Climbing 101 – New Adventures for a New Year

When people find out that I’m a rock climber, the usual reaction is something to the effect of – “Wow, I could never do that!” My response is almost always “What’s stopping you?!?”

So many times we as women refuse to undertake new adventures because of fear – fear of the unknown, of failure, or sometimes even of success! We wrap up this fear in politically correct packaging with excuses like “I’m too old,” “I don’t have time,” or “I don’t know how to get started.”

Take rock climbing for instance…At first glance, climbing might seem like an extremely intimidating sport to get involved in. Climbing jargon sounds like a foreign language, there’s a lot of equipment involved, and oh yeah, don’t forget that the whole goal is to be dangling from a sheer rock face by the power of your own strength! However, getting started may actually be a lot easier than you might think.

Follow these simple steps and you may be surprised at how soon you’ll be out on the rocks having fun!

1. Find a local gym.  Most decent-sized cities have at least one rock gym, and every gym should have some sort of introductory class, where you will learn how to properly tie in to the rope, key safety commands, and how to use a belay device – that’s the nifty little thing that keeps you off the ground when (not if!) you fall.  Once you’re more knowledgeable about the basic equipment, you’ll be a lot more confident to get out there and use it.

2. Make friends.  Climbing gyms are crawling with…you guessed it – other climbers!  The quickest way to learn the lingo and meet the locals it to jump right in and get involved wherever you can.  Climbing is a social sport deeply rooted in community.  Sure you’ll find a few egos that can hardly fit through the door here and there, but for the most part climbers are very open to new folks.  Don’t be afraid to approach climbers that are stronger/more experienced than you and ask for help.  Any climber worth knowing would be happy to offer assistance – after all, even the elite were beginners at one time.

3. Get out!  Sure, indoor climbing is fun, but that’s only the beginning.  The real magic happens outside, when it’s just you and the rock – there’s no colored tape to point out where the holds are, and your end goal is atop a cliff with spectacular mountain vistas (not the i-beams at the top of an industrial-warehouse-turned-climbing-gym!)  The easiest ways to get yourself climbing outside?  Refer back to steps 1 and 2.  If a local gym is within reasonable driving distance to any type of real rock, odds are good that they will be offering guided trips to a local crag – usually gear rentals are included in the price.  These guided day trips can get pretty expensive (insurance for this type of sport isn’t cheap!), so if you’re climbing on a shoestring budget, a better bet is to get to know the local climbers and let them know you’re interested in touching some real rock.  Don’t forget to keep an eye out for meetup groups or climbers looking for partners on the bulletin board in your rock gym.  Make friends and sooner or later you’re bound to score an invite on a weekend trip.

My first time climbing outdoors was with a guide my husband and I had hired out in Squamish, British Columbia.  We were on a “rest” day during a week long anniversary ski trip at Whistler/Blackcomb Mountain.  We’d been climbing in the gym for a few months already, but after that first day outdoors we were hooked.  We were blessed to find a mentor back home that took us under his wing.  He taught us about lead climbing and placing gear, and within months we were confident enough to explore new areas on our own.

Since that very first real rock outing, we’ve been able to use climbing as a starting block for countless adventures all across North America!  But probably our biggest adventure yet started in the summer of 2009, when I saw two lines on a pregnancy test – most people would assume that climbing, pregnancy, and babies don’t have very much in common with each other, and that I would have dutifully traded my harness in for a stroller.  However, I would beg to differ – climbing played an integral role in keeping me physically, emotionally, and mentally healthy during my pregnancy.  And now that our little Cragbaby is here, he’s as active a participant in our adventures as anyone else!

It hasn’t always been easy to continue in our family’s recreational pursuits with a little one around, but the memories we have made along the way have more than made up for some of the challenges and obstacles we’ve faced at certain points on the journey.

Is climbing a sport for everyone?  No, it’s certainly not.  But is it a sport for only thrill-seeking, adrenaline junkies? Most definitely not!  If you could look at my circle of climbing friends, you’d see mommies and daddies, grandparents, children, students, young, old, wealthy, poor, tall, short, fat, people that like to wear polyester…you name it, I’ve seen it. Few sports with such an extreme reputation have such a diverse population of participants.  But one thing we have in common is that we’re all addicted to playing outside in Creation.

