To help support your gym to crag transition, we’ve created a set of 5 guides for newer gym climbers interested in starting to climb outdoors for the first time: How to Navigate the Crag. Though it came in five parts, each with their own sets of details, the information contained in these guides is really pretty simple.
Those who’ve spent time in the outdoors, whether hiking or pursuing other sports, may have heard some of this before – particularly part one. For others, it might all be new. Take a look through the series below for the need-to-know topics about climbing outdoors for the first time.
Click the heading name to view that entry in the series. Enjoy!
Part 1: Leave No Trace
What’s Leave No Trace? It’s a seven-principle manifesto, codified in 1994 by the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics, that equips adventurers with the skills to use the outdoors ethically and responsibly. Adopting the Leave No Trace Seven Principles makes it possible for others after you to enjoy the spaces we travel to in order to pursue our sport, and helps us maintain access to the beautiful spaces in which we climb.
Part 2: Crag Etiquette
When you first start to climb outside, you’ll realize there are no instructors hanging out, ready to correct your etiquette or skills – so to stay safe and conscientious, you need to show up educated and attentive. The new climber who shows up at a crag ready to watch, listen, and learn from more experienced climbers, but already well-versed and educated in the basic etiquette for being good climbing citizens, are the people who grow as athletes more quickly, integrate more deeply into the community, and have the most fun.
Part 3: Learning Local Style
The safety and local practices you should know when you go to a new crag are often referred to as the local “ethics.” Without knowing local ethics, you could still have a great time, but you’d likely end up violating some local access rules, making crag maintenance more difficult, or possibly endangering yourself or others. Plus, a huge part of growth in climbing is about building up your repertoire of skills to become more adaptable as an adventurer and athlete. Be sure to know local ethics for the crag your visiting, or go on your first trip to that climbing area with someone who does.
Part 4: Choosing Routes
Knowing how to choose the right routes to try on your first trip can be tricky. The simple, first answer is this: If you’re a new climber, thumb through the back of the guidebook, where you’ll likely find an index of routes sorted by grade. Pick a grade perhaps one below your gym level (gym routes rarely feel as difficult as the equivalent grade outdoors for a number of reasons), and look up the best-rated routes of that grade. But it goes even deeper than that – check out the article for more guidance on projects.
Part 5: Planning Your Trip
Plan carefully: If you show up unprepared, without enough gear, or even without a partner on the same page as you, it’ll be tough to climb what you want to climb. If you’re not using the right vehicle, it might be difficult even to access the routes you want to try. Beyond the basic camping gear (or whatever you need for your lodgings), here’s how to plan your first trip to a new crag.
Remember: climbing outdoors is a privilege that it’s up to the climbing community to responsibly enjoy. If you’re ever unsure about proper safety protocol, etiquette, ethics, or logistics, talk to other climbers, or contact the climbing coalition or club closest to the area you’re visiting. We wish you all the best as you enjoy the exceptional beauty and raw adventure of outdoor climbing. Climb on!
By Chris Rooney, FA member and writer.