Rock Climbing Tips For Beginners

There is more to rock climbing than the guts to scale sheer cliff face.

Mental, emotional, and physical conditioning is part of the process. Unlike exercising in the gym on a stationary bike, if you lose your concentration while climbing, the result could be, let say, less than optimal.

You can go to your local park and start jogging. With rock climbing, learning the basics from an experienced instructor and under her watchful eyes is necessary to stay safe and have fun while reaching your goal.

Rock climbing allows you to take one step at a time across some of the most exhilarating rocks on the planet. It is one of the scariest yet ultimately rewarding sports you will ever encounter.

Explore the Earth’s most thrilling rocks one step at a time with rock climbing.

Here are a few tips to help you get started.

What Is Rock Climbing?

Based on the term itself, rock climbing is where participants hike across, upwards, and downwards rock formations. These rock formations can be natural or artificial rock walls, depending on your preference.

The main goal of rock climbing is to safely reach the apex (the highest point) of a rock formation or its endpoint if it’s a pre-defined trail. Although rock climbers may choose their severity and difficulty level, all are equally physically, mentally, and emotionally demanding. Nonetheless, rock climbing offers a variety of health benefits that would make every tread worthwhile. Here are some:

  • Rock climbing is a low-impact exercise that can strengthen your muscles. A low-impact exercise means that it’s a great workout that goes easy on your body. Large muscles on your arms and legs will be worked out to prop your body up these rock formations, while your core will help keep you balanced.
  • Rock climbing enhances your flexibility. Eventually, all the climbing, reaching, and stretching you’ve done with rock climbing will dramatically improve your range of motion and flexibility, resulting in a lean and toned physique.
  • Rock climbing keeps your cardiovascular health in check. The moment you start treading up your course, your heart rate is bound to increase. Not only will this strengthen your lungs and heart, but it will also improve your stamina and burn calories.
  • Rock climbing can aid in combatting chronic diseases. Just like any vigorous workout lasting 20 minutes or longer, rock climbing can reduce your risk of chronic stress, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and even cancer. 
  • Rock climbing can improve your physical coordination.  Rock climbing includes both contralateral and ipsilateral movements. This means you use both the opposite sides hand and leg as well same side hand and leg. Most activities are either contralateral ipsilateral. The combination of rock climbing makes it very effective to improve your hand and eye coordination; then rock climbing is for you! Since rock climbing involves carefully planning your movements to reach the top safely, it later translates to better problem-solving and cognitive abilities that you can apply to real-world scenarios.

With several health benefits up its sleeves, you’re surely up for an adventure with rock climbing!

Get started with rock climbing by following this step-by-step instruction! 

  • Step 1: What type of rock climbing would you like to specialize in?
  • Step 2: What equipment would you need?
  • Step 3: Is there a dress code?
  • Step 4: When do you want to start?
  • Step 5: Where do you want to go?
  • Step 6: Should you climb with a guide?
  • Step 7: Enjoy the climb!

Step 1: What type of rock climbing would you like to specialize in?

Rock climbing has likewise been divided into several typologies, understanding how the world is home to different rock formations.

  1. Bouldering

Despite being considered a basic form of rock climbing, bouldering can be just as intricate and challenging as the other types. Bouldering can be done outdoors or indoors and usually involves short movements on smaller boulders and rocks unassisted by ropes and harnesses.

  1. Sport Climbing

Since sport climbing involves higher routes, it usually consists of the assistance of a belayer or a partner holding a safety rope. On the other end, the rock climber explores already established and bolted rock formations with harnesses, ropes, and belay systems. 

  1. Trad Climbing

Although similar to sport climbing, trad climbing is a more challenging form of rock climbing. This is because rock formations to be treaded are not secured by bolts, which means that the rock climbers should set them up themselves, and immediately remove the same bolts once they are done climbing.

  1. Dry Tooling

Assisted by crampons instead of climbing footwear, dry tooling uses ice axes propped into rock formations as you climb them. However before proceeding with dry tooling, remember that the damage it does to the rocks may make it a more controversial type.

