Getting Started in Rock Climbing
In order to get started in rock climbing, you first need to decide which of the three main disciplines you would like to try. The easiest to get into is bouldering. These are very short routes you climb without a rope, your protection consists of a “crash pad”–which is simply a foam pad you place under the route to protect your legs from impact with the ground. The next easiest discipline to get started in is sport climbing, this involves ropes, carabiners, and protection already drilled into the wall. Sport climbing is the type of climbing done in climbing gyms all over the world. The final, and most difficult, discipline is traditional climbing(also known as trad climbing). Trad climbing is the most complex form of climbing, and one that will be needed if you want to climb in many of the most well-known climbing areas. In trad climbing, you need to place your own protection in the rock as you climb the wall.
Joining a Class
Regardless of the discipline you choose, the easiest way to start climbing is to join an introductory course, like provided by Denver Climbing Company. We will have all the necessary gear available for free, so you can get a taste before you shell out hundreds of dollars for your own personal gear. Also we will guarantee you know the proper and safe way of doing things. If you want to boulder, the only thing needed is a pair of climbing shoes. The bouldering area of a gym will already have padding in case you fall.
Following your introductory course, your next priority should be to find a climbing partner. Ideally it will be an experienced climber willing to mentor you and double check your safety. Otherwise, someone willing to learn with you is also acceptable. Climbing is a very dangerous sport, so a trustworthy climbing partner is necessary. The overwhelming majority of climbing accidents are due to complacency, both you and your partner need to religiously check and double check every step of the climb. You are entrusting your life to the belayer; the peace of mind a regular climbing partner gives is invaluable. The climbing community is incredibly open and welcoming—it is rarely difficult to find someone willing to help a beginner. There are many great online resources, like the Denver Climbing Company Meetup Page.
As long as you are open and willing to learn, it is not difficult to get started in rock climbing. It simply requires dedication, friendliness, and a respect for the norms and ethics of the local climbing community. It is likely that either the local climbers coalition or the local gym will schedule outings to outdoor climbing areas; these will often include experienced climbers excited to introduce beginners to the joys of climbing outside.
There are a number of resources available to the beginner rock climber, John Long’s How to Rock Climb is a wonderful book to get you started. It delves into all the fundamentals of climbing, focusing primarily on safety and movement. It also includes an overview of ethics in climbing—a necessity in a time that has seen an explosion in rock climbing’s popularity. This increase in popularity has endangered many climbing areas, so a knowledge of, and respect for, the communities ethics is necessary for every new climber.