Climbing Basics

Welcome to an entirely new world of thrilling, adrenaline pumping action; welcome to rock climbing. I am going to introduce you to the basic types of climbing and the equipment you need to get started . There are many different types of rock climbing. Trad Climbing, sport climbing, top-rope climbing and bouldering are the main categories.

Trad climbing is not for beginners. This type of climbing involves the climber placing all of the necessary protection in the rock while he is ascending it. What I mean by protection is mainly camming devices. These crafty mechanisms lock into small cracks in the rock that the climber relies on to stay in place so if he or she falls the device will stop them. This type of climbing requires a great deal of experience and technical knowledge to be done safely. There is a lot more diversity in this form because the routes change depending on what type of gear you have available.

Sport climbing is sort of like traditional climbing but the climber doesn’t need as much gear because the protection is already bolted into the route. The main focus of sport climbing is to perform more acrobatic, powerful climbs on relatively shorter routes. Sport climbing is more accessible to beginners because it does not require all of the gear that trad climbing does.

Top-rope climbing is one of the safest and most popular forms of climbing. This is where the climbing rope is always anchored above you, so if you fall you only fall a few feet as opposed to ten to fifteen foot falls in other types of climbing. This is the kind of climbing you will see if you go to a climbing gym. It is a great way to learn the basics of safety while climbing. Advanced climbers can use this type of climbing to focus on technique, strength building and endurance.

Bouldering is a fairly different type of climbing than the others and my personal favorite. In this style of climbing the climber doesn’t use a harness or rope for protection from falling because the routes are typically below 25ft in height. A thick cushion called a crash pad is placed underneath the climber so they aren’t injured when they fall. Bouldering is an extreme form of climbing in which the climber must combine power with technique to conquer difficult routes. Routes in bouldering are commonly referred to as “problems.” Since the problems aren’t as long as a route in other styles of climbing the individual moves tend to be much more difficult and demanding.

Now that you are familiar with the styles of climbing there are a few things you will need before you can hit the rock. First and in my opinion most importantly you will need climbing shoes. They are an essential element in any climber’s game. They allow you to support your body on the tiniest of cracks. I would advise you against purchasing shoes online. Do not buy climbing shoes without trying them on and making sure they fit your foot. Without shoes that work with your foot you will have a miserable climbing experience. There are quite a few different brands of shoes out there. I recommend La Sportiva, 5.10, and Scarpa. Stick with these brand and find one that fits your foot and you will be good to go.

A harness is another must. Find a quality harness that fits you great or you will regret it. Harnesses usually range from around 60 to 140 dollars. Black Diamond, Arcteryx, and Petzl all make good harnesses. Having a chalk bag is very important but not required. Chalk prevents your hands from sweating. Trust me when I say you do not want to climb with sweaty hands. Chalk bags and chalk are pretty inexpensive, starting at around 20 bucks. Those three things are all you would need if you are climbing at a gym. If you are going outdoors there are a couple more things. Rope is the obvious one. Climbing in a gym is nice because they have all the ropes set up on top-rope for you. Outdoor climbing is a whole different game. You should buy rope that is at least 60 meters long but preferably 70 meters. Rope can range from around 100 to 300 dollars.

I know it seems like there is a lot of material needed for climbing and maybe there is, but the good thing is that once you take the hit and buy all the equipment you are done. It’s pretty much a one time deal and you can have a blast climbing for years and years.

The last few things are quickdraws, trad gear, and a crash pad. Quickdraws are vital for climbing. Quickdraws are comprised of two locking carabiners connected with a strong flat rope. One carabiner hooks into the bolt in the rock and the other is used to loop the rope through. These sell for about 12-15 dollars apiece, and you should have around 10. Trad gear consists of cams, carabiners, and nut tools. These can get relatively expensive. Crash pads are only needed if you are going to be bouldering ( and you should definitely go bouldering ). Crash pads start at 150 and nice ones can get up to 400. So there you have it! All the basics to the styles and equipment you need to start climbing! Once you get out there on the rock you will never go back, I promise.