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We partnered with the Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA) to come up with tips to help you host a safe rock climbing experience. These are best practices, but you’re the expert on the activities you lead. A great Host always thinks about what more they can do to keep everyone safe. 

Set the right expectations

If there are health, fitness, or other requirements needed to safely enjoy the experience, make this clear in your experience’s description. This includes providing details about the length of time, exertion and fitness required, and skill levels needed. 

Here’s a guide from the ATTA to help you communicate to guests what skill level is needed for your rock climbing experience: 

Bouldering 

  • Beginner: Climbs close to the ground, with good spotting and crash pads. No experience is required to try. Expect easy bouldering routes and climbing close to the ground.
  • Intermediate: Climbs close to the ground, with good spotting and crash pads. No experience is required to try, but harder routes will require some athleticism and climbing skills to succeed.
  • Advanced: Guests should expect to climb hard bouldering problems.

Single Pitch Sport

  • Beginner: Guests should expect easy climbs at accessible crags.
  • Intermediate: Guest following climbs where climbing technique and athleticism is required to succeed.
  • Advanced: Guests leading climbs; well equipped and protected routes.

Top Rope

  • Beginner: Guests should expect rock climbs where they can be introduced to the skill and thrill with no previous skills. A top rope secured by the host is used to stop any falls. Routes are up to one pitch (rope length). Easy climbs at easy to access places.
  • Intermediate: Guests should expect rock climbs where they can be introduced to the skill and thrill with no previous skills. A top rope secured by the host is used to stop any falls. Routes are up to one pitch (rope length). Climbing/working routes where climbing movement is necessary and/or lots of falling on a top rope. 

Single Pitch Traditional (“Trad”)

  • Beginner: Guests should expect to climb a well established route, while placing and removing protection for progress. Routes are up to one pitch (rope length).  Basic climbing safety (belaying) and equipment handling (cleaning) will be done, usually what is necessary to learn is covered at the beginning of the session. Typically easy climbs at accessible crags.
  • Intermediate: Guests should expect climbing a well established route, while placing and removing protection for progress. Routes are up to one pitch (rope length).  Basic climbing safety (belaying) and equipment handling (cleaning) will be done, usually what is necessary to learn is covered at the beginning of the session. Guests follow climbs where some athleticism in climbing is required to succeed.
  • Advanced: Guests should expect to climb a well established route, while placing and removing protection for progress. Routes are up to one pitch (rope length).  Basic climbing safety (belaying) and equipment handling (cleaning) will be done, usually what is necessary to learn is covered at the beginning of the session. Guests may have the option to lead climb.

Multi-Pitch

  • Beginner: Guests should expect routes that are more challenging athletically and mentally, and longer (more than one pitch – rope length) on a lead climb. Climbs are usually more committing, as retreat is not as easy. Access may involve trekking.  Generally requires some climbing skill or experience from the guest, and commitment  – the host should let guests know in advance. Cragging at frontcountry crag.
  • Intermediate: Routes that are more challenging athletically and mentally, and longer (more than one pitch – rope length) on a lead climb. Climbs are usually more committing, as retreat is not as easy. Access may involve trekking.  Generally requires some climbing skill or experience from the guest, and commitment – the host should let guests know in advance. Guest follow climbs where some athleticism in climbing is required to succeed
  • Advanced: Routes that are more challenging athletically and mentally, and longer (more than one pitch – rope length) on a lead climb. Climbs are usually more committing, as retreat is not as easy. Access may involve trekking.  Generally requires some climbing skill or experience from the guest, and commitment. Guests have the option to lead climb.

Alpine

  • Intermediate: Guests should expect long, exposed routes up in the mountains. Expect trekking to reach the climbs. Both the environment and the climbs require stamina and commitment, as retreat would be lengthy. Fitness and ability to move efficiently will be required, as well as participating actively in the climbing safety systems (belays, anchor and protection cleaning). Guest following climbs where some athleticism in climbing is required to succeed.
  • Advanced: Guests should expect long, exposed routes up in the mountains. Expect trekking to reach the climbs. Both the environment and the climbs require stamina and commitment, as retreat would be lengthy. Fitness and ability to move efficiently will be required, as well as participating actively in the climbing safety systems (belays, anchor and protection cleaning). Guests may have the option to get involved in leading and route finding.

