Things you must know before climbing a real rock outside

Stef Zisovska

Rock climbing has become more and more popular across the country over the last few years. There are approximately forty new indoor climbing gyms open each year nationwide. Rock climbing is the perfect sport for people who like to add some thrill to their lives and to tone their body in the best possible way. When you realize the physical and the mental benefits of climbing, you’ll get addicted to it. What’s a bit scary is the transition from indoor climbing to actual rock in the outdoors. Instead of being intimidated by real rock, be brave and consider these important factors that go a long way to making a successful, outdoor rock climber.

Know the dangers and be well prepared

Learn about safety from experienced climbers before you make the transition from indoor to outdoor climbing
Learn about safety from experienced climbers before you make the transition from indoor to outdoor climbing

Out there it can be tough. Always be over-prepared with gear, water, and food, because you never know what might happen. It’s better to carry a heavier bag than to suffer after an accident. Be aware of these potential dangers before you go for your first boulder. A rock can break under applied pressure, so always wear a helmet! Know that extreme weather changes can occur at any time, so be prepared for lightning, thunderstorms, and rain. Bring the proper gear. Also, be aware of skin injuries because real rock, unlike the plastic holds in the gym, can take your skin off.

Do your first outdoor climb with an experienced climber

If you’re lucky enough to know someone willing to take you climbing outside and pass on to you the knowledge they have first hand, then do it right away. A good climbing partner is one way to deal with the transition process. An experienced climber will teach you more in a few hours than any lecture, tutorial, or book can in days or weeks. You’ll have someone beside you who understands your fear and can correct your mistakes.

If you don’t know anyone personally, try to find a mentor in the gym where you’re practicing or look for climbing groups on social networks and ask for help. There is always someone out there willing to help a newbie.

Go somewhere with many climbs of all levels

Start with easy routes to build your skills
Start with easy routes to build your skills

During the early days of climbing, you need to give yourself a chance to tackle as many different boulders or routes as possible. Trying different level climbs will help you develop your skills faster than you think. Red River Gorge, Bishop, or Colorado’s Front Range are extremely developed climbing areas that you could visit first. If you live far from these areas, then visit whatever climbing spot near you that has numerous routes and boulders where you can practice.

Try easy climbs first

Even if you achieve difficult tasks at your local gym, you’ll see that climbing on real rock is way different. No one will laugh at you or think that you’re incapable of doing more. Do it for yourself, gain self-confidence and get familiar with the new environment. It’s important to adapt to each new challenge because they are all different. See how it feels to hang on a rock, think about what the difference is between outdoor and indoor climbing, and train your body to get used to it.

Practice falling

Always climb with a buddy in case something goes wrong
Always climb with a buddy in case something goes wrong

If you want to keep your body intact, first try climbing boulders with a flat landing. Falling in a gym and falling outside are not the same. Learn how to fall and protect yourself. Don’t go rock climbing alone and make sure there is always someone around you that can help if something unplanned happens.

If you’re climbing on a rope, you may feel safer, but still, it’s not the same as in the gym. Feeling the open space and the air around while hanging on a boulder is unreplaceable. It’s time for you to get out there and breathe the real air while trying to conquer your first boulder. Good luck!

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stef-zisovska is one of the authors writing for Outdoor Revival