  1. Big Wall Climbing

If you’re into camping and rock climbing, then big wall climbing will give you both! In big wall climbing, you will tread several long and pitched routes through a vertical rock. Since this might take you a few days to complete, big wall climbing is perfect if you want to experience sleeping on the sides of rock formations while overlooking a scenic landscape.

  1. Alpine Climbing

Despite its simple definition, alpine climbing is ideal for intermediate rock climbers. In alpine climbing, rock climbers shall reach the summit or the peak of ice, rock, snow, or even glaciers.

Step 2: What Equipment Would You Need?

Depending on the type of rock climbing you want to explore, you might need less or more equipment than other rock climbers. Nonetheless, here are the essential equipment you should have to get started:

  • Belay System
  • Carabiners
  • Chalks
  • Crampons
  • Ice Axes
  • Pro (Nuts, cams, and chocks – can also be referred by their trade names like Friends, Hexcentrics, and Stoppers)
  • Quick Draws
  • Ropes
  • Slings

Other basic equipment is typically provided if you’re working under a gym subscription or with a climbing guide. Make sure to contact your gym or guide for confirmation. 

Step 3: Is there a dress code?

Just like working out and hiking, it is ideal for wearing comfortable and not restrictive clothes to move around with. Although they should be fitted to avoid getting in the way of your ropes and harnesses, your clothes should also allow you to breathe properly and cool your sweat fast. You can also bring extra clothes with you.

Aside from your clothes, there is also additional rock climbing gear that you would want to purchase before your climb.

  • Climbing Footwear
  • Climbing Harness
  • Climbing Helmet
  • Climbing Protection
  • Crash Pads

Step 4: When Do You Want to Start?

If you’re into outdoor rock climbing, make sure to schedule your trip during a neutral climate in fall, spring, or summer. Completing a route would be incredibly challenging during winter and the peak of summer. During winter, the cold weather would be uncomfortable for rock climbers and cloud their vision, whereas the height of summer would cause formations to absorb heat and make it hard to climb.

If you’re into indoor rock climbing, however, outdoor weather conditions should not stop you! Thanks to indoor gyms and other facilities specializing in indoor rock climbing, you can surely complete any route all year round!

Step 5: Where Do You Want to Go?

There is a technical system in rock climbing called the Yosemite Decimal Rating System and the V Scale to determine the climbing difficulty level of various rock formations.

Predominantly applicable to the United States, the Yosemite Decimal Rating System uses a scale ranging from 5.0 to 5.15, with the level of difficulty increasing with the decimal portion.

For beginning rock climbers, the 5.1 to 5.5 range would be ideal, and this is also where your instructors would assign you. This is because this range is assigned for routes that are easier to climb.

For intermediate rock climbers, you would want to explore routes with ratings from 5.6 to 5.10. However, the most difficult routes are rated even higher, more specifically between 5.11 and 5.15. To further delineate the level of difficulty, routes with a 5.10 would also have attached letters between a and d.

However, if you’re into bouldering, you will need to refer to a different scale called the V Scale. Ranking routes are usually ranked with V0 as the easiest and V16 as the most difficult.

Step 6: Should You Climb with a Guide?

Especially if you want to quickly improve your skills and familiarize yourself with the local area, hiring a guide would be ideal. This is because climbing alongside an experienced guide will allow you to take more difficult routes and increase practical experience.

Aside from the technical advantages you’d get, having a guide would also help you to be more immersed in the locality or region you’re climbing on. A guide would help you access more parts of the area, further improving your climbing experience. Have we also said that a guide would also help your overall safety throughout?

Step 7: Enjoy the climb!

Congratulations, you’ve now reached the final step of our rock climbing guide. Especially for first-timers, the abundance of places to look out for, weather to consider, outfits to wear, and equipment to buy would be overwhelming to some. However, remember that all of these would be worthwhile once you reach the top.

Before you leave, remember that your safety is your own responsibility. Although we have provided you with the basic guidelines on rock climbing, remember that no article, book, or video tutorial should replace professional training and experience. Before going on your first climb, ensure that you are well-practiced and well-equipped.