Climbing contrary to what many people think is a relatively cheap sport. Okay, climbing rope, draws, harnesses, rock shoes, and belay devices are not exactly cheap. Travelling overseas to climb can also be expensive. But comparing rock climbing to other outdoor sports it is one of the most affordable.
If you have just started climbing and you are thinking of climbing overseas, here is some advice that will help get you ready for your outdoor climbing trip.
Start leading and place your own protection
Are you are still doing top rope? If you are please stop. Start lead climbing and no more top rope. It is rare to have the opportunity to place your own protection as most gyms have fixed draws. Start visiting gyms where you can practice placing quickdraws. Here are the gyms (Yishun SAFRA, The Cliff, Boy’s Town) in Singapore that allows you to place your own protection. But if you want to get some local taste of outdoor climbing you can always go to Singapore’s one and only natural crag Dairy Farm. Is not exactly a climbing gem but is free so why not?
Climb with experienced outdoor climbers
Climbers are generally a friendly bunch. So get to know other climbers, especially those that are much more experience than you are. Differentiate between strong gym climbers and experienced outdoor climbers. Strong gym climbers might be just that. They are strong at pulling on indoor plastic holds but had never been outdoor climbing ever. Your objective is to climb and learn from climbers with outdoor climbing experience.
Invest in essential climbing equipment
In essence, all the outdoor climbing equipment you’ll ever need is a rope, a harness, a chalk bag, a pair of climbing shoes, a few locking carabiners, a helmet, a belay device, a set of quickdraws, and a personal safety sling. To own all this equipment can be somewhat costly. There is a way to minimize the damage to your bank account. That is to borrow from friends. You can probably borrow everything apart from harnesses and rock shoes.
So start cosying up to climbers who have gears to spare and experience to share. Make sure you try out the equipment and get familiar with them before going on your trip. Take good care of the equipment you borrowed and make sure you return them in good condition so that you can borrow again in the future.
Join season climbers on their outdoor climbing trips
Just like courting a partner, you need to build up a layer of thick skin and ask your season climbing friends if you can join them on their upcoming climbing trip. Normally they will say no…. or make up some excuses. That is alright because they don’t know you that well and who knows you may be a horrible climbing partner. So to increase the chances of your request being accepted you will need to inspire confidence in your belay and climbing ability. Every new relationship takes time to build especially one where you can literally kill yourself and your partner.
Practice cleaning a sport anchor
One of the most important things to practice when comes to climbing outdoors is topping out and setting up a top rope system. Outdoors fix anchors are not regularly maintained. Any kind of maintenance is likely done by local volunteer climbers. When you are at the top there is no one to check what you’ve done is correct. Making mistakes while cleaning the anchor can have deadly consequences. The majority of sport climbing accidents took place while cleaning the anchor. This is something you’ll need to practice and understand the logic behind each step. You don’t want to be at the anchor 20 meters above the ground and start wondering what is it that you need to do.
Get (buy/borrow/steal…. I mean online) a guidebook
Before you start climbing outdoor routes you need to find out about the route so get yourself a guidebook. You need to know the height of the route and the number of bolts on the wall. The last thing you want is for the belayer to find out your rope is not long enough to lower you to the ground. You also don’t want to be in a situation where you don’t have enough quickdraws for the route when you are midway up.
To get information about climbing routes for free you can download the “Mountain Project” app on your mobile. If you are using a guidebook make sure you check the date of publication. If the guidebook is dated you should take the information with a pinch of salt.
Be prepared to lose some gears (so make sure you have extra)
When climbing outdoors always be prepared to contribute some gear to climbers you don’t know. You may not be as good as you think. If you can’t finish a route because you are stuck at the crux and need to bail then just do it. Leave 2 draws on the wall and descend.
Come back to the route first thing the following morning. If you are lucky your draws will still be on the wall but chances are they are gone. Some better climbers will be walking around with your quickdraws. Climbers don’t consider this as stealing is more like finders keepers and losers weepers kind of thing. This is normal especially for inexperienced climbers so don’t lose sleep over it. Take it as an outdoor climbing tuition fee.
Join social media climbing groups
A great way to get relevant information is to join social media climbing groups. There is no need for me to recommend any because there are so many and it is very likely you already have friends in those groups. People on social media are generally happy to help and provide you with the information you need. You can even request to join them in their regular weekend climbs.
Make some local climbing friends or hire a local climbing guide
When you are climbing overseas, it is always good to befriend local climbers. If you need up-to-date information about local climbing areas they are the best people to ask. If you happen to be extremely likeable you might even get to stay at their place and save you a few bucks on accommodation. Alternately you can hire a rock climbing guide. You can do that simply by Googling “rock climbing guide for hire in (the place you want to go)”.
Join an outdoor climbing trip organised by your local adventure clubs
There are numerous climbing clubs and adventure tour companies that run overseas climbing trips. If you just want to experience climbing on real rocks going with these groups is great. By paying a reasonable price you get to climb outdoors with all the gears and logistics planned out. All you need to do is to show up. But the downside is you don’t get to decide where to climb and what to climb. Most participants on these trips are newbie climbers hence organizers will usually go to areas where there are many easy routes. If you are looking for a challenge and to improve on your climbing going on such trips might not be what you are looking for.
This advice should help get you ready for your trip. Climbing overseas for the first time can be quite an experience. How you want to experience it depends on how prepared you are. So train hard and start planning for that climbing trip.