I tend to be a do first, ask questions later kind of person. So when I decided that I wanted to learn to rock climb a couple of years ago, I went out and did the most logical thing I could think of: buying a pair of $125 climbing shoes with absolutely no climbing experience! A few weeks after my shoe purchase, I traveled out to Virginia to visit my brother, a climber, and got to try to take them for a spin on some outdoor rocks. I climbed an easy 5.8, with many, many breaks, and was quickly hooked on the sport.
Once I got back to Denver, I took a more dedicated approach to learning to rock climb by randomly showing up at a climbing gym by myself after work one day. Luckily the girl behind the desk took great pity on my ineptness and showed me around some of the easier bouldering problems. Eventually a few of my good friends also started climbing, and I had a solid group to climb with a few times a week. I bought a harness, learned to belay and today I live happily ever after as a casual 5.10 climber on a good day!
There are probably easier ways to get into climbing than the path I took. Climbing has a reputation for requiring a lot of gear, expertise and strength. The reality? Getting started in climbing requires none of those, and it's the best workout that you won't even realize you're doing at the time.
Here are some common misconceptions about climbing and why you should give it a go anyway!
I'm not strong enough.
The great thing about climbing is that it's less about brute arm strength and more about balance. Your arm is much stronger when it is strategically hanging onto a rock rather than holding onto a rock anyway! Your legs are also just as important when climbing as your arms, so being 'jacked' is definitely not a requirement for starting out learning to climb.
I don't have any of the gear.
Most climbing gyms will happily rent you shoes, harnesses and chalk bags and allow you to try out the sport before making an investment. Heading outdoors? Outdoor goods stores often have gear for rent too! When you are ready to buy your own gear, check out used outdoor goods stores for deals on used equipment. On a positive note, compared to many other sports, climbing is actually relatively cheap. While it takes an investment in the thousands to compile a ski or snowboard set-up, it's quite possible to buy shoes, a chalk bag, a belay device and a harness for under $200! #dirtbagfriendly
I'm scared of heights.
I often joke with my mom that climbing is by far the safest thing I do. While I have been injured many times trail running and skiing, I have never been injured from climbing. Climb with partners that practice good habits, like checking knots and harnesses prior to climbing a route, and you'll feel safe and snug in your harness. Start on routes that are easy so you can gain confidence on the rope!
Belaying? What's that?
Learning to belay can be a barrier to climbing but it shouldn't be! Sign up for a class at your local climbing gym or ask any of your climbing friends to let you tag along on a trip sometime. Trust me, climbers are always looking for more belayers, so any climbers in your life will be happy to share the skill!
I don't have any friends who climb.
One of the things that attracted me to climbing in the first place was the climbing community. I can't tell you how many times I have shown up to go bouldering by myself only to be cheered on by complete strangers at the gym