Tips for Getting Into Rock Climbing

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Every climber has a story for how they got into the sport. Guys from back in the day tell tales of sketchy scrambles in sneakers with a rope tied around their waist and a friend giving a behind the back belay, while the explosion of gyms means that many modern climbers start pulling down on plastic. However one gets into this sport though, they are sure to want to tell you the story if you’re down to listen.

What isn’t often included in a climber’s story of how they found this sport though is how hard and intimidating it can be at first. For one thing, climber outside requires a partner, and climbing partners can be hard to come by. Even bouldering, which uses crash pads instead of a belay system for protection, is often unsafe without a spotter, especially if one is new to the sport.

The issue of not having a partner isn’t as much a problem in the gym, where auto-belays and padded boulder pits make it easy to climb alone. This doesn’t erase the fear factor that many experiences when they start to get high off the deck though. Furthermore, a gym environment filled with crushers may be quite intimidating to the newbie.

Whether you eventually want to try your hand at every style of climbing or are interested in becoming a climbing gym rat, getting into this sport can be quite the task. Read on for some tips to make this process easier.

Join a Climbing Gym

Climbing gyms are everywhere and they are making climbing accessible to the masses. Joining a climbing gym is unquestionably the easiest way to get into this sport. Furthermore, the proliferation and popularity of these gyms mean that they are starting to get really nice! Think huge bouldering areas with as many climbs as anyone could want at every grade as well as extremely tall toprope and lead climbing walls some with overhangs that would be legendary if found outside. Some climbing gyms are even incorporating areas that help climbers train for crack climbing.

The other great thing about joining a gym as a way to get into climbing is that gyms are a great place to meet other climbers. Once you start going regularly you will begin to notice the same people again and again, and if you’re getting stronger chances are they have started to notice you as well. Strike up a conversation while bouldering then ask if they want to do some top-roping, or if you’re truly a boulderer start working on the same project as your potential new friends.

The one downside to joining a climbing gym that they can be quite expensive. However, many of these gyms have full cross-training areas equipped with free weights, weight machines, and aerobic machines. Yoga classes and other fitness classes may also be included with your membership, and most have large locker rooms with showers. This means that even if the gym membership is expensive you can pick a gym where you are able to get a lot for your money.

Work At a Climbing Gym

There are two reasons why you may want to opt for working at a climbing gym instead of buying a membership. The first is that this is a great way to get a free membership to the gym. The second is that this is the fastest way to dive headfirst in the sport.

While there will unquestionably be some very dedicated climbers who are members at your gym, if those individuals are working a V8 you’re not going to have much reason to talk to them as you project a V3 or V4. However, if you are working at the gym you are sure to get to know some truly strong climbers right away. If you are looking to quickly progress to climbing outside getting a job is a great way to meet the people you need to meet.

Although having some experiences will definitely help you get a job at a climbing gym, it isn’t necessarily a requisite. If you show them that you are stoked on the sport it is likely you will still be able to get a position helping out as a belayer at birthday parties and for group classes. I do recommend knowing how to toprope belay, put on a harness, and tie a figure 8 knot before your interview though.

Take a Class

Those wanting to increase their climbing knowledge quickly should take a class. Lots of gyms offer classes where one can learn to lead, train, and everything in between. Those wanting to get into outdoor climbing can also find guides to most climbing areas. The guides will show you the ropes, making sure you stay safe along the way.

Classes, especially ones in the gym, are another great way to meet other beginner climbers. Chat with the other people throughout the lesson and make plans to go climb together before you leave. As mentioned earlier, a lack of climbing partners is a big barrier to entering this sport, so beginning climbers should be looking for an opportunity to create this incredibly important relationship.

Start Climbing With a Friend

If you have a friend who is also interested in getting into climbing, take advantage of the confidence and motivation that doing something with someone else can give you and get into this sport together. Buy the same membership and make consistent plans to go to the gym a certain number of times a week. Even better, this strategy provides you will a built-in climbing partner for gym top roping and leading, and when you are ready to start venturing outside.

Pester Your Climber Friends to Take You

If you have some friends who already climb regularly ask them to take you outside and teach you what they know. If they don’t seem immediately excited to take you, keep asking. Even if they are your friends, climbers aren’t always thrilled to have a day of teaching beginners how to climb. That being said, I love sharing this sport with my friends, I just want to know that they are serious about learning. If you have a friend who doesn’t seem that responsive to your request, show them that you are truly stoked by not taking no for an answer.

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