“Rope Catch Beer Tradition”

Climbing Traditions

“Rope Catch Beer Tradition”


Over the Phone

May 26, 2020

Informant Data:

SS is a 19 year old living in the Pacific Northwest. She is an avid climber, paddler, and skier. At Dartmouth, she is an active member of the communities surrounding these activities. Growing up in the Northwest, she learned many of these sports under the influence of family and friends, and many of her present close friends are involved in the same outdoor communities.

Contextual Data:

Cultural Context: Rock climbing is a sport of risks. Many committed rock climbers are younger, but many older people love the thrill of the sport and aren’t afraid to risk hurting their bodies. The youthful spirits of climbers and their embrace of risk may relate to how some climbers also drink alcohol. Many climbers drink beer as an enjoyable cap to a long day of climbing. It is not true that all climbers drink or that drinking is a prerequisite to becoming a true climber, but alcohol is not absent from the climbing community. Many climbers have favorite restaurants or bars near their favorite climbing crags where they go to eat dinner and have a drink. Climbers also typically go to crags in groups. The nature of roped climbing means that you can not (or should not) climb alone, so close bonds are formed between climbers. It’s common to hear shouts of encouragement and praise betweens climbers.      

Social Context: This folklore was collected in an interview over the phone. It is a tradition that has the possibility of occurring every time a group of people go climbing. At the end of a day of climbing a certain route, if the rope is looped through the anchor at the top of the wall, the rope is pulled down. If someone catches the rope within an in or two of its very end, they are seen as having pulled off an impressive feat and as deserving of free beer. Since it’s not easy to catch the rope, this tradition doesn’t occur very frequently. This tradition is rarely discussed by climbers outside of the moment before the rope falls and they remember to try to catch it. The promise to buy the rope catcher a beer is typically fulfilled later that day.


I have closely described this item from my over the phone interview with SS.

When climbers attempt to complete a route , they are often protected by being attached to a rope that loops through an anchor at the top of the climb. The other side of the rope is controlled by another person at the foot of the wall. The rope is typically looped through the anchor by the first climber of the route. At the end of the day, the climbers need to bring their ropes home with them so the rope is pulled through the anchor. When the end of the rope falls towards the awaiting climbers, they try to catch the very end of it. SS says that she considers it a successful rope catch when a climber’s fingers lay within a fist’s length of the end of the rope. Other climbers don’t recognize it unless the climber can cover the flat end of the rope with their thumb. When the achievement occurs, a climber’s friends buy the rope catcher a beer in their honor. In some climbing communities, a six pack is bought. The origins of this tradition aren’t clear and its prevalence across the U.S. and the world isn’t either. More research would be required to answer these questions.

climber reaching for rope


Henry Chamberlin, 18

Dartmouth College

Russian 13

Spring 2020