5 things I wish I knew when I was a new climber

The first time I stepped into Brooklyn Boulders was two and half years before I got into climbing. It seemed so scary. I went zip lining once and that scared me enough.

Eventually, I took one top rope class during my last semester of law school. Then I got into climbing months after the bar exam. Now I’m obsessed even after spraining my ankle while bouldering.   I’m by no means an “experienced” climber but when I had absolutely no idea what I was doing, a lot of information got dropped on me by friends and random people at the gym. Here’s a few things I wish I knew….

There’s 1000 ways to do things….but you should at least know how to stay safe.

Climbing is just like running or law school. Everyone has their opinion on how you should train or how you should study. Ask someone whether you should get a dry rope or a non dry rope, what’s the best way to train, or when should you start lead climbing and you will get a bunch of different answers. There are a 1000x ways to do something but really you should know the basics of how to stay safe (i.e. knowing how to fall while bouldering, tying in correctly, etc.). The rest of it is really preference.

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It can be a relatively cheap sport or a really expensive one.

Climbing is just like running. Could be cheap or could be really expensive. My roommate used to be a climbing instructor so I inherited a lot of her gear such as a chalk bag, shoes, and a harness.  Buying climbing shoes alone may cost upwards of $100.  Eventually I bought my own pair of shoes and they cost me $60 (you get what you pay for…I should probably replace them soon). Renting all three at the gym may cost $12+ each time. All of this is just for indoor climbing.  If you want to go outside, a rope might cost $150 plus all of the gear you need for anchors.

Price shouldn’t deter you if you really want to climb but I mention this because I had no idea.  Had I known there are some great discount sites out there, committing to buying gear wouldn’t have been so scary for me.

Also, some people buy a ton of stuff before realizing they aren’t into climbing at all so when you decide to buy, at least just know you’re really into it first before making an investment in gear.

Climbing friends aren’t too hard to make

A lot people told me this. I have a few friends who used to climb a lot and they’d all say this.  I didn’t believe them. I once said yes to a climbing date because I was so desperate for a top rope partner. But after failing miserably at getting my friends to join me for climbing, I joined a women’s climbing meetup group. One friend led to another then all of a sudden I have a whole group of friends to go outside with, who aren’t just climbing partners but actual friends.

The climbing community is very friendly and laid-back.  The vibe is way different than any other sport you’ve probably encountered in your life. People are always down to give you beta on a climb or to belay you in the gym.

*Note: If you are female, you will probably encounter a bunch of mansplainers.

There’s two reasons why I like to immerse myself in things and learn things at a lightning fast speed: 1) I hate not knowing things and 2) I hate mansplainers.  Litigation is a lot like climbing.  There are a ton of women in the gym like in law school but you don’t see lots of female climbing guides or instructors or female judges. The few times I’ve been climbing outdoors with an all women’s group, we encountered a bunch of random climber dudes who explained things to us  like what “on belay” meant. Meanwhile we are standing at the crag with our own gear so clearly we knew what it meant.

I mention this because this seems to be a shared experience that a bunch of my lady climber friends and I go through.  Even an older male colleague who used to climb all the time even said to be careful of manplainers at the crag.

It’s more legs than arms….learning great technique is so important.

Everyone kept saying this to me in the beginning but I didn’t believe them. I’ve always thought of climbing as all upper body (it kinda is as evidenced by my ability to now to a few pull-ups). People would also tell me to keep my arms straight and I didn’t quite grasp the concept until much later.

Climbing is much more legs than arms because legs are the most powerful part of your body. Keeping your arms straight keeps your arms from getting tired.  It’s a hard concept to grasp when you’re new.  Here are a few tips from REI.

Outdoor climbing is completely different than indoors

A V0 outdoors can feel like a V3 in the gym.  A 5.8 on top rope outside can feel like a 5.10 inside.  Indoors, the routes are all set for you and you just have to follow a color coded route all the way up.  Outside, you have to figure out how to get to the top. Being outdoors forces you to think harder about where you should put your feet and hands and how your using your body.

Plus if you end up climbing in the Gunks, there are a ton of vertical cracks that you just can’t practice indoors. It’s harder to climb outdoors but it’s way more fun.

Climbers-what did you wish you know when you started out? Beginners, what do you want to know?


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