How To Start Rock Climbing

Rock climbing is a physically demanding activity that offers a challenging puzzle for enthusiasts. The act of ascending a wall demands a coordinated effort between the mind and body, resulting in enhanced self-awareness and confidence. Apart from the psychological benefits, rock climbing serves as an effective full-body workout that targets specific muscle groups and improves overall fitness levels. Additionally, it provides an opportunity to build new social connections and immerse oneself in the great outdoors.

Although climbing may seem intimidating at first due to the specialized equipment and technical skills required, there are many ways to make it a fun activity. Indoor gyms are a great place to start, as they offer routes of varying difficulty levels, even for beginners. If you want to try climbing outdoors, there are organizations, guiding companies, gyms, and climbing groups available online or near you that offer introductory classes and help overcome perceived barriers to entry.

Take the plunge into the world of climbing with these foundational steps:


Grasp the Various Climbing Disciplines

Rock climbing comprises various disciplines, each demanding specific gear and training. While captivating images often portray climbers hanging from ropes hundreds of feet above the ground, this represents merely one facet of the sport. Numerous other climbing styles keep enthusiasts much closer to the earth's surface. Rock climbing is a multifaceted world that can be daunting for beginners. However, top-rope climbing (top-roping) or bouldering can serve as accessible and rewarding ways to start exploring this exciting activity. Both indoor climbing gyms and outdoor settings are great places to begin your journey.

learning how to climb


Embarking on bouldering necessitates minimal specialized gear and technical know-how, making it an accessible choice for beginners. While some advanced climbs may reach considerable heights, most bouldering routes, often dubbed "problems," only ascend to a height from which you can comfortably jump off. This beginner-friendly rock-climbing activity only requires basic gear like climbing shoes, a chalk bag, and a crash pad for safety, along with experienced spotters to guide landings. The absence of a rope, harness, or additional hardware adds to the simplicity and immediacy of the bouldering experience.

leaning to top-rope


Engaging in top-rope climbing, also known as top-roping, elevates you to greater heights compared to bouldering and involves the use of a protective rope system. The climber secures themselves to one end of a rope threaded through an anchor at the route's summit. As the climber progresses upward, a designated individual, referred to as the "belayer," employs a belay device to manage slack on the opposite end of the rope. Maintaining tension in the rope, the belayer plays a crucial role in minimizing the potential fall distance if the climber loses footing. Learning the art of belaying is an essential skill, and many introductory climbing classes provide instruction on this fundamental aspect of top-rope climbing.


Advanced Climbing (you'll get there I promise)

Trad Climbing

Traditional (trad) climbing

Trad climbing involves carrying and positioning gear called "pro" into natural cracks and vulnerabilities of the rock to safeguard against falls. No pre-installed bolts exist on the rock surface. After climbing, you either retrieve the pro or have your partner remove the pieces. Trad climbing demands considerable skill and aligns with Leave No Trace principles as no equipment is left permanently embedded in the rock.

Spot leading

Sport Lead Climbing

This climbing style involves ascending by securing oneself to pre-drilled bolts on the climbing surface using quickdraws. This method ensures safety in areas lacking natural protection features. Quickdraws are pre-placed on walls in indoor sports climbing. It is riskier than top-roping due to the absence of a rope anchored at the top of the route.

Start Practicing!

Enthusiasts of top-roping and bouldering alike are welcome in both indoor and outdoor settings. For those eager to begin, numerous indoor climbing and bouldering facilities offer classes and convenient day passes for drop-ins.

Venturing outdoors to climb on actual rock introduces an extra layer of excitement and requires a bit more experience. Unlike the controlled environment of indoor facilities with pre-set routes, ascending real rock necessitates an experienced climber or guide to construct the anchor for setting up a top rope.

Beginners often find their starting point in indoor gyms due to their accessibility and independence from weather conditions. These climbing spaces offer protective floor mats for safe landings, color-coded plastic holds marking pre-set routes, pre-established top ropes, and a vibrant social atmosphere. Many gyms also host classes to refine or acquire new climbing skills.

Indoor Bouldering

Indoor bouldering is the most accessible climbing discipline with the lowest entry barrier. Just complete a brief orientation, sign a waiver, and you're ready to tackle beginner routes. Sharing the experience with a friend makes it even more enjoyable. Bouldering gyms foster a social atmosphere, with climbers collaborating to solve boulder problems. Observing others climb is an excellent way to enhance your skills and techniques.

Into the Basic!

If you are interested in top-rope climbing, it's necessary to learn the basics from a skilled climber or a certified instructor. You can also join a local climbing group or hire a qualified guide to assist you. In the United States, organizations such as the American Mountain Guides Association and the Professional Climbing Guides Institute provide certification for guides.

Things to learn along the way.

In a standard introduction to a top-rope climbing course, participants can expect a comprehensive examination of gear, fundamental knots, belay checks, climbing commands, belaying techniques, and basic movement skills. If the course takes place outdoors, instructors will additionally cover strategies for mitigating risks inherent in outdoor climbing, such as potential rockfall or exposure.

