Outdoor climbing trip

Outdoor climbing trip – How to prepare

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Outdoor climbing trip – How to prepare

So you had been climbing in the gym for a while. You heard other gym climbers talking about going outdoors to send their project and it sounds exciting. You are thinking I should go outdoors and test my climbing skills. However, you had never climbed outdoors and your fingers are still virgin to the touch of real rocks.

What can you do to prepare yourself for an outdoor climbing trip? Here are a few things you need to do to get yourself ready for climbing outdoors.

Start leading and place your protection

Outdoor climbing - on lead
Lead climbing on an outdoor route

Are you still doing top rope? If you are, please stop. Start lead climbing and no more top rope. Unfortunately, it is rare to have the opportunity to place your protection as most gyms have fixed pre-placed quickdraws. However, some gyms may have sections of lead wall without fixed draws allocated for training and courses. You’ll need to know how many quickdraws you need for the route you are climbing. Get used to retrieving quickdraws from your harness without looking at them. Develop a habit of arranging your quickdraws according to length and have them clipped onto your gear loops in the same orientation. These are good practices which will be very helpful for lead climbing outdoors.

Climb with experienced outdoor climbers

Climbers are generally a friendly bunch. So get to know other climbers, especially those who are much more experienced 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 have never been outdoor climbing. Your objective is to climb and learn from climbers with outdoor climbing experience.

Invest in essential climbing equipment

climbing gear
Essential climbing gears and 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. Owning all this equipment can be 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 it in good condition so that you can borrow it 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. Chances are they might say no…. or make up some excuses. That is alright because they don’t know you 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 kill yourself and your partner.

Alternatively, you can weasel your way to join a group of season climbers on their outdoor climbing trip. This way you can experience outdoor climbing with seasoned climbers who can teach you the ropes. And best of all they have all the equipment needed for climbing outdoors.

Practice cleaning sports anchor

Cleaning climbing anchor
Cleaning a sport anchor

One of the most important things to practice when it comes to climbing outdoors is setting up and cleaning the anchor when you are done climbing. Outdoor 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 sports climbing accidents took place while descending after 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 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 or use thecrag.com. If you are using a guidebook, check the publication date. If the guidebook is dated you should take the information with a pinch of salt.

Have more climbing gear than you need

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 the local social media climbing groups

A great way to get relevant information is to join a local social media climbing group. 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 climbing guide

If you are planning to climb 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 are extremely likeable you might even get to stay at their place and save you a few bucks on accommodation. Alternatively, you can hire a climbing guide if you don’t want the hassle of searching for the crag.

Join a local outdoor climbing club

climbing group
Climbing groups

Numerous climbing clubs and adventure tour companies run outdoor climbing trips. If you want to experience climbing on real rocks going with these groups is great. You can get to climb outdoors with all the gears and logistics planned out by paying a reasonable price. All you need to do is 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 outdoors 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.

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