Have you ever been driving in a rocky or mountainous area and you glance out the window and see an odd spec or two on the distant rocks? Probably not. If you did, you have my respect (in terms of eyesight) because those specs are usually hard to spot unless you are actively looking for them. Those specs are rock climbers and they are enjoying one of my favorite things to do: rock climbing (not binge watching Netflix, which is my guilty pleasure.)
Climbing is a lot of fun and can help you learn to rely on others. There are a lot of things that you are unable to see while climbing, and it really helps to get the help of another person’s perspective. Primarily, you need to learn the basics of climbing: how to set up your anchors ropes and harnesses, but there is also good form to learn as well. With roped climbs, which I highly recommend for beginners, you will need someone to belay you; they are your “safety net” and will prevent you from falling to your death. Yes, rock climbing is a dangerous sport and you are putting your life (somewhat literally) in the hands of others (if you are doing a roped climb) or yourself (if you are bouldering), but when done right with the proper safety precautions, rock climbing is not as dangerous as I or others make it out to be.
The most important thing to climbing is safety. There are certain precautions necessary to ensure a fun and safe climbing experience. Here are some of the basic needs for all the different types of roped climbing:
Roped Climbing Needs
- 12 Point System
- Trained person(s)
Mostly here it is all about the equipment. It would take too much space to explain the 12-point system, but it is really important because it teaches to not rely on only one anchor. When you fall, the force is going to be dependent on your weight and how far you fall. If you have one anchor and it fails on you, your fall will continue. However, if you have two or more anchors, and one fails, you have that extra safety value and you can then establish another anchor. No injuries, just fun times.
Harnesses are important as well. It is good to have a comfortable harness that fits well; for rock climbing, all wearable gear should be snug and tight, making sure that falling out is not a possibility. Your helmet should fit well and you should be using a climbing helmet, because a bike helmet may do the job, but you will be made fun of by the real climbers.
Your rope should be somewhat new, and it should be a rope meant specifically for climbing. Climbing ropes have some stretch to them, so if you fall, the rope provides some cushion to your fall (instead of a sudden stop.) A good rope has a certain look to it. Derek Newman, writer for Backcountry wrote about what a good rope looks like and when it is time to replace it. Check out Newman’s article here.
The most important thing to know when climbing is to go with someone who is the expert. Whether that is you, a friend, or a trained professional, be sure that the expert knows the knots fluently and is able to clearly explain all safety precautions with zero confusion. A good thing to do, is quiz the person on the 12-point system. If they know it well enough to accurately describe how to set it up, they are likely to know what to do and then you (and your friends) are set to go.
Climbing is a blast. You have a lot of fun with your friends and you get a good workout. You are challenged to reach for higher things and you can embrace failure. If you fall, it is simple to get back on the rock. There are many climbs that I have failed on and fallen on, but as I grow, I learn the proper way to make the climb and finish it. When I finally succeed after many failed efforts, the satisfying feeling of success comes over me. Climbing spots are a lot more common than you would think. A great place to start looking for climbs near you is mountainproject.com. The site is relatively easy to find routes and you can get going on your next climbing excursion. After a good day of climbing, I am exhausted and I don’t feel like doing too much. That is great because then I don’t feel bad for succumbing to a Netflix binge.