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From the gym to the crag


Mathias · · Loveland, CO · Joined Jun 2014 · Points: 290

Thanks for all they replies!

I'm going to think on this whilst I wait for my harness and do some reading to learn more before I go out. But I think I'll investigate outdoor courses and weigh those against the extra expense but also extra benefits of hiring a guide for some one-on-one tuition. Although ultimately I may do both. I seem to learn hands-on skills quite quickly and easily both in person and from books, but as has been mentioned, professional instruction is likely a much safer way to go.

JustinJD. Day · · Denver · Joined Aug 2011 · Points: 0

I would also check into Gociety.com. I haven't been to any of their climbing groups before but the activity offerings they have on the site seem to be a good mix of social capital building and climbing experiences. They have a class tomorrow night paired with a beer tasting which could be pretty cool.

butlerbt · · Boulder, CO · Joined Apr 2010 · Points: 60

There are many paths to becoming a confident and competent rock climber. Some better then others...

But I ask you, if you wanted to get into scuba diving would you just go buy the gear, follow friends, begin diving with unknown groups you get connected with things like gosociety or meetup? I actually cannot stress how potentially unsafe and just plain "strange" these meetup-type groups are.

How about surfing. Ever tried to just rent a board and figure it out on your own?
Ever went out with a friend, who is a great surfer and promised to teach you, only to find that she is much more interested in catching her own waves or unable to articulate how she shreds?

Point is: hire a guide. You'll save a hell of a lot of time, know that for sure you are learning safe and standard techniques and procedures, and probably progress much faster into becoming the climber you want to be. But don't just hire any guide, seek out those who have proven their a professional by dedicating their time and energy in AMGA/IFMGA training and or certification.

I guess the true question is, do you have more time or more money? And which one of those is easy to accumulate/regain?

evan h · · Denver, CO · Joined Oct 2012 · Points: 310

My first outdoor climb was my first outdoor lead. I didn't want to go to meetup groups or wait for someone to offer to take me climbing, so I researched like hell, took a couple of marginally useful classes in the gym related to outdoor climbing, and started off on a 5.8 sport climb. With the exception of gear protected climbing (where following a mentor is advised), I would say those that are persistent and attentive to detail can safely equip themselves to lead a very modest and well-protected sport climb (well below your gym leading ability).

Mathias · · Loveland, CO · Joined Jun 2014 · Points: 290
Brent Butler wrote: But I ask you, if you wanted to get into scuba diving would you just go buy the gear, follow friends, begin diving with unknown groups you get connected with things like gosociety or meetup? I actually cannot stress how potentially unsafe and just plain "strange" these meetup-type groups are.
Brent, I can very much relate to this scenario because I used to dive. And no I would not just get some gear and go. However, that's more due to me not remembering important information about bottom time and decompression rates etc. But I see your point clearly.

So to everyone who's suggested a guide, do you feel that's preferable to outdoor classes that focus on particular skills? And if you do, what is your reasoning? I'm just seeing if it matches up with my own thoughts. I get the impression I could learn much more in a short time-frame from a guide because it would be individual instruction and if they are doing a good job at reading my abilities and learning speed (however that may go) I could get a lot more from it than I could at a few classes with other students. But that's providing the guide doesn't simply decide to focus on one or two things the whole day. Otherwise money may be better spent on classes with a given focus.

Here's what I've been looking at: coloradomountainschool.com/…
ErikaNW · · Golden, CO · Joined Sep 2010 · Points: 145

The CMS guides are fantastic. I took the 2-day self rescue course with Joey Thompson a few years ago - he tailored it to leader rescue since I was mostly following multi-pitch routes at that point (they try to match the instruction to your personal goals as much as possible). There were only 2 of us in the class, so it was really personalized.

I also did an anchor building clinic that was offered by CMS through an AAC event that was really good (and cheap since it was part of an event). This gave me more confidence in my anchors and really helped me with speed and efficiency. Again, I learned some cool tricks for speeding up exchanges at the belays - just little things that weren't really part of the course but were super helpful and we use all the time now.

