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Particularly as kids, we venture outside seeking something exciting to do, only to end up higher up a tree than we thought and weighing the risk of getting back down without the branch breaking or having to call in the parents for rescue. But as life continues those vertical adventures generally decline to within a hair's distance of zero, with school and social commitments mounting, then comes work! It all adds up; leaving no time for any vertical climbing in the literal sense. But occasionally you are reminded by a poster in a retail store or an image on social media displaying some climber hanging off a cliff in a ridiculously beautiful landscape - and all those deep-seated thoughts of climbing surface briefly, but then are pulled away immediately by how far that ideal is to obtain. How do I start? Where do I climb? What do I need?
Read on to find out the best way to start rock climbing.
You most likely have so many questions to ask and self doubt to contend with, but in my eyes just like the act of climbing itself you have to commit yourself at some point! So Google a list of climbing gyms in your area and check them out. Depending on what you may be looking to achieve, perhaps it's to get fit, or meet new people, or climb outdoors, they may have tailor-made courses or programs specific to the gym that cater for what you're looking for. If you don’t know yet, just speaking to an employee or gym owner on the phone will most likely put you in the right direction. It may be as simple as joining a climb fit class one night a week as most gyms provide this type of service. It's also very common for gyms to offer these types of group training nights, and a great way to meet new climbers, it may also be free for the first session just to see if it's a fit for you.
If the thought of heading out on an adventure with a trusted guide sounds like your cup of tea, then this is a great way to experience rock climbing in its purest form, outdoors!! There is plenty of unique and world-class outdoor climbing here in Australia and all in relative distance to any major city.
Guided trips with an experienced guide will certainly open your mind to the world of outdoor climbing in a safe and encouraging environment.
When enquiring with a guided service, be sure to let them know your experience level, any concerns or requirements you might have, so they can best accommodate your climbing experience. A guided trip is especially handy if you are on your own or haven't snagged a climbing buddy yet.
Tap into social media groups for climbing in your area. This is a great way to meet people and see where they are climbing, perhaps they do meet-ups at a local gym once a week, or may head outdoors once or twice a month or more. It's quite common to tag along with a group if you put your interest in climbing out there, or a member may post looking for a buddy. Once again be honest with your ability, every climber understands that you have to start somewhere and you'll be surprised at how welcoming a climbing community is. It's unique in that sense as climbing attracts a wide variety of people from all walks, so as you can imagine the social quality of climbers is equally diverse, welcoming and entertaining.
As you begin climbing you'll quickly learn that there are distinct types of climbing that you can pursue, you will slowly realize as you progress you may favour one over another or may enjoy many of them. This is where climbing can be specified in terms of physical technique, terrain and the equipment that is needed for each.
You'll find most indoor climbing gyms will have this type of set-up, you will need a buddy to ‘belay’ you, meaning manage the ropes whilst you climb. The rope is preset above you with one end being connected to the climber and the other end the belayer. This is a super great way to get started climbing indoors and outdoors.
Sport climbing can be described as the next progression from top-rope climbing, still requiring a ‘belay’ partner but the main difference being the rope is not pre-set. As the climber ascends the wall they will be protecting themselves from a fall by clipping the rope into anchor points using a quick draw that’s ‘racked’ on their harness. Sport climbing takes time to learn correctly and safely but is super rewarding as it opens up an entirely new world of hard indoor and outdoor climbing.
When you think of wild remote places, where civilization gives way to harsh environments and the natural beauty of inaccessible places to climb becomes a reality, that is where trad-climbing lives. In simple terms, it's adventure climbing. This form of climbing is a progression further from sport climbing where the climber places their own ‘pro’ (protection) using a selection of equipment to jam into seams, cracks, and other features on the rock to protect them from a fall.
Bouldering is fast becoming a popular climbing style, as you don't need the use of ropes. Generally, all routes are low set and you have a nice squishy mat to land on. Bouldering specific gyms have become common with new climbers as you don't require expensive climbing equipment and you also can climb on your own, solving the common problem of not always having a climbing buddy available. Although if you head outdoors to boulder, having a crash pad with you to break any fall will come in handy.
For the most part, the gear you need is minimal and not expensive. A pair of climbing shoes and some climbing chalk is the best place to start. Once you have used gym rental shoes a few times, you'll most likely see the sense in requiring a nice comfy pair of your own. Shoes won't set you back big dollars and your feet will thank you for it. Climbing chalk is great to save your skin from wearing off too quickly as it provides friction to your fingers, improving your grip on the climbing holds. Liquid or dry (loose) chalk is a great choice, but double-check if your local gym accepts loose chalk as some Covid restrictions may still be in place.
