How to get Into Rock Climbing: The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide

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How to get Into Rock Climbing - The Ultimate Beginner's Guide

Are you looking for a new, exciting way to challenge yourself physically and mentally, such as how to get into rock climbing? Rock climbing might be the perfect fit for you.

This thrilling sport offers a full-body workout and a sense of freedom and adventure that’s hard to find elsewhere. By conquering new heights, you’ll experience an unparalleled sense of accomplishment and discover a whole new world of possibilities.

Don’t worry if you’ve never climbed before or if you think you need to be stronger to start. Rock climbing is an incredibly inclusive sport that welcomes people of all ages, fitness levels, and backgrounds. With the right guidance, patience, and determination, you’ll soon find yourself scaling walls and boulders like a pro.

In this article, we’ll debunk common rock climbing myths, introduce you to essential skills and equipment, and help you find your place in the amazing rock climbing community. So, let’s get started and unleash your inner adventurer!

Key Takeaways

  • Rock climbing is an inclusive sport for people of all ages, fitness levels, and backgrounds.
  • It offers a full-body workout, burns calories, and builds mental strength.
  • Rock climbing doesn’t require top physical condition, and it can be safe for beginners with proper training and equipment.
  • Different types of rock climbing include bouldering, top rope climbing, and lead climbing, each with its own challenges and rewards.
  • Mastering climbing techniques and safety measures is crucial for a successful and enjoyable climbing experience.
  • Rock climbing provides an opportunity to overcome fears, push limits, and experience a sense of freedom and adventure.


The Rising Popularity of Rock Climbing

How to get Into Rock Climbing - The Rising Popularity of Rock Climbing

It’s no secret that rock climbing’s popularity has soared recently, and there’s never been a better time to join in on the excitement! With the sport’s debut at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics, interest in climbing has spiked, leading to a surge in climbing gym memberships and gear sales.

Films like Free Solo and The Dawn Wall have also helped to bring climbing to a new, global audience, making it a popular fitness activity in cities across the U.S. This increase in popularity has resulted in new rock climbing gyms opening everywhere, making it easier than ever to get started on your climbing journey.

Why Rock Climbing?

Diving headfirst into the world of rock climbing can elevate your fitness game, as it offers many physical and mental benefits that make it an exhilarating and rewarding pursuit. Not only does climbing provide a full-body workout that leaves you feeling sore and accomplished, but it also burns a significant amount of calories, making it an effective way to stay in shape.

The mental boost you’ll experience from conquering your fears and solving problems on the wall is unmatched, leaving you eager to improve your skills and tackle new challenges.

So, why not give rock climbing a chance? Are you hesitating because you are concerned about your fitness level or safety?  Read the next section, where we debunk some common misconceptions which may be holding you back from trying this incredible sport.

Debunking Rock Climbing Myths

Two common misconceptions about rock climbing are: Only people who are in top physical condition can succeed in rock climbing, and two, rock climbing isn’t safe for beginners. 

Keep reading to explore these myths and find out the real facts.

Do  I Need to be in Top Physical Condition to Start Rock Climbing?

Rock climbing is a sport that offers many alternatives for people with different levels of physical fitness and offers the opportunity for beginners to progress as they improve their fitness and abilities.

Most people think rock climbing requires a great deal of upper body strength, but that isn’t true.  Technique and persistence play a bigger role in rock climbing success than sheer strength. In addition, lacking upper body strength can be an advantage, as it forces you to rely on your legs and core for stability and power, which is essential for efficient climbing.

Remember, indoor climbing gyms are welcoming spaces for climbers of all levels, so there’s no need to feel intimidated. Embrace the supportive community and let your passion for adventure guide you as you begin your rock climbing journey.

As you practice and develop proper climbing techniques, you’ll find that your body will naturally adapt and become stronger in the right areas. So, don’t let your current fitness level hold you back from experiencing the exhilarating freedom of scaling walls and conquering challenges.

