Awesome run through the Jug with some great people during the AZ Canyon Rendezvous! Good flow, nice temps, and an overall great time!
Awesome run through the Jug with some great people during the AZ Canyon Rendezvous! Good flow, nice temps, and an overall great time!
Canyoneering Hydrology: The study of water movement and its behavior relating to the topography, which allows us to properly assess dangerous water hazards that can exist in Canyoneering.
The most common terms you will hear are swift water, whitewater or class 3 canyons. These types of canyons are located all around the world and are considerably different from dry canyons which require a separate skill set to navigate the hazards.
Swift water canyons can be extremely dangerous and as with all aspects of Canyoneering, instruction, practice and training cannot be substituted for this information.
Water behaves differently according to the volume, shape of the river bottom and types of obstructions which can then effect and produce different movements. Canyoneering Hydrology needs to be learnt to reduce the risk of injury, mishap or even death.
Three points that cover moving water especially in a Canyoneering environment are:
Swift moving water exerts a force on any object it encounters, whether it is a rock, bridge or person in the water. This force is dependent upon the speed of the water. As the speed of the current increases, so does the power.
Moving water will always exert a continuous force on an object or person. It never stops, unlike an ocean wave which has a cycle of breaking and receding.
Water may sometimes look as if it is moving randomly, but to the trained person it is moving in an orderly and predictable way. Surface features can be “read” and used to predict what is happening under the water.
The nature of rivers in a canyon are variable and are determined by five main factors. Understanding how moving water behaves, you can use the canyon river to ascertain a level of risk management and avoid unnecessary or unacceptable levels of danger.
Topography is generally consistent over time. Increased flow, as during a flood or high rainfall season can make permanent changes to the streambed by displacing rocks and boulders, by deposition of dirt, sand or stones or by creating new channels for flowing water.
The gradient of a river is the rate at which it loses elevation along its course. This loss determines the river’s slope, and to a large extent its rate of flow. Shallow gradients produce gentle, slow rivers while steep gradients are associated with more forceful flows.
Constrictions can form a water hazard where the river’s flow is forced into a narrower channel. This pressure causes the water to flow more rapidly and to react differently to the river bed.
A boulder or ledge in the middle of a river or near the side can obstruct the flow of the river, and can also create a “pillow”, when water flows backwards upstream of the obstruction, or a “pour over” (over the boulder), and “hydraulics” or “holes” where the river flows back on itself—perhaps back under the drop,often with fearful results for those caught in its grasp.
Measuring water flow is an important aspect for canyoners. A marked increase or decrease in flow can create a hazard or make safe passage through previously navigated rapids more difficult or impossible. Flow rate is measured in either Cubic Meters per Second (m³/s) or Cubic Feet per Second (cfs)
Ice Cube Canyon is located in the Red Rock area of Nevada and is a excellent trip through an outstanding canyon. A shuttle is set up as shown on the map/gps track or as always you could simply hike in from the exit as needed. Once at the upper trail/parking location, you will find a well defined trail that will quickly have you gaining most of the days elevation and shortly after have you standing at the technical drop in point. Throughout the approach you will have great views overlooking the red rock scenery and the strip off in the distance. Once geared up at the technical section, be prepared for a day of up to nearly 2 dozen rappels depending on your groups approach. Plenty of webbing are rings are recommended to refresh any drops as needed. Shortly after the first few rappels, a great section of narrows are encountered that get you warmed for the many drops to come. A few drops throughout the canyon have been know to stick ropes in the past and from our view these were fairly obvious when encountered. A quick observation, a few well place items, a well laid out rope, was rewarded with a smooth pull and made light work of any concern. Soon after this first section of narrows, the canyon opens up to a great spot to relax and enjoy lunch before pressing on. Working down canyon towards the next section of narrows is quite wide and no raps are encountered for a bit. Eventually this level ground cliffs out as the canyon once again begins to tighten up. Moving forward, the canyon and its remaining drops will have your group throwing rope consistently for the rest of the day. In addition to the 200' rope required for the larger drops, our group also brought along several 100' ropes to keep pushing and speed things up in an effort to avoid the bottle neck of people waiting to get on rope at each station. Lots of great scenery are encountered throughout the canyon and after many rappels and short swims you will soon find yourself staring down the last drop of around 190' with a view of the vehicle in the distance. Make your way down to the open rocky section below and remove gear. From here it is a short rock hop down the remaining canyon to the wash, where soon a trail leading out can be found on the left. Once on trail, it is smooth sailing back to the vehicle where you can unpack, get your second vehicle, and make your way out of the park.
