AM I READY? TOP FAQ'S ON HOW TO START CLIMBING OUTSIDE
“Let’s head to Seneca!”...or Red River Gorge or Yosemite...if this text pops up on your phone and your heart starts to race, you know you’re ready to take your skills outside.
Immediately your Google search is filled with everything from Big Bros to quad anchors, but making the transition to outdoor climbing is more than learning about the shiny new gear, it also requires an evaluation of your skillset. Here at Earth Treks, we have so many members interested in outdoor climbing that we’ve compiled a list of FAQ’s just for you!
DO I NEED TO CLIMB AT A CERTAIN GRADE TO BE "QUALIFIED" FOR OUTDOOR CLIMBING?
Fear not! Climbers of EVERY level will be able to find something outside that will be fun and challenging.
WHERE DO I START?
Staying safe outside presents its own challenges and factors that may be foreign to you. It is vital to respect the risks that are unique to climbing outdoors, but exploring our closest crags to get yourself comfortable on real rock is a great way to be even more involved in the climbing world!
DO I NEED TO KNOW SAFETY SYSTEMS? (i.e. anchoring and rope systems)
Yes! But don't worry - here at the gym, we are literally surrounded by people with tons of expertise and the desire to share it - all you need to do is reach out! We have an outdoor school that offers classes in Virginia and Maryland, a plethora of videos (AMGA videos are super informative) and great blogs like this one from our friends at the American Alpine Club.
IS THERE DIFFERENT ETIQUETTE?
Actually, it’s not much different than in the gym (or your grandma's house). Leave the place cleaner than when you arrived, respect those around you, do your research and be prepared. Our friends over at Friction Labs sum it up nicely here.
WHAT DRAWS PEOPLE TO THE OUTDOORS?
One of my favorite things about rock and gym climbing is the ability to climb completely on your own terms. Climbers in World Cup competitions, dirtbaggers who travel the world looking for fresh rock, old-school mountaineers, gym climbers who are looking for a novel way to get in shape… these are just a few the ways in which people connect with the climbing world. As a person who started out as a gym climber, I’ve found that climbing outside has made me stronger inside; I am so much more comfortable understanding how my body moves when I can’t just reach for the next brightly colored hold! Something about needing to read a route for myself put me in a mindset of thinking like a climber. I found myself getting mentally AND physically challenged on harder climbs.
WAIT...“READ ROUTES”? HOW DOES THAT WORK?
Yes, as I mentioned, there are no brightly color holds in the great outdoors. Get familiar with the crag you are visiting by reading up on the area and the specific routes you plan to climb. This will help you determine what to wear (is the crag shady or sunny?), what shoes to bring, what gear you need and a ton of other very important information. Check out the local guide book or Mountain Project.
HOW DOES INDOOR CLIMBING HELP PREPARE ME?
The many categories of climbers have one thing in common: the movements we make are inspired by real rock. At Earth Treks, expertly creative routesetters present us with different movements and styles and keep gym climbing interesting and fun. Outside, geology has given us infinite formations and multiple lifetimes worth of climbing.
At the end of the day, remember to focus on the FUN. Why are we doing this if not to enjoy ourselves? Take advantage of the resources around you, and get outside to feel like a part of something much bigger than you or me.
Ali Bullock is a team member at Earth Treks Rockville and an outdoor school instructor. She has been climbing and sharing her passion for climbing at Earth Treks for 5 years.