Rock Climbing: The Perfect Outdoor Adventure

It’s finally summer. I wait for it all year, planning all the amazing things I’ll do when it’s warm enough to shed my winter jacket in favor for light breezy clothing. The one thing I always feel good about in the summer is getting outside and being in nature. There’s something about breathing fresh air and looking out over vast mountaintops and miles of blue sky that the soul needs!

What could be perfect for the adventurer in search of a view? An outdoor rock climbing trip.

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Outdoor Rock Climbing Prep

If you’re considering climbing outdoors, it’s likely you’ve climbed in the gym before. It would be good to have some experience and training in the gym before going outdoors so you are comfortable with knots, belaying and basic climbing techniques. Check out my post for an intro to indoor rock climbing!

Equipment

For the purpose of this post, I’ll talk about top roping and sport climbing. I favor these over trad climbing because they are less expensive to equip yourself for and setting trad gear can be a little sketchy, props to those who do it though!

Rock Climbing: Top Roping

Outdoor Top Rope Equipment List

For top roping you will need:

  • Climbing Harness
  • Climbing Shoes
  • Chalk/Chalk Bag
  • Gri-Gri Belay Device* (or ATC Belay Device*)
  • Climbing Helmet
  • 5 Locking Carabiners*(1 to anchor belayer, 1 to belay, 1 for anchor, 2 for rope through anchor point)
  • 150 ft of 10mm Static Climbing Rope
  • 20-25 ft of 7mm Cordelette
  • 60 m of 9.8mm Dynamic Climbing Rope
  • 1 Nylon Sling(for belay anchor)

Rock Climbing - Sport Climbing

For sport climbing you will need:

Climbing Guide / Climbing Class

I recommend taking a class in whatever type of climbing you’ll be doing, preferably in the region you’ll be doing it. I chose to go with a guide the first time I set up anchors for top rope and when I learned how to set and clean sport routes. Sure, it’s not that complicated, but it’s a valuable skill to learn correctly.

There’s no way you should ever try to follow a Youtube example on setting anchors. There’s a ton of bad information out there, so don’t believe everything you see on the internet!

I took one class through Ascent Climbing and one through EMS (Eastern Mountain Sports). Since equipment is typically provided to you in the class, it can be nice to wait and see what you’ll want to purchase after using it.

Top Rope or Sport Climbing?

Your choice to top rope or sport climb may depend on what’s available near you. MountainProject.com is a great public forum website you can find rock climbing information by region.

The pros of top roping are that you are in constant tension and there is essentially no risk of falling during the climb. It can be good for beginners and has a lower skill level for entry. The cons may be considered having to hike to the top of the mountain to access your climb to set up anchor before climbing it. Another con is that you have to be careful about setting your protection on trees or rocks that are structurally sound. Tip: never use a tree smaller than your thigh to anchor to.

The pros of sport climbing are that it is sometimes set up on more challenging routes, such as overhangs. It is good for intermediate to advanced climbers, although there are some easier routes set up with bolts for sport climbing. The cons may be that you can fall some distance, perhaps 6-10 feet or more, if you miss a clip since you are climbing above your protection. Another con is that you have to be wary of the condition of the bolts.

Outdoor Climbing Trip

Whether it’s a day trip or a whole week, you’ll need a few things in the bag for your climbing trip.

Packing List

  • Climbing Harness/Shoes/Chalk/Helmet
  • Sneakers for the approach
  • Caribiners/Belay Device
  • Sport – Dynamic Rope/QuickDraws/Sling/Stick Clip
  • Top Rope – Dynamic Rope/Static Rope/Cordelette
  • At least 32 ounces of water per person
  • Snacks (granola bars, PB sandwiches my favorite)
  • Headlamp/flash light (in case you hike back after dark)
  • Bug Spray + Sun tan lotion
  • Climbing book of the region (MountainProject is a good alternative)

Selecting a Climb

Selecting somewhere to go climb can be tricky, there’s so many choices! I’ve mentioned it a bunch, but there is a map feature on MountainProject where you can search by type of climbing and browse a lot of information quickly. I’ve used it when I’m travelling and I want to find a place close by without buying a local climbing book. A climbing book for your region is a handy tool because it will likely cover a huge area.

Climbing books will tell you how long a rope you need for a route and how many quickdraws so you don’t go up anything and run out of rope or quickdraws (yikes!). Some books have color pictures with the routes drawn out so they’re really easy to identify. The hand sketched images are harder to follow, but still very useful. Doing some research before you show up on what area has good climbs at your level can help you stake out a spot early instead of wandering around without a plan.

Climbing Day

It’s usually best to head out early if you’re going to a popular spot, often times there is limited parking and it will be harder to get a good route once it’s crowded. However, you can head out in the afternoon if it’s not a crowded area and just make sure to hike back before sunset. Your climbing book will come in handy once again on the approach if it’s a long hike to the climbing area, making sure you pay attention on how you got in so you can get out.

Once you get to the climb you’ll set up your top rope anchor or situate your sport climbing gear, pick a climb and get going! Hopefully you got some instruction beforehand so you can carefully apply all the safe clipping, belaying and anchoring techniques you’ve learned. I love taking it slow and reviewing what I’m doing with my partner so we’re all safe. Favorite part? Getting to the top of the climb and looking out over miles of the beautiful outdoors!

Is climbing part of your summer adventure plan? What’s your favorite outdoor spot? Let me know in the comments >> 🙂

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I share fitness inspiration for the daring and every day ways to get better on my blog, AcroCafe by Eliannah. I'm passionate about alternative fitness and doing what makes you feel alive. Life is better upside down!

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