Warning: Climbing is a dangerous sport that if not practiced safely can lead to severe injury with the potential of death. The Alpine Club highly recommends that you first learn from professionals or very experienced acquaintances; the information on this site is to help you get an idea of where to start and not as a definitive guide. With that being said, Climbing when safety is properly followed is a very exciting and fun sport that we hope all of you get to explore.
Overview of the Sport:
Climbing is a sport that is a perfect combination of your technique, your physical strength, and your mental strength. Literally it is just you and the rock and this is why we love climbing. Very few sports are as diversified in their practice while giving you the opportunity to explore a limitless myriad of locations throughout the world. Additionally climbing is a sport that is very easy to get started in; with a quick lesson on safety and some pointers on technique you will be getting up climbs faster then you realize.
Luckily for you, Denver is located at one of the epic-centers of climbing in the world with world renown climbing areas all along the front range and throughout the state. With massive amounts of rock literally in your backyard we feel it is time for you to get out and explore this amazing and beautiful aspect of the outdoors.
Types of Climbing:
- Top-Rope Climbing: Using fixed ropes a climber ascends a cliff with the help of a belayer (a person attached to the other end of the rope and makes sure you don’t fall too far). The rope is attached to anchors at the top of the climb so that when you fall you only fall a few feet. This type is common at areas for beginners and is common place within Climbing Gyms.
- Sport-Rope Climbing: Sport Climbing or Lead climbing is the next step above Top-Roping. The climber still uses a rope and a belayer, however the rope is not attached to the top of the cliff. As the climber ascends they actually clip the rope into bolts that are drilled into the rock. This is one of the most popular styles of climbing and something you will learn once you get comfortable with climbing on top-rope.
- Traditional Rope Climbing: Trad climbing is very similar to sport, however instead of using bolts that are fixed into the rock the climber instead uses removable gear to protect themselves from falling. Most Trad climbers have significant knowledge about climbing and they have spent years honing their skills before getting into trad. Trad climbers also tend to climb multi-pitch routes, which are essentially several climbs linked together on large cliffs.
- Bouldering: Bouldering is climbing on large boulders or shorter cliffs without the use of a rope. Instead boulders use thick-foam pads called crash pads that they essentially try to fall on. Usually when bouldering there are several spotters, or people that make sure when you fall that you land on the crash pads. Typically bouldering is more of a social sport and can usually be done in many more locations then most roped climbing.
- Ice-Climbing: Ice climbing is pretty much like Top-rope or sport climbing expect that it is on ice cliffs and the climber uses Ice Axes and Crampons to climb the ice formation.
- Indoor Climbing: Where most climbers train. Usually climbing gyms have top-rope, sport, and bouldering all under one roof to give climbers and opportunity to practice.
What to Expect:
Getting started in climbing it is best to do so with friends of yours that want to learn how to climb or are already climbers. If you are
looking for a partner to climb with the Alpine Club is always going to the local indoor gyms and holds several rock-climbing trips each year to help you get started.
Once you get started there is a learning curve, however the advantage with climbing is that nearly every climb is different and is of varying difficultly. Most likely you will catch on quickly to climbing and complete the climbs; make sure you start off on climbs that you can actually complete. Focus on improvement and listen to others that have experience; your technique is more important to a beginner then your strength.
Safety is also a major concern when climbing and is an ever-present aspect of the sport. Because of this most climbing gyms give you a short course in safety and usually you must pass a basic test. This is essential and we recommend that you spend time learning all the different aspects of safety as you begin climbing. Due to the need for safety while climbing make sure that you are always with people whose judgment and skills you trust as literally your life can be in their hands.
Lastly you will have to learn several knots, understand how the equipment works, and how to climb with others. These are usually the easier parts that you will quickly catch onto.
Gear is based on the type of climbing you will be doing with a few essentials that are used across all types. The interesting part about climbing is some people need to only ever buy a pair of rock shoes, while others spend thousands of dollars on gear.
- Rock Climbing Shoes: Everyone should have a pair of climbing shoes that fit them properly. At one time shoes cost at least
$100, however now a good shoe can cost as little as $50-60. Shoes should be snug on your foot (without socks), however not too tight that you can’t wear them comfortably on a climb. Test out several pairs before buying them.
- Chalk and Chalk bag: Climbing chalk is used to keep your hands dry so that you do not slip off of holds. Most chalkbags are less then $20 and chalk is very inexpensive as well.
Gear for Top-Roping/Sport Climbing:
- Harness: These attach around your waist and legs and are what attaches you to the rope. This is essential for any rope climbing. While they might look awkward/painful, they can be quite comfortable if you get a proper fitting one. A good harness for a beginner usually runs $50-$75 as the real expensive ones contain features that you will most likely never use.
- Belay Device: A simple ATC belay device is what we recommend for everyone that is beginning. While you might not belay right away you will very shortly after beginning climbing.
- Rope: One of the most expensive parts of climbing equipment. We suggest that as a beginner you use your friends and not go out and spend money on a rope until you are sure you need it. When you do a 50m or 60m rope at approx 11mm is what you will be looking for.
- Helmet: While not essential to climbing we recommend a helmet for your safety especially as you become use to the sport.
Gear for Bouldering:
- Crashpad: In bouldering a crashpad is essential. If you enjoy bouldering you should invest into one as their usefulness will be very apparent. Typically crashpads are 3-4 inches thick and fold in half with backpack straps on them. You want something that is large enough that you feel comfortable having under you and will protect your falls while climbing. Good pads can be had for about $150.
Tips and Techniques for Climbing:
Most people assume they can’t be good climbers because they are afraid that they are too weak or do not have enough upper strength. This is not true. Climbing is a combination of Technique/Skill, Physical Strength, and Mental Strength and is a sport that requires you to be proficient at all three to really advance.
There are a lot of ways to move up a route and each climb is completely different. For technique make sure that you move fluid through the holds; spot your next moves before beginning and make sure that you will be flow smoothly over the rock. Always try to have three points of contact and really focus on making sure your feet are on the best holds in the best locations. The feet are critical and will help you quickly advance through the difficulty levels.
Lastly always make sure you are pushing your limits. Climbing can be scary when you are hanging 30 feet above the ground, however make sure that you are always right at your level of comfort and you will be amazed at how you adjust to the sport.
- http://www.abc-of-rockclimbing.com/ Good site with a bunch of beginner info
- http://mountainproject.com Online guidebook that has climbing areas all over the world.