It’s a common site here in Clear Creek Canyon to see multiple parties waiting in line to climb the ultra-classic Quartz Sports 5.12b. All the while, the equally-as-great (and even better in its own ways) Hot Rocks 5.12c sits in idol a mere twenty feet away! If not for better quality, then why does Quartz Sports get a recorded six times as many ascents? In a word, hype. Sure, Hot Rocks is rated a tad harder, but grades are super subjective. Perhaps as subjective as…hype?
Don’t get me wrong though—I’m not advocating for you to seek out the absolute worst routes you can find. I’m just saying that when it comes to the quality of a four-star line, don’t be surprised if the three- or even two-star route next door doesn’t provide just as much fun.
4: Walk further than others
This one is a no brainer. Most climbers get into the sport because they like climbing, not hiking. In fact, I have a running theory that most climbers are allergic to hiking. This would explain why every piece of choss visible from the road has a shimmering line of bolts running up its flank. If you’re willing to walk further than others you’ll be rewarded with fresh climbs and strong thighs. This is especially true if you have to walk past a popular crag to get to a less popular one. Most climbers wouldn’t risk a longer hike to get to “worse” routes.
5: Climb places that are inaccessible to dogs
As a recently converted dog lover, I can see why some climbers can’t leave their friend at home. Because of this, climbing areas that don’t allow dogs will naturally weed out some of the crowds. Additionally, you won’t have to listen to any barking or an owner telling you, “Oh my gosh I’m so sorry that Bourbon ate your shoes! He’s never done anything like that before I swear!” Plus, you’ll avoid stepping in dog turds (still keep an eye out for droppings of irresponsible climbers who forgot to pack a wag bag though)!
6: Climb 5.12 or harder
This is both the simplest and most difficult option. Only 1% of climbers reach this level, so that should mean that 99% of the time those climbs are empty right?
7: Just climb choss
Okay climbing 5.14 likely isn’t happening anytime soon and you’ve tried everything else, but still can’t seem to get away from all the other climbers. That means we’re down to the nuclear option. Remember earlier when I said that I wasn’t advocating for anyone to seek out the worst routes possible? Okay throw that off the cliff because it’s time to get loose.
Can you learn to love awkward movement, horrendous gear, and loose rocks? Maybe becoming a “chossanier” is your path. To give you an idea of how few climbers take on this mantle, consider the case of The Return of Mudzilla A3 up the Kingfisher at the Fisher Towers, Utah. Originally established in 2013 by Jeremy Aslaksen and Paul Gagner it sat unrepeated for nearly a decade without a single person crazy enough to follow this monstrosity of mud rock. That is, until expert chossaniers Sam Stuckey and Zach Ciaglia took up the call seven years later. As Zach so eloquently puts it, “The Fishers are literally the worst place ever to climb. It’s almost guaranteed that nobody will be there.”
If this kind of masochistic mud wrestling is something that you’re interested in you should beware. “What the hell am I even doing up here?” will become your mantra as you reach up for that thank-god jug just to have it tumble down on your belayer’s head. If you choose the path of the chossanier be warned that most belayers can only take so many stones to the dome even with a helmet on. Before long you may find yourself beating the crag crowds simply because you’re stuck on the couch without any partners willing to follow you up that terrible, crumbling aid line.
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