The diagnosis of hypothermia is usually apparent based on a person's physical signs and the conditions in which the person with hypothermia became ill or was found. Blood tests also can help confirm hypothermia and its severity.
A diagnosis may not be readily apparent, however, if the symptoms are mild, as when an older person who is indoors has symptoms of confusion, lack of coordination and speech problems.
Seek immediate medical attention for anyone who appears to have hypothermia. Until medical help is available, follow these first-aid guidelines for hypothermia.
Use warm, dry compresses. Use a first-aid warm compress (a plastic fluid-filled bag that warms up when squeezed) or a makeshift compress of warm water in a plastic bottle or a dryer-warmed towel. Apply a compress only to the neck, chest wall or groin.
Don't apply a warm compress to the arms or legs. Heat applied to the arms and legs forces cold blood back toward the heart, lungs and brain, causing the core body temperature to drop. This can be fatal.
Depending on the severity of hypothermia, emergency medical care for hypothermia may include one of the following interventions to raise the body temperature:
𝐑𝐀𝐏𝐏𝐄𝐋 𝐄𝐑𝐑𝐎𝐑 | 𝐈𝐧𝐚𝐝𝐞𝐪𝐮𝐚𝐭𝐞 𝐀𝐧𝐜𝐡𝐨𝐫 𝐊𝐧𝐨𝐭
AAC - Accidents in North America Climbing 2017
In early January, two Colorado ice climbers began their third first ascent of the day in the Dark Canyon, 25 miles south of Redstone in the Raggeds Wilderness. Duane Raleigh (age 56, with 43 years of experience) was leading the first pitch of the WI3+ M4 route. Due to thin ice, the only protection he placed on the 230-foot pitch was a stubby screw at approximately 75 feet. Raleigh reached the end of the rope without finding an anchor, so he asked his partner (40 years of experience) to take him off belay, so he could continue climbing and searching for an anchor.
Raleigh spotted a precarious stack of granite that he thought might be secure enough to sling for a rappel anchor. He tested the pile by hitting it with a tool and then pulling on it. Although apprehensive about the anchor’s stability, he had no better option, so he wrapped a 10-foot 6mm cord around the rocks and tied the ends together with a flat figure-8 knot, visually checking and tugging the knot to test it. He then clipped his rope to the cord with a carabiner, planning to downclimb most of the route to minimize weighting the anchor.
Due to the steepness of the first 10 feet of this descent, Raleigh leaned back and weighted the rope. He ended up in a free fall and landed 15 feet below, upside down, in a small
patch of soft snow in a dihedral. He was uninjured except for two crampon punctures in his thigh. Raleigh climbed back up, expecting that the anchor rocks had failed. Instead, he found an untied 6mm cord. He retied the cord with a retraced figure-8 bend (Flemish bend) and successfully downclimbed and lowered to the good screw he’d placed at 75 feet. He pulled the rope and then lowered to the ground from the screw.
(Sources: Rock and Ice magazine and Duane Raleigh.)
Although not verifiable by the climber, it is possible that the flat figure-8 may have capsized under load, flipping and rolling down the cord until the knot reached the ends of the cord and untied. Both the flat figure-8 and the flat overhand knot have been used to join two rappel ropes, and both can capsize under heavy loads. However, a well-tied flat overhand is much less likely to do so and is strongly recommended over the flat figure-8, which accounts for most reported failures of this
general category of rappel knot.
When tying the flat overhand to join two rappel ropes, always tie a well-dressed knot and leave long tails (15 to 18 inches). Individually tighten all four strands of rope entering the knot. If using ropes of different diameters, age, or condition, or icy or wet ropes, consider tying a second overhand immediately adjacent to the first as a backup, though this will increase the bulk of the knot. Or, if there are no concerns about the knot snagging when the rappel ropes are pulled, consider the double fisherman’s knot or Flemish bend, which are very reliable, albeit more difficult to untie after loading.
