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Rock Climbing : Articles : Introduction to Climbing : Start Climbing - Part 3 : Basic Indoor and toproping skills.

Start Climbing - Part 3 : Basic Indoor and toproping skills. popular


Submitted by trevor on 2006-10-18 | Last Modified on 2010-04-01

Rating: 12345   Go Login to rate this article.   Votes: 17 | Comments: 6 | Views: 96705

Now you've got a taste for climbing by developing your bouldering skills, it's time to start the 'real' work. The first climbing technique you'll have to master is toproping. Most climbers were introduced to climbing by toproping: it's a safe, easy and not too intimidating technique.

Only recently, most climbers learned their toproping skills on the rock. However, with the proliferation of indoor climbing gyms it's probably a good idea to start by taking a toproping course in your local climbing gym. Most climbing gyms offer basic instruction. There's a good list of gyms at indoorclimbing.com.

I'll give you a short overview of the technique and the climbing gear involved.

For basic indoor toproping you'll need the following gear: climbing shoes, a climbing harness, a pear-shaped locking carabiner, a belaying device, a chalk bag and some chalk. You can rent a harness, carabiner and belaying device in most of the gyms but in the long run it pays off to buy your own.

If you're starting out you shouldn't buy the most expensive shoes. With your current foot technique you'll end up trashing them in no time anyway. Buy your climbing shoes tight enough so your foot doesn't slip but not too tight. Leave the really tight shoes for the pros or SM-afficionados.

Make sure you buy a good pear-shaped locking carabiner (either screw-gate or locking-gate type). Don't ever use any other type of carabiner for belaying.

The belay device you choose depends on your taste and the kind of climbing you'll do. Over here in Europe, lots of us use a figure-eight device for its easy handling and because it can double up as a descender. If you decide to become an outdoor guru you're probably better off with an ATC-style device. There are also auto-blocking devices out there. These can be excellent for beginners as they will automatically block a fall if a beginner makes a belaying mistake. You shouldn't rely on this property though, making a habit of relying on the blocking properties of these devices is simply bad practise. It's important to learn to belay with a 'classic' device because one day or another you'll end up belaying a leader with a device you're not familiar with. The best approach is probably to try out different devices in a safe environment and then stick to the one you're most comfortable with. If you have to use another device one day you'll know how to handle it.

Choosing a climbing harness is a bit harder. You need to know a little more about your climbing style and your future projects. Trad, Alpine and Sport climbing all require different harness setups. You'll prefer the comfort of a well-padded harness on long climbs but may appreciate a lighter harness on pure sport climbs. Your safest bet is to test some for-rent harnesses and then buy a new model with the properties you like. As for shoes, go for comfort first. Always learn the proper buckling mechanism of your own and your partner's harness.

That's it for the gear, let's get on with the technique.

For toproping you'll need a climbing rope that's already run through a locking carabiner affixed to a solid anchor at the top. In a climbing gym these are built into the climbing wall. If you're climbing outside you'll have to rely on a more experienced climber to set you up. You'll have two ends of rope dangling down. The climber will tie into one end of the rope and the belayer will take up slack from the other end using his belaying device. When the climber reaches the top, the belayer will block the rope and let the climber lean back into the rope. The belayer will then slowly lower the climber as he 'walks' off the cliff backwards. I'll deliberately not go into more detail because you really will need to follow proper instruction. This is what you'll need to learn:

  • Learn the knot(s).
  • Learn to handle your harness AND your partner's harness
  • Learn to handle your belaying equipment (carabiner, belay device, harness)
  • Learn the belaying technique
  • Learn the descending technique
  • Learn how to walk down a cliff while being lowered.

Here are some safety tips to keep in mind:

  • Always check each other before you climb. Belayer checks climber's knot and harness. Climber checks belayer's harness, carabiner (screwed shut!) and belaying device.
  • Don't forget to screw your carabiner shut!
  • Always double-up the buckle on your harness.
  • If you don't feel safe, tell your partner.

I hope these tips will help you to become a safe climber. Next time, I'll tell you something more about leading.

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6 Comments CommentAdd a Comment

 Alicerocks
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 2009-03-25
Really helpful.. Making me even more excited
 Alicerocks
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 2009-03-25
Really helpful.. Making me even more excited
 hugepedro
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 2009-10-07
Jeez, didn't anyone with climbing knowledge proof-read these articles? There are enough errors in these articles to confuse beginners (the intended audience) and possibly even be unsafe. Examples in this one:

"Make sure you buy a good pear-shaped locking carabiner (either screw-gate or locking-gate type)."

Um, a screw-gate IS a locking gate type. What you meant to say was "auto-locking gate type", or perhaps "twist-lock gate type".

"There are also auto-blocking devices out there. These can be excellent for beginners as they will automatically block a fall if a beginner makes a belaying mistake."

Um, a belay device used in auto-block mode is NOT a beginner technique. It is a technique a leader uses to belay a second. You probably meant to say "auto-locking", as in a Gri-Gri.
 thomasoc
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 2010-02-22
i am new on this website since yesterday because i am into climbing sport recently.
btw, i agree with hugepedro on many errors on this article.
 rockhopper12
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 2010-03-10
Here at my gym our safety check we call a BARK check Buckles Abdomen Rope Knot/Carabinners.
 pencilbox
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 2010-10-06
@rockhopper what's the "abdomen" part about?

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