The womyns at Rico, NRG

What does HC do exactly?

HC puts on a mammoth convention once a year in Fayetteville, West Virginia.

Why separate gay people, or rather “queer” people, from everyone else?

We, and more importantly, you, are not born to this earth with the sole mission of undoing every stereotype about us or proving to the world that we can be just like everybody else.  Whoever that is.  Take a load off your shoulders and go live your goddamn life.  It’s short.  Homo Climbtastic just makes it shorter by exposing you to the horrific dangers of rock climbing and chocotinis.

You totally want in on this.  C’mon.  Take a puff.  Once you’re riding the HC rainbow, you’ll forget about everything else, including that desire to live an example that nobody else is actually paying much attention to.  We feel bad for the gay dudes who say things about us like, “look, gay guys proving we don’t all just prance around to techno music!”  For one, we still do that, and two, well there is no two.  Just the techno.  And the prancing.

What kind of people are there?  People like me?

HC members run the gamut in terms of gender, age, race identification, interests–what they have in common is that they are experienced outdoor climbers with an adventurous, smart, friendly, laid back vibe.

I’m a trans-person/middle aged man/butch gay guy/genderqueer person/femme guy/lipstick lesbian/fifty-something female/motorcycle riding something or ‘nother.  Are there going to be people there like me?

Yes. Stop asking.

So is anyone not allowed to come?  Or discouraged from coming?

Judgers: We’re not talking about Myers-Briggs here. This is a very live-and-let-live kind of group. The climbing world is full of people who live in their cars with dead bugs in their hair.  People who stay virgins until they’re thirty (the dead bugs aren’t helping) and people who screw someone new every 48 hours (if you climb 5.13 the whole dirtiness thing starts working for you i think).  Butch and femme men/women, people who don’t want to be referred to as either men or women, crocodile-shooting gay-bisexuals, ecto-pesco paleo vegans, and people who change their names to bizarre things reminiscent of their spirit animal.  And we haven’t even gotten to the kind of people you’ll find in Homo Climbtastic.  So if you’re going to get all judgey about what other people do, you probably should go wherever it is you find people who all think the same thing about stuff.  We’ve gotten misfits and malcontents down to a motha-fuckin art.

Helmets: You MUST have a helmet to attend. No, there’s no way around this.  Getting hit by rocks is an inevitability, not a freak event.  The organizers have enough to worry about without worrying about your skull’s resistance to heavy objects.  Which is low.

Experience: Our conventions have no guides and no teachers.  Thus, you MUST be an experienced outdoor climber, or be chaperoned by someone who is.  Our climbers seem casual because the safety systems are second nature to them.  If you don’t know how to clean a route, what a soft catch is, or why top roping on permanent gear is bad, you’ll need to train some more before joining the party.  (Note that plenty of experienced climbers do bring less experienced friends just for hiking or top roping, and they all have a good time as well.)  If you want to become an experienced outdoor climber, see the next question.

Attitude: You have to be nice.  Pay for gas before people beat it out of you, etc.

Clearly this is the most awesome thing in the universe and I want to be experienced enough to come!

We like you and we want you to come–if you live near any of the organizers, chances are good that if you contact them, they will set aside time to teach you for free everything you need to know.  In any event, please contact us about how to prepare.  Generally, the best place to start is with a local queer climbing club (there’s lots of them!), a regular climbing club, or simply a paid class from  your gym or university.  Most cities have climbing gyms that teach outdoor skills and hold outdoor trips.

Why not have classes for beginners at the convention?

The dynamic is very different when a climbing trip has a lot of beginners.  Part of the vibe is that most of the people who come are willing to break out the machete to find that swath of unnamed and ungraded routes in the guidebook.  When there’s a lot of beginners, people tend to stick to beginner places, and are less likely to brandish machetes, and we like machetes.

Classes are also painful to organize.

Who do I contact if I have questions?

If you have questions about a trip, check out our contact page. Big link up at the top.

Ryan with his beloved plastic hexes

Are the trips guided?

Nope.  We just pick campgrounds and cabins and suggest crags for competent climbers to meet at.  We do a little bit to avoid bad newspaper headlines, e.g. “gay climbing group eaten by bears; discovered months later when bears die from eating mass quantities of latex and Crisco.” So, sometimes we’ll suggest a time for people to leave the crag, but that’s it.  We’ll tell you where to buy the guidebook, and there will be so many people familiar with the area that tagging along will generally be a non-issue, but you really are responsible for your own safety.  Making sure you don’t get lost after dark or hit in the head by a rock is your responsibility.

The crew at BJ's

I’m planning on coming, but nobody has sent me any campground info yet!