Do not use the flat overhand to join ropes permanently (e.g., tying a cordelette or tying a rope around a tree for an anchor). The double fisherman’s knot is preferred for these purposes. Also, do not use the flat overhand for tying slings or webbing. Use a water knot for slings that may be retied and a double fisherman’s for permanent knots. Again, dress all knots carefully and tighten every strand.
(Sources: Rock and Ice magazine and the Editors.)
Solid, Redundant, Equalized, No Extension....Great for learning to build anchors on bolts with only one kind of material
Solid, Efficient, Redundant, Equalized, No Extension....Great for learning to build SRENE anchors when there are lots of options in the rigging materials
Equalized, Redundant, No Extension, Solid, Timely.... Same as SERENE
Equalized, Angles, Redundant, No Extension,Solid, Timely....Ideal for anchors where the components might be farther apart
No Extension, Redundant, Distributes Load, Solid, Simple....Same as SRENE, plus great for understanding how load distribution can be manipulated
Limit Extension, Angles, Direction, Solid, Timely, Equalized, Redundant Same as SERENE
What Are Heat-Related Illnesses?
Prolonged or intense exposure to hot temperatures can cause heat-related illnesses such as heat exhaustion, heat cramps, and heat stroke (also known as sun stroke). As your body works to cool itself under extreme or prolonged heat, blood rushes to the surface of your skin. As a result, less blood reaches your brain, muscles, and other organs. This can interfere with both your physical strength and your mental capacity, leading, in some cases, to serious danger.
By reducing excessive exposure to high temperatures and taking other precautionary steps, most heat-related illnesses can be avoided. Those who work in hot or humid environments — such as manufacturing plants, bakeries, or construction sites during summer months — are most at risk. However, even long, hot afternoons at the beach can pose problems if warning signs are ignored.
With prompt treatment, most people recover completely from heat-related illness. However, heat stroke can be deadly if not properly managed.
What Causes Heat-Related Illnesses?
Heat-related illness can strike anyone. But chronic alcoholics, the elderly, the young, the obese, and individuals whose immune systems may be compromised are at greater risk, as are individuals taking certain drugs, such as antihistamines, antipsychotic medications, and cocaine. High humidity also increases the risk of heat illness because it interferes with the evaporation of sweat, your body’s way of cooling itself.
Heat exhaustion, heat cramps, and heat stroke all occur when your body cannot cool itself adequately. But each is slightly different.
Heat exhaustion occurs when the body loses large amounts of water and salt through excessive sweating, particularly through hard physical labor or exercise. This loss of essential fluids can disturb circulation and interfere with brain function. Individuals who have heart, lung, or kidney problems or are on low-sodium diets may be particularly susceptible to heat exhaustion.
As in heat exhaustion, heat cramps can strike when the body loses excessive amounts of fluids and salt. This deficiency, accompanied by the loss of other essential nutrients such as potassium and magnesium, typically occurs during heavy exertion.
Heat stroke, the most serious of the heat-related illnesses, occurs when the body suffers from long, intense exposure to heat and loses its ability to cool itself. In prolonged, extreme heat, the part of the brain that normally regulates body temperature malfunctions. This decreases the body’s ability to sweat and, therefore, cool down. Those who have certain medical conditions that decrease the body’s ability to sweat — such as scleroderma or cystic fibrosis — may be at greater risk of developing heat stroke.
Measuring water flow is an important aspect for canyoners. A marked increase or decrease in flow can create a hazard or make safe passage through previously navigated rapids more difficult or impossible. Flow rate is measured in either Cubic Meters per Second (m³/s) or Cubic Feet per Second (cfs) depending on the country. By knowing the measurements of the river at a given spot, it is possible to calculate its flow volume at any point between confluences.
Depth x Width x Speed = Volume
The orientation of the canyon is determined relative to the flow of the water, not the viewer’s perspective. The sides of a canyon are named either Canyon Left or Canyon Right. You also have both Upstream and Downstream. There will be sometimes an exception to this rule where the river can flow in reverse depending on tidal flow. These types of exceptions are usually only found in canyons connected to oceans.