There are many side-effects you will encounter whilst on your quest to take up rock climbing like; Meeting new and interesting people, adventures with new and like-minded individuals, a healthy lifestyle, seeing places you never thought would and a weird fascination with the quality of the skin on your fingertips doesn't put you off, then perhaps climbing is your ticket and we are looking forward to seeing you out there!!
Check out this climbing gear to get started rock climbing!
The Black Diamond Mojo Zip Climbing Chalk Bag is a classic, cylinder-shaped chalk bag with a pliable wire rim and reinforced TPU lower, the Black Diamond Mojo Zip Chalk Bag also features a rear zippered pocket that holds small essentials like your keys, a route topo or a smartphone. The included webbing belt with a quick-release buckle provides fast on and off.
The Metolius Super Chalk is great for keeping the dust down at home or the gym.
Black Diamond's most popular choice for all-around use, the Momentum Harness features four gear loops, trakFIT-adjustable leg loops and an ultra-comfortable waistbelt. For all-around climbers who know that time spent fiddling with leg loops and adjusting a pinching waistbelt is time wasted, the Black Diamond Momentum delivers a time-saving design for all styles of climbing. A pre-threaded Speed Adjust waistbelt buckle saves time and eliminates error when tying in, while Dual Core Construction puts an emphasis on comfort, even when you're posted up at a hanging belay. TrakFIT leg-loops easily adjust for cool fall days at the crag or blazing summer days on long multi-pitches, and four pressure-molded gear loops and a haul loop make this our most popular all-rounder.
Black Diamond's most popular harness for all-around use, the Womens Momentum Harness features a super-comfortable waistbelt and easy-to-use trakFIT leg-loop adjustments, with a womens specific rise. For all-around female climbers who know that time spent fiddling with leg loops and adjusting a pinching waistbelt is time wasted, the Womens Black Diamond Momentum Harness delivers a time-saving design for all styles of climbing. A pre-threaded Speed Adjust waistbelt buckle saves time and eliminates error when tying in, while Dual Core Construction puts an emphasis on comfort, even when you're posted up at a hanging belay. TrakFIT leg-loops easily adjust for cool fall days at the crag or blazing summer days on long multi-pitches, and four pressure-molded gear loops and a haul loop make this our most popular all-rounder.
The Black Diamond Mens Momentum Climbing Shoes are designed to provide unparalleled comfort for all day cragging and gym sessions, the Momentum is a two-strap Velcro shoe that combines innovative technology with a classic, flat-last design to create an entry-level shoe that excels in performance. With an upper fabric that consists entirely of our Engineered Knit Technology, the Momentum provides stretch where you need it, support where it matters and all around exceptional breathability. We've also added a micro-fiber liner to the front of the shoe to minimize stretch and maximize comfort. The Momentum's durable rubber is unique in that it's moldedinspired by the way we forge our carabiners versus cut from one sheet of rubber. This is our engineered solution to optimize our shoe's rubber and rands for weight, consistency and comfort. Built for all-day comfort on moderate routes, boulders or gym sessions, the Momentum features a soft-flex midsole for sensitivity and is the perfect entry level climbing shoe.
The Scarpa Origin 2020 Womens Climbing Shoes feature a flat-lasted profile, sticky yet durable VisionTM rubber sole, and a plush leather upper that gives the feeling of padded luxury and attention to detail rarely found in a shoe designed for newer climbers, the Origin provides an ideal introduction to climbing. The best-selling Origin has been updated with improved aesthetics, an updated fit that improves comfort at the widest point of the foot, and our PAF heel system.
Follow Christian's climbing adventures on Instagram at @mackspiks and share your adventures with us by tagging @wildearthaustralia and #mywildearth in your next post!
More about the author:
Christian McEwen was raised on the mighty shores of Lake Taupo in New Zealand. A rugged-volcanic mountain plateau that groomed his sense of adventure and exploration. He developed and honed his craft and love of backcountry snowboarding spanning two decades of global exploration and documenting. A proud P.A.C.I. member (Professional Association of Climbing Instructors) and accredited lead climbing guide, currently residing on the Gold Coast, Australia and working as a climbing instructor and author at Ocean Road Magazine.