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Guest Post: Climbing 101 – by Cragmama

Photo by Manuela Eilert
I often think about how many folks may have seen a group of climbers scaling the big walls of Yosemite and wistfully thought, “I wish I could do that!”  Or maybe the family that sees someone rock climbing on TV or in a movie and says to each other, “That looks like fun.  We’re probably too old for that now!”  Well forget about wishing it’ll happen someday, or assuming its too late to learn something so “extreme” – becoming one of those “crazy climber folks” is a lot easier than you might think!  Follow these simple steps and you may be surprised at how soon you’ll be out on the rocks having fun!

Photo credit: Jeremy Sanders 

  1. Find a local gym.  Most good-sized cities have at least one, and every gym should have some sort of introductory class, where you can learn how to tie in to the rope safely, safety commands, and how to use a belay device – that’s the nifty little thing that keeps you off the ground when (not if!) you fall.  That’s how I got started – best $15 I’d ever spent! 
  2. Make friends.  Climbing gyms are also crawling with…you guessed it – other climbers!  The quickest way to learn the lingo and meet the locals it to jump right in and get involved wherever you can.  Climbing is a social sport deeply rooted in community.  Sure you’ll find a few egos that can hardly fit through the door here and there, but for the most part climbers are very open to new folks.  Don’t be afraid to approach climbers that are stronger/more experienced than you and ask for help.  Any climber worth knowing would be happy to offer assistance. 
  3. Get out!  Sure, indoor climbing is fun, but that’s only the beginning.  The real magic happens outside, when its just you and the rock – there’s no colored tape to point out where the holds are, and your end goal is atop a cliff with spectacular mountain vistas (not the i-beams at the top of an industrial warehouse!)  The easiest ways to get yourself climbing outside?  Refer back to steps 1 and 2.  If a gym is at all within driving distance to any type of real rock, odds are that they will be offering guided trips to a local crag – usually gear rentals are included in the price.  These guided day trips can get pretty expensive (insurance for this type of sport isn’t cheap!), so if you’re climbing on a shoestring budget, a better bet is to get to know the local climbers (who are probably climbing most if not every weekend).  Make friends and sooner or later you’re bound to score an invite on one of those trips. 

My first time climbing outdoors was with a guide my husband and I had hired out in Squamish, British Columbia.  We were on a “rest” day during a week long anniversary ski trip at Whistler/Blackcomb Mountain.  After that we were hooked, and we were lucky enough to find a mentor back home that took us under his wing.  He taught us about lead climbing and placing gear, and within months we were confident enough to explore new areas on our own.

Photo Manuela Eilert 

Since that very first ski trip rest day, we’ve been able to use climbing as a starting block for countless adventures all across North America!  But probably our biggest adventure yet started in the summer of 2009, when I saw two lines on a pregnancy test – most people would assume that climbing, pregnancy, and babies don’t have very much in common with each other, and that I would have traded my harness in for a stroller.  However, I would beg to differ – climbing played an integral role in keeping me physically, emotionally, and mentally healthy during my pregnancy.  And now that our little Cragbaby is here, he’s as active a participant in our adventures as anyone else!  For a glimpse of what a day in the life of our “Crag-family” is like, check out this short film from Jan Balster. (http://vimeo.com/24808397)

It hasn’t always been easy to continue in our family’s recreational pursuits with a little one around, but the memories we have made along the way have more than made up for some of the challenges and obstacles we’ve faced at certain points on the journey. 

Is climbing a sport for everyone?  No, its certainly not.  But is it a sport for only thrill-seeking, adrenaline junkies?  Most definitely not!  If you could look at my circle of climbing friends, you’d see mommies and daddies, grandparents, children, students, young, old, wealthy, poor, tall, short, fat, people that like to wear polyester…you name it, I’ve seen it.  Few sports with such an extreme reputation have such a diverse population of participants.  But one thing we have in common is that we’re all addicted to playing outside in Creation. 

So if any of this describes you, get to googling a local rock gym in your area!  If you are looking for more resources or ideas on how to get the whole family involved in climbing adventures, feel free to browse through my website, http://cragmama.com or drop me a line at themommy@cragmama.com  .  Until then, climb on!

Creating a Crag Baby from JB-Photo on Vimeo.

About Paul

A guy trying to get away from his desk so that he can fish, hike, play and just plain be in the outdoors.

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  1. Rock climbing has crossed my mind when I hike, especially if I’m near cliffs. I met rock-climbers in Yosemite and was intimidated–those guys were lean and mean and young. Maybe I’m selling myself short, but I’m still not conviced I could do rock-climbing successfully on a regular basis.

  2. Ray, I hope Erica doesnt mind that I jump in here, but you are selling yourself short if you feel like it is the physical demand holding you back. Like any sport if you want to do it you just need to practice it. When I go to my gym I notice people from all walks of life find the joy and excitement in accomplishment reflecting on when they first started or what they couldnt do last week. Not everyone is a lean mean machine and climbing hosts many options to get to the summit, some routes more difficult than others but regardless the grade you have the same goal in mind, summit.

  3. Agreed CAS (I actually posted a reply to Ray yesterday…but for whatever reason it didn’t go through). Anyway – I’ve always maintained that if you can climb a ladder, you can climb a rock! If its something you’re interested in doing, go for it – you just might surprise yourself!

  4. And it’s not always about getting to the summit! Sometimes it’s just about getting to the top of the climb, even if it’s only halfway up the cliff, it can still be quite an accomplishment. Erica is right, if you can climb a ladder, you can climb a rock. Not only that, but it’s safer than climbing a ladder- you’ve got a rope to catch you if you fall!

  5. Extreme as it is.! I haven’t tried climbing cliff’s. Hope I could enjoy this soon.

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