Use the contact page to email us or send us a message on Facebook.  Read the trip’s info page and/or wall posts.  Did you register for the trip?  If you haven’t sent us your phone number for that particular trip, then you’re probably not registered yet.

How big are the trips?

Conventions have numbers approaching a hundred. These are the biggest queer climbing trips we know of. Other than that, people use HC to set up smaller trips throughout the year, and join in on trips organized by local groups such as GLAM, St. Louis Mos, etc.

Is Homo Climbtastic just about hooking up?

No, but this is despite our very best efforts.

Ryan on crack

Who controls HC?

Homo Climbtastic is run by a council of benevolent dictators, referred to simply as the dictators.  They are unpaid volunteers and they are not elected.  They work very hard for no money, so buying them a drink or a slice of pizza is always appreciated.

Are there lady types?


Why can’t queer people just climb with everyone else?

Straight people stop wanting to hang out with us when we crush their problems.  And there’s lots of straight people on our trips.

If this is just a rhetorical question meant to debate the ideological necessity of a separate queer space… well, even people who really wanted to hate the idea have become converts when they discovered that Homo Climbtastic was bizarrely capable of resolving their existential crises and igniting new ones.  So try it out!  It’s like meth.  Once you’ve done it, there’s no going back.  Except instead of having sex with ugly strangers for money, you’ll do it for free, just so they’ll belay you.

I’ve never done anything outside besides toproping. Should I come?

At the places we go to, you need to lead the route to get a rope up there.  So if you only toprope,  you would need to bring someone lead-capable with you. Sometimes there are people already going or people putting the trip together who are willing to do this, but that’s their option.  Try posting to HC’s facebook wall.

Can I bring inexperienced or non-climber friends?

They should be competent hikers and have helmets to wear at the base of the crag, as well as flashlights/backpacks/raingear/whatever else is needed for tagging along. Remember that even experienced hikers are often unaware of the class 3/4 hikes required to access climbing areas, rock fall at the base of crags, etc.

Can I bring straight friends (aka breeders, aka ‘mo fauxs)?

Probably the most surprising question; yes, HC is for everyone, at least, people of any sexual/affectional whatever.

I have an illness that makes traveling awkward or difficult.  Can/should I come?

For many, traveling is a huge source of anxiety because they depend in part on a support system at home.  If you have Crohn’s, epilepsy, an open wound, or one of ten million other issues that makes climbing or traveling with strangers feel a little dicey, we encourage you to get in touch with us ahead of time about how we can make the trip accommodating for you.  We already have temporary support systems for those who deal with anxiety and substance abuse, described below.

Steven at Red Rocks

I am recovering from alcoholism, drug addiction, and/or a panic or anxiety disorder, depression, or another issue that makes me  anxious about traveling.  Should I come?

We’ve noticed that the smarter you are, the more likely you’ve dealt at some point with an anxiety or substance abuse problem.  And because HC members are so smart, some of the HC membership are recovering alcoholics and/or deal with anxiety.  They put together a small break off group during some evenings to have ad hoc, theism-optional, private, AA-style meetings during HC trips, which are open to anyone who wants to join.  Get in touch with any of us ahead of or during the trip to join.

Could I get hurt?

Yes. Climbing, like driving, sex, and sex while driving, has inherent risks.

How much do larger trips cost?

For what you get, it’s generally less than what you’d pay if you went alone (e.g., 100 dollars for five nights in a hotel).  The fee goes to covering accommodations, renting cars, food, etc.  See the particular trip’s info page for details on price and what the fee covers.  In general, we try to shoot for 20-25 a night for a bed and 5-12 a night for a camp site, with access to a kitchen, showers, and common area.

The trip fee, if there is one, does not incorporate any kind of payment to the organizers, who are volunteers. Usually, you’re responsible for contacting the campsite yourself with a booking code to pay for your accomodations, and that’s it.

Can I be kicked off a trip, or banned from subsequent trips?

In the words of wise Councillor Kelly:

We’re not getting paid for this, HC organizes these trips because we like climbing with you, the HCers. Thus, DON’T F*CK WITH US, BOYS. This ain’t our first rodeo, and if you decide to drag a big ol’ sack of crazy with you or decide to get your feelings hurt and spin into a drama spiral, we will not ask you to come climbing with us again. Dragging sacks of crazy includes touching donut holes that don’t want to be touched, yelling at trip organizers, and failing to pay for your lodging/food/gas. Drama spirals include but are not limited to: Pouting, yelling, slapping, kicking, dropping, smashing, pissing, and generally being a douche. Douche baggery includes losing your deposit. You have been warned!!!

Could you be more specific?

