Tips for New Climbers

Gideon Joe's 3Climbing is really growing in popularity. Professional and amateur climbers alike have blown the sport up with countless pictures and videos that capture the fun adventure of climbing. 20 years ago, most folks couldn’t name a professional climber. Today, Alex Honnold has practically become a household name with commercial cameos, an interview on 60 Minutes, and all of his high profile free-soloing ascents that he insists aren’t that risky.

Self magazine featured rock climbing as a workout in their print magazine this month, and that’s about as mainstream as you can get.

So, let’s say that you watch a climbing video and decide that you just have to get into climbing. What do you do?

The best way to get into rock climbing is to go to a climbing gym. We’re lucky enough to have a couple of gyms in our area that are full of knowledgeable climbers. Climbing gyms let you rent shoes and try your hand at the sport in a safe environment. This saves you from spending a ton of money up front and gets you the experience you need to decide whether or not climbing is for you.

The two most common types of rock climbing are bouldering and sport.

Bouldering is typically going to be closer to the ground, (a “highball” or tall problem might be 25 feet tall) and you aren’t in a harness. It’s just you, the rock, and a handful of people called spotters who are there to make sure you land on the foam crash pad you brought with you.

Sport climbing requires you and a buddy to be in a harness and you use a rope for safety. Sport climbing routes are going to be much taller than boulder problems but are typically limited to a single pitch, or rope length.

There are other types of climbing, like traditional and multi-pitch climbing, but that’s probably not something you’re going to get involved in as a beginner to the sport.

OK, you’ve gone to the climbing gym a few times, met some cool climbers, and you’ve decided that you’re going all-in. The next step is getting the right gear.

One thing that every climber needs is a good pair of climbing shoes. Climbing shoes are made with special rubber to generate more friction, and are probably the most uncomfortable pair of shoes you’ve ever worn unless your feet were bound as a child. Climbing shoes are definitely something you have to get used to. You don’t want them so tight that your toes turn purple, but you want them tight enough that they don’t slip or slide around when you’re standing on tiny footholds. Trying on shoes in a store is the best way to pick your first pair.

Chalk is another useful tool in the climber’s arsenal. Old school climbers will tell you that you don’t need it, but it helps absorbs sweat and oils from your hands and increases friction with the rock.

After that, the gear you need splits. Bouldering is the cheaper option, since all you need is a crash pad to fall on. Sport climbing requires a harness, a rope, and quickdraws, and if you get into traditional climbing you have to buy a whole rack of cams and nuts as well.

Once you have the right gear and you’ve met a climber who knows their stuff, it’s time to set out for adventure!

There are tons of climbing areas in Arkansas like Horseshoe Canyon Ranch, Lincoln Lake, Invasion, Fountain Red, Valley of the Blind, and plenty of others. Pick up a guidebook to learn the difficulty and a little beta, or instruction, for the routes and problems you will find.

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