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Rock Climbing Frequently Asked Questions

There are just some pieces of information that you cannot ignore whether you be a budding rock climber, an experienced mountain goat or maybe just thinking about something to do in the great outdoors it will be worth your while checking out what follows.

How can I get started rock climbing?

First, have you tried a climbing gym? If you Google your area and “indoor climbing,” you’ll probably find something. If not, try to find a climbing guide. The next best thing is to find out where people rock climb near you and go there? Strike up a conversation with some climbers? Ask questions, be friendly and, eventually, ask if you can try it out?

I’ve been climbing indoors. How do I transition to outdoors?

Climbing outside is very different from climbing inside. Aside from technique-based differences, outdoors tends to include a number of objective, environment-based hazards, such as falling rock, weather and anchor set up. So, you’re right to wonder what the best way is to transition. Opinions will vary, but most people will offer these basic tips:

  • find an experienced climber who’s willing to take you under his or her wing
  • take a course or hire a guide
  • read lots of books on anchoring, knots and other safety topics

What’s a “running belay?”

A running belay is any lead belay.

What’s a “dynamic belay?”

Put simply, a belay is dynamic when the belayer purposefully adds distance to the climber’s fall by introducing slack into the system at the moment of the catch.

Where can I find a mentor to teach me hands on?

Everybody seems to agree that people who show determination, reliability and a good attitude attract mentors more easily.

What’s the difference between toproping and leading?

Put simply, toproping is climbing with your anchor above you, and as you climb higher, there is less rope in the system. Leading, on the other hand, involves you placing your own anchors at intervals. Instead of pulling in rope, the belayer pays out rope as the climber ascends. Leading is necessary for longer climbs.

Does “free climbing” mean climbing without a rope?

Nope. Free climbing means using only your body to ascend a climb, while your equipment is only there for safety reasons. Climbing a rope in gym class, for example, is not free climbing. Bouldering is a type of free climbing, as are trad climbing and sport climbing. The opposite of free climbing is aid climbing. Oftentimes, uneducated people use the term “free climbing” to mean climbing without ropes. What they actually mean, however, is “free soloing.”

How do I get the rope back after I rappel?

Typically, when you rappel, you’ll thread your rope through an anchor, such as steel rings. But rappel anchors come in other forms, too, such as slings around a tree or boulder, or the tree itself without slings. When you’re done rappelling, you simply pull one end and the rope comes tumbling down. If the rappel is long enough that you have to tie two ropes together, then it works the same way, but you have to make sure you pull the side with the knot on it.

Should I clip my belay ‘biner to my belay loop or to both tie-in points?

Do what your harness manufacturer recommends. Check the label on your harness.

How should I screen my potential climbing partners?

Of all the aspects of climbing, one of the most prominent and yet enigmatic is the relationship between partners. There’s no better metaphor for a climbing partnership than the partnership itself – it’s that important.

Finally you must remember that whatever you read is just that – written words. What we are saying is that there is nothing like practical experience – get out there and do it and remember in this game there should never be a rush, check and check again – one mistake can lead to some very ugly accidents – it is not after all an extreme sport for nothing.