How to make the transition from rope climbing in the gym to sport climbing outside
Get Out There ambassador Becca Frangos is one of the top young climbers in Canada. She writes about her climbing experiences as well as training and nutrition tips. Thanks to her sponsors Boulder House, La Sportiva and Flashed. As well as Rocky Mountain Soap Co, the PAUW foundation and the Pacific Institute of Sports Excellence (PISE). If you have a question or would like to suggest a topic for her column let us know.
Here are a few tips if you’re thinking about checking out some local areas where you live this summer!
Safety is top priority: Climbing outside is not like the gym, the draws are not set up for you, ropes are not checked by staff to ensure they’re in good condition and rocks outside can sometimes break off. When bringing your own gear or using someone else’s be sure to check that it’s all in good condition, the draws have no sharp edges and the rope isn’t wearing down anywhere. I also always wear my helmet when I climb outdoors. I think this is important especially when belaying because rocks can be kicked off by the climber or fall from the top of the cliff if there are mountain goats or other animals hanging out above.
Practicing in the gym: If you’re considering going outside for the first time it is always a good idea to go with a guide or a friend who is experienced with outdoor climbing and who can set up the rope for you. If you are wanting to set up the rope outside it is important you’re comfortable with lead climbing and falling prior to going out. Practising your clipping and falling as well as how to clean anchors outside can be done in the gym with your climbing partners or lots of gyms offer courses as well.
How to decide where to climb: If you have access to a local guidebook or online route maps it’s always a good place to start. Guidebooks will outline sectors and areas with how hard routes are, their length, what amount of draws you will need and some other info like how far a walk it is and if the area is sheltered from rain etc. That information will make your decision easer. To start, pick an area with a shorter approach (hike in) and that has a good variety of grades from which to choose based on your level.
Picking what routes to climb: A 5.9 in the gym may feel a lot easier than a 5.9 outside. The holds are not marked for you so you will have to get creative and find your own way to the top. To start pick a route that is at least a few grades below what you consistently climb at the gym, you may be surprised how different and how much harder it feels even if it’s below the level you are used to climbing.
Bring lots of extra clothing: Even on the warmest summer days, certain areas can feel really cold if they’re in canyons or the walls themselves get no sunlight so make sure to bring lots of extra jackets, hat/mitts and extra pair of pants for when you’re hanging out and belaying. There is nothing worse than being miserably cold for an entire day.
Considerations during COVID-19: Try to pick less popular areas or if you can get out during the week rather than on weekends when it’s bound to be busier that is a great option. It’s a good idea to bring liquid chalk to apply before every climb as well as sanitizer for cleansing between climbs as well as before you touch any food.
Lead photo by Alex Fricker.