U Upstream – The direction from which water is flowing from.
D Downstream – The direction in which (or to which) water is flowing.
CL Canyon Left – The left side of the channel when looking downstream.
CR Canyon Right – The right side of the channel when looking downstream.
Note: It’s always important thing to remember is that “canyon left” and “canyon right” are always from the direction of flow.
A Floating Anchor is an advanced technique similar to a guided rappel. There are a couple of different methods of making a Floating Anchor providing that the force and flow of the water will allow us to use it. When using a Floating Anchor it is important to travel along the rappel line as quickly as possible by not introducing a vector and pulling the anchor away from the waterfall lip.
To make a floating anchor, attach a rope to the either to the top handle of a rope bag / back pack with the mouth of the bag open. Throw the bag to the waterfall lip, or let the bag be dragged to he waterfall lip. Once at the lip, allow the bag to be constantly be filled with the water from the waterfall. It is important to allow approximately 1 metre of extra length over the waterfall lip before tying off the rappel line. This extra length will help compensate when someone is on the rappel line.
The second method is to use a double floating anchor. A double floating anchor involves using a smaller bag to throw over the waterfall lip to help drag a larger bag that will be used for the anchor. This technique is quite useful when you have a wide distance to play with and the larger bag cannot be thrown efficiently. The same principle applies as a standard Floating Anchor.
A Tow Anchor is a helpful tool to help you out of a hazard by floating a bag down the flow to help pull you out. The best way to do this is to attach a bag to your harness using a Munter Mule. Do not directly tie into the rope using a Clove Hitch or Figure 8. In case there is problems you can release the Munter Mule and launch the rope bag into the flow which can then help pull you out.
Hammer Hoodoo Canyon is a recently explored canyon in Sedona, AZ. The canyon is dry and offers great views throughout the day. Overall, a great short day with roughly 9-11 rappels depending on how you approach the challenges. Check out the beta using the link below or directly at OnRopeCanyoneering.com
Ran a series of workshops over a 3 day period ranging from very basic core canyoneering concepts to advanced rigging and rescue material. Participants had a TON of information thrown at them in a short period and it was amazing to see how much was retained over the course of the classes. Pics are from a few of the days where topics ranged from Intro to canyoneering, Anchors and Rigging, Core rope work, Rigging and Rescue, Leadership and Group Dynamics, In Canyon Training, along with some after hours Discussions and Demos. Those interested in learning check out the calendar of events for any scheduled training sessions or feel free to get in contact at anytime to set up a course that fits your current needs. We have classes for those who have never touched a rope all the way to advanced canyon rescue and will cater a perfect fit for your requirements.
This counterweight system allows the victim to be raised when lowering is impossible.
This system is possible when the rope is not attached at the bottom.
1. The rescuer installs a progress capture pulley and tensions the system with his body weight
2. He engages the counterbalance system by pulling on the victim's side of the rope
3. He installs the ASCENSION handled rope clamp and the CROLL ventral rope clamp to ascend with the victim
With a right foot pushing into one wall and a left foot pushing into another, stemming is one of the most natural ways to climb. You can more or less stand straight up on your legs instead of hanging on your arms. It’s most common in dihedrals and chimneys, anywhere you find a corner that’s narrow enough to bridge the gap with your lower body. Stemming can get you past completely blank sections of rock and provide a much-needed rest in a spot where there are no jugs. You might be fingerlocking in a crack in the corner, palming the walls to push your way up, or crimping tiny face holds on the outside, but the key to good stemming technique is all in the feet. It might feel less secure than standard face and crack climbing because you’re relying heavily on friction, but follow this guidance to float even the cleanest corners.
No amount of mono pull-ups or finger strength will help you up a holdless corner. Stemming is all about oppositional force. Both arms and legs should be pressing outward on opposing faces to support your weight. If using face holds or a crack with your hands, maintain three points of contact, using your hands only to hold your body in place while you move your feet up. If you’re palming the wall with your hands, point fingers down or backward, away from the corner. Push hard and shift your weight between your arms to move each foot up. Focus your force into three limbs until you can unweight a hand or foot, raise it up, then repeat. Upward progress will come from your feet, since you are essentially standing on the wall. Concentrate on moving feet first, and only use your arms for balance.
Depending on the shape of the corner, the traditional stemming position (pictured above, facing the corner, with both arms and legs out like an X) may not be the optimal approach. Experiment to find the best body position. Hands can jam a crack, layback a seam, grab a face hold—whatever you can do to stay solid and walk your way up the wall. Sometimes back-stepping on one side to push your hip into the wall will be ideal. In a narrower corner, you may be better off chimneying: pressing your back into one wall with your feet against the other. Between wide walls you might have to employ a bridge technique by placing both hands on one wall and both feet on the other, putting your body almost horizontal across the gap. These sections frequently lack good protection and require a strong head; success depends on maintaining confidence.
Stemming relies on pushing muscles rarely engaged by climbers, specifically the triceps, glutes, calves, and small outer hip muscles. The core is also really important for performing the balance-intensive weight-shifting and high-stepping moves; you need to be able to stay tight from your hand all the way down through your opposing foot. Consider adding some weightlifting exercises that focus on these muscles: dips, pushups, planks, side planks, calf raises, overhead shoulder press. When doing these exercises, concentrate on achieving the slow burn that closely resembles the endurance required for doing these moves for a longer period. Choose a moderate weight and go for high reps or time.
While singular stemming moves might not feel taxing, maintaining oppositional force for a whole pitch will sap your strength fast. Take every opportunity to shake out an arm or a leg. Unlike with face climbing, your forearms won’t limit you in a corner; the pump clock will be counting down on your calves as you smear. Keep your heels as low as possible to maximize friction and minimize calf fatigue. Many positions can be turned into a rest, allowing you to shake out one limb. Any time you find a foot chip or ledge, stand straight down on it to relax your other leg. Even just a second of this will get some much-needed blood flow into your large leg muscles. In some circumstances you may be able to lean a shoulder into the wall, or even your back, for a more secure and less exerting breather. If you find any down-pulling jugs, consider hanging completely on your arms to shake your legs out.
Stemming isn’t about strong biceps, forearms, and fingers of steel; it’s about balance and hip flexibility. I’d argue that stretching or yoga are just as valuable as hangboarding. I was always fairly flexible, but practicing yoga led to huge leaps in my stemming ability.
A hard stemming corner won’t have footholds, so think about where you need one to stay in balance. It’s all about pressure and friction, so ask yourself, “Where do I need to place my foot to stay in balance?” Usually it’s much higher and wider than you want.
Rock always has divots or imperfections. The Teflon Corner on El Cap has a stemming sequence that looks blank. But when you feel the wall, your palms fit into undulations and little imperfections. I spot any divots from below and put chalk on them—and I chalk my palms A LOT!
Resting relies on relaxation and creativity. Fighting my way up a corner seems impossible compared to when I relax and let my body do what it wants to do. Often it takes one attempt to loosen up and find that balance where you are never pushing too hard but trusting the friction. When I’m redlining in my legs, opposing palm holds allow for a millisecond to shake them out.
As a corner gets wider, you need more than a blank wall: a tiny crack or crimp—something! When I freed Moonlight Buttress, I stemmed the crux pitch where most people layback. It drastically took the weight off my fingers and put it on my legs. A narrower corner has more options, like chimneying (with your back against one side). Many stemming corners can be overcome with creative chimneying.
If you don’t know where your center of gravity is, you will always be fighting it. Remove a limb and your normal center of gravity goes right out the window. When I started climbing again, I kept tipping to the right since my prosthetic leg was so much lighter than my leg before. Most of us climb in an X-shape or a modification of the three points of contact idea, but when you lose a leg, you can’t do that anymore. One trick I learned was to hang a long draw (at least 24”) on the belay loop of my harness. Climb up and the carabiner will swing between your legs and let you know where your center is. Make moves that put the draw hanging straight down between your legs. As you reach stances and particular holds, make slight adjustments to see the difference between feeling in balance and out of balance. Over time, it will become innate, and you will be able to anticipate and mitigate swings. This will make you more efficient in your movement.