Rock climbing offers an incredible full-body workout and a powerful way to build mental strength, problem-solving skills, and a sense of accomplishment. With a little practice, you’ll soon be eager to grow in this exciting sport.

Is Rock Climbing Safe for Beginners?

When you see photos of people scaling sheer walls and hanging from cliffs, you might be hesitant to begin because you are concerned about your safety. Read on to find out the real facts about rock climbing safety.

The good news is that rock climbing, especially in a controlled environment like a climbing gym, is generally safe for beginners. Climbing gyms meticulously maintain their equipment, and staff is trained to teach you the proper techniques and gear used to keep you safe. Additionally, modern climbing equipment is designed to be user-friendly and reliable, so you can trust in its ability to keep you secure as you explore new heights.

As you gain experience and confidence, you’ll learn how to use your safety equipment to manage the risks of outdoor climbing.

It’s essential to remember that safety in climbing is a shared responsibility between you and your fellow climbers. Being attentive to your surroundings, communicating with your climbing partners, and staying within your skill level is crucial to maintaining a safe environment.

As you venture into the exciting world of climbing, always prioritize safety and make it a part of your climbing journey. By doing so, you’ll be able to enjoy the freedom and exhilaration of conquering new heights while minimizing risks.

Getting Started with Rock Climbing

Ready to start your rock climbing journey?  You have probably heard about some of the different rock climbing options.  First, you may wonder whether to begin indoors or outdoors. Also, you may have heard about bouldering, top rope climbing, and other climbing disciplines and wondered which is right for you. 

In this section, we’ll help you understand the different types of rock climbing and guide you in choosing the best starting point for your unique journey. 

Indoor vs. Outdoor Climbing: Where to Start?

Is it better to begin your rock climbing indoors or outdoors? Both options offer unique experiences and challenges. Starting with indoor climbing allows you to build strength and learn basic techniques in a controlled environment, while outdoor climbing provides a more natural experience that tests your endurance and adaptability.

Consider the following aspects of each:

Indoor Climbing:

  • Focuses on strength and technique
  • Takes place in a safer and more controlled environment
  • Most gyms offer a variety of climbing routes and challenges for improving your skills.
  • Most gyms offer classes, training programs, and even competitions suitable to your skill level.
  • Many opportunities to meet fellow climbers for friendship and support
  • Local gyms provide easy access and are available after dark.

Outdoor Climbing:

  • Emphasizes endurance and mental focus
  • Climbers are exposed to natural elements and landscapes
  • Requires more technical knowledge and self-reliance
  • Provides a greater sense of freedom and adventure

Ultimately, choosing indoor and outdoor climbing depends on your preferences and goals. Mixing both can help you develop a well-rounded skill set and provide the best overall experience. 

However, rock climbing isn’t a single sport, it includes a number of disciplines, and you probably wonder which is best for you.  Read on to explore some of the most popular types of rock climbing.

Different Types of Rock Climbing

Ready to embark on an exhilarating journey into the world of rock climbing? Let’s consider the unique challenges and rewards of four of the most popular rock climbing styles:  bouldering, top rope climbing, and lead climbing.

So, buckle up and discover which style suits you best as you begin this thrilling adventure!


What is bouldering? Bouldering is rock climbing stripped down to its raw essentials. 

The challenge in bouldering is to climb a short but tricky bouldering “problem” (a route or sequence of moves) using balance, technique, strength, and mental focus.  Bouldering doesn’t require ropes or harnesses.  The climber only needs a good pair of climbing shoes, a helmet, a bag of chalk, and a safety mat.

Bouldering is a fantastic way to build strength, technique, and confidence by climbing short routes without the need for a lot of gear or height.

Bouldering can be done indoors or outdoors, giving you the freedom to climb whenever and wherever the urge strikes. Plus, it’s a fantastic way to meet and connect with other climbers, creating a sense of community and camaraderie.

As you continue to conquer those boulders, you may find yourself itching to take on higher challenges, and that’s where top rope climbing comes into play.

