bolt you ever see. Great for big walls.