Rock-Climbing Basics

Home & Family, Outdoors
on February 6, 2012

Because falling off rocky ledges and mountains hurts, it's a good idea to understand the basics of rock climbing before heading to the hills for a day of fun.

Basic equipment. The folks at understand the outdoors and outdoor equipment, including rock-climbing equipment. Most equipment can be rented.

  • Shoes — You obviously planned on wearing shoes, but if you grabbed the pair in the garage used for lawn-mowing, you might be in for a long day, or worse, a long fall. Wear shoes especially designed for climbing — cleverly named climbing shoes. Climbing shoes have a sticky rubber sole to help you with traction.
  • Harness — Your life will depend on your harness, so make sure you get one that fits properly. Buying a harness is an excellent time to consult an expert.
  • Climbing rope — Unless you're Spiderman, you'll need a rope to get up the side of rocks (even Spidey needs a web). That piece of twine next to the toolbox in the back of your pickup won't suffice. The expert who helped you with the harness will help you with the rope.
  • Additional gear — Other essential equipment includes slings, quickdraws, carabiners, a chalk bag, chalk and a helmet. These can be found at major sporting goods outlets.

Basic skills. Rock-climbing probably isn't the sport you want to try if you haven't been off the couch for more than an hour straight over the past decade. It requires a basic level of physical fitness. Physical fitness is just the beginning. You'll need to work on specific skills.

  • Not falling — This is the most critical skill involved in rock climbing and should never be overlooked. Not falling is best accomplished by familiarizing yourself with basic gear and testing equipment before starting. Beginners should always be accompanied by an experienced climber.
  • Foot techniques — Rock-Climbing 101 describes different foot techniques depending on the situation. These include edging, backstepping, smearing, heal hook, toe hook and flagging.
  • Hand techniques — Hand techniques include the open hand grip, the crimp, the jug, pinch, side pull, sloper and undercling. The hold you use depends on the situation.
  • Having fun — Rock-climbing is strenuous and enjoyable. Always remember it's a lot easier to have fun when you don't plummet to your death.

So what are you waiting for? Get out and start climbing.