So whether it’s finding a local rock gym in your area, signing up for a yoga class, or simply dusting off the running shoes from the back of your closet, don’t be afraid to take that first step!  The prospect of a new adventure is always a little daunting, but the rewards are more than worth it – and what better way to start off the new year than with new, healthy endeavors!

If taking on a new challenge is one of your goals for 2012, please feel free to share it in the comments section.  I’m looking forward to getting involved in this community of women who are pushing themselves to accomplish goals they’ve set for themselves.  Let’s swap stories and inspire one another!  Climb on!

Photo Credits: Manuela Eilert and Steve Lineberry

21 Comments
Kerry

January 31, 2012 at 2:29 pm

Thank you, Erica! Your story is so inspiring!

If I can add a voice to the climbing experience – it has absolutely saved me. I started climbing 2 years ago and I feel like such a better person since I started – mentally and physically! I wrote about it in my blog, Renewable Enthusiasm (http://renewableenthusiasm.com/2011/10/16/workaholism-and-the-head-fake/). It’s helped me recover from “workaholism” – (see NPR’s report this week that working long hours can cause depression. http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2012/01/26/145912523/working-long-hours-can-be-depressing-truly).

We have to get out more for our own sanity. Climbing has taught me so much about myself that I couldn’t have learned otherwise. I feel like climbing, like with yoga, there are endless things to learn and awesome people to meet.

Climb on!

Karen

January 31, 2012 at 3:16 pm

Erica, my son’s boy scout troop is planning on starting up a climbing and rappelling program this year. I’m pretty active physically and love the outdoors and thought gosh I wish I could do that! Wouldn’t you know it, one of the assistant scout masters invited me to learn along with the boys. Don’t know that I’ll climb with a bunch of scouts yet but after reading your post I’m definitely going to call the local climbing gym and take a class. Thanks very much for the inspiration!

Erica Lineberry

January 31, 2012 at 5:09 pm

Kerry – Thanks for sharing the link to your blog post. I definitely think that the lessons I learn about myself through climbing translates to “real life” as well.

Karen – Perfect timing then! I’m sure you will love the class!

Manuela

January 31, 2012 at 5:46 pm

Great description about breaking down this seemingly intimidating sport into doable steps! Hopefully it will inspire lots of new female climbers and cragmama’s to be!

Ellen

January 31, 2012 at 10:26 pm

Thanks for sharing about one sport I have jumped into within the last 2 years. I have fallen in love with this sport! Best description of rock climbing is that it is like vertical yoga 🙂 I love the sense of adventure and the mind body connection as well as the scenic places it can take you all over!

Anita Ronzone

February 01, 2012 at 6:33 am

Hey Erica! Loved your blog. If you’re ever in the midwest I’d love to climb with you!

Jody - Fit at 54

February 01, 2012 at 1:09 pm

You sure make us want to do this! I will say that I have a couple grandkids that love those rock climbing walls – maybe we will see them out there in the future!

mChadwick

February 01, 2012 at 2:30 pm

Erica, you have always been so generous in spirit, time and guidance with new climbers. Thank you!

sarah

February 01, 2012 at 3:52 pm

Here is a thought on motherhood and climbing. The summer after we finished midwifery school and started working a friend and I took some outdoor climbing lessons. When our instructor (a young male) asked us what we did and we told him, his response was “why do people get epidurals when they have babies?” It struck us. So many people we encountered asked how can women have babies without an epidural…that must be awful. This young man, this climber, got it…its about the journey. Its about the experience, Its about the accomplishment. I haven’t climbed outdoors in a while, but I like knowing my gym has a wall and I can challange myself every once in a while. And knowing I did it helps through the hard times of motherhood…its about the journey.

Erica Lineberry

February 01, 2012 at 4:37 pm

Ellen – Vertical Yoga! I love it! That’s a perfect description…

Jody – Maybe so – I think climbing is intuitive for the little guys (and gals).

Sarah – Well put! The idea of the journey being as important as the destination is a concept that I’ve often seen played out in my life – as a wife, mother, climber, and friend. Thanks for sharing that story!

Kristi from Houston, TX

February 02, 2012 at 2:09 pm

Yes, this is very similar to skydiving. I get the same response or someone so excited to try it and then inevitably “have something come up” at the last minute. We are a very diverse group of people all wanting to talk about … you guessed it skydiving.

I tried rock climbing and I did like it. I should probably get back to it.

