Don’t Step on Rope

Climbing Practice/Superstition



Zoom Interview

May 27, 2020

Informant Data:

AD is a graduated ’19 at Dartmouth and is completing his BE at Thayer. He grew up in Indiana and started climbing when he came to Dartmouth. His first time climbing outdoors was on a Dartmouth Mountaineering Club (DMC) trip to Red River Gorge. He has help leadership positions within the DMC and lead break trips, and has experience sport climbing, bouldering, trad climbing, and ice climbing.

Contextual Data:

Cultural and social context are in part from my own personal knowledge of the climbing community and in part from context given by the informant during their Zoom interview.

Cultural Context: Safety is incredibly important in climbing, and this relies heavily on the gear. Damaged gear can cause serious injury or death. As such, it is very important to look after gear and constantly check to make sure it is in good condition. Climbing gear is also very expensive, and damaging gear unnecessarily is very frowned upon. Within a group that is climbing together, gear is often shared, so it is seen as important etiquette to not treat other’s climbing gear poorly.

Social Context: “Stepping on the rope” is a taboo in the climbing community, which is taught to new climbers by more experienced climbers. Like with many taboos, there is a small “punishment” associated with it. In this case, it is push-ups. These can vary; a popular one is having to buy beer for the rest of the group.


This text is an almost exact quote from the informant during an interview over Zoom, with some small edits made for clarity.

“Stepping on the rope is quite bad. There is an obvious reason for that, which is that stepping on the rope while it’s on the ground grinds it into the dirt or the sand and gets it dirty and It doesn’t function as well and it gets the rest of your gear dirty and it starts to fray faster. So, it’s bad to step on the rope, but it’s more punished in the social sphere than it actually deserves, for how bad of a transgression it is. If you step on the rope you have to immediately do 10 pushups while everyone yells at you. It could almost be a superstition, like it causes bad luck. It’s a social norm to make sure people take care of the gear, that is established and enforced by the leaders of a group. ”

Single pitch climbs have a belayer on the ground. The climber goes to the top and then is lowered down. Multi pitch climbs are taller than the rope, so the climber gets to the top and then is followed by their parter, who then starts to belay at a new point that is not on the ground.

Katherine Adelman, 21

Dartmouth College

Russ 13

Spring 2020