When you first start climbing, you can get by with your toes pointed straight at the rock or “froggie style,” using the inside edges of your feet and toes, heels angled slightly toward each other. As you progress and get onto harder climbs, these positions alone are not enough to work through technical, balance-intensive sequences. Three more moves will open up a whole new chapter in your climbing: back-steps, flags, and drop-knees. All three shift the position of your hips (and thus your center of balance), providing more options.
Try it! Hop or pogo with your leg when moving hold to hold. Turn your hips and core to counteract the balance. Hang low on your arms, bend at the knee, then in one fluid motion, rise up to the next handhold. As your hand reaches it, hop your foot to the next foothold. Be sure to identify the holds before you go; that way you can focus on being accurate. At first you will find that your body will tip to the legless side. Just let that happen and use the momentum it creates to propel you up. If you are having trouble controlling the swing, incorporate this with hanging a draw between your legs. Combining these two exercises will help you actually see how you have to adjust, and you can visualize and execute the particular movement needed. Don’t do big moves and don’t crank yourself up tight into a lockoff; this will only tire you out quickly and potentially hurt you. Instead, focus on smaller movements that will allow you to rest and counter the swing with your active leg.
Too often we focus on pulling in with just our arms or stepping up with just a leg, when in reality engaging your whole body from fingertips to toes is what you need. A large part of this is your core: obliques, hamstrings, butt, lower back, etc. Think about activating your entire body for every move; you’ll swing less and feel more in control. Another part of this, especially important for trad climbing, is to think of every part of your body as another appendage. I smear my hip and knee onto the rock underneath or to the side. In corners, lean your shoulder against the rock to get a decent rest or to stop a barn door.
We all begin climbing by trying to keep our bodies in a vertical position, but that won’t get you very far as moves get harder and terrain becomes varied. Think about climbing with one leg again, centering over one active foot. Pulling with your upper body to keep your body straight up and down wastes strength. Try letting your hips slide to where your other leg should be; that position should feel more effortless and natural. To move upward, shift your weight back over your active foot, letting the energy from your hips move you to the next hold. To move in the opposite direction, simply stand up as high as possible on your active leg, again letting the momentum come from your hips.
1. "Head for a climbing gym," Green says. "Climbing indoors is easy and safe, and it's a great way to try the sport and see what it is about. You can rent equipment, get instruction, and learn basic climbing skills." When you get to an indoor climbing gym, watch the experienced climbers. Reach out to other climbers at the gym and learn from their experiences.
2. Learn the language: Rock shoes are shoes with smooth soles made of extremely sticky rubber. A harness is a belt that loops around a climber's legs and waist and has attachments that connect to a rope. A belay is a metal device used in belaying (one climber securing the rope for the other climber as he ascends) or in rappelling (a controlled slide down the rope to the ground). Locking carabiners are metal links that connect the climbing rope to the harness.
3. Perfect your moves and your rock-climbing skills before you head out to the real rock. Consider building your own climbing wall. That way, you can boulder, or climb to small heights, and practice your technique.
4. Once you feel ready to climb outdoors, recognize that climbing is a dangerous sport. The most advanced indoor skills don't necessarily prepare you for a safe outdoor experience.
5. To make an outdoor experience as safe as possible, go with experienced climbers. Hire a guide or take outdoor lessons from a guide service.
6. Even if you head out with a group of experienced climbers, don't rely on them for your safety. Be responsible for yourself. Learn to tie your knots, check your knots, tie them to the rope, and check your anchors.
7. Remember that climbing doesn't just involve the arms. "People often ask me, 'Am I strong enough to go climbing?'" Green says. "The answer is usually yes, because climbers use their legs and feet to push off, rather than their arms to pull themselves up."
8. Don't let a fear of heights prevent you from rock climbing. "Many people focus on their fear of heights and their fear of falling," Green says. "I tell people those are two of our basic human fears, and they keep you alive."
9. Learn to trust your belayer (the person holding the rope for you). You can't climb without trust.
10. If you fall in love with climbing, consider buying equipment. But when you start, you can rent equipment: a harness, a helmet, one or two locking carabiners, and a belay rappel device. "Those are your personal climbing tools," Green says. "You'll also need a pair of proper climbing shoes. They mold to your feet and are less sloppy and slippery than tennis shoes."