Erica Lineberry

February 02, 2012 at 5:24 pm

Kristi – Yep I know what you mean about everyone wanting to talk about skydiving. We had a bday party for my hubby the other night, and I felt bad for the handful of non-climbers (mostly co-workers) that were there…I’m pretty certain they couldn’t follow any of the conversation at any given point. 🙂

Jill Robinson

February 08, 2012 at 5:36 pm

This is a great way to break everything down. It makes me really miss rock climbing. Perhaps I’ll dig my shoes and gear out again soon!

Alena

February 08, 2012 at 7:37 pm

I think one should live for experiences. I try to stay active – boot camp in the morning, hot yoga at night, and outdoors on weekends – yet, I feel like I am missing out on so much! I’ve always loved mountains, they make me a better version of me… Clearing your head and helping you get a brighter perspective on life. When I was in college I decided to go to this climbing section to try it out, but on the way there I noticed an ad of this spelunking club that just blew my mind, and guess what, never made it to climbing section… Still! You know what they say – spelunking is for climbers who are afraid of heights. Well I am not afraid, and I might have run out of excuses… Will find a climbing wall tomorrow.

Erica Lineberry

February 09, 2012 at 8:23 am

Jill – Yes definitely break out the gear again!

Alena – Never tried spelunking, but it does look fun! Have fun checking out your local climbing gym! 🙂

Bethany

February 09, 2012 at 2:37 pm

Hi, I’m 13, I know what you’re thinking, but I love going rock climbing with my dad. I have actually beat him to the top of a 60 foot rock wall in less than 5 minutes. I know what it is like when people (especially boys) think you can’t do it, but it makes me want to try harder. I can’t immagine giving up rock climbing. I love the thrill and adventure of it. Thanks for sharing your experience on this blog.

Erica Lineberry

February 09, 2012 at 6:53 pm

Bethany – How awesome that you’ve gotten into climbing at such a young age! Good on you for turning negative energy into motivation – keep up the hard work and thanks for commenting!

Imani

February 12, 2012 at 9:12 pm

Love this. I started climbing when I was seven and havn’t stopped (so about 13 years on now), and I don’t know where I would be without it. Climbing has taken me so many places that I never would have possibly imagined visiting and given me so many great experiences: I have competed at a national level, and have traveled all over the states for climbing, psychobloced (deep-water soloed) in Spain, and am now making plans to go to South Africa this summer. I have friends all over the world, and a close-knit community at the gym i work for, where I get to share my passion with others. Thanks for posting this, I always like encouraging others to check this sport out!

Jenny

February 14, 2012 at 7:44 am

Great advice! I’ve been talking about climbing ever since my husband and I went to Jamaica for our honeymoon. We went on a strange trek up a waterfall and I loved every second of it. It was by no means rock climbing but it made me think I might like to give it a try. Our gym has a rock wall and I think it’s time to check it out! Thanks!

Mary

March 20, 2012 at 1:51 pm

Thank you for the post and the articles. I’ve rock climbed off and on and mainly because my husband is a hard-core climber to be honest. I’m so challenged by heights and I have not fallen in love with climbing (honest again). I really want to fall in love with it so that I have more confidence in climbing with him. I just do not seem to ‘get it’ – the addiction to the sport that every circle of climbers I’ve met talks about. I don’t know if I did it more often and fully understood the gear, knots, placement, etc. that I would trust the system more and therefore not fear for my life or what? Any insight or recommendations on what I should do? (I don’t have a local climbing gym or women to climb with in the area)… Thank you for the inspiration.

Erica Lineberry (Cragmama)

March 20, 2012 at 6:32 pm

Hi Mary – It’s great that you are being honest about how you feel rather than pretending to be as “hard core” about it as your husband. What area of the country are you in? Do you enjoy going out to the crag with your hubby, just not the actual climbing part? It very well might be that the more and more you do it, the more comfortable and confident you would feel. It’s too bad you don’t have a group of other ladies to climb with – I think that would really help. Women often approach climbing in a completely different way than men, and that might be the refreshing difference that you need. However if climbing is really just not for you (which is totally fine!) maybe you could find a niche in the climbing group some other way – such as photography? Not only do clmbers make for interesting subjects, but so would the natural beauty all around you at the cliff, and you would still get to spend quality time togther as a family. Just a few thoughts – not sure whether any of them are actually helpful or not! Best of luck and let me know if there’s anything else I can do to help!

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