Kickstarted by Kevin Jorgenson and Tommy Caldwell’s odyssey on the Dawn Wall, countless people are getting the climbing itch. They want to climbing these massive slabs and scream from the top once they get there.
Unlike Kevin and Tommy though, we probably haven’t been sending pitches since our pre-teen days. In an effort to reach that dream top out, we present our top 10 climbing tips for beginners to get you on belay.
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1. Start Small
Climbing can take you to new heights. But, before you can get there, you have to conquer the heights below. Nothing is worse than getting into an argument with the person belaying you due to your height based paranoia. Instead of climbing a sixty meter route right of the bat, try doing some boulder routes. If you despise bouldering, climb a small portion of that sixty meter route, fall off the wall, and climb a bit higher than your first time.
2. Figure Out the Grades
V5+, 5.10b, 6a, 7c, and 22. What the heck do all those mean? Grades are not just restricted to your last English exam. To figure out the difficulty of a route, climbers have assigned a grade to it. However, different types of climbing have separate grade scales. Likewise, different countries may have different scales. In order to help prevent multiple failed attempts, figure out what grading scale is used at your local gym or climbing area, so you can find the routes within your range.
More info? http://www.rockfax.com/publications/grades/
3. Don’t Be Intimidated
Similar to a weight room, climbing can have a large amount of intimidation. Grunts, yelling, and random noises will most likely surround you. While you may just want to throw in the towel right away, you have to realize that the people climbing those insane routes had to start somewhere. No one went and climbed a V7 for their first climb, and neither should you. Start with the lowest grade route and “work your way up”. You want to continue this process until you find your range and then get climbing.
4. Be Friendly
Instead of isolating yourself out of fear, go introduce yourself. The climbing community is arguably one of the friendliest you will come across. The more people you get to know, the more opportunities and fun you will have. They can serve as your mentors, your belay partners, future weekend warriors, or just great friends. So be friendly and be social.
5. Don’t Fill Your Gear Rack Instantly
As you submerge yourself into the climbing world, you will have an epiphany on how much gear there is. Harness, shoes, cams, webbing, rope, crash pad, quickdraws. The list goes on and on and on. With the insurmountable amount of gear you could buy, it doesn’t mean you should. With all the types of climbing there is, they all require certain equipment. So wait until you find out what type of climbing you want to do before you start investing in your gear rack. Until you make that investment, you can rent the necessary equipment you need or find a friend you can borrow it from.
6. Don’t Over Do It
You are going to get addicted to climbing. I guarantee it. But similar to all other addictions, too much of one thing is bad. Even though you will want to be climbing everyday, your body will need time to recover. This is especially important to prevent injuries. Overuse of certain body parts, such as finger tendons, can result in gnarly injuries that will have you hanging up your climbing shoes for months. So be smart and climb in moderation.
7. Prepare for Pain
Even when you aren’t climbing everyday, be mentally ready for the aches and pains to come. You will probably have mornings when you wake up and you feel like your hands has been hit with a sledgehammer. Layers of your skin will be callused and torn up. Toes will feel like they are conjoining together. But, this is the necessary evil to break your body into climbing. Similar to shoes, it will take some time, but once complete, your body will be ready to rock and roll.
8. Avoid Being a Chalk Monster
Chalk is used across numerous sports. It is used to help remove moisture from your hands to increase friction. In climbing, this is helpful with getting a stronger grip on the hold, but too much is bad. Each time you grip a hold, some of the chalk is left on it. The more chalk you use leads to more chalk on the hold, requiring the hold to be brushed. Also, it increases the amount of chalk particles in the air. To avoid making your fellow climbers break out their brushes and hack up a lung, limit your chalk use and don’t pull a LeBron James.
9. Be Courteous of Others
This pro tip you should already be aware of. Treat others the way you want to be treated. If you and another person both want to work on a route. Take turns and share beta. Would you want someone using all your chalk? No, so don’t use someone else’s without asking. When you head outside, treat your friend’s rope with respect. Don't walk all over it or put it in the mud. Just be a nice person and respect others. Simple enough.
10. Have Fun
While it can be used as a workout, this is not what climbing is about. It is about enjoying the triumphs, learning from the failures, and laughing a lot. This sometimes can be hard. You can get frustrated and feel beaten down. If so, take a step back and think about why you are climbing. It isn’t for fame or money. It is just for having some good ol' fun.
Written by Alex Perronne: Alex hails from Cleveland Wisconsin and enjoys nothing more than going paddling or climbing! Alex's favorite place on earth is the Wolf River, and he can currently be found at the University of Lacrosse eating his fair share of burritos.
Great Article! I’m looking to start climbing soon and this article gave me some pretty good info. Also love the fact that I stumbled on an article written by a fellow Wisconsinite. I also love the Wolf River being that it’s in my backyard.
Loved the article! I just started climbing in January and just find this very encouraging and helpful :)