Top Rope Climbing

Top rope climbing (or top roping) is a type of rock climbing that requires two people.  The first person is the climber.  The climber is securely attached to a rope that runs through a fixed anchor at the top of the climbing route and back down to the second person (called the “belayer” or “second”), who stands at the base of the climb and controls the climbing rope. If the climber slips, they will hang from the rope at the point of the fall. They can then either resume their climb or have the belayer lower them down in a controlled manner to the base of the climb.

Top roping is one of the relatively safest forms of rock climbing and is used by most beginners and novices of the sport. 

With a secure rope system anchoring you from above, you’ll be able to push your limits and conquer more challenging routes. To get started, find a local climbing gym or outdoor area offering top rope routes, and have a certified belayer by your side. This trusty partner will manage the rope, ensuring your safety as you ascend.

As you gain confidence in your skills, you’ll discover the exhilarating feeling of reaching new heights while defying gravity. Don’t forget to celebrate your progress and enjoy the freedom of conquering the vertical world!

After you’ve experienced the thrill of top rope climbing, you may be ready to take on even more exciting challenges – welcome to the realm of lead climbing.

Lead Climbing

How to get Into Rock Climbing - Lead Climbing

Lead climbing (or leading) also requires two climbers. The lead climber clips their rope to the climbing protection as they ascend the climbing route, while the second climber follows, belayed by the lead.  

There are two types of lead climbing, sport climbing, and traditional climbing.

Sport climbing uses preset anchors for climbers to clip onto. By contrast, in traditional climbing (“trad” climbing), the lead climber builds secure anchors during the ascent, then belays the second climber to the next anchor.  The second climber is responsible for carefully removing each anchor as they ascend.

Setting secure anchors is an essential skill for lead climbing on a trad route, and it requires more advanced training and a deeper understanding of climbing techniques. The lead climber must be proficient and comfortable with placing trad gear, clipping quickdraws, lead belaying, and building and cleaning anchors. As a beginner, concentrate on learning the necessary climbing skills. You won’t be ready to lead a climb until you gain extensive experience with the additional skills this critical position requires.

The freedom and exhilaration of conquering a challenging route will make your hard work and dedication all the more rewarding. Successful rock climbing requires the right gear to ensure your comfort and safety.  Read on to find out what gear you will need for your rock climbing adventures!

Essential Rock Climbing Equipment

Ready to take your rock climbing journey to the next level? It’s time to get familiar with the essential equipment you’ll need to conquer those indoor and outdoor climbs and bouldering challenges.

Gear for Indoor Climbing

Although indoor climbing requires less gear than outdoor climbing, you will need to buy or rent the following gear for your indoor climbing kit:

  • Climbing shoes that fit snugly but comfortably, ensuring your feet have the support and grip they need.
  • A comfortable and adjustable harness that will securely hold you during your ascents.
  • Chalk and a chalk bag are crucial for keeping your hands dry and maintaining a strong grip on the holds.

Finally, while not mandatory, consider getting a belay device and a locking carabiner if you plan on belaying others or taking climbing classes.

Now that you’re equipped for indoor climbing, let’s explore the gear you’ll need to transition into the great outdoors.

Gear for Outdoor Climbing

Embracing the wild, natural world of outdoor climbing requires courage and the right gear – it’s time to expand your arsenal and conquer those towering crags.

Before you venture out, make sure you have these essential items in your collection:

Climbing rope: Mammut 9.5 Crag Dry is a top pick for its dry treatment and middle mark, ensuring durability and ease of use.

A Helmet: Black Diamond Vision and Petzl Sirocco are popular choices for their balance between protection and lightweight design.

Chalk and a chalk bag: Chalk options are fine-grain, chalk balls, and blocks. Choose a chalk bag that is comfortable and easy to access with features such as a waist belt, closure system, storage pocket, and toothbrush holder.

Protection gear: Black Diamond Camalot cams and DMM Alloy Offset nuts offer versatile and reliable protection for various types of rock placements.

Quickdraws which consist of two carabiners connected by a semi-rigid material, allow the climbing rope to run freely through protection such as bolt anchors or other trad gear.  

A Personal Anchoring system (PAS) is a good option for new climbers who aren’t experienced at tying knots. A PAS consists of a chain of sewn slings similar to linked quickdraws. The advantages of using these belay systems are that they offer various options for clipping on and make belaying easier. The major drawback to a PAS is the increased cost.  If you want to try this option, we recommend the well-made Petzl Spirit Express.

A quality backpack like the Black Diamond Creek 50 to carry all your gear to the crag.

If you will need to hike into the climbing route, you will also need a comfortable pair of approach shoes, like the La Sportiva TX4, for comfortable hiking on the way to your climb.

As you continue to explore the world of outdoor climbing, you’ll soon find yourself wanting to tackle even more challenges, like bouldering, which requires its own set of specific gear.

Gear for Bouldering

If you want to try conquering boulders, you’ll need to include the following additional bouldering essentials:

  • A crash pad (a foam pad used for safety in case you fall) is a must-have protection for bouldering. Regular pads are lighter and easier to transport. However, large pads offer a bigger landing area. You can choose either a “taco-style” pad, which provides continuous padding but doesn’t conform well to uneven terrain, or a hinge-style pad that folds easily and has longer-lasting foam.
  • Quality climbing shoes for bouldering with a snug fit and slightly curled toes. Beginners should opt for flat or slightly downturned shoes and consider closure types such as laces, hook-and-loop, or slipper styles. Synthetic materials offer the best performance, albeit at the cost of comfort.

Essential Rock Climbing Skills for Beginners

As you embark on your rock climbing journey, it’s crucial to master essential skills for a safe and enjoyable experience. 

You need to learn the following:

1. How to choose a route that is suitable for your abilities

2. Essential climbing techniques and moves

3. Safety measures and precautions.

Choosing Outdoor Climbing Routes for Your Ability Level.

This table provides a step-by-step guide to choosing outdoor climbing routes based on your ability level.

Steps in Choosing Outdoor Climbing RoutesDescription
Research Local AreasBegin by researching local climbing areas, seeking out experienced climbers for advice.
Invest in GearInvest in the appropriate gear for outdoor climbing.
Understand the Climbing Grading SystemLearn the grading system used at your proposed destination to assess the challenges of available routes.
Understand SubjectivityKeep in mind that ratings can be subjective depending on factors such as rock type, route length, weather conditions, and style of climbing.
Focus on Personal ImprovementDon’t compare yourself to others; instead, focus on your own improvement and personal achievements.
Enjoy the Freedom that Climbing OffersWith a solid understanding of climbing grades and difficulty levels, you’ll be better equipped to take on new challenges and enjoy the freedom that rock climbing has to offer.

Climbing Techniques and Moves

Mastering climbing techniques and moves is essential, and as the saying goes, “practice makes perfect,” so don’t be afraid to challenge yourself and learn from each climb.

Begin by focusing on using your legs and core, as they’re much stronger than your arms. Aim to generate movement from your lower body. 

Here are some of the special techniques you should learn and practice until you can perform them smoothly before you begin to climb:  

