Beginning rock climbing involves learning the lingo
One of the first things you are taught when learning how to rock climb is climbing commands. Communication is extremely important when climbing. Your life is often in someone else’s hands, quite literally your belayer is holding the rope that your life is attached too. Your belayer holds a device (GriGri, ATC, etc.) that your rope runs through attached to their harness. As you climb up, they take in the tension using the device. You are both connected by different ends of the rope, the tether between you two. You better trust your belayer because if you fall, they have to catch you.
Not to scare anyone off but this sport is not for the faint of heart and the weak of mind. In the Adirondacks, climbing walls soar to heights of 800 feet or higher. Traditional climbing takes the lead in the Dacks. Few areas are bolted for sport climbing. This means the majority of climbs; gear is placed for protection when leading or building anchors.
“On Belay?” says the climber.
“Belay is on,” says the belayer.
“Climbing,” says the climber.
“Climb on,” says the belayer.
“Dude on rock”
“Rock on dude!”
These climbing commands are just a double check between climber and belayer that you are both ready to belay and climb. When asked “on belay?” the climber is asking if the belayer is locked off and ready to belay. The climber also shows the belayer that they have a figure 8 knot through both loops in their harness. Climbing…climb on, indicates that the climber is going to start climbing and the belayer starts to take in the rope as the climber ascends.
How can you spot a rock climbing guide at a party?
Don’t worry they’ll tell you.
On an overcast 45-degree day in climbing class my rock climbing teacher, Casey Henley was having us set up anchors to climb or rappel off of. The rock was damp, not ideal for climbing. It was ideal for rock climbing jokes. And my climbing teacher, having been an experienced guide for many many years, knew quite a lot of jokes.
If you’ve never climbed before I suggest trying indoors first. You get a feel for what climbing is actually like with almost no risk and high reward, at a lower price. Instead of spending a whole day outside climbing you can choose how long you want to climb and how hard you want to climb. Gyms have both bouldering and regular climbs at all levels. Climbing gyms have all of the gear needed for you to get started climbing. Workers will teach you how to belay, do a figure 8 knot and the basics of climbing.
Next look into a guiding service that takes people climbing. Some climbing gyms even have clinics where they take beginners outside to climb. Or maybe you know climbers, express that you want to try out climbing outside. Going through an outfitter provides a safe space to learn how to climb outside under the supervision of an experienced climber.
Now if you have done steps one and two above, you’re ready for step three! Take another class. I suggest having a guide teach you how to set up top roping climbs or single pitch. This is the easiest place to start and build from.
Here are some resources to get you started:
- Must-have gear (see graphic below for more details): https://www.adirondackexplorer.org/stories/must-have-gear-for-rock-climbing
- Adirondack resources: Outfitters and more: https://www.adirondackexplorer.org/stories/climbing-resources
- Adirondack adventures: Essential trips around the region: