Introduction to Climbing Outdoors
Rock climbing has gained popularity over the past years, especially with movies like Free Solo acquiring mainstream box office success and the inclusion of climbing as an event in the upcoming Olympics.
There has also been an increase in climbing and bouldering gyms, making it relatively easy to find their way to a gym and start climbing, but it is still relatively hard for someone new to venture outdoors.
1. Join a club
If you are a beginner who doesn't have an experienced friend to show you the ropes (pun intended), the best and easiest way to get into the climbing is to join a club. Personally I benefited tremendously from the training and mentorship received from uni climbing clubs. Most clubs will usually charge a membership fee but trust me, it is money well spent. Clubs are also a good way to meet and get to know other fellow climbers. Climbing is a social sport after all, you'll always need someone to give you a catch.
Other than climbing clubs, Meetup and Facebook groups are also good avenues for getting to know and meeting other climbers. I've found Meetup groups and people on Facebook groups that are willing to take total beginners out top roping.
A lot of clubs are also able to loan and provide gear for their members, which makes it convenient for total beginners to try and find out if climbing is for them before they invest in expensive gear.
2. Do a Course
Climbing is inherently dangerous but the risks and dangers can be mitigated and prevented by observing safe practices and using the right protections. Never be complacent or take safety for granted.
Climbing courses can be expensive but it is always recommended to take them if you can afford it. If you can't, then learning through a club will be the next best alternative.
It is only okay to learn from a friend if you really trust their knowledge and experience. The problem with learning from a non-professional is that their training might not be as systematic or comprehensive. They might miss out important details or not get the right points across. So proceed with caution.
The most fundamental of courses is lead climbing and belaying, but it is also important to know how to safely clean gear off a climb. Other complementary skills include setting up anchors for top roping and abseiling. And when you become more adventurous, you might want to start venturing in multi-pitching, aid-climbing or trad climbing.
3. Gear Requirement
Basic personal gear needed:
- Climbing shoes
- Chalk (optional, depending if your hands get sweaty)
- Helmet (highly recommended, I've met climbers who have suffered head injuries)
Gear required for outdoor:
- Dynamic rope
- Bolt plates (places where there are routes set with carrot bolts)
- Belay device (Gri-gri, ATC, etc)
- Locking carabiners
- Slings or webbing
Optional gear for outdoor:
- Gear mat (to keep rope and other gear clean)
- Brush (to clean climbing chalk off after climbs)
- Prusik (if abseiling)
- Belay glasses
- Climbing tape (for crack climbing or finger protection)
Last but not least, you'll need an adventurous spirit, a willingness to learn and try new things, and loads of bravery. Have fun out there, and stay safe.