Rock Climbing 101

Getting Started
By Jonathan Copp
  |  Gorp.com

Where does inspiration come from? For me, people and place are the most important aspects of any endeavor, and the beginning of an adventure seems to set the pace for the journey. Being outside with an experienced climber who is trusted and respected is, to me, a perfect place to start climbing. I can't say I was this lucky. The wildness of the outdoors I had, but instead of an experienced teacher, I had a few hoodlum friends, a nylon tow rope, and an electrician's harness.

Top-roping is the best way to begin understanding climbing technique while learning trust in the gear systems. The basic idea of a"top-rope" is to have a secure anchor fixed at the top of a section of rock. The rope runs from the climber up through the anchor and back down to the belayer (the person securing the rope in case the climber falls). The gear needed for this introduction to climbing is: rock shoes, harness, 10.5-millimeter dynamic rope, three locking carabiners, a belay device, 5 D-shaped biners, webbing or slings, and assorted chocks. There is no substitute for live, interactive teaching, but if you want to read up on basic rock craft, two excellent options are John Long's How to Rock Climb and Don Mellor's Rock Climbing: A Trailside Guide.

Another good way to get familiar with the balance and movement involved in climbing is to "boulder." All you need for this activity are rock shoes and a chalk bag. The idea behind bouldering is to complete difficult moves on rock while staying near the ground. Many times, traversing is the best way to link moves together without gaining too much height (i.e., moving horizontally across a rock). One nice accessory to protect from injury is a bouldering pad. This pad can be positioned under the "crux," the most difficult part of the bouldering sequence, in case one falls. It is always wise to have a spotter while bouldering as well. A spotter is a person who stands behind the climber and protects their head and back from hitting anything.

The best tip I have for someone just learning to climb is to consider the feet and footholds at least twice as often as the handholds. The best advice I have regarding climbing is to enjoy the places and the people at least twice as much as the numbers and the names.


Published: 28 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

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