The Essential Guide on How To Start Rock Climbing – On The Rocks

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The Essential Guide on How To Start Rock Climbing

December 14, 2023

Rock climbing has become a more popular sport, especially among those who enjoy being outdoors. This unique and physical sport is one that almost anyone can enjoy. While learning to climb up a rock wall, you’ll not only improve your physical health, but you’ll make new friends, spend more time outdoors, and improve your confidence.


With the gear and skills involved, rock climbing may seem complex, but with enough training, there are many ways to enjoy the sport. Indoor rock climbing facilities make it possible for beginner rock climbers to put themselves to the test.


As you continue reading below, we’ve put together  the essential guide on how to start rock climbing  in five easy steps.

How to Start Rock Climbing in Five Easy Steps

Follow our essential guide on how to start rock climbing  in five easy steps. 

1. Understanding the Different Climbing Forms

As a beginner rock climber, the first step is to have an understanding of the several climbing forms. Each climbing form requires specific types of rock climbing gear and training. As you flip through magazines and photos, you may have encountered climbers dangling from ropes several hundred feet above the ground.


While this is one of the most popular ways to climb, it isn’t the one way to rock climb. As a beginner rock climber, some of the best forms of rock climbing are top rope climbing and bouldering. We’ll cover both of these forms below.

Top Rope Climbing

The first form of climbing is top rope climbing, which allows you to climb higher from the ground and uses rope material to offer protection. With this technique, the climber will tie off one end of the rope that travels through an anchor at the top. While ascending, your partner climber, referred to as a “belayer,” will bring in the slack.


While keeping the rope tight, if the rock climber slips, the fall will be minimized.  Belaying  is often taught in many beginner course rock climbing classes.


The second form of climbing is bouldering, which requires the least amount of climbing gear and understanding of the form. Many bouldering paths will only take as high as you’re comfortable climbing. As a beginner learning how to start rock climbing, bouldering is an excellent form to begin with while having a trainer with you every step of the way.


Bouldering does not require a rope, harness, or other gear to complete.


To learn more about bouldering, check out our  Intro to Climbing and Climbing Technique  class. 

2. Do a Test Climb

As a beginner rock climbing, you can complete top rope climbing and bouldering indoors or outdoors. At  On the Rocks , we offer a variety of climbing classes that provide the gear you need to help you get started with rock climbing.


We also offer daily passes and many indoor and outdoor rock climbing classes. Climbing outdoors can provide a more realistic experience but involves more understanding as you advance in your rock climbing journey. Since you’re not rock climbing indoors in a more predictable setting, a trainer must set up a top rope.


As a beginner climber, you’re more likely to staff off in an indoor setting because you won’t need to worry about the weather. In rock climbing environments, you’ll have floor mats to provide safer landings, color-coded routes, and ready-to-go top ropes.


At On the Rocks, we offer many classes that introduce new skills.

Top-Rope Climbing

As you continue to read, we’ll discuss more about roped climbing below. To participate in indoor top-rope climbing, you’ll need an advanced belayer (most likely a staff member) who is belay-certified.


Bouldering requires minimal skills, so it’s an excellent way to learn how to start rock climbing, as it’s the lowest form of rock climbing. As a beginner at some climbing gyms, you can sign a waiver, begin orientation, and start beginner forms of rock climbing.


If your rock climbing gym has orientation, it might include difficulty levels and ways to minimize falls. If you’re looking for a solo approach to rock climbing, bouldering is an excellent start. Climbing gyms are a perfect option for being social with other climbers and are a great way to advance while watching how other climbers apply their skills to climb.

3. Learn the Basics

If you want to learn about top-rope climbing, it’s essential to understand the fundamentals from a qualified trainer. There are several skills you’ll learn when undergoing top-rope climbing training. A typical top-rope course might include the understanding of climbing gear, belaying movements, and how to tie knots.


Some of the skills you might learn during a rock climbing class are:


Knot tying - Many rock climbers use the figure 8 knot-tying technique.  System checks - Before the climb, always ensure the knot, belay equipment, helmet, and harness are set up correctly. Learn phrases - Rock climbers use a particular set of terms to communicate. Learn how to belay - Learn how to set up your belay equipment.  Fundamentals of movement  - Learn the fundamentals of footwork and body positioning.

What You’ll Need for Rock Climbing

If you’re a beginner rock climber and learning the basics at an indoor gym, they'll provide the rock climbing gear for you. While many provide equipment, you’ll eventually want to buy rock climbing gear of your own.


If you own or rent your rock climbing gear, you should always give it a thorough inspection. With many climbers using gear, especially while renting, its frequent use leads to normal wear and tear over time. When you purchase your rock climbing gear, you’re aware of what you’re getting and its use.


When learning how to climb, you’ll need the following rock climbing tools and gear :


Clothing  - Clothing that allows you to move around freely, is breathable, comfortable, and dries fast. Shoes  - Rock climbing shoes should provide enough grip and have a snug but not too tight grip. Chalk  - Chalk helps rock climbers improve their grip in a similar fashion to gymnasts. Harness - A harness allows you to tie your rope securely. Helmet  - This one is self-explanatory, but a helmet will protect your head from falling debris.  Belay equipment  - This equipment will allow the belayer to control the rope as you climb. Rope  - Rope is one of the most essential pieces of gear you’ll need when rock climbing. As a beginner, rope is typically provided. Locking carabiner  - Used with belay equipment. 

4. Practice Your Climbing Skills

One of the best ways when you’re learning how to start rock climbing is to practice your climbing skills. With what you’ve learned from rock climbing classes, you can take your top rope test to see how well you perform.


While you’re fresh on your skills, it’s best to take the test right after you’ve completed the classes. Once you have received your certification, you can rock climb in an indoor gym independently.


As you become more familiar with rock climbing, you’ll begin to know which climbs are more challenging than others. There are many climbs to choose from, so beginner climbers and advanced climbers can use the same indoor climbing gym. 


If you're in the Cleveland, Ohio area, check out our new guide on Cleveland Rock Climbing Gyms !


5. Climb the Ranks

Once you have grasped the fundamentals of rock climbing, the hobby offers many opportunities to advance. Many rock climbers love giving themselves the challenge and might enjoy bouldering, unlike other rock climbers who would prefer the more technical climbs.


Once you’ve become familiar with top rope climbing, you might be ready for lead climbing. Lead climbing is a particular technique that is used where the climber clips their rope to the protection as they ascend in their route. The second climber (the belayer) will be at the bottom, belaying the rope to protect the prominent climber in case of a fall.


(Having trouble finding a rock climbing gym near you? Check out our new guide on How to Find a Rock Climbing Gym Near Me ).


At On the Rocks, our lead climbing class is designed for climbers who are already top rope certified and want to learn a new skill. 


Many people like to explore the hobby of rock climbing because they’re interested in exploring different environments outdoors. After you’ve learned the basics, you’ll want to learn how to set up a top rope anchor.


Rock climbing leaves many ways to explore this unique sport. Beginners and advanced rock climbers can discover new challenges in the world of rock climbing. If you’re open to learning new skills, love to be social, and love the outdoors, rock climbing can become an exciting new hobby to explore! 

How to Start Rock Climbing: FAQ

1. How do you start rock climbing for beginners?

The best way to start rock climbing for beginners is to take a beginning course at your local gym.

2. Can you teach yourself to rock climb?

With enough dedication, you can teach yourself to rock climb at a top rope or bouldering climbing gym.

3. Do I need to be fit to start rock climbing?

Rock climbing requires having a basic level of strength and fitness.

4. Can I go bouldering with no experience?

Even as a beginner, bouldering is easy to learn, and you can start immediately.

5. What skill do you need for climbing?

Climbing is a skill-based activity that requires having the skill of belaying, rappelling, and setting anchors.

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