by Katey Ford, Muir Energy
Interest in the sport of rock climbing has grown exponentially as more and more indoor gyms have popped up around the world. What used to be a male dominated sport run by the dark horses and grubby dirtbags of Yosemite, we are now seeing a diversity never before seen in the climbing world. Accessibility to outdoor crags and indoor gyms has played a vital role in this shift, but as a new comer how do you break through?
Some of us are lucky enough to have that one adventurous friend who can show us the ropes, others might have attended a university with a rock wall facility, but even then, taking that first step is daunting. So, for the rest of us, this sport is utterly intimidating! It’s easy to get hung up on one barrier to entry, to let fear determine your course of action. These are my most surprising misconceptions that I have learned about the sport and people of the climbing world over the years. I hope this may alleviate any fears you may have towards the sport of rock climbing, or any hurdle you may be currently facing in life. Enjoy!
1. Climbers are not unfriendly, they are encouraging!
The climbing community is a unique bunch of people where competition and encouragement thrive. We are often times hardest on ourselves which may come off as scary (yelling) or arrogant(scowling), but when watching another climber attempt a route, we are all cheers. We work together against a route, celebrating success, and offer advice when asked. Even if we haven’t personally completed a route, but you offered advice to someone who gets to the top, we celebrate as if it were actually us. This is the unstated respect of the routes and rock that no climber is above.
2. You don’t need to have incredible super-power upper body strength
Before I started climbing I could not do a pull up which I thought was the most crucial pre-requisite to start climbing. The sign of a well-rounded climber is one that utilizes their entire body. Relying solely on your arms to pull you up the wall is not only an inefficient use of your energy, but is also dangerous to your tendons and ligaments. Some of the most notable climbers have expressed the value of technique over power, so don’t let your pull-up count determine your attitude towards climbing!
3. You do not need to have all the gear, nor know what it does
What are all these shiny things dangling off their waists? I put chalk where? That thing is called a Gri-Gri!? Climbing is a sport where the gear is your lifeline, so naturally anything you would trust with your life is not going to be inexpensive. To alleviate any added stress when considering trying rock climbing, nearly all major climbing gyms offer harness, shoe, belay device (you’ll learn what that is), and chalk bag rentals. Don’t think that we expect you to show up with $300 worth of gear on your first day.
4. Climbing gym employees are there for your safety!
If it seems like they are being insistent and particular on you knowing a certain knot, technique, or concept, it’s because it matters. While climbing, you put full trust into your partner, as they do the same to you; so make sure you take it seriously! I’ve seen poor belay technique turn into injury for the climber and belayer on multiple occasions. The things you learn are not intuitive and often times foreign to majority of us; If you have questions, ask! Odds are you are aren’t the first person to wonder what the numbers on each route mean!