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Start Here Part 1


Submitted by hunna03 on 2007-09-08 | Last Modified on 2007-09-17

Rating: 12345   Go Login to rate this article.   Votes: 29 | Comments: 19 | Views: 54122

by Clinton Andersen


For the last 4 years I have marveled in the sport known as Rock Climbing. I had seen pictures before of these people clinging to these near featureless walls and it made me speechless. It was incredible. How they did it, how they were able to climb holding on to virtually nothing all the while making it look so easy was something that created this fire inside of me. I wanted to Rock Climb.

The only problem was that I was living in Nebraska and I could not just hop up and leave because of my commitment to the United States Air Force. So the next best thing was to find a magazine about Rock Climbing. I subscribed to Rock and Ice and Climbing and that only made my problem of living in a pretty flat land worse because that desire fire inside of me only grew stronger. Finally, the time had come to leave the military and I was able to land a job in perhaps the greatest outdoors state known to man, Utah.

I arrived in Utah and now live in South Jordan, in the valley, surrounded my awe inspiring mountains just beginning to be explored. But it seemed that now that I was here I was even more lost. I’m pretty savy on the internet but finding anything about Rock Climbing, anything that was useful to beginners at least, was like trying to find something about a secret society. Thankfully after much digging and exploring I found some information that I would like to share with you. So if you’re thinking about rock climbing then I would recommend you Start Here:

First, to those individuals who live in a place such as Nebraska, where there are no climbs or climbing gyms, the best thing you can do is internet research. This site, rockclimbing.com, is perhaps the best site out there. They already have a pretty good article series that gives you an idea on the different types of climbing and what it all means. Then on top of that they have an excellent forum. They have thousands of people visiting their site everyday who are experienced and knowledgeable and willing to show you the ropes, albeit through the internet.

The next best thing you can do is subscribe to the two magazines out there that are dedicated to this sport; Climbing and Rock and Ice. Climbing was the first magazine that I subscribed too because it was the first thing to pop up in Google when I typed in ‘Climbing Magazine’, for now obvious reasons. At first I wasn’t too impressed with the magazine because the writers seemed like teenagers with a fetish for fowl language but the overall meanings were there and the stuff you read about, terminology like ‘redpoint’, ‘on-site flash’, etc. only cause you to do further research enhancing your knowledge. After a couple of issues and nothing else really pertinent to learning to rock climb I subscribed to Rock and Ice. I think the writers seemed a little more professional plus the articles and pictures gave me a little bit more knowledge. The bottom line is that each magazine has its own pros and cons but they both give you more knowledge about Rock Climbing and make a great place to start learning.

Second, to those individuals who live in any other place, those that has climbs and/or rock climbing gyms, the first thing that you need to do is find a rock climbing gym. In Utah, specifically Salt Lake City, the first gym that I went to was The Front. I came in the front door and asked the young lady about the gym and she showed me and told me about the sport and she was excited to do so. At first glance I wasn’t too impressed because, I’m 6’2”, the wall’s seemed like 12’ high so they didn’t seem like they would be a challenge. Not only that but I was hoping to be able to learn to do some traditional climbing, which involves being attached to a harness with someone belaying you from below. However, as I soon found out, this gym is a challenge and a great starting point. Bouldering is a great starting point because it gives you climbing experience, with just as much challenge, while also building your strength. Oh, and if you think you're strong so you don’t need to boulder I got a dollar that says the place where you need to be strong, your finger tips, are not.

The second gym I went to, Momentum, I fell in love with at first site. The first thing you see when you walk in is top-roping climbing walls that have got to be like 30 feet tall. It was exactly what I wanted to do. Not only that but they had a bouldering wall I could continue to build my strength on as well. There was only one problem, I was alone. I have a co-worker of mine who says he wants to go and I keep reminding him but nothing had panned out so far. So I got onto rockclimbing.com’s forums and asked if anybody was looking for a partner. For what seemed like forever I didn’t get a response and then one day I did, although not exactly what I was expecting. The response told me to just go alone. What?!?!? I didn’t want to do that! But the poster had a point.

My biggest fear was going alone because I didn’t know anything and I didn’t just want to be standing around looking like an idiot. But the poster said that there was usually somebody always standing around looking for a partner themselves and I wasn’t learning anything by not going. Realizing the truth in the post and the fact that if I kept waiting for my co-worker I may never go I decided to go. I had already bought the required gear, which I will write about in a separate article, because I didn’t know that I could just rent them from the gym, which is the smarter way to go just for the simple fact that you never know if you’re truly going to love something until you do it. But for myself, deep down, I already knew I was in love with it.

