2 Options to Climbing Outdoors as a Newbie

So, you’ve been climbing indoors for a while. Or at least a week. And now you want to get outside.

Full disclosure: I’m not an expert at climbing. Nowhere near it. That being said, there are two options. The safer option, and the less safe option:

  1. Take a class
  2. Get a friend to take you

Safest option

Take a class. If you live in a more mountainous, outdoor-geared area, there are good chances there are classes available. For example, there is the Salt Lake Climbing Festival going on at the end of August. You can register for clinics and be in an environment in which trained professionals will help you learn everything you need to know.

If you’re outside of Utah or already have plans for August 24-25, you can simply Google “Rock climbing classes” and find something up your alley. You can get instruction at a gym, outside, combined classes, personal classes, etc.

The pros of this approach are:

  • Being taught by a trained professional
  • Learning how to climb outdoors the right way without hurting yourself
  • You will learn and develop safe habits

The cons:

  • The classes can get pricey, and if you’re on a budget, that can really bite. The classes can cost as low as $25, but they can also get up to $300.
  • You still have to get your own gear, which is also expensive
  • You might forget a lot of what you learned, and if the classes are only a few sessions, you’ll have to pay for more classes

Less safe (but cheaper) option

Find a friend who can take you out.

Now, this friend can come in many forms. It can be a person you’re actually friends with, or it can be a person you met at the gym, including the staff. However, if you’re a little shy about approaching random strangers at the gym and asking them, “PLEASE TAKE ME OUT CLIMBING???” then here’s what to do:

Facebook. Or Meetup. Or other social media.

There are a lot of outdoor groups on Facebook. When I’m not taking a break from social media, I’m a part of the following groups: Utah Climbers, Girls Who Hike, and the Wasatch High Society (women only).

When I was getting sick of climbing indoors, I went on Utah Climbers and posted:

“Hi, I’ve been climbing indoors for a couple of months now but have been feeling the itch to get outside. Does anyone know of some good bouldering areas or have any recommendations?”

I had three different people reach out to me to offer to teach me. And I wasn’t even explicitly asking for someone to take me out!

Now one of the people who reached out to me is someone my husband and I regularly climb with. Our friend/mentor has now shown us how to set up a top rope anchor, how to lead climb, how to clean a top rope anchor, and has been a delight to climb with almost every weekend.

A month later, I saw someone post on the Utah Climbers group that he was a total newbie and was wondering if anyone would be willing to take him out and show him the ropes. He had a TON of responses; at least seven people offered to take him out.

Here are the pros of this approach:

  • Saves you a lot of money (money that you can spend on getting your own gear)
  • You don’t have to register for some classes that are only taught at certain times or even be on a waiting list
  • You make new friends and meet a variety of people from all backgrounds
  • You really hit the jackpot when you meet someone who’s super experienced beyond going outside a few times
  • You can stay safe by researching the safest climbs through Mountain Project (both an app and a site) and stick to lower grades like 5.6-5.8

And here are the cons:

  • You might find some flakes. Climbers don’t have the best reputation for reliability.
  • It can be less safe. The person you climb with might not be the safest climber. They might be a little careless, they might not know as much as they let on, and they might not understand all the dangers of outside climbing due to sheer luck of surviving their mistakes.
  • You might develop some bad habits that can be hard to unlearn

I chose the less safe option. I lucked out with my climbing mentor, but not everyone will. Safety is the most important priority and it’s important to stay safe. That’s why there are classes, and why they are a desirable, safe option.

On the other hand, there’s money. And getting outside with someone who’s willing to take you for free is appealing, but there are bigger risks involved.

Climbing is an expensive hobby. As a result, it’s a little exclusive. A lot of recreational hobbies are expensive and exclusive, and that can be a real bummer because getting outside and being active is so good for your body and mind. As someone who works a desk job, I crave that and I want people of all abilities and levels to experience it too.

So, I’ll leave you on this:

Don’t let your eagerness to get outside impede your better judgment and go with just the first person who seems like they know what they’re doing. Unless Yellowstone erupts and covers us all in volcanic ash, the mountains aren’t going anywhere. I feel legally obligated (despite not getting paid to write this) to tell you to choose the safer option, but I also understand if you’re just wanting to experiment with climbing outdoors before committing to a heftier price tag.

2 comments

  1. I’d love to try climbing outside! I did it once years ago back when I lived in Pennsylvania (and I was NOT a climber so it was pretty tough) and it was a paid class so I felt really safe. I bet I could find lots of people willing to help me out in Alaska but you’re right that it’s way safer and more legit through a class!

    Like

    • It just depends on if you’re exceptionally cheap (like me haha) or not. I bet you could find some bona fide climbers who’d be more than happy to help you out. I’ve been climbing for about 5-6 months now, so it’s been really nice!

      Like

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