  • Jamming- means inserting your hands, feet, or limbs into a crack and expanding or torquing them to create a secure hold.
  • Edging is exactly what it sounds like. You step on a hold with the rubber on the edge of your shoe. You can use the inside edge, where your big toe offers stability on smaller holds, or you can use the outside edge. Your choice depends on the direction you need to move in order to get on or off the hold.
  • Smearing– is used when you don’t have an actual foothold, so you rely on your shoe’s rubber for friction against the rock. Smearing is especially useful in slab climbing when you’re on a low-angle rock without many defined footholds.
  • Palming- is the hand version of smearing. You push against the rock with an open palm and your fingers pointing downward. When no good handholds are available, use palming to maintain balance while you reposition your feet.
  • Flagging- a technique for counterbalancing by using a limb to shift your weight. The goal is to keep from swinging away from the rock. Flagging is advantageous when you’re using holds on the same side of your body. Because that stacks all your weight to one side, you swing that leg out to the other side of your body to keep yourself in balance.
  • A back step is the opposite of a normal step. Instead of stepping on a hold with your big toe and your hips squared to the wall, you turn your hip to the side and step with your shoe’s outside edge (little-toe side).
  • A drop knee is a more extreme back step. It works best when you have a foothold near hip level. Step onto it with the tip of your toe; then roll your knee in until the outside of your shoe rests on the hold and your knee actually points down.
  • Lay-backing– is when you pull and lean off one side of a flake or a crack and push your feet against the other side. When you have good footholds, laybacks are very efficient because your arms are straight and your feet do the hard work.  You can use a lay-back any time you’re in a crack and jamming isn’t an option, or you’ve got an opposing wall to push off against, like in a dihedral crack.
  • Stemming- means pushing against two opposing surfaces. This could be in a chimney, a corner, or a flat wall with a big, protruding feature. You can stem using any combination of hands and feet, but the key is using counterpressure to stay balanced. This relies on your big leg muscles, so it’s an extremely efficient way to climb
  • Mantling- is when you push down on a hold and bring your feet up to meet your hands. A classic example of mantling is at the top of a climb when you need to pull yourself onto the ledge.

Remember that good climbing technique involves performing the easiest possible movement, so try to reach and twist your hips into the wall and perform moves with straight arms whenever possible.

Embrace the freedom of exploring different holds and learning the proper way to grip them to maximize your climbing potential.

As you progress and gain confidence, incorporate more advanced moves to further expand your climbing repertoire. Keep in mind that some advanced moves can cause injuries if not executed properly, so take the time to learn the correct techniques and body positioning.

Don’t forget to also practice your footwork, utilizing edges and smears to maintain balance and take the weight off your arms. And remember, every climber’s journey is unique, so enjoy the process of discovering your own climbing style and pushing your personal boundaries.

Now that you’re building your technique and confidence, it’s crucial to familiarize yourself with safety measures and precautions to ensure you can enjoy the exhilarating world of rock climbing without compromising your well-being.

Safety Measures and Precautions

How to get Into Rock Climbing - Safety Measures and Precautions

It’s vital to prioritize safety measures and precautions in your climbing journey, ensuring you’re well-equipped to tackle challenges without risking your well-being. Always remember that redundancy is key, and most accidents occur due to climber error, so take the time to double-check your gear and stay focused on the task at hand.

Surround yourself with experienced mentors or guides who can teach you how to climb safely and effectively. Additionally, wearing a helmet, using a long enough climbing rope, and paying close attention when belaying are non-negotiable practices that can save your life on the rocks.

1. Check your gear: Inspect your harness, knots, and rope before each climb to ensure everything is securely fastened.

2. Wear a helmet: Protect your head from falling rocks and potential impact by wearing a climbing helmet.

3. Use proper belay technique: Keep the rope over your leg to prevent flipping upside down during a fall and maintain communication with your climbing partner.

4. Select and place safe anchors: Use at least two, preferably three, anchors and always secure them with locking carabiners.

As you grow more confident in your climbing abilities and safety measures, it’s essential to understand climbing grades and difficulty levels to progress effectively and avoid taking on more than you can handle.

Frequently Asked Questions about Rock Climbing

So, you’re curious about rock climbing and have some burning questions. 

Don’t worry, we’re here to guide you through these common inquiries, providing you with the knowledge and motivation you need on your journey to becoming a rock climber.

How do I start rock climbing without a gym?

Now that you have a basic understanding of how to get started in rock climbing, you might wonder how to begin without access to a climbing gym. No worries, there are still plenty of ways to dive into rock climbing without stepping foot in a gym.

The great outdoors offers a boundless playground to explore and find freedom on the rocks. To start rock climbing outdoors, first look for local crags, bouldering spots, or climbing areas in your region. Reach out to the local climbing community through social media groups, online forums, or by visiting outdoor gear shops for recommendations on beginner-friendly locations.