So I went to Momentum, signed my life away (the waiver), put on my shoes, chalked up my hands, and went to the bouldering wall… and stood… and stood… and stood. My biggest fear had come true. There were a few people there and all of them had partners and I was standing in front of a wall lined with holds and tape and even though I’m an educated man I could not make sense of the giant jumble. More and more I was in a panic. I wondered back and forth from wall to wall just trying to find something. Every now and then I found a V1 and a V2 and I knew the only thing lower and easier was a V0 but I didn’t want to start climbing because I felt that everybody just knew that I was the newbie. Part of my problem was that I was afraid to ask somebody questions because everybody looked busy and I didn’t want to be singled out as the newbie.

Finally people started clearing out and I finally gathered up the courage to ask somebody about the lines. He also was extremely friendly and explained to me that the colored tape in V’s meant it was a starting hold and then you follow that color tape up the wall, which made sense. He also told me V0 was the easiest, V15 was the hardest, and that the Yin-and-Yang symbols were for traversing, or climbing side-to-side. Finally the wall was making sense and after staring at it for a couple more minutes I finally decided to start at V0. I sent it (which means I made it to the top in Rock Climbing Lingo), first time! WOOHOO! (We all have to start somewhere) I hit another V0, did the same then I hit a V1 and made it on the second try. I finally started a V2 and kept falling off… I couldn’t get past this one point. Almost time to go home I was determined to at least complete that before I left. Fingers aching, barely holding on, I finally made it after the 6th attempt.

I had to go home, I have a family, but I was hooked. I haven’t gone back yet but am dreaming of the next time I get to go learn and climb. Basically if you’re anything like me, just have the courage to go and ask questions. It’s the only way you’re going to learn and you will learn a ton of things, such as how helpful everybody is. So, here’s the recap:

If you live in a non-climbing state: Internet research, visit internet climbing forums, subscribe to rock climbing’s two magazines, Climbing and Rock and Ice.

If you live in a climbing state: Internet research, visit internet climbing forums, sub scribe to rock climbing’s two magazines, Climbing and Rock and Ice, explore the different types of gyms available to you, rent their equipment, ask questions, start climbing.

As I learn and continue to progress I will share my experiences. I think I might start a blog for those learning to climb so you don’t have to share the same secret society experience I have. If you have any questions feel free to e-mail me and I will help out. Oh, and if you’re looking for a partner and you’re better than I am (Which isn’t difficult at this point) let me know! And if you’re just beginning and would like a friend to go to the gym with here in Utah let me know. I’ve been there, done that, got the T-shirt, and would love to go!

Until next time...

Click to read part 2 of the Start Here series.

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19 Comments CommentAdd a Comment

 flint
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 2007-09-10
1 out of 5 stars I am pretty sure the gym didn't have any Traditional climbing. I believe the term you should use is either a top roping area/lead climbing/or rope climbing.
 hunna03
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 2007-09-10
5 out of 5 stars You're right, traditional climbing wasn't the proper word so I fixed that. I hope that wasn't the only reason for a 1 start rating. Any other feedback would be appreciated. Thanks.
 RockStarr
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 2007-09-11
Gripped Magazine out of canada is another goodie.
 RockStarr
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 2007-09-11
Also If you want the real deal info on climbing check out these books:

-ROCK CLIMBING: MASTERING BASIC SKILLS
Craig Luebben
-MOUNTAINEERING: THE FREEDOM OF THE HILLS, 7TH EDITION (THE BIBLE!!!)
-ROCK CLIMBING ANCHORS: A Comprehensive Guide
Craig Luebben
-How to Rock Climb! by John Long
-Advanced Rock Climbing
John Long and Craig Luebben
 RockStarr
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 2007-09-11
Keep climbing too. I started last year and Ive sent a solid 5.11a red point (sport)(outside). Tons of 5.7 5.8 squamish crack on lead and have already ice climbed and done multi pitch.
It feels like years but if you stick with it and focus on SAFETY out side you will be ripping it up and not looking back climbclimb climb!!! cheers.
 cryin_brain
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 2007-09-11
If you come to Mexico some time I can be your partner, haha. Good luck!
 hunna03
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 2007-09-12
5 out of 5 stars Thanks RockStarr for adding to this post. You provided some great information.

