Getting Started

Before you chalk up for your first climb, or even think about it for that matter, you must first know what equipment is necessary. Here, a graphic illustrates these elementary pieces of a climber's outfit being used.

Climbers can take comfort in knowing that modern climbing gear is built extremely strong to save their soft bodies from the dangers all around them.

Let's take, for exmaple, the climbing rope. Sometimes referred to as "the climber's umbilical cord", the rope is built strong using a process called kernmantle construction. This means that many seperate nylon pieces of cord are woven around each other, then enclosed by a protective "sheath", or smooth nylon outer shell. These small woven 'core ropes' stretch out when mpacted, making for a plush, smooth fall on the rope.   Ropes come in different widths and lenghts, with a width of 10.5mm being the standard for a single rope. A length of 50 meters is very common among climbers and suitable for the majority of climbs, while certain pitches and a few larger top-roped cliffs can pretty much require 60 meter lenghts.

H ere is a picture of a rope cut open. Notice the smaller pieces of cord in the center of the rope's construction.

     1  Small Wound Pieces Of Cord

     2  Protective Sheath

The belay device is what the climber uses to belay another climber.  They come in different varieties but the general purpose common to all of them is to use rope angle and mechanical advantage to apply friction on a weighted rope, stopping a fall. Two basic types are the descendants of the sticht plate, (tuber, pyramid, ATC), which can be used for rappelling, and the second Gri-Gri type.  An important note about the Gri-gri:  Gri-gris have a unique auto locking design such that if one let's go of the whole apparatus, the rope should lock tight in the device, assuming it is properly inserted..  However, without thorough expert instruction of Gri-gri usage, they can lull an inexperienced or improperly trained belayer into feeling safe because of the auto-lock feature.  This becomes very dangerous because there are certain situations, lowering, for example, where a potentially disasterous fall could easily occur with incorrect belaying technique.  The precise situations and their remedies are outside the scope of this website, simply because they should be learned from a trusted professional, but I've seen them happen several times in real life with rather severe risk and consequence.  Get a guide or trustworthy climber with experience for proper instructional training in all climbing pursuits.  

Rock shoes are the one investment with the biggest impact on your climbing ability and comfort, and so certain features and fit are important depending on your main climbing type and body size/weight. First of all, most climbers prefer the sensitive sockless feel so unless you are a hardcore trad climber (cam, hex, chock, and nut-weilder), sizing up without socks on is recommended. Normally people purchase rock shoes tighter than the normal person would expect, with sizes 1-2 sizes less than your street shoe size being common. This generally helps the shoe's holding ability on small rock features, although people often take this too far, as some prefer masochistically tight shoes thinking if tight is good tighter is better. Generally, this is a bad way to buy shoes. First of all, make sure the shoes are as tight as possible but without actually being painful, and they'll probably suit your needs fine. Just keep in mind that all climbing shoes will stretch to one degree or another and conform to your foot. However, some stretch considerably more than others, with the type of or lack of inner lining being a big reason. If you plan on doing longer trad routes outdoors, and/or if you are a big person, a thicker, board-lasted shoe will give your feet better support and create less strain, allowing you to climb longer and easier. The only trade-off is a less sensitive "feel" to the rock features. This is why many gym and sport climbers use slip-lasted, thinner soled shoes, which generally offer less support but can help with trickier footwork like smearing. The shoes have special sticky rubber soles, which are usually resolable by any decent cobler as they wear and the edges disappear. To enhance the edging ability of the shoe, they all are free of any cushioning on the climbing areas of the sole; otherwise, like climbing with regular shoes on, the concentrated pressure between a small foothold and the shoe would make it too squishy and unsupportive.

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