To learn proper technique and build your confidence, consider joining a beginner-friendly climbing course, hiring a guide, or partnering with an experienced climber who can mentor you. This way, you’ll build a solid foundation of skills and knowledge while enjoying the freedom of the outdoors.

Can I start rock climbing at 30 or 40?

How to get Into Rock Climbing - Can I start rock climbing at 30 or 40

Absolutely, as long as you are physically fit,  you can begin your climbing journey at any age. In fact, starting at 30 or even 40 can still allow you to become a proficient climber by beginning with easier routes accessible for any age and almost any fitness level.

The more you practice climbing, the more you will boost your confidence and self-esteem as you become comfortable with this new sport. 

How can I overcome my fear of heights?

You’re not alone in facing fears as a climber, but overcoming them is essential to unlocking your full potential and truly enjoying the sport.

It’s crucial to distinguish between rational and irrational fears and build confidence in your abilities and trust in your climbing partners.

Remember, fear should never hold you back from the mental challenges of climbing. With time, patience, and persistence, you can seize the power your fears have taken from you and show your true potential.

  • Recognize when fears are practical and when they are irrational
  • Gain confidence in your abilities and learn to fall properly
  • Trust your climbing partners and communicate effectively
  • Embrace the mental challenges of climbing, and don’t let fear paralyze you

As you conquer your fears and grow as a climber, you’ll begin to experience the camaraderie and support the rock climbing community offers.

Can I get in shape just by rock climbing?

How to get Into Rock Climbing - Can I get in shape just by rock climbing

You’ll be amazed at how effectively bouldering and climbing alone can transform your body, building strength, endurance, and flexibility, all while fueling your passion for adventure. These activities work out a variety of muscles, from your forearms and legs to your core and back, providing a balanced and athletic physique.

Not only do they help burn fat and build muscles, but they’re also beneficial for individuals with diabetes or blood pressure issues. Plus, climbing and bouldering are more enjoyable and engaging than traditional gym workouts, making maintaining your health and quality of life easier.

However, it’s essential to be mindful of muscle imbalances if you rely solely on climbing and bouldering for your fitness regimen. To prevent issues like overdeveloped biceps and underdeveloped triceps, incorporate non-climbing exercises into your routine and dedicate specific days to balancing your muscle development.

What is the best training and conditioning to prepare for rock climbing?

Preparation for successful rock climbing requires training and conditioning. Start by building a solid base by prioritizing volume over difficulty during your first few months of climbing. Incorporate gym sessions focused on on-route endurance, bouldering volume, top rope volume, top rope intensity endurance, and bouldering intensity endurance. 

Remember to include stretching, core workouts, and conditioning exercises specifically designed for climbing. Prioritize injury prevention by incorporating warm-up and warm-down routines, training your antagonist muscles.

Rest and recovery are just as important as your workouts, so give your body 48 to 72 hours to recuperate after each session.

Be patient with yourself, as tendon and connective tissue strength takes time to develop, and set realistic goals to keep yourself motivated. With consistent effort and a balanced approach to training, you’ll be well on your way to achieving your climbing aspirations.

Grab your gear and get started rock climbing!

Embracing the thrilling world of rock climbing is an exciting journey that’ll challenge you physically and mentally while introducing you to a supportive and adventurous community. With the right approach and mindset, you can transform your life by conquering various climbing routes, building strength, and gaining confidence as you progress.

Remember, getting into rock climbing is not just about scaling heights; it’s about exploring your limits, overcoming fears, and experiencing the ultimate sense of freedom. So, don’t hesitate to take the first step and immerse yourself in this incredible sport. 

As you embark on this journey, you’ll discover new worlds, meet inspiring people, and master skills that’ll empower you in every aspect of your life. The rock climbing adventure awaits you – go ahead and embrace the exhilarating escape it offers.

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We are a team of passionate climbers devoted to sharing our love of rock climbing with others. Our aim is to promote a supportive community of climbers and provide tips, gear reviews, and training programs to enhance your climbing experiences. Join us as we seek new adventures, share new experiences, and inspire others to reach new heights.

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