Chances are you have seen someone rock climbing – either outdoors at a nature park, indoors at a rock climbing gym (or on a cruise ship) or maybe you have just read about the sport and have been dying to try it. Either way, rock climbing can be for everyone; it just depends on where you start as to how far you have to go! First, you will need to learn a little about the basics of rock climbing: equipment, safety, and moving safely over rock. If you live in a metro area, chances are good that there’s a rock climbing facility near you. If you live in an outlying area, chances are equally good that there is a natural spot somewhere nearby for you to climb on.
The three basic things you will need to get started first and foremost are fitness, equipment, and instruction. Fitness can vary, as anyone who can fit into a harness is capable of beginning rock climbing. Of course being in great physical shape can only help you learn faster, but it is not completely necessary. Rock climbing hinges mostly on balance and coordination, and can also help you with your fitness and weightlifting goals.
Equipment is available in many forms, and for the casual climber only wanting to climb periodically at a gym, none is needed. Gyms will have shoes and harnesses available for rent, and many will offer carabiners for free. If you will climbing regularly, it’s probably best to buy your own shoes, harness and a belay service with carabiner. These items can run anywhere from $150-300 total, depending on what kind of equipment you choose, as well as its quality.
Climbing shoes are especially important – you want a shoe that allows your foot to “stick” to the rocks. The shoe itself should be tight fitting so that your foot does not move inside the shoe; however, don’t choose one so tight it cuts off circulation.
Harnesses also come in many styles, from simple to very complex. As a beginner, choose something somewhere in the middle: light, non-padded with a couple of loops for hanging some gear, like your belay device and carabiner. This is definitely a purchase to try out before buying! Stores that sell this type of gear will have a place for you to try before you buy. Make sure you are comfortable hanging in it before taking it home.
There are also many types of belay devices; the right one depends on the type of climbing you are doing. It is best to have someone knowledgeable advise you the type of device you will need for the type of climbing you’re undertaking.
You’ll also need a carabiner, which is used to connect the belay device to your harness. If you’re buying one, make sure it’s big and easy to attach. Again, this is a purchase best made with advice from an expert.
Once you have your gear, head to the gym! You’ll need some instruction before taking to the cliffs, and an expert is likely to be found at your local climbing spot.
Personal instruction is absolutely necessary for rock climbing. The types of activity as well as the equipment used pose physical risks and should be undertaken lightly. However, training is readily available at gyms, is usually not expensive, and can be learned quickly.
The trainer will have lots of tips and tricks for you, but the main task is head UPWARDS at all times. Use your legs to push your body up. Try for good footholds, and always have fun!