The Beginner’s Guide to Climbing Outdoors
So, you have been climbing in the gym for a few months and are wondering how you are going to get outside and test your skills on some real stone? You are not alone. Transitioning from the relative safety of wall to wall pads and air conditioning to the jagged landings and bug infested air of the great outdoors may seem daunting. The experience does not have to be traumatic. I remember when I first started climbing. It was a dream of mine to go climbing at Foster Falls, a local sport crag. I thought if I ever got to go, it would be a once in a lifetime opportunity. If you were to tell me back then that one day I would spend every weekend climbing outdoors, I would have said you were crazy.
The most common question asked by climbers new to the sport is whether or not they are ready to climb outdoors. The good news is the answer is almost always “Yes!” While you may not be ready to climb at every area or partake in every style of climbing, you can certainly find outdoor climbing that is challenging, scenic, and safe, at any level. That is not say that there is nothing you can do in the gym to prepare for the outdoors. Taking your gym’s lead class will help you get more comfortable with climbing systems and greatly ease the transition to outdoor sport climbing. However, having an experienced partner who can guide you through the pitfalls and dangers of outdoor climbing is more important than any skills you can bring to the table.
The second most common question asked by new sport climbers is “What gear do I need?” Climbing gear can be one of the most daunting concerns for the new climber. A cursory glance through the internet forums will yield countless threads about which ropes, quickdraws, cams, or pants to buy. Luckily, for new climbers, they don’t need any of it. Since you will be climbing with experienced partners, you can expect them to bring most of the gear. You will need to provide your own shoes, a chalkbag, and possibly a harness. If your partner needs you to bring more than that, they are probably not as experienced as they are letting on.
Where do you find these partners though? Chances are, your gym has more than a handful of experienced, safe climbers who would be thrilled to show a noob around, but you are not going to meet them by accident. Make it a point to introduce yourself to as many climbers as you can. Get to know them. Ask them for beta on the ‘red’ problem. Ask about climbing trips they have taken. Climbers love to talk, so it shouldn’t take too much to get them going. Once you find someone who has been climbing for at least a few years and seems to know their stuff, ask them if they wouldn’t mind taking you climbing. Offer to pay for their share of the gas and the odds of them declining are almost nonexistent. Just make sure that you keep an upbeat attitude and remember that your new friend is doing you an awesome favor.
Good luck out there in the big wide world.