Addressing Offensive Climbing Route Names on Mountain Project

In 2020, Mountain Project users identified over 6,000 climbing route names that they found offensive and derogatory. These routes have names that include racial epithets and offensive slang, and some cite traumatic historical events unrelated to climbing. The flagged routes in Mountain Project and other actions spurred various news articles, statements from climbing brands, and passionate acts of advocacy. But to date, only 164 of the flagged route names have been renamed. Offensive route names are still an issue, and according to a recent survey by the American Alpine Club (AAC) 82% of climbers believe it’s time to focus on diversity and inclusion within the sport. Nearly just as many (77%) believe that discriminatory route names need to be addressed. So what’s the hold up?

When a climber puts up a route for the first time, this first ascensionist (FA) chooses a name. The FA might go with something they deem witty, or maybe tongue-and-cheek. But what feels “vanilla” or brushed off as juvenile humor among some, may be blatantly vulgar or offensive to others. In some instances, a route named after an “inside reference” among a few, might incite strong feelings or be hurtful for others. For many members of the climbing community, these names make the sport feel less inclusive and even hostile.

When onX acquired Adventure Projects–including Mountain Project–in late 2020, a team of onX members made up of climbers and other outdoor recreationists discussed ways to resolve the route naming issue. Our goal was to avoid delivering a prescriptive top-down strategy to a community that has worked hard to address route names for some time, and instead develop a community-driven solution that would involve the expertise and viewpoints of many. So instead of operating in a silo, onX joined a group of route publishers, climbers, and DE&I advocates organized by AAC and its initiative Climb United.

Climb United calls this group the Route Name Task Force, and it includes Alpinist Magazine, Climbing Magazine, the Climbing Zine, Gripped Magazine, Mountaineers Books, Sharp End Publishing, Wolverine Publishing, and Mountain Project (part of onX). The Task Force also invited climbers to share many different points of view, backgrounds, histories, and experiences. 

Over a series of meetings this spring, the AAC gathered the group’s feedback on how route name publishers can preserve the history of the sport while effecting positive change. Following these discussions, the AAC created community-driven Principles and Guidelines to help guide the process of publishing route names and promote a more inclusive climbing culture.  

As a next step, the Route Name Task Force invites all climbers to join a public forum on Thursday April 22 at 6 p.m. MDT and to share feedback on the Principles and Guidelines through a survey. From there, Climb United will publish the first version of industry-wide Principles and Guidelines for publishing climbing route names. The Route Name Task Force will also continue to convene to discuss progress and new challenges. Climb United is an ongoing effort, one that will require all community members to adapt and learn.

At onX, our mission is to awaken the adventurer in everyone, but we can’t do that until we help ensure that the outdoors is a welcoming place for everyone. Addressing offensive route names on Mountain Project is one step in that direction, and we’re actively developing a strategy to review the platform’s flagged routes and will work with FAs when renaming is necessary. While not all 6,000+ identified routes may require renaming, we will commit to reviewing each, and will also review others that may not have been included in the initial effort. This approach will incorporate Climb United’s Principles and Guidelines as well as the routes’ FAs. We look forward to hearing your feedback in the Public Forum and through the Climb United survey. More to come.


Molly Stoecklein

Growing up in the east, Molly’s first claim to fame was a 1998 New York State Ski Ballet Championship title. Since, she’s never lived far from the mountains and now calls Bozeman home. When she’s not heading up PR and Communications for onX, she’s out exploring on skis or bike, or with fly rod in hand.