Communicate with guests often 

Once someone books, you can use Airbnb’s messaging system to introduce yourself and help your guests feel welcome and prepared. Check in with them to find out if they have any health concerns that may affect their participation. This may be anything from a food allergy to a heart condition. Make sure you’re clear on what modifications you’re able or willing to make to accommodate them. Let guests know that you’re available to answer any questions. 

Consider messaging your guests with specific questions about the type of climb you’ll be doing:

  • If you’ll be bouldering, you could ask them about any previous experience, including what grade problems they like to climb, and if they are comfortable spotting and falling onto a crash pad. Let guests know what the hiking is like between boulders. 
  • For single or multi-pitch climbs, you should find out if your guest has previous experience belaying a lead climber. Depending on the location, length, and conditions of the climb, you may want your guests to have prior experience on multi-pitch climbs. Hosts should climb well below their ability level when on lead. It’s a good idea to find out what kind of belay device the guest is comfortable with. 
  • For alpine climbs, you should have experience climbing in an alpine environment, and should check that your guest does too. As a host, be clear about possible extreme weather and temperatures, long approaches, and the expected climbing skills, plus rough terrain on descents at the end of a long day.

You should create an experience where your guests feel comfortable asking questions at any point. Try to anticipate common points of concern (such as how to use the bathroom on your experience, expectations for interaction with others, etc.).  Provide your guests with a list of what they’ll need ahead of time. For rock climbing, that may include clothing layers, appropriate shoes, a hat, sunglasses (with a strap) and sunscreen.  Address any concerns outright–and make yourself available to attend to these and any others questions throughout your experience. 

Listen with patience and authentic concern, and try to put yourself in your guests shoes. This could include practical matters like if there will be food, snacks, or water provided, if they should bring their own water bottle, and what bathroom facilities are available. Try to address these concerns before guests have to ask. What may seem normal to you may be difficult or fear-inspiring for your guests, so your communication is key to a safe and enjoyable experience. 

Follow local regulations & check forecasts

You should have the local knowledge to know if and when it’s acceptable for you to guide at the crags and routes and what rules or regulations apply to areas in which you may climb. You should know the weather forecast, and know these sites well enough to be able to anticipate harsh conditions and know evacuation options.

Set expectations with a pre-trip briefing

Before you start climbing, take some time to teach or review the necessary skills with beginners, like clipping pro, belaying, and falling. As a rock climbing host, you should be constantly assessing your guests’ skills–while staking the rope, tying in, and on the rock. Once you’re climbing, keep checking in: ask guests how they’re feeling and observe them to see if they’re comfortable and their skills match what you are doing. 

For bouldering, discuss proper spotting technique, as well as any climbing techniques that will help reduce the risk of athletic injuries on challenging boulder problems. 

For any roped climbing, it’s a good idea to review how to tie in to the rope along with safe belay technique. Make sure your guest is comfortable with this before you start climbing, and that they are comfortable with the type of belay device you’ll be using. 

For any time you’re on lead, check with your guest to make sure they’re comfortable safely belaying a lead climber: review and practice these skills and any others you may want or need your guest to know. 

Make sure you set up a clear communication system between you and your guest for belaying, and practice this before the climb. 

Check that your guests have all the food, water, and gear they will need during the experience. Since guests may be out of their comfort zone, they may need more of certain items than a climber would, so if you can anticipate these needs, you can make the experience even better.

Provide the right gear

Let your guests know if you’ll provide any gear and what they need to bring. For any type of climbing, find out if the guest plans to bring their own gear. Any gear you provide for your guests should be in good condition, clean, and fit each guest properly. 

