A Beginner’s Guide To Climbing—Essentials For Getting Started

·2 min read

This article originally appeared on Climbing

I am a self-taught climber. When I first tied in, sometime in the early 1970s, my buddy Donnie and I were on our own. There was no one to figuratively and literally show us the ropes. We looked at pictures to learn the knots, and started out just tying a bunch of overhands on top of each other, and used bootlace for “carabiners” by tying the lace around the pro, usually a hammered-in framing nail, and then looping it around the rope, a nylon thing Donnie had found wrapped around a pier at the lake. The mistakes we made were monumental, and we got it all wrong. We were lucky. Our techniques and gear were so rudimentary we rarely got high enough up to get hurt. But we loved climbing and kept at it and over time, about five years, we got it right. We got real gear, learned the actual techniques, and embarked on lifetimes of vertical adventure.

Old photo of author climbing in the Wichita Mountains of Oklahoma, in 1976.
Me, climbing in the Wichita Mountains of Oklahoma, in 1976. I sewed the harness and knickers myself. Donnie and I had by then scored some real climbing gear and a real climbing rope, but we still had a steep learning curve ahead of us. (Photo: Donnie Hunt)

Don’t use Donnie and me as examples. Fifty years later it’s easy to get competent, professional instruction; and pretty much every city in the country has a climbing gym to safely introduce you to the sport. Gear has gotten much, much better, and the thinking behind training has gone from doing as many pull-ups as possible in a day to complex structures with actual science backing them, and coaches who do nothing but coach climbers. That climbing was in the Olympics shows how far it’s come.

What follows is a compilation of articles, advice written by experts, most lifelong climbers, on everything from choosing rock shoes to knot tying, to essential safety tips. It’s mostly all here, or enough to fill in the gaps of your knowledge in some way. But don’t stop here, this is just a starting point. Enroll in a basic climbing course, climb with an experienced partner, and above all, be careful out there--gravity is the constant that hasn’t changed.





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