And Cryin Brain, next time time in Mexico i'll look you up! :-)
 climbingcamera
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 2007-09-12
4 out of 5 stars Wow i've heard Utah is the best...and i guess it is. I live in Utah too kinda by SL valley in Utah Valley I freaquented AF canyon everday, but now i moved south to homo bar Cedar City and the sport here blows, but the bouldering kicks ass! I have a qustion what ratings are pro grades? like is it V7 and up and 5.13 and up?
 groz
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 2007-09-13
3 out of 5 stars I'll be climbing at Maple Canyon from the 17th to the 28th of this month. I'd be happy to show you the ropes (no pun intended) for a day or two during that time if you would like to come down. I think its about 100 miles south of South Jordan. We'll be doing alot of 5.7-5.10 climbs, plenty of stuff to get your feet wet. Drop me a PM if you're interested.
 hunna03
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 2007-09-13
5 out of 5 stars Hey Climbing Camera. I don't know about bouldering. I've climbed at a couple of gyms, bouldering, and it seems like there are problems that are V2 that are hard for most people and I haven't seen any gym with a problem over V6. So I'm not sure how they gauge that. For the 5 Scale I would probably say High 5.11 and up is pro while 5.13 and up is Elite.
 emermade
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 2007-09-14
Hunna I think the best way to find a parnter is to go to the gym and take a belay class. That way you will meet a number of other beginners who also probably are looking for partners.
 hunna03
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 2007-09-15
5 out of 5 stars Did that. I was the only one in the class. :-)
 valeberga
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 2007-09-15
Ah dude, you just totally ruined my onsight into climbing. WEAK
 hunna03
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 2007-09-15
5 out of 5 stars I'm sure you'll survive.
 climbingcamera
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 2007-09-17
4 out of 5 stars oh well I thought 13 and up wwas soft pro and V7 and up was pro and 5.14 and up was good pro and V10 and up was good pro. I know im no where near pro and i can 5.12 and just started sending V7's
 flame31
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 2007-12-20
Hey, pretty good article. I especially liked the part about hanging out in the bouldering area of the climbing gym. I am sure quite a few of us who decide to start climbing and don't have any friends that are interested, feel the same way. Luckily, I go to Earth Treks in Maryland and they realized this predicament so they have a sign up sheet for people looking for partners (for top roping, but then of course many people do both). Also, the staff is very friendly and couple of them gave me their personal info. so I could climb with them when they were off. I didn't mean anyone to climb with in the Intro. class either a lot of people come with others to that class or lose interes or I think do it just for a quick one time thrill. I am going to a more advanced class this weekend and there are quite a few more I plan to attend. But, basiclly I've gotten a few responses from the list that the gym posts and then there's the staff. I also got one offer to be belayed just with someone I was chatting with and then a couple boulderers straight up gave me advice. But, yes, a lot of the time you are climbing alone and it can take some nerve! I'd say keep going at least once if not twice a week! It's the only way to improve and advance. It sounds like you did pretty well for a beginner, I've heard some people are naturals. I've been bouldering for a month and I've only reached the top of a couple of V0's. I've gotten close on V1's and then in top roping I've done a couple 5.6's.
 johnlee001
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 2008-08-07
4 out of 5 stars what a great article! I could read this and see myself in the same situation... with a difference... I had friends who wanted to climb and started with me but they didn't stick with it. In fact they started missing, not showing up or showing up late. So I've come to the point where I too have put my name on the board looking for partners. keep dinting and keep writing!
 Athomps3
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 2009-03-03
I appreciate you writing this. I had my first rock climbing experience this past weekend, in Rochester NY at Rock Ventures. I had always wanted to do it, so I joined my colleges "outdoor club" and my first trip with them was to the indoor gym. Though, I did not realize that I was the odd man out, that everyone else had their boyfriend or girlfriend with them to belay for them....though, they were helpful and didn't mind doing it once and awhile.
After 5 hours of climbing, I finally understood how fingertips could fatigue, I thought I was in shape, but not for rock climbing. The point is, I am now dreaming about climbing, and I've no partner, the vocabulary, nor any idea what I would be doing on my own. Though, I find that climing involves some of the most helpful, motivating, and encouraging people i've ever met, and that was just from one days experience. I'm glad I'm not the only newbie out there....and by the way, if you can't find time to hit the climbing gym, I bought myself a Hangboard which has at least given me some much needed strength.
 BlueFalcon
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 2011-10-24
I've been climbing for 2 months now and this is exactly how I started (I even started at the same gym, alone, staring at a mess on the wall and trying to make sense of it). I've since grouped up with some good friends that I ski with during the winter and have now learned about The Front (less than 2 miles from my home) and I try to climb outside 3-4 days a week along with bouldering in the gym. My hands hurt often. I love it. Now I just need to get my wife into it.

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