  • For bouldering, this may include shoes, chalk, and a crash pad. Make sure your pad is firm and can be carried throughout your bouldering area. You may want to check that your guests have good shoes for traveling between boulders, as well as layers, food, water, and a way to easily carry them. 
  • For roped climbing, gear you provide will likely include climbing shoes, a harness, belay device with a locking carabiner, and a helmet–for both you and your guests. Some considerations for gear include:
  • Make sure the locker on the carabiner works smoothly. 
  • Check that there is no structural wear in any of the soft goods. Show your guests how to double back their harness as needed. 
  • Hosts should also have ropes, slings, quick-draws, carabiners, protection equipment, and appropriate gear for building anchors. 
  • Double check your rescue gear to escape belays, ascend the rope, and build improvised anchors. Check for flat spots and core shots in your rope, and be sure to retire gear when it’s at the end of its life. 
  • For single and multi-pitch climbs, guests may want to bring their own, so make sure you coordinate so everyone has the gear they need.
  • For any climbing experience, guests will probably need food and water and extra layers, so be clear about what food and drinks they should bring, or if you’ll be providing any. Guests will want to have a comfortable way to carry enough of these items, and this may be a very specific pack if you’re on a multi-pitch or alpine route, so let them know what works best. 
  • For longer days multi-pitch and alpine climbing, it’s a good idea for everyone to have a headlamp.

You should carry (and know how to use) a first aid kit for stabilizing an injured guest and safely evacuating them, even if they’re unconscious. 

It’s a good idea for hosts to know if and where they have cell service coverage, and hosts need to ensure to have means to communicate with the outside world to activate emergency services if needed. If you don’t provide gear in your experience, you’ll still want to check your guests’ equipment to make sure it’s not only in good shape, and that they’re using it correctly.

Choose the proper conditions 

Talk with your guests about the range of conditions you’ll encounter, including what temperatures to expect, wind, and any precipitation. Let your guests know how these conditions will affect the approach, climbing, and descent, as well as how the rock surfaces react. You can also tell them how they can best prepare for these conditions, as well as unexpected but possible challenges. In addition to weather and rock conditions, you may be exposed to the effects of altitude, depending on the location of your experience, so be sure to talk with guests about acclimation or signs and symptoms of altitude illnesses, if needed, which can be serious if not addressed. 

You should be able to tell when conditions are too dangerous for your guest’s ability level. Don’t continue with your plan if there is an unreasonable or unexpected risk to your guests.

Choosing safety

Make sure you have a clear itinerary that matches your guests’ experience and that they understand, and ensure they know specifically what to do if they become lost or injured. As a host, you can help prevent some of the more common sources of injury for whatever kind of climbing you’ll be doing by following these tips:

  • For bouldering, you can watch out for poor spotting technique and repetitive attempts without resting. 
  • For roped climbing, and especially for beginners, show your guests good tying-in and belay techniques. Show and practice good belay technique to arrest falls. 
  • If you’re lead climbing, make sure your guest knows how to catch a lead fall, and you could practice this skill before the climb.
  • In single pitch climbing, consider if you will anchor the belayer to the ground or will get them ready for upward pulls. 
  • Hosts and guests should both wear helmets while climbing and belaying. Use extra caution around other climbing parties and groups, and stay mindful of potential falling rock. 
  • Hosts should always guard against back clipping, belaying errors, clipping errors and miscommunication while cleaning gear or anchors. Communication systems on multi-pitch climbs are key to safety, so practice these before you climb. 

You may want to have an emergency action plan that you’ve practiced and the means to evacuate a guest if the unexpected happens. If you’ll be more than an hour away from medical care, it’s best practice to have a Wilderness First Responder (WFR) or Wilderness Advanced First Aid (WAFA), along with CPR certification. Find out more about making an emergency plan

Partner disclaimers

Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA): Courtesy of the Adventure Travel Trade Association. ©2021 Adventure Travel Trade Association. All rights reserved.

The Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA) name and logo are used with its permission, which in no way constitutes an endorsement or vetting of, express or implied, of any product, service, person, company, opinion or political position. The ATTA does not select or approve, and is not involved in the selection or approval of, Airbnb Experiences or hosts. For more information about the Adventure Travel Trade Association, visit adventuretravel.biz.