Stop the beta spray

In the rock climbing community, there’s a turn of phrase: “beta spray”. It’s what people call it when a climber throws out all this knowledge about how to climb a particular route — called colloquially, a “problem”. Guess who tends to beta spray? Men. White men, in particular.

I’ve done it. I have a searing embarrassing memory in my mind of going down the elevator from a newly-opened gym in downtown Chicago and noticing with surprise three Black men in climbing gear. They were talking about climbing with with a rope vs. just a mat. “Oh yeah,” I said uninvited. “You can top-rope at Avondale but the Loop location is just bouldering.” They all glanced at me in polite silence. My god, what an ass I was.

You see, I’d always appreciated it a little when people beta sprayed at me. Because at least they noticed me enough to give me some pointers.

But as I grew in skill from a V1 to V3 to V5 to nearly a V6, I started to like it less and less. Let me watch you climb the route, but I don’t need you to give me the answer move-by-move. Ask me first. Feedback green light. Radical consent.

First published April 13, 2021.