Rock climbing is everywhere nowadays. Climbing isn’t the same fringe sport that was once from the Dawn Wall to your Instagram to the new gym opening in town. Children are climbing faster than they can walk. There’s no reason not to give it a shot. Climbing can be intimidating, however. Many people ask, “How can I start?” Fear and overwhelming safety and gear are major barriers. It’s understandable. Here are the details to help you get on the rock.
BEFORE You Start
Rock climbing can be described as various activities, including bouldering, big wall climbing, mountain climbing, and mountaineering. It is important to identify the style of climbing that you are interested in before you start. Are you looking to meet new people, get fit, or be outside? These questions will help you determine the steps you need to take to reach your goals. We have broken down each style of climbing so that you can make an informed decision (in the Sports section vs the trad section).
HOW TO START
Climbing can be a complicated sport. It’s difficult to get into, expensive to find mentors and dangerous if it’s not done properly. It’s now easier than ever for anyone to try climbing. Grab a friend, head to the nearest climbing gym, rent a pair of harnesses and climb on the climbing wall. Technical skills are essential for safety if you progress to climbing outside and on ropes. While many people prefer to learn from their friends, we strongly recommend that you enrol in a formal class.
INDOOR VS INDOOR VS. OUTDOOR
In 1987, Seattle was home to the first indoor climbing facility. Just 30 years later, there are 433 gyms all over the country, and more than 50 are in the works. Denver has a total of 10 gyms. They are all full every day. Climbers were once a small group of mostly male climbers with limited outdoor access. The climbing gym revolution opened climbing up to all. It is safe to say that indoor climbing is more popular than outdoor. Climbing indoors – or “pulling on plastic,” to quote climbers – has its own culture. It is very different from climbing outside. The gym is safer, more accessible, and more social than outdoor climbing. This makes it an ideal place to start climbing.
SPORT VS TRADE VS. BOULDERING
The three main types of rock climbing are traditional (trad), sport climbing, and bouldering. Although many climbers enjoy all three disciplines, they tend to be more skilled in one or two. Sport climbing is when the leader attaches quickdraws on pre-existing bolts and loops the rope through the quickdraws while climbing up the cliff. Although sport climbs are usually one-pitch climbs, the leader returns to the ground once the anchor has been secured to the rope. The rope may sometimes be looped through quickdraws to provide protection while climbing up steeper faces.
CHOOSING A CLIMB
When climbing, one of the most important things you will learn is how to pick a route that suits your abilities. Climbs are usually labelled with difficulty ratings in the gym. Outside, climbers use Mountain Project, a guidebook and often a smartphone app called Mountain Project, to determine the difficulty of climbs. The Yosemite Decimal System is used to rate climbs in the United States. 5.3 is for beginners, while 5.15 is for experts.