Office of Student Life

Recreational Sports

Climbing Guidelines

Climbing Center Guidelines

The Ohio State University and Student Life Recreational Sports Climbing Center is open to members or guests who have a completed the OAC Climbing Center Release Waiver on file and who have completed the necessary orientation and test requirements. Each climber must check-in at the OAC Climbing Center Desk and swipe their BuckID.

For more details, check our new climber orientation video.

To climb, a participant must:

1. Be a Recreational Sports member or purchase a guest pass
2. Complete the OAC Climbing Center Release Waiver 
   (climbers under 18 years old must have this form signed by a parent or guardian)
3. Be 14 years of age or older or have parent/guardian present 

General Information and Additional Safety Measures 

  • Chalk is allowed and should be kept in a chalk sock inside a chalk bag (no loose chalk). 
  • Climbing Center Waivers and Belay Certifications are active for one year. Renewal of waiver or belay certification will be requested at check-in if they have expired.
  • Any new procedures and addendums to existing OAC rules will be posted in the facility. 
  • Personal climbing equipment is allowed.
  • Belay devices, shoes, lead-ropes and helmets will be available for check-out.
  • Climbing Instructors will have an extra carabiner to “tie–in” climbers by using a Figure–8 on a Bight. This allows for physical distancing if climber cannot tie themselves in.
  • Patrons may not climb in street shoes.  
  • Supplies may be limited depending upon demand. 
  • Only high value items will be sent to lost and found. 


All children under the age of 18 need to have a parental/guardian sign the Risk Waiver Form. It is preferable, although not currently mandatory, to have both parents/guardians sign the waiver. Children under age 14 must have a parent/guardian present in order to climb. 

Children under age 14 should have a parent/guardian present while climbing, but in the absence of a parent/guardian, the sponsoring Rec Sports Member assumes responsibility for child’s behavior while at the facility.

Any climber 14 years or older may qualify to become a belayer after the appropriate lessons/examination. Children under 14 are designated as "Climber Only" and cannot belay other patrons. 

Climbing Equipment

Participants are provided with a harness and climbing shoes at no charge. If a patron becomes belay certified, the OAC will also supply belay devices (ATC or GriGri) free of charge. Patrons may use their own harness, shoes, and belay device at their own risk. Climbing Center Staff may examine personal equipment for obvious damage, such as rips or cracks, but staff does not certify or “clear as safe” personal equipment. Personal harnesses must have leg loops, be tied according to manufacturer's directions, have no frayed or broken stitching, and cannot be homemade. 

Footwear and Clothing

Sneakers or light hiking boots are appropriate footwear to use between climbs, but it is expected that climbers wear provided or personal climbing shoes. Shoes that are dirty or that leave tread prints on the rock can be banned from use. Barefoot climbing is not allowed. Open-toed sandals, heavy mountaineering boots and other hard soled shoes are not allowed on the climbing surface.

Climbers should wear comfortable, work-out style clothing while climbing. Clothing should allow for a free range of motion.

***Helmets are not required, but are suggested, and can be provided at no charge.

Lead Climbing

The OAC allows lead climbing, a type of climbing where the climber must clip the rope to fixed points on the wall as he or she ascends. It is a specialized skill with greater risk and requires prior knowledge or training. To lead climb, patrons can become certified to lead at the OAC by successfully passing the lead practical test. The OAC offers lead climbing clinics and patrons are encouraged to take the clinic. Those with extensive prior experience lead climbing can challenge the test without taking the OAC clinic. Patrons who challenge the test and fail more than once will be required to take the OAC lead clinic before challenging the test a third time. Specific rope for lead climbing is provided by the OAC, but patrons may bring their own rope.

Designated Lead Hours: Monday - Thursday: 8-10 p.m. 

Flexible Lead Hours: Anytime lead certified staff are on duty and the facility has less than 20 patrons. Just ask if lead is available.

Key new items or things to note about lead climbing:

  • Challenging the lead test is FREE. However, taking “pot” shots at the test is strongly discouraged because of the time required for staff. Failing the test twice will require attendance at a Lead Climbing Clinic.

Meeting Our Standards

There are many approaches to climbing and it is difficult to pick the one “best” approach. The OAC selects specific guidelines based on best practices in the industry and what accommodates our efforts to be teaching gym. Patrons are expected to follow the guidelines provided by staff, even if these guidelines contradict what the patron believes is the “best” approach. We are always open to your opinions and feedback to make the facility better.

Climbers found to be climbing/belaying in a hazardous manner will be educated on why the activity was deemed dangerous or outside the OAC guidelines. Proper climbing procedures will be provided and the patron may be asked to either stop climbing for a period of time or re-test their belay skills, depending on their understanding of the problem and/or hazard created. Habitual or otherwise serious offenses will result in the loss of climbing privileges. Climbing/belaying under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol will not be tolerated.


The TALK acronym is a pre-climb check, developed and used by the OAC as way to help climbing partners systematically assess the crucial aspects of climber-belayer readiness. We feel it aids patrons in avoiding complacency issues that are inherent in the sport. TALK is meant to be a two way communication and form of redundancy between climber and belayer and forms an agreement that both are “good to go” before the climber leaves the ground. We feel that TALK, along with the commonly accepted climbing commands, reduces risk in the gym and is especially helpful for new climbers. Therefore, we ask that climbers “TALK it out” before a climb. Those with prior experience can pass the OAC belay test without knowing TALK, but will note TALK essentially organizes the checks of commonly accepted pre-climb procedures or any gym belay test.