Have you ever been on the receiving end of unsolicited advice?

Yes? It’s annoying and condescending, right?

What about being the person on the other side? The one who, in good faith, wants to share experience and knowledge.

Well, it might surprise you to know that giving unsolicited advice is a fairly common occurrence in climbing. 

If you are someone with mountain climbing experience, you would want to share your experience, knowledge, and thoughts with someone with no experience in such an extreme sport. However, if you do it without waiting for the other person to ask, you’re spraying beta.

But what does this mean for climbers?

Let’s find out!

Where Does “Beta Spraying” Come From?

Beta spray or beta spraying is when a person shares their climbing knowledge, techniques, or experience with someone who did not ask for their advice. In a sense, you’re “spraying” them with unwanted information.

Beta is a climbing term that denotes specific instructions on how to successfully finish a climb. 

The negative connotation of the word “spraying” likely echoes being sprayed with saliva or getting sprayed (ambushed) with perfume while walking through the cosmetics section in a mall.

Both are completely unwanted and annoying. Just like receiving unsolicited climbing information. 

Is Beta Spraying Really All that Bad?

If you’re the one giving the information (or the beta sprayer), it may seem fairly harmless. After all, what’s wrong with sharing your hard-earned knowledge?

However, put yourself in the receiver’s (the beta sprayee) shoes. 

It’s likely that you’re sharing your knowledge and experience with the best intentions. Maybe you want to share more about the sport that you love, or maybe you want to spare someone else a painful climbing lesson. 

While you’re coming from a good place, you might want to hold your horses. 

Remember, beta spraying on another climber can do more harm than good. For instance, when someone asks for your thoughts about specific techniques in mountain climbing, you might push your opinions too hard and end up alienating the person who asked. No one likes hanging out with a know-it-all. 

Putting a person off a climb is another possible negative effect of spraying beta.  

Finally, you can just come off as bragging. If there’s one thing that people hate more than a know-it-all, it’s a show-off!

How Can I Give Climbing Advice without Spraying Beta?

Ultimately, it will come down to your intentions behind spraying beta.

Look, we get it. Sometimes you might not know you’re spraying beta. There are times when you just get caught up in sharing your passions that you can go overboard.

If you’re sharing your insights in good faith, the receiver will most likely pick up on it and forgive the faux pax. Often, you’ll even end up sharing useful climbing information!

However, if you’re sharing insights with the purpose of “educating” a person, it does come off as condescending, particularly with unsolicited advice.

Be honest with yourself. Are you really sharing your insights because you sincerely want to help improve the beta sprayee’s knowledge and experience in climbing? Or are you sharing because you *think* you know better?

Women (Might) Have It Worse Than Men

Are women are more likely to experience getting sprayed beta than men?

Possibly.

Flash Foxy conducted a survey for climbers that detailed how gender affected their experience at a climbing gym including receiving unwanted advice. The survey received over 1,500 responses, with 69% female and 29.8% male respondents. 

The results showed that 32% of the female survey population received unwanted advice, as opposed to the 15% of the male population.  

Of course, a single survey and a minute sample size do not a definitive conclusion make. However, there’s no denying that unwanted advice (from any gender) makes for an uncomfortable climbing experience. 

For the Beta Sprayer and Beta Sprayees

Foe beta sprayers, take a pause and ask your co-climbers whether they want the information or not. If they respond in the negative, respect their opinion.

As for the sprayees, it is understandable that you might feel awkward with someone who is beta spraying especially if you want to learn on your own. There’s nothing wrong with asking the person to stop or even walking away if need be. 

Yes, it’s that simple. Respect goes both ways. 

Conclusion

If you’re a seasoned climber, it’s normal to want to share your experience and techniques. However, keep in mind that people are well within their rights to refuse.

It’s not a dig to your climbing prowess. Most climbers simply want to learn on their own.

If people want or need your advice, wait for them to ask. You can volunteer, but never take offense if they say no.

See you all at the top!

 

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