Climbing Folklore S19


Sam Drew, Olivia Hunter, Angela Liu, and Kelly Peterec chose to examine the folklore within the Dartmouth rock climbing community. Within Dartmouth there is a rich culture of climbing within the established Dartmouth Climbing Team, Dartmouth Mountaineering Club (DMC), and the Dartmouth Outing Club (DOC); beyond Dartmouth there is a tight-knit and relatively small international climbing community that stays connected through social media, climbing together, and competitions. The folklore collected falls into three major categories: DMC-specific, climbing vernacular, and climbing status symbols. Of the climbing vernacular and the status symbols, most of them were North American-specific although climbing vernacular is present in many languages and some status symbols, like calluses, transcend international boundaries. In general, we found that the folklore we examined functioned within the folk group by reinforcing group identity and values, by establishing a social hierarchy, and as a means of fun. Eight members of the Dartmouth climbing community were interviewed to produce 12 items of climbing folklore. The folklore is described below as accurately as possible according to the interviews conducted.

Climbing Background: 

For someone with no background in climbing, some of the things described in this archive may seem strange or unfamiliar. In order to help acquaint readers, we have included a brief description of what rock climbing is.

Climbing can occur indoors or outdoors. Indoor climbing is done in gyms and outdoor climbing is done on mountains, cliffs, and crags. There are two main categories of climbing both indoors and outdoors: bouldering or belayed climbing (climbing with ropes). Bouldering involves climbing a short height without the use of any ropes. Ample padding is usually provided so that falls from these short heights can be done without injuring anyone. Belayed climbing involves a roped pulley system. Essentially the climber wears a harness with a rope attached, that rope goes through an anchor in the wall, and then is attached to another person who is also wearing a harness. This second person is called a belayer and it’s their job to watch the person climbing and prevent them from falling by adjusting the amount of rope the climber has and keeping one firm hand on the rope at all times. Climbs involving ropes are done at higher heights, so the ropes are necessary to catch any climber who may fall to prevent injury. Because climbing is a relatively dangerous sport, with many opportunities for people to fall, it’s a very social sport. Most climbers will not climb by themselves, even when they boulder, and prefer to have someone with them in case of injury. Climbers don’t usually climb any random mountain or hand holds in a gym; instead, every climb in every gym or outdoors area is marked and archived online and assigned a grade to denote its difficulty.




  • Olivia Hunter
  • Sam Drew
  • Kelly Peterec
  • Angela Liu


  • Vernacular folklore
  • Polymodal folklore
  • Customary folklore
  • Legends
  • Status Symbols
  • Music Folklore