The success of our trips depends on the desire of the unpaid volunteer organizers to work for free to set up the convention, as well as on our reputation with the communities where we climb (specifically, Fayetteville, West Virginia).  Our climbers are well known for being polite at the crag (e.g. offering other climbers the chance to climb a popular warm-up rather than hogging it on top-rope all day), behaving at the campground (e.g. not leaving trash or breaking things), and being nice to the restaurant staff (e.g. tipping 20% and not getting mad that getting food to a throng of climbers takes half an hour).  Being a jerk when you’re with us endangers our ability to organize the convention, because we depend on our reputation to book restaurants and campgrounds. Threatening or attacking the organizers/dictators destroys their desire to set up a convention when they know it’s going to be attended by people who mistreat them.  Virtually everyone is either nice automatically or realizes the import of HC being a non-democratic, private entity, so this stuff is almost never a problem.

Leo at Red Rocks

I’m kind of a big deal. I don’t want to be around a bunch of namby pamby 5.10 top ropers. Is this the trip for me?

Councillor Rio has said that in HC, being gay comes second to being a climber. Councillor Rowland believes that faggotry comes before everything.  The more direct answer to your question: there’s usually people on our trips capable of thirteens, sometimes fourteens, and the top boulderers are in the v10-v12 range. We usually structure the trips so that the first day or two are around crags with a good number of easy and moderate routes (5.9-5.12a) so that everyone can meet each other and the hardcore types can warm up, and then people break off from there if they want to.

What if I can only climb 5.10 on toprope?  Did you just refer to 12a as a moderate?  What kind of elitist jerks are you?

We have plenty of 5.10 climbers, and we want you to come!   Not only that, unlike many hardcore climbers, our more hardcore climbers don’t act like jerks, so they will climb with, talk with, and have sex with you. Hardcore climbers are easy to find. People who are fun to climb with are not. You don’t need years of daily training to be the latter.

What if I can’t climb 5.10 on toprope?

This is where it gets dicey, but it’s your call–if you don’t mind struggling, then working something above your level can be rewarding.  We also have breakout groups that go to slightly easier areas (5.8 and 5.9 climbing).  But we highly recommend getting on a training regimen to get comfortable with tens.  The New River Gorge, the home of our conventions, does not have soft ratings and there are not a lot of sport routes below 5.10.

What are the routes at the New River Gorge like?

Technical.  Not many jug hauls.  Comparisons to Red Rocks in Vegas, Foster Falls in Tennessee, and the Alps in Switzerland are probably appropriate in terms of climbing style.  The grading is usually fair, occasionally a little stiff, rarely soft.

For comparison’s sake, the ratings at the Red are a little softer, and the Red has a larger selection of routes with forearm melting jugs and pockets. (Other forearm melters: Sandrock in Alabama or the Gunks of New York.)

Climbers who have good footwork and balance will find the New immediately gratifying–those who find balancing their entire weight on a foothold the size of a pebble will have to pull themselves up on tenuous crimps and slopers.  Thus, a good way to prepare for the New is either to hit the bouldering fields or work some crimpy routes.

Will I get a lot of climbing in?

Probably not as much as you may be used to. Trip leaders usually don’t want to deal with the struggles of trip management AND the lack of sleep from waking up at 6am. As Steven told me on an epic multipitch trad climb, “there’s only so much eye cream can do.” But there’s usually enough climbers for at least one carpool to leave at six am, so you can definitely get that mountaineering start if you want it.  You’ll spend a little more time at breakfast and dinner getting to know people, but by the end of the trip, you’ll know people across the country you can go climbing with and who can show you their home crags all over the world.

What tends to go wrong?

If you’re an experienced outdoor climber, then you are already familiar with the typical climbing and camping related fiascos, like flooded tents and lost gear, but there are disasters that can be made more likely in a group environment.

Every day of every trip,  we hear about someone getting separated from their carpool.  You should always get the cell numbers of the people in your carpool, especially the driver.  You should assume that if you rode in together, you’re riding out together.  If you carried in the gear, you’re carrying out the gear.  You should keep the driver/passengers apprised of your location while you’re climbing.  You should arrange on a meeting spot and time to leave.  If you switch carpools, make damn sure both drivers know about the change.  If you don’t do all of those things, there is a high chance you will greatly aggravate your driver/passengers or get left at the crag.

Also, and we can’t stress this enough, wear a helmet.  Crowds cause climbing accidents.  People are more distracted, they are more likely to be standing around watching underneath potential rock fall, and they are more likely to try new or rarely frequented routes (because the popular, cleaner ones are occupied) where larger pieces can rip off.

Tents at the NRG River Rock Retreat Hostel

2 thoughts on “FAQ

  1. Pingback: group blogging – crowd of strangers « zunderfury

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