Knots: Climbers typically employ a Figure-8 Follow Through knot to secure themselves to the end of the rope during climbing. Instructors will illustrate the proper technique for utilizing this knot to fasten the rope securely to your harness.
Checking Belay: It's important to conduct a thorough check of the system before starting the ascent to ensure proper setup. Participants will learn to assess tie-in knots, belay devices, harnesses, and helmets.
Learn the Lingo: Climbers and belayers use specific phrases to communicate, enhancing safety and efficiency. Participants practice these commands before climbing.
The Importance of Belay: Acquire the skills to configure a belay device, utilizing it to maintain tautness in the rope, arrest a climber's fall, and safely lower it back to the ground.
Basic Movements: Climbing is not just about upper body strength. Your instructor will teach you how to use your legs efficiently and the fundamentals of footwork, body positioning, and balance. This will help you solve the vertical puzzles of climbing.

What type of gear may we need?

Fusion Climbing gear

When you start climbing at a gym or with an instructor, they usually provide the necessary equipment. However, some gyms or instructors may require you to purchase a few pieces of gear. As you progress, it's a good idea to invest in your own complete set of climbing gear. Top of Form

Climbing Helmet: Climbing helmets are designed to protect your head from falling rocks and debris, and in some cases, they can also protect you in the event of a fall. Usually, these helmets are not worn in a climbing gym as the environment is controlled. It is important for the helmet to fit comfortably, snug but not too tight, and sit flush on your head.

Climbing Harnesses: Your harness enables a secure connection to the rope. Typically, harnesses feature two front tie-in points, strategically positioned at the waist and leg loops, dedicated to threading the rope for secure tying. It's crucial to note that the tie-in points are distinct from the designated belay loop. Properly fastening your harness is of utmost importance.

Belay Equipment: Possessing and proficiently using this equipment grants the belayer the capacity to skillfully manage the rope, playing a pivotal role in orchestrating a secure and controlled climbing experience for the ascending climber.

Carabiners: A locking carabiner is a specialized type of carabiner that features a mechanism to secure the gate, preventing unintentional opening during use. This additional locking feature enhances safety and ensures the carabiner remains securely fastened in critical situations, such as when connecting to a harness or securing the rope. Locking carabiners are a vital component in climbing equipment, adding an extra layer of protection and reliability to various climbing setups.

Climbing Rope: The rope is undeniably a pivotal piece of gear essential for any rock-climbing endeavor. Particularly for beginners, it's worth noting that ropes are typically provided as part of the necessary equipment to ensure a safe and enjoyable climbing experience.

Climbing Shoes: When selecting rock climbing shoes, it's crucial to prioritize a balance between a secure, snug fit and sufficient grip. The ideal climbing shoe should snugly cradle your foot, ensuring a comfortable yet supportive feel, while also delivering the necessary traction to navigate the rock surfaces effectively. This delicate balance contributes significantly to a climber's performance and overall comfort during the ascent.


Start Outdoor Climbing!

After building your strength and technique, and mastering the essential safety skills, it's time to venture outdoors. But, moving from indoor to outdoor climbing is a significant leap. Climbing outdoors, especially without a guide, depends entirely on your skills, equipment, and judgment. Given the inherent risks, your safety should be your top priority, especially during your initial outdoor experiences. If you're uncertain about your group's competence, opting for a guide can provide invaluable support.

When climbing with friends, who provide gear and expertise, it's essential to acknowledge their efforts. While they may be enthusiastic about introducing you to outdoor climbing, being a cooperative team player is key. You can contribute by belaying fellow climbers, sharing the load of gear, and offering to cover group expenses like gas or food for the day. As you accumulate experience and savings, you can gradually invest in personal gear such as ropes and hardware to enhance your collective climbing resources.

climbing with friend at climbing gym

Practice Climbing and Practice some more!

Once you've mastered the basics, rock climbing opens up a world of possibilities for ongoing learning and progress. Some climbers prefer to tackle more complex movements, with indoor bouldering becoming a popular choice. Others are intrigued by the technical aspects of the sport, leading them to explore different disciplines like sport climbing, trad climbing, or aid climbing. The variety within rock climbing means that enthusiasts can customize their pursuits to match their preferences and goals for continuous development in the sport.

Perhaps your greatest desire is to engage in outdoor adventures and explore various climbing locations. To do so successfully, you must acquire skills such as interpreting guidebooks to find routes, mastering the setup and cleaning of top-rope anchors, and understanding outdoor climbing etiquette. While setting up top-rope anchors from the summit is possible in some cases, outdoor climbing usually requires honing lead climbing skills.

With a wide range of approaches available, both novice and experienced climbers can always discover new challenges in the complex vertical puzzle that is climbing. By embracing your curiosity, being open to learning, and cultivating enjoyment, climbing can become a lifelong passion to savor.

Keep in Mind

Safety rests squarely on your shoulders. No online article or video can substitute for comprehensive instruction and hands-on experience. Ensure that you have honed proper techniques and familiarized yourself with safety protocols before embarking on any climbing endeavors.