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Getting Started


What is rock climbing?

Rock climbing means different things to different people. For some, it simply means using your body to scale rock, large or small, for others it means attempting the most challenging feats of human physics, and for others it can mean a chance to push their mental limits to the edge, or simply feel a rush. You’ll only find out what it means to you if you try it for yourself. So come and join us!

What are the benefits?

Rock climbing has physical, mental and emotional benefits:

  • Physical: Climbing is a great way to stay in shape and is much more interesting than spending half an hour on a treadmill at the gym. It’s also incredibly social so you get to have fun and meet people while you are working out.
  • Mental: Climbing to the top of a 40 foot wall for the first time is an amazing experience. Knowing that you, by yourself, are able to conquer something that seems impossible is exhilarating. Take that feeling of being able of conquer any obstacle and use it anywhere in your life!
  • Emotional: Climbing can give a person a tremendous sense of self accomplishment that can lift one’s spirits. In general climbing brings the camaraderie of having fun with friends and also being out in the wilderness communing with nature can bring about a sense of calm and peace in an otherwise crazy world.

Is it hard to do?

One of the great things about rock climbing is that there are climbs that a total beginner can do near climbs that will challenge the most advanced climbers. No matter what your experience or physical ability there will be climbs that you will be able to do and climbs that you will have to train for. There are always harder climbs to you can always be challenged. You don’t need to be super strong in order to climb. In fact, often beginners who have good balance do better than beginners who are physically strong. Climbing is a balance of strength and brains so people excel in different ways depending on their equilibrium of the two.

Who can do it?

Everyone can climb! Our club is for adults, ages 18 and over, but climbing gyms will accommodate climbers as young as 5 and as old as are game to try it! Climbing can also be great for people with physical and emotional disabilities.

What are the different types of climbing?

There are several different types of climbing, each with a slightly different level of difficulty and requiring different gear. As a beginner you will start out top roping on either rock or ice or you can try bouldering. With some dedication and training you’ll be able to start leading sport and trad climbing too!

  • Top Rope — Top rope climbing is the name for climbing on rock or ice when the rope has already been set up for you (it’s already at the “top”). This accounts for the majority of indoor rock climbing and what you’ll be starting out on as a beginner. You can also top rope outdoors but you will need a leader or guide to set up the top ropes for you.
  • Sport — This is the most common type of outdoor climbing. When climbing outside there are no ropes already set up for you so the first person (the “lead” climber) needs to climb from the ground up and take the rope with them. Along the way they will clip in to bolts that are attached to the rock so that if they fall they have some “protection” and shouldn’t fall too far. This type of climbing is more advanced than top rope climbing because you don’t always have a rope holding you tight and there is the potential for pretty big falls. You should usually expect to be climbing for at least a year before you learn to lead sport. Once the leader gets to the top they can set up a top rope for others to climb or they can be lowered and pull the rope down after them.
  • Trad — Trad climbing is similar to sport climbing in that a “leader” starts at the bottom and climbs to the top with a rope. The biggest difference is that there are no bolts attached to the rock to clip into so the leader takes up equipment call “pro” that they have to place in cracks in the rock and then they will attach or clip into the pro. Because the lead climber is placing their own gear, trad climbing is much more technical than sport climbing and requires the leader to be well trained in knowing where and when to place their pro. Another difference between sport climbing and trad climbing is that trad climbs are often multi-pitch, meaning that the lead climber will climb up one length of rope and the next person will follow them up, then they will repeat the process, going higher and higher. Our local climbing area, the Gunks, is mostly trad climbing but there is also an areas called Peterskill that can be set up for top rope.
  • Bouldering — Bouldering is a style of rock climbing undertaken with out a rope and is usually limited to very short climbs over some protection called a crash pad so that any fall will not result in serious injury. It is typically practiced on large natural booulders but can also be practiced at the base of larger rock faces. Bouldering is a style of climbing that emphasizes power, strength, and dynamics focusing a short sequence of moves as opposed to an endurance of longer stretches of less difficult moves associated with sport or trad climbing.
  • Ice — As the term suggests, instead of climbing up a rock face you climb up a inclined ice formation. As one would imagine this would be rather difficult if not impossible without some gear. Typically the gear used includes crampons, which are attachements that go on outdoor footwear featuring metal spikes to provide traction as well as foot holds while climbing. In addition you will use ice axes that you will swing above your head into the ice to use to pull you up the ice. Depending on the strength of the ice sometimes the ice axe only has to go in an inch or two to be able to support the weight of a climber. As with rock climbing, ice climbing can be set up as top rope or a lead climb using ice screws instead of pro. Many of the important techniques and common practices used in rock climbing are also applied in ice climbing such as tying in, belaying and lowering. The ice season in our area usually runs from late December through early to mid-March.
  • Mountaineering — More information coming soon…

What is belaying?

Belaying is the technique used in climbing to exert force on the climbing rope to prevent the climber from falling very far. Using a varitey of devices the climbing partner applies this force using said device when the climber is not moving, this is called having the rope in break position and is employed when the climber is not moving. As the climber moves they will need slack in the rope to be able to perform the moves necessary to climb up the wall. The belayer will need to be cognisent of when to give slack and when to apply the force necessary for the rope to not move. There are several type of belaying with the most common being top rope belaying and lead belaying. During a top rope belay the rope is fixed through an anchor at the top of the climb and both ends hang down from said anchor. The climber ties a figure eight knot with one end of the rope through their harness and the belayer threades the rope through their belay device that is attached to their harness creating a loop between the climber and the belayer. In lead belaying the climber ties in as mentiones above but this time the belayer threads a section of rope closer to the climber through the belay device and as the climber climbs upwards the belayer feeds the climber rope to facilitate clipping into gear while making sure there is enough slack in the rope to not pull the climber off the wall.

What gear do I need?

The gear you need is pretty basic. A pair of climbing shoes is essential to help keep your feet on the wall and help you stay on those tiny holds when you are half way up the wall. You will need a harness for top roping and belaying. A belay device, either an ATC or a gregre(sp) to belay with. A chalk bag comes in handy when climbing and bouldering especially for those of us with sweaty hands. That is the most basic gear you will need to get started. When you become more advanced you will begin to buy things like ropes, quick draws, slings, and eventually a trad rack but let’s get you on the walls first.

How do I get started?

This one is pretty simple, it’s as easy as signing up to come to one of our events and letting us know you are a beginner. We will take it from there and get you on the walls and help you up to the top.

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