Bluff your way in climbing

Part zero of the IMC essential skills series

It’s often been said that being a beginner climber is tough – you’ve got no credibility, no-one wants to climb with you, and none of the IMC cliques will let you in and invite you down the pub. Of course it’s totally unfair as the likelihood is that you can burn off 90% of the club members at the wall and you’re a star in the making, so here’s my solution to the problem….

A little knowledge goes a long way if you’re careful how you use it, so here’s a quick guide to some techniques for impressing the gullible in the club (don’t worry, there’s plenty of us), establishing almost instant cred and impressing all and sundry with your levels of competence and experience.

Firstly pick your victim – there’s only one real rule here: avoid Martin Hore. All the bluffing techniques I’m about to impart are likely to fail in the face of many years’ experience on the rock and a photographic memory – that and the fact that he’s basically an ex-teacher and everyone knows that they’ve got a sixth sense for detecting little white lies….


It’s important to know at least a handful of crags but if you choose carefully you really need only to memorise half a dozen key points and you can pass as someone with years of experience.

The first thing to do is to establish your ‘specialty crag’ –Just like on Mastermind this is the one you’ll claim to be an ‘expert’ on and you’ll have to do a tiny bit of homework for this. Steal a guidebook from some unsuspecting member whilst they’re not looking and flick through the crag guide looking for key words such as ‘industrial’, ‘unpopular’ – basically you’re looking for something small, esoteric (a handy term to remember), and preferably falling down. Stars are a real-no-no here – no more than 2 on the whole crag. You’re looking for somewhere that no one has been to or would ever want to go to in a million years. Your line will be that you picked it because you were recommended it by a friend or perhaps by an article on the Internet.

Classic choices would be Stannington Ruffs or something from the ‘connoisseurs crags’ section of the Yorkshire guidebook. Get a rough idea of where it is – phrases like ‘about 20 miles West of Sheffield’ or ‘Just East of Manchester’ are suitably vague for peak district crags. If your memory is excellent you can then memorise half a dozen routes that you can claim to have done but there’s really no need as I shall shortly explain.

In addition to your specialty crag it’s worth being able to bluff your way in one or two more popular ones. You don’t need much here – the trick with these crags is to choose those that everyone’s been to and get the victim talking about routes they’ve done rather than the ones you’ve invented – really this is like taking candy from a baby as all climbers are suckers for talking about their own routes and just a few encouraging noises and useful phrases can keep the attention off the details of your bluff. The obvious choice here is Stanage (pr. Stannidge). Phrases like ‘That’s at the popular end isn’t it?’ and ‘I hear that’s tough for the grade’ will be your stock in trade here to keep the conversation flowing.


When choosing routes to have claimed to have done, check the guidebook and always pick routes in the less popular areas of the crag. Selecting those with the words ‘traditional’, ‘squirm’ or ‘thrutch’ in the description will reduce the chances of anyone having done them. As a bonus you can claim to be climbing in the footsteps of the climbing forefathers – Don’t lay it on too thick or you’ll get pointed at one of this sort of route when you get out on the rock with words
like ‘you like this sort of thing, off you go and I’ll see you at the top to help with the belay’. You don’t want that.

As I mentioned, you don’t actually have to memorise any actual routes at all. Climbers are a pretty unimaginative lot, and never more so than when naming routes. So here’s a handy crib table that should help out when lost for the name of a route you can claim to have done.

Puttrell’s Chimney Variant
Green Crack Direct
Leaning Gully Indirect
Straight Route Eliminate
Chockstone buttress
Heather wall

Don’t get too cocky here. Claiming to have done ‘Turquoise zigzag wall indirect’ is likely to cause raised eyebrows.

So there you are: instant crag-cred without the hard work.

Leave a Reply