Explore New Hobbies: Rock Climbing
Explore New Hobbies: Rock Climbing
September 2, 2020
If walking on a treadmill two hours a day didn’t turn out to be as exciting as it sounded back in January, maybe it’s time to start thinking about turning part of your fitness routine into a hobby that will simultaneously keep you in shape. Rock climbing – a sport that has recently been growing in popularity – combines fitness and fun. It’s a sport practiced by children, adults, and all ages in between. More than just a physical activity, it’s an area of focus that can be personally transformative and take you to some of the most beautiful places on the planet.
Pushing your comfort zone and trying a new discipline comes with both excitement and challenges, and the first step is often doing your homework and finding good resources from which to learn. Adding a technical element make it doubly important to become familiar with how to approach rock climbing, as well as its gear and techniques. Depending on how outdoorsy your friends are, you may need some external help to get you on the rocks. REI recommends the following steps at the get-go:
- Find a qualified guide or climbing class
- Identify the type of climbing you want to try
- Gear up
- Find your route
- Indoor rock climbing: generally performed in gyms, sports clubs or at home – if you have a climbing wall (some people do!). Indoor walls have artificial hand and foot holds placed in sequence to create routs of different levels of difficulty.
- Outdoor rock climbing: Consists of climbing up or down or across natural rock formations. Difficulties can range from beginner to highly advanced, and its best to go with a guide, group, or friend with significant experience when you’re first getting started.
- Bouldering: (indoor/outdoor) climbing on large boulders or man-made features made to represent boulders, either for practice or as a sport. Generally under 10-15 feet in height.
- Sport climbing: (indoor/outdoor) relies on permanent anchors fixed to the rock or man-made surface. Can be top rope/single pitch (~30-90 feet) or multi-pitch in outdoor environments.
- Traditional: (outdoor) often called “trad” climbing. A climber or group of climbers place all gear required to protect against falls piece by piece as they proceed up the climbing surface, then remove the gear when passage is complete. Significant technical knowledge required.
There are several climbing rating systems used around the world. In the United States, the “Yosemite Decimal Rating System” is commonly used to rate on-rope climbing difficulty. Technical climbing runs from a 5.0 rating all the way to 5.15, with increasing numbers matched with increasing difficulty.
- Ratings 5.1 through 5.5 are in the “easy” range
- 6 - 5.10 can be considered “intermediate”
- 11+ indicate advanced ratings
- Ratings of 5.10 and higher can also have an “a,” “b,” “c” or “d” modifier, also associated with increased difficulty
Basic Climbing Gear
Pro tip: REI recommends always inspecting your gear before climbing.
- Harness: this piece of equipment ties you into your rope safely
- Shoes: protects your feet and provides friction to grip footholds
- Helmet: protects your head in the event that you fall
- Carabiner: connects rope to bolts – anchors permanently fixed to rocks for protection
- Rope: holds the weight of your body to the rock
Rock climbing is usually done in pairs. It is important that both parties communicate effectively to ensure the safety of one another, and climbers often use a “call and response” method to ensure clear communication. Important terms to know include:
- On belay /Belay on – climber announces and belayer confirms the climber is “on belay” (secured by rope on a belay device)
- Climbing / Climb on – climber indicates they are ready to proceed, belayer confirms
- Tension / Slack – climber indicates they would like rope taken in or let out by the belayer
- Falling – climber warns belayer they are about to take a fall (when possible)
- Ready to lower – climber has reached destination and informs belayer they are ready to be lowered to the ground
- Off belay / Belay off – climber informs belayer they no longer need the belay function to preserve their safety; belayer confirms when climber is no longer secured by the belay device
The most common climbing knot is the figure-8 follow-through knot.
Tip: Use WD-40® Multi-Use Product to protect your carabiner from rusting. Be sure to wipe excess off.