I am fortunate to have had great mentoring and partnerships from super experienced, talented and solid climbers, but it is also really good to get out of your own little group and learn from another person/school of thought. I brought back new time saving and safety ideas, information and tips from both of these courses that my partners have adopted as well.

The main thing is to pick the course that will benefit you the most at your given level - CMS is great about figuring out what that course should be. Just give them a call or email. You will learn so much more than you expect. If I had the money I would probably take a course or do a guided trip every couple of years just to refresh and learn new things.

Have fun and climb safe!

5.samadhi · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jul 2013 · Points: 40

tell a chill climber that you know you want to go out and learn and that you'd be happy to buy beer or weed or dinner or drive or whatever

Sam N. · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jan 2011 · Points: 0

Similar to the title of this thread there is a great book from The Mountaineers called From Gym To Crag. They also have a great book on anchors. Reading and rereading those books and practicing the skills helped me the most. It won't replace hiring a guide, but there is a lot of useful information in these and other books that can help you along the way.

Optimistic · · New Paltz · Joined Aug 2007 · Points: 300
evan h wrote:My first outdoor climb was my first outdoor lead. I didn't want to go to meetup groups or wait for someone to offer to take me climbing, so I researched like hell, took a couple of marginally useful classes in the gym related to outdoor climbing, and started off on a 5.8 sport climb. With the exception of gear protected climbing (where following a mentor is advised), I would say those that are persistent and attentive to detail can safely equip themselves to lead a very modest and well-protected sport climb (well below your gym leading ability).
One additional source if you take this tack (can't recommend it, although it's exactly what I did, with trad gear, in 1980 or so, at age 14...why I'm still alive I couldn't say) is a video that Chris Lindner put out on sport climbing. Obviously nothing replaces direct experience, but he does cover a lot of good points in there.

Key points to remember if you head out on your own (based on reading accident threads on here): it is possible for a sport climb to be greater than twice the length of your rope, and clipping the chains is not a reason to say "off belay". Missing these points is getting too many people injured and killed.
evan h · · Denver, CO · Joined Oct 2012 · Points: 310
Optimistic wrote: One additional source if you take this tack (can't recommend it, although it's exactly what I did, with trad gear, in 1980 or so, at age 14...why I'm still alive I couldn't say) is a video that Chris Lindner put out on sport climbing. Obviously nothing replaces direct experience, but he does cover a lot of good points in there. Key points to remember if you head out on your own (based on reading accident threads on here): it is possible for a sport climb to be greater than twice the length of your rope, and clipping the chains is not a reason to say "off belay". Missing these points is getting too many people injured and killed.
Yes, +1 for the Chris Lindner video -- it was part of my researching prior to heading outside. It's also fairly entertaining, as he's not the type of guy who takes himself too seriously. I'll second Optimistic's key points: watch your rope length and take special care at understanding what is supposed to go on at anchors. The vast majority of accidents seem to occur after the climber arrives at the anchors! Basically, this all gets back to doing your homework. Get proficient at leading moderate routes (probably up to 5.10) in the gym. Know not to backclip, z-clip (really only happens in the gym), and know how to equip an anchor (at least with two draws, gates opposed). Know how to clean and how to communicate your intentions (lowering vs rapping). I think it's best to start on something short. My first lead was a 35' jug haul with bolts every 3 moves. I could easily communicate with my belayer and we had a clear plan before I stepped foot off the ground. If you're on the Front Range, Table Mountain in Golden can be a good spot (watch for high first bolts), as the routes are short and many allow for a walk-up toprope setup. Have fun and be safe!
Rajiv Ayyangar · · Portland, ME · Joined Jun 2010 · Points: 210

+1 for Chris Lindner's series. Also, I wrote a little overview specifically about how to get into modern sport climbing:

Peripheral Scrutiny: How to get into sport climbing

J. Serpico · · Saratoga County, NY · Joined Dec 2009 · Points: 140

I actually took a 3 months diving class in college. It was an elective. Honestly, much much less safe than climbing. I'm amazed people get dive certified in a weekend, which I consider much much less safe than picking up freedom of the hills and learning in progressive stages.

I think you point is reasonable but I also think diving is ridiculously unsafe compared to climbing.

Morgan Patterson · · CT · Joined Oct 2009 · Points: 8,767

Access Fund has some great resources you should check out...

accessfund.org/site/c.tmL5K…

Bill Kirby · · Baltimore Maryland · Joined Jul 2012 · Points: 480
J. Serpico wrote: I also think diving is ridiculously unsafe compared to climbing.
Come on now diving and climbing are just like anything else. You take precautions to mitigate risk. Seek out all the knowledge you can. You follow safety guidelines and use your head. In both sports bad things happen when you get in over your head. No pun intended.

You scoobys.. I bet you got a red and white dive flag on your back bumper right?
J. Serpico · · Saratoga County, NY · Joined Dec 2009 · Points: 140

But Kirby, you have people seeming like anyone who learned without a guide is a death waiting to happen.

I've been climbing 15 years, my next mistake might be my last, but it wasn't because I didn't use a guide or a old crusty mentor. It's because I got lazy and fucked up.

On the flip side a weekend course prepares you for diving.... Hahaha. People are idiotic. We spent 2 classroom sessions learning all the ways we could die. No joke. 3 hours on death while diving. And that didn't cover it all.

Bill Kirby · · Baltimore Maryland · Joined Jul 2012 · Points: 480
J. Serpico wrote:But Kirby, you have people seeming like anyone who learned without a guide is a death waiting to happen. I've been climbing 15 years, my next mistake might be my last, but it wasn't because I didn't use a guide or a old crusty mentor. It's because I got lazy and fucked up. On the flip side a weekend course prepares you for diving.... Hahaha. People are idiotic. We spent 2 classroom sessions learning all the ways we could die. No joke. 3 hours on death while diving. And that didn't cover it all.
I get it J.. I was just talking shit. Really glad you took it laughing!

Weekend course for scuba is cool along if you're only going less than 33 feet. I say if you can clear your mask at 30 feet you're good to go! Haha.
J Q · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Mar 2012 · Points: 50
5.samadhi wrote:tell a chill climber that you know you want to go out and learn and that you'd be happy to buy beer or weed or dinner or drive or whatever
Nah, nah, nah, everyone who smokes pot is on the couch. Find an anal retentive climber and maybe you can spend the next five years discussing knots and anchor systems.

Diving and climbing are a little different:

In deep water diving your gonna get high the deeper you go and more competent you are.

In sport climbing, you only get high if you want to get high, and you can be competent while never getting high.

Grasp!!!! Crazy!
dan zika · · jax wy · Joined May 2009 · Points: 5

I got lucky & started out alpineing my 2nd rappel was off back side of grand teton along time ago. I was taught sport climbing by guides on their days off i.e were my pals. Paying guides is a great way to go. Maybe take a w/e day go to crag look around oh choose a moderate crag. Climbers are a pretty friendly lot most of the time. You are going to have to meet another climber at some point to get a belay.
My point climbing is social so might as well start being social right off the bat. Just saying take it slow meet some climbers, research some methods. The real question is what kind of climber are you gonna be? friendly or pissed? trad or sport, crag or continue in gym, alpine or single pitch.

5.samadhi · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jul 2013 · Points: 40
J Q wrote: Nah, nah, nah, everyone who smokes pot is on the couch. Find an anal retentive climber and maybe you can spend the next five years discussing knots and anchor systems. Diving and climbing are a little different: In deep water diving your gonna get high the deeper you go and more competent you are. In sport climbing, you only get high if you want to get high, and you can be competent while never getting high. Grasp!!!! Crazy!
yeah true nobody that smokes pot
BryanE · · Minneapolis, MN · Joined Apr 2015 · Points: 335
Optimistic wrote:+1 for John Long's books. Very accessible and with a humorous no-nonsense approach to staying alive. Much less humorous, but in my view a tremendously valuable piece of reading is this essay by John Dill. It doesn't really teach you what to DO, specifically, but it teaches you a whole lot about how to THINK... jrre.org/stayalive.pdf
Bumping this thread to say thanks for that link to the How to Stay Alive article by the NPS Search and Rescue. Very eye-opening and informative. I'm a gym climber transitioning to climbing outdoors and I found it very helpful. I'm also planning on ordering FOTH.
Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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