Back to Outdoors

Rock Climbing 101

Dispelling a few rock-climbing myths

The author sports climbs. Courtesy photo

Email Article Print Article Share on Facebook Share on Reddit Share on StumbleUpon

Rock climbing is a sport everyone I know wants to try but very few actually do. Every time I post a photo on Instagram or complain about my latest set of bruises I inevitably get a follow up from some one of "(sigh) I've always wanted to try that." My answer is always "When do you want to go? Let's do it!" And then it never happens.

I've come to realize there is a fear amongst non-climbers. That climbing is too hard or requires them to be able to do pull-ups. Or that it's super scary. Or dangerous. It's like the ultimate bad boy you want to date but never do because he's just too bad. Well, I'm here to tell you that as long as you are in mediocre physical shape you can at least try climbing. At least try it and stop pining. As they say, put up or shut up.

So to dispel a few myths, here goes nothing:

I have a wimpy upper body and could never pull myself up the wall. Does climbing require some upper body strength? Yes. But if you aren't using your lower body for at least half the work you are doing it wrong. We call that "Rambo-ing". As in behaving like Rambo to scale a wall. It'll be fun for about five minutes, then you'll hate your life and decide you need to use your lower body for upward momentum. I mean, do you climb a ladder using your arms? No.

I'm uncoordinated and surely going to fall and hurt myself. On the basic level, there are two types of climbing: bouldering and rope climbing. Afraid of falling? Get on a rope. Most gyms have autobelay devices or you can take a class to learn to belay. But I'm here to tell you that learning to fall is a helpful skill in life.

I don't know what I'm doing. Welcome to everyone's starting point. You need no skill or experience to walk in to a gym and try it out. And if you know someone who climbs, chances are they love their sport and would be happy to share their knowledge.

Climbers are scary bad-asses. Well thank you for thinking I'm a bad-ass. Because yes, I poured a lot of blood, sweat and tears into building this muscle and experience. However, climbers are some of the most down-to-earth, encouraging, friendly people I know. If you show up as a newbie and act like you know it all, you will be checked. Mostly because false knowledge is dangerous. But if you are honest and open to learning, we got you.

Lastly, I'll briefly explain types of climbing so you have a base understanding of the sport.

Bouldering is climbing without a rope. Climbers use crash pads for safety and climb large rocks and small. Highball bouldering is quite tall and requires some cahones. You usually top out, which means walking off the top of the rock instead of climbing back down.

Sport climbing is climbing pre-bolted routes. The lead climbing will clip as they climb and establish an anchor at the top. Subsequent climbers will top rope the route using the rope established. When you are done, the last climber cleans the route and removes all gear, leaving it like you found it.

Trad climbing is climbing a route that does not have bolts. You place gear as you go and pray it holds. This requires a fair amount of skill and gear. Consider this the advanced level.

And then there are crazy things like free soloing, deep water soloing, and off-width crack climbing. Look ‘em up. They are not for the faint of heart.

So go out and give it a try! And if you want someone to hold your hand, let the outdoor addict know. Because there is nothing better than sharing what I love with someone new.

comments powered by Disqus