Beginning climbing

3:14 a.m. on July 4, 2007 (EDT)

I've always been interested in climbing, but never known how to get started. Can anyone give me any pointers? I live in Maple Ridge B.C.

9:34 a.m. on July 4, 2007 (EDT)
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There is a climbing gym in Maple Ridge. Its called Rockwall climbing gym Inc. Give them a call. They have classes just for what you are looking for. They have some climbing comps there also that you can go and check out. You can also network with the climbers there to find out where the outdoor crags are and you can hang out there making friends and perhaps find a mentor. There are also some great books that you can gain some knowledge from. Freedom of the hills, On Rope 1, John Longs climbing anchors.

You would want to make sure that the person that you learn from is trusted with the proper knowledge, skills and experiance. Ask questions, read books on "how to rock climb", practice your knots, practice your climbing in a safe and trusted enviroment. As in any sport, just by hanging out with the athletes and networking, you will begin to start easing into your new sport and you will grow with confindence, skill, abilities and knowledge.

DO NOT go buy a rope and harness and just go out and start climbing on your own. Climbing is actually a safe sport as far as sports go. Where people usually get hurt in climbing is that they exceed thier abilities and training.

2:48 p.m. on July 4, 2007 (EDT)
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FMD makes very good points. When I wanted to learn mountaineering, I took a basic class. Many companies offer them and I bet you can find some in the Vancouver area. I'd do a Yahoo search and see what comes up. However, like FMD said, don't just buy some gear and go out with friends-get some real instruction.

I used to teach scuba diving-lessons were mandatory to get certified so you could buy air. With climbing, you don't have that "gatekeeper" so you could just buy whatever you want and have a go at it, but I definitely wouldn't recommend it-too easy to get hurt.

4:46 p.m. on July 4, 2007 (EDT)
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Tom D said:

I used to teach scuba diving-lessons were mandatory to get certified so you could buy air. With climbing, you don't have that "gatekeeper" so you could just buy whatever you want and have a go at it, but I definitely wouldn't recommend it-too easy to get hurt.

TOM D I am also a SCUBA instructor with the YMCA and I often thought about certifications with climbing. I wonder how hard it would be to set up a training guideline to become "certified" in order to go buy climbing gear or to climb in a Nat'l or State park. If you remember back in the 80s when OSHA wanted to regulate the SCUBA industry, all of the training organizations got together and created a protocal for OW training and it works very well today and it kept the OSHA agency away from regulating the SCUBA industry. Why not mirror something along those guidelines from say the AMGA TRSM courses. Just some thoughts.

10:35 p.m. on July 4, 2007 (EDT)
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A big problem with the concept "certification for climbing" concept is that it's contradictory to both the history and the basic ethos of the sport. Most climbers respond quite rudely to even the barest suggestion of such regulation, preferring the present system, in which a blend of self-reliance, mutual support and community-based norms to establish what little structure the sport posesses.

I'm way too new a climber (only 10 years or so) to have personal knowledge of it, but apparently the Appalachian Mountain Club did attempt to impose a certification system at one time. It was vigorously rejected (in some cases literally pissed on, if the tales are true) by the freer spirits in the climbing community, personified in the "vulgarians" group that centered around the Gunks in NY.

10:38 p.m. on July 4, 2007 (EDT)
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Gah! Many grammar and diction erros in my previous post. How come I can't edit it?

1:23 a.m. on July 5, 2007 (EDT)

Thanks for the help guys.

And life is already full of too many rules and regulations. People have to deal with that kind of thing all day in their everyday life, don't extend it to their passions and recreations.

2:55 a.m. on July 5, 2007 (EDT)
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Sorry to derail your thread.

On the subject of starting out, I'll chime in with others on checking out your local gym. I did exactly that purely out of curiousity while rehabbing an injury from a different sport, immediately switched over and haven't looked back.

I was in Japan, with no easy access to partners or mentors, so after my first taste I continued with an intro. class in the gym, then proceeded to outdoor classes with a paid instructor while studying the available "how-to" liturature. I then did a couple of bigger trips with paid guides and eventually developed the skills and confidence to climb independently at my home crags around Tokyo and also overseas. If you're like I was, with limited free time and little access to mentoring, it is possible to pay your way through the initial learning phases with pretty good success.

If you have the time, taking an intro. class at the gym and then seeking out a mentor is a cheaper way to go, although finding a mentor may not be easy. You need someone who is safe, experienced and willing to teach, who will push you appropriately but also reign you in if necessary.

I read a good post once on finding a mentor, but can't remember where. The tips included something like these (probably among others I've forgotten):

(i) Never be late or, worse, fail to show up;
(ii) Do your share in handling to-the-crags logistics (driving, planning, whatever);
(iii) Carry more than your share of the gear;
(iv) learn to be a quality belayer; and
(v) pay for more than your share of the beer.

Have fun. I fell in love with climbing ten years ago, and it ain't wore off yet!

9:20 p.m. on July 5, 2007 (EDT)
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I won't repeat my history of learning to climb. That's because, after over 50 years of trying, I'm still trying to learn. And that's despite having some excellent mentors and examples, including some of the Famous Gods of Climbing (note I didn't say "Rich and Famous" - the word "Rich" does not apply to real climbers - except for ones named "Richard", "Rick", "Rich", "Dick", "Ricardo", Ricky", and similar variations).

But I will make a couple comments on the "certification" question. There have been numerous attempts to "certify" climbers. Back in the 1960s and 1970s, the National Park Service had a "Qualified Leader" list (which I was on). If you wanted to climb in a National Park, you had to register, and at least one member of the party had to be a Qualified Leader. Except that hardly anyone registered - standard dirtbag climber attitude, namely, climbers are anarchists at heart ("Rules? We don't need no stinkin' Rules!"). Even earlier than that, there were registration requirements. Some climbing clubs had (and some still have) requirements of demonstration of skills before you could be a full member of the club. When I was a lad of 17 or 18, I wanted to join the Sierra Club's Angeles Chapter's Rock Climbing Section. To do so, you had to pass a test, including a demonstration of your dynamic belaying skills (remember, there were no belay devices back then, and some people were still using the standing shoulder belay, though some of us were taught the seated hip belay as being preferable). The test consisted of getting ready to belay (including anchoring in - you tied into the rope with a single wrap of the laid nylon or goldline around your waist, secured by a bowline, perhaps backed up). The bucket (a roughly 5 gallon bucket filled with concrete) was hoisted 20 feet up and you were allowed 3 or 4 feet of slack. The bucket was dropped, with the belayer yanked into the air, trying to let the rope run and gradually brought to a stop without the bucket hitting the ground. There were various knots to demonstrate, and so on. In the years after I moved from Southern California, the section leaders apparently made the test a lot more formal and rigid. There was a hilarious article by John Long about his taking the test sometime between 1970 and 1975. He and his buds decided to go off on their own (standard climber reaction - "We don't need no stinking club!").

When David Brower and his companions (yes, THAT David Brower) set out to scale Shiprock, they had to get special dispensation from the Navajo Nation (except that there were some politics involved, with one group granting permission and another denying it). Same thing when Devil's Crag was first ascended. Same thing in the early 60s when my math TA Dave Rearick and Bob Kamps wanted to put up the first route on the Diamond (they managed to wangle permission, acing out the local Colorado climbers).

In Europe, there were areas in the Alps where the local guide bureaus required climbers to be accompanied by one of the certified guides ("certified" meant they belonged to the local guides' guild). Even today, there are parts of the world where you must hire a local guide to do a climb. But that does not seem to have lessened the accident rate.

Luckily, climbing is scary enough for most people that they seek out skilled mentors, usually friends, or someone they met while hanging out in Camp 4 (Yosemite), or the AAC Climber's Ranch (Tetons), or maybe going to a climbing intro course run by a climbing club (Seattle Mountaineers, Mazamas, Appalachian Mountain Club), a climbing store or gym, or a professional guide service (some guide services, like Yosemite Climbing School and American Alpine Institute in Bellingham, WA, do a major part of their business in teaching climbing).

So, yes, regulating climbing has been tried. Sometimes people get arrested and have to pay fines, but mostly, the number of climbers just ignoring the regulations and going climbing leads to the authorities just giving up, and maybe climbers self-regulating through peer pressure ("We don't need no stinking Formal Rules! But violate local custom, and we will chop your bolts!")

10:07 p.m. on July 5, 2007 (EDT)
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The Alpine Club of Canada is probably the best of its kind.

10:51 p.m. on July 5, 2007 (EDT)
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Nice Socks.
I'm a hiker and a very very beginer climber. I always wanted to try glacier climbing. not sure what kind of climbing you want to learn? So last year I signed up for a six day mountaineering class with Rainier Mountaineering and had a blast! and learned a lot! Well, I learned enough to know I know nothing, but it was a great expirience and I got to climb rainier and practice crevasse rescue all in the same trip! I lived in Bellingham Washington for a while and they had a school there called American Alpine Institute. They might be worth a try! I'm going on a trip with them later this month I'll let you all know how it goes. Happy hiking/climbing

11:11 p.m. on July 11, 2007 (EDT)

look and see if there is an explorer post in your area i belong to one and they are always looking for new adults to join and get involved they will teach you to climb and you can help young people to epierence more climbing

7:11 p.m. on July 12, 2007 (EDT)
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FMD, I was an NASDS instructor in Hawaii and later crossed over to PADI. Bill has a good point. The big difference is really one of legal liability. A shop who rents gear to an uncertified diver, even one who has the training and skills, but no C Card, risks being sued if the diver has an accident. They stop this from happening by refusing to fill air tanks. Even if you have the gear, with no air, you aren't diving, at least not without an instructor. There are obviously ways around this. My neighbor bought a small compressor that sat on my deck. We didn't need to go to a shop for anything, unless we were buying a new piece of gear. We had it all-a bunch of tanks, compressor, a couple of sets of gear. We would load the compressor on his boat on occasion and head for Maui. There was no one to stop us from doing anything we wanted, except our own common sense.

Climbing is like that. I can go into REI or A16 and buy enough gear to climb anywhere. Whether I can do it or not is another story. The liability issue is different. Should it be? Probably not. As Dirty Harry said "A man should know his limitations." But it is. The danger of diving is perceived, rightly or wrongly to be greater than climbing. I'm not sure that is the case, but I think the perception is there, so the certifying organizations, and no doubt insurers have agreed that "no card, no air" is the best policy.

Trying to stop people from buying ropes, biners, chocks, etc. just isn't practical. As long as you are on your own and the manufacturers are free from liability in general (there will always be product liability suits if a piece fails), people will climb without the right skills and get hurt.

7:46 a.m. on July 13, 2007 (EDT)
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Tom D.

Sounds like you been around diving for a while. If you remember back in the 1980's, OSHA wanted to regulate the recreational diving community. The larger angencies got together and formed the RSTC and got ANSI invovled using Z375 to make a standard training protocal for all OW divers agencies and the diving community became self regulating for themselfs and OSHA backed away from created standards for the recreational divers. I was raised in Fort Lauderdale Fla. and I was never asked for a C-card for buying air back before the mid 1980's. However once I moved to Hawaii in the late 1980s, I was asked for a C-card to buy a regualtor, BC, tanks, air or to do a boat dive. This is because of the RSTC recommended practices. Basically all of the training agencies has a training standard on how they train thier OW divers according to the RSTC (ANSI) rules. Once you reach the divemaster and above levels the standards will change more from agency to agency due to the fact that the RSTC was created to keep accidents down with beginner divers to keep OSHA from regulating the recreational diving agnecies. Interesting enough, NAUI was one of the last ones to conform to the RSTC rules. I forget the details, but it was something with how they trained the US astronauts (underwater training).

Where my thought process came from is that I recently took a TRSM course with Adam Fox and I was thinking that the AMGA is in place with standards and protocals already. Why not be proactive and set in place training guidelines for climbing in state and Nat'l parks and with buy climbing gear? I dare not mention this at a climbing crag for I will more than likely get beat tar pitted by the the local climbers for even whispering this. The Nat'l parks and many state parks are already enacting training mandates with with guiding services now. The SCUBA industry didnt like the RSTC (NAUI fought it for years)when it first came out but it is now been in place for so long, its a normal and not thought about much standard. So why wait for a goverment agency to enact thier rules and just be proactive as a climbng community.

You mentioned that SCUBA is a dangerous sport, but more people are hurt in activities such as football and bowling (people drinking and bowling is the reason) than in diving. I am not sure what the stats are for climbing, but I would venture to guess that climbing has a higher injury and fatality rate per capita than that of diving.

I was just wondering what some peoples feelings are on enacting training protocals in the climbing community. Again, I wouldnt dare mention it face to face at a local climbing crag. Its a little safer on a forum to bring it up. :}

12:59 p.m. on July 13, 2007 (EDT)
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Every so often I get the national statistics on various sports from a relative who is in the insurance business. The highest accident rate and fatality rate are in high school football. Climbing ranks way down the list, but the accidents garner lots of publicity nationally, where the high school football incidents mostly get reported locally. Scuba is quite a bit higher on the lists than climbing. I don't have the 2006 report in front of me, so I don't have the exact numbers. Remember that "rate" is in terms of "participant-hours". And yes, you can argue all day about how "participant-hours" are measured and the reporting of accidents. But this ranking has been pretty consistent over the 30+ years I have been scanning the insurance industry results.

A telling statistic is that insurance companies ask about participation in various activities. Scuba is on the list, but climbing (neither rock climbing, ice climbing, or low-altitude mountaineering) is not, although high-altitude mountaineering is (defined as over 18,000 ft). Flying your own plane is, depending on hours and rating.

If you look back through Accidents in North American Mountaineering, you will find from time to time a comparison of the statistics for various sports. Climbing itself always ranked low. One year way back they even looked at climbers involved in car accidents on the way to and from climbing areas (scary! you don't want to drive home immediately after getting off the crags). One thing showing up in recent years is the number of "elite" climbers getting injured and killed is higher than lesser climbers. The conjecture is overconfidence, hubris, or something along those lines, since many of those have involved not checking some piece of gear. Statistically, this is a small fraction of the climbing community, but a very visible part. Similar thing shows up for elite backcountry skiers getting caught in avalanches, sort of an "I know this slope and have skied it many times."

2:45 p.m. on July 13, 2007 (EDT)
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On the life insurance aspect, last year when I applied there was the following question:

Has any person to be insured participated in any of the following activities in the past 3 years or does any person to be insured plan to do so in the next year?


Then you were supposed to give details about how often, how high, and so on. Mountain climbing had some sort of general "off-trail" definition that was open to interpretation (I read it as meaning high altitude). It didn't ask about ice climbing though...

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