1. Pick your poison.
There are several types of climbing. Try them all to see what floats your boat, says Luke Livesey, head of instruction at Brooklyn Boulders. Top-roping (or rope climbing) with a belay partner allows new climbers to cover a lot of distance on the walls. No partner? No problem—use an auto-belay.
If you're afraid of heights, bouldering—rock climbing without ropes—is a great option since the walls are shorter, Johnson says. (If rope climbing is long-distance running, bouldering is like sprinting, she explains.)
Finally, in the great outdoors, you'll do either sport climbing, where the climber follows routes that have pre-placed anchors, or traditional (trad) climbing, where the climber places his own protection along the route. (As you likely guessed, trad climbing isn't for beginners.)
2. Get geared up.
Proper footwear is key. “I recommend choosing softer climbing shoes, so you’ll be able to get a better feel and grip on the wall,” Johnson says. Skip socks if they're your own shoes, and wear thin ones if you're renting. For bouldering, the only other piece of equipment you need is a chalk bag, and you’re good to go. For top-roping, climbers also need a harness, lead rope, chalk bag,carabiner, and belay device—all of which should be available to rent at your climbing gym.
3. Learn the ropes.
So you've got the gear; now you have to learn how to properly belay. In fact, climbers have to be belay-certified before hitting the wall on their own, so taking a class is essential. “Belaying is really about getting into the groove and learning the muscle memory,” says Sarah Laine, an instruction assistant at Brooklyn Boulders. Translation: Reading up on belaying isn’t going to be a huge help. But here are the basics you'll learn in an intro class:
4. Choose your route.
Top-roping routes will always start with a five, followed by a decimal point, and then another number that corresponds to the difficulty level of the climb, Laine says. Routes labeled 5.5 or 5.6 are beginner routes, and the higher the number after the decimal point (like 5.12), the harder the climb. Bouldering routes are rated by the V-scale, starting with V0.
Once you've selected a path, begin with both hands on the start holds (usually labeled with two pieces of tape), keeping your feet off the ground. Then follow the same color route up the wall. (Going off the color is actually cheating.) Some routes won’t have two footholds at the start, so you can just keep the other foot against the wall when you begin.
5. Engage your core.
It seems like climbing would require serious upper-body strength, but your core strength is actually most important. Experience in sports like gymnastics, yoga, or Pilates gives first-time climbers a leg up, Livesey says. Other necessary body parts you’ll need to recruit are your fingers, hands, and upper body (arms, shoulders, and back).
6. Keep your arms straight.
"Think about how you carry groceries—with straight arms, right?" Livesey says. "It'd be far more tiring to carry them while bending your arms, and in the same way, climbing becomes more efficient when we keep our arms straight." At the same time, try to keep your legs bent, which makes it easier to push yourself up with your lower body.
7. Plan your climb.
"It's a smart idea to sequence the hand movements and identify all of the footholds on the wall before your start your climb," Livesey suggests. "Climbers will often mimic the hand movements to identify the correct (or most efficient) order in which to use each hold while they’re still on the mat." As you gain more experience, you'll be able to read sequences better, which is considered a great skill, he says. Also try looking for clues: Which holds have chalk on them (to tell you where other climbers been placing their hands) and which have rubber marks from shoes?
8. Learn the lingo.
It’s essential to communicate properly with your belay partner so you’re both on the same page, Johnson says. Here are a few of thebasic climbing commands that you’ll encounter:
9. Take a (safe) leap.
Coming down from the top of the wall can seem scary at first, but as long as you've taken all the proper safety precautions, you'll be fine, Laine says. And it's actually pretty fun! When you’re ready to come down, alert your belayer (“lower“), straighten your arms, keep your feet against the wall, and let go with your arms. Think “feet first” so you can push off your legs. It can be safer and less harsh on your knees to try to climb down the same way you climbed up, rather than bounce against the wall, Johnson says.
10. Prepare before going outdoors.
Rock climbing in a gym is a completely different sport than climbing outside, Johnson says. Grades are going to feel a lot harder outside than inside. Plus, you probably won't have access to trained instructors and the outdoors is a less-controlled environment—you're at the mercy of weather conditions and natural holds. But when the time comes, as long as you take the proper safety precautions and communicate well with your partner, heading out can be way more fun than climbing indoors, Johnson says.