Weekend guide to Outdoor Climbing

If you have never climbed oudoors before but are considering it the equipment used for grappling with the bare rockface can seem perplexing and quite expensive – especially if you buy it all at once or are conned by the lovely salesperson benind the counter to buy the most expensive & shiny gear around.

The best advice I can give is that it is always best to start climbing outdoors in the company of an experienced climber. This could be as part of a led group, on a climbing course, with a hired instructor/guide or a suitably experienced friend.

Your first climb will likely be on a top rope or seconding an experienced leader and you will need the same basic equipment as you would if you were to climb indoors: a climbing harness, a belay device and suitable climbing shoes.


To go with this you should consider:

• A well-fitting climbing helmet. Some climbers make a personal choice not to wear a helmet, but I disagree with this choice every time. I remember standing under a crag and hearing someone above shout “BELOW” and boy was I thankful to be wearing a helmet when a heap of shale came dancing down the rockface like confetti.

Outdoors clothing and walking/approach shoes or boots. Getting to an outdoors crag can involve muddy paths, steep ascents, rocky terrain and carrying heavy kit, and once you’re there it can be windy or even wet, so take shoes and clothing to keep you warm and dry for the duration of your climbing session. If you are part of a led course, some of the above items may be provided for you but make sure you have the outdoor basics such as layers and waterproof gear especially as in the UK the weather is so unpredictable.

• A guidebook and OS Map. Real crags and rock faces don’t have big route signs and directions saying “This way to the rock” or brightly coloured easy holds to show you the route up and down, so a good guidebook helps keep you on track and also shows you what is in the area, how to approach the crag and the actual route and its grade. Having a map as a back up with some basic navigation skills is also useful as not all of the guidebooks are clear and easy to read… try one it’s like playing eye spy!

Water, food and a flask of beverage. Time passes very quickly outside and before you know it the hunger pangs will set in. Make sure you take plenty of high energy food as you will be burning a lot of it off.

As you progress and gain skills and confidence there will be many more things that you accumulate as you progress in your climbing career. Once you gain the skills and confidence and take up lead climbing, you’ll want your own rope and a rack of protective gear – which can make the pack bulky and heavy, but it is definitely worth it! If climbing on bolted routes (known as sport climbing) this will mean lots of quickdraws, one or two slings and a few screwgate carabiners.

For traditional climbing (where there is no fixed protection and the leader will place protective gear as they go) you’ll need to add some nuts and hexes, more slings, and possibly some camming devices as well.Get the Gear

If unsure try reseraching Top 10 Outdoor Climbs for Beginners and a whole list of loactions will arise. I would suggest as a first climb you head somewhere like Windgather, Peak which is a gritstone crag that has a great collection of short, high quality routes, which tend to feature positive (easy) holds and plenty of natural protection.

It has a beautiful outlook across the Cheshire Hills and is a great crag to kick off your new found love affair with trad climbing and a great place to build confidence. It’s one of the best places to get plenty of climbs and valuable practise placing equipment.

Once you get a feel for the rockface the Peak District is your oyster, with plenty of incredible crags to explore – to start with check out Stanage, the Roaches and Birchens. So pick a weekend, pack the gear and get outdoors and go climb…Untitled


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