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If I'm just getting into Climbing...

3:10 p.m. on January 20, 2008 (EST)
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Hey, a couple of buddies and I are starting doing some beginning climbing, and wanted some ideas on where to start, more of a "wish I would've done that" list. Websites, tips, ideas, anything to help us get started. Found a gym in town that a lot of more experienced peeps climb at, but haven't really started going a whole lot; mainly there's a place in town that doesn't require a weekend to practice. The people there are not interested in really teaching us to climb there, (besides how to belay), so we'll have to find someone else, I guess.

Thanks,
BP

5:49 p.m. on January 20, 2008 (EST)
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I am not an expert on climbing, so keep that in mind in reading this. There are different types of climbing-I would divide them up into alpine mountaineering-what I would call mountain climbing and rock climbing-the straight up the wall kind of stuff.

Regardless of what you intend to try, I highly recommend taking a class from either a commercial guiding company or maybe a college which may offer some classes. EDIT: As Bill notes below,the Sierra Club gave up classes a long time ago.

When I wanted to learn beginning mountaineering, I took a class from a well-known guiding company in New Zealand. We were six or seven students with two guides. We did a couple of days of basic rock climbing, then headed into the mountains for basic mountaineering, including training in the use of ice axe and crampons, self-arrest, rope skills, including belay and crevasse rescue-setting up a Z-pulley, climbed a couple of modest peaks and learned to make a snow cave.

The class lasted 10 days, was a lot of fun and gave me the basics. Was I ready to do serious climbing after the class? Probably not, but at least I knew enough to stay out of trouble on modest climbs.

This class was not particularly cheap, but well worth it. Sure you can learn from friends, but who did they learn from? My advice is get lessons from the pros or an experienced mentor who has a good climbing resume and is willing to teach you. Climbing is dangerous enough, so why make it more so, by not knowing what you are doing?

You can learn theory from reading books-there are many on climbing technique by noted climbers such as Yvon Chouinard, but nothing replaces actual time with an instructor. Self-arrest, for example, sounds simple enough in theory, but try it with a full pack while sliding upside down and you find it's not quite as easy as it sounds.

11:42 p.m. on January 23, 2008 (EST)
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In New York City area, for example, is (are) the Shawangunks, a great place for rock climbing. You can apply for membership in the Appalachian Mountain Club's NYC rock climbing group. If accepted, there is a four-day training period, once annually, which really doesn't teach you very much. But in theory, at least, leaders can thereafter rely on you for a belay.

There are typically more applicants than can be accomodated by the once-a-year, essentially free training sessions, held in late April. Demonstrating a really serious interest is very helpful in application.

Other climbing areas have clubs with comparable offerings, some better and some worse.

As an entirely viable alternative, there is in NYC just for example, a site called ClimbNYC.com that is pretty good for locating partners. Just be honest about your experience, and you'll definitely find somebody, of one sort or another. Given wild luck of the draw, this can be extremely exciting, especially for beginners.

8:22 p.m. on January 28, 2008 (EST)
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Tom said -

Quote:

I highly recommend taking a class from either a commercial guiding company, a non-profit like the Sierra Club, or maybe a college which may offer some classes.

Ummmm, Tom, you are a bit out of date. The Sierra Club dropped all "risk sports" activities over 20 years ago, thanks to the insurance companies raising their rates in response to a series of million dollar (plus plus plus) lawsuits by injured people who were unwilling to take responsibility for themselves. The old Rock Climbing Sections that used to teach climbing either split off from the Sierra Club (Southern California Climbers Association is one of the offshoots of the old Angeles Chapter RCS in your area, as is the Cragmont Climbing Club that was the Berkeley RCS) or became social organizations that do not "sponsor official climbs" (such as the Loma Prieta RCS in the south part of the SF Bay Area).

But there are clubs like the Seattle Mountaineers (in Seattle, of course), the Mazamas (in Oregon), and the Colorado Mountain Club, as well as clubs in many colleges and universities as you mention (some offering courses for non-students).

There are a number of professional guide services in the US and Canada that teach climbing. In Washington State, there are the two AAI groups (American Alpine Institute in Bellingham, the original, and Alpine Ascents International in Seattle, formed by some guides who left the original AAI). Also there are International Mountain Guides, Mountain Adventure Seminars (in Bear Valley, Calif), Alpine Skills International (in Truckee, Calif), Yosemite Climbing School (rock climbing only, in Yosemite NP), Exxum Guides (in Jackson Hole, Wyoming), and many many more. Just make sure that the guide service is certified by AMGA (in the US), CMGA (in Canada), or IFMGA (the international certification body), not simply holding a permit from the local land management agency ("certified" is different from simply being a member or holding a permit - you have to pass a rigorous series of examinations in the field in your specialty area)

12:29 a.m. on January 29, 2008 (EST)
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Bill, I thought I saw some outings in the Angeles chapter schedule a while back-might have been ski mountaineering, not climbing. It looks like they may have outings, but no more classes. You're right, I remember them from years ago. I will edit my post to reflect this.

1:39 p.m. on January 29, 2008 (EST)
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The Ski Mountaineering Section of the Angeles Chapter apparently meets the current criteria of "non-risk". At one point the criterion for mountaineering was "no use of ropes" and no ropes carried on the trip. So the Sierra Peaks Section and Hundred Peaks Section could still do peak-bagging, as long as there were no ropes along. Then someone pointed out that in an emergency, it would be safer to have a rope. So the interpretation currently is something to the effect of it being ok to carry the rope, but only use it in an emergency (I suspect the interpretation of "emergency" is pretty loose). I believe some Chapters of the Sierra Club still teach what used to be called the "Basic Mountaineering Course" (I was one of the instructors for this back in the 1960s), but this is a low-level, very basic intro to backcountry skills. Self-arrest with an ice ax and how to walk with crampons was included, along with very basic belaying. For more advanced rock climbing and glacier travel (including crevasse rescue), we always referred the students to the RCS and other sections that no longer have formal, Club-sanctioned trips. Some still-existing RCS (such as Loma Prieta Chapter's) post notices on the web of "private trips" or people looking for partners for climbs.

Hmmm, since you mention the Ski Mountaineers, I wonder if Barbara Lilley is still getting out. I heard a couple years ago that she was skiing as hard as ever in the backcountry (in her mid to late 70s).

12:05 p.m. on February 4, 2008 (EST)
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Bouldering can be a lot of fun - good way to get a feel for rock, to figure out why you want to keep your body away from the rock, how different holds work and it's pretty cheap - just make sure you've got a good pad and a "spotter" whom you trust so when you lose your grip and fall they (the spotter) makes sure you don't miss the mat and you don't land on your head. Figure a pair of rock shoes, a chalk bag and chalk, a landing pad (don't scrimp) and you're good to go. When (if) you move up to bigger rocks, the shoes and chalk bag go right along with you.

11:22 p.m. on February 14, 2008 (EST)
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Bouldering is a good answer-- you'll develop power and do almost every sequence that you could encounter while roped on a sport climb, which is the other place you should start. Safe bouldering is about common sense and a good spotter, but safe sport climbing takes a bit more instruction. Your best bet is to find your local climbing gym and take their belay class and their leading class. Most places will require you to top-rope for a period of time before they let you take the leading class, but, once you do, you have a good place to practice what you've learned. Once you feel comfortable, your local sport climbing crag is the place to climb. I'd continue to top-rope outside for a while before you throw yourself into lead climbing. You'll get to practice some important basics like belaying, building anchors and climbing on real rock in general. Once you're comfortable, I'd suggest leading at least one full grade below you best gym lead for a while since finding the right sequence on rock can be a bit different than having the holds colored coded right in your face.

Realistically, you can go from newbie to outside lead climber in a month or two easy. Then, after some months of sport climbing, you can try some trad climbing and that's when things get a bit tricky. You have two options: find an experienced climber to show you the ropes (and share his expensive rack!) or find an affordable guide service and take their (more than likely tiered to take the most of your money, i.e., intro, basic, advanced, etc.) guided classes. Trusting either is up to your own judgment.

Bottom line, if you _really_ want to have fun, though, is to find a good group of friends to climb with and get the experience out of it and don't fall into the elitest trap and act like a jerk on the rock. Just have fun.

Here's some basic gear tips: Be particular about your shoes. Luckily, several affordable brands have come to market in recent years (Mad Rock and Evolv being the best). Best case, your local gym will host a demo where you can try some on and climb in them, otherwise, go to the store and fit them small, but comfortable. Query the salesman on how much the shoe may stretch and adjust appropriately. Get a chalk bag and fill it with chalk. Now you have the basics for both bouldering and gym climbing, just not the luxuries, but I'd stick with these for a couple of outdoor bouldering sessions and indoor top-roping. You could be the (not so rare anymore) new climber that falls in love with bouldering and that's all you want to do, so a quality crashpad (or three) is the only thing you need to fulfill your needs. Otherwise, a new harness is in your future. Your first harness should fulfill two, basic qualities: adjustable leg loops and suitable for both sport and trad climbing. Again, a simple Google search or asking the salesperson will tell you what harness will fit your needs.
By this point you'll probably have figured things out mostly, so you'll know you need a quality rope, a good set of quick draws, a belay/rappel device, some locking biners and enough sling and runners to get you through the day.

As far as websites go, just query google for what you're looking for and you'll find what you need. Most of the name brand sites are there to sell you stuff, with very little instruction. Personally, the most useful thing I get out of climbing websites is directions to climbing areas.

Hope that helps.

1:28 p.m. on March 15, 2008 (EDT)
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The safest way in my opinion is to learn in a gym and then go outside. Obviously not everyone wants to do this, but I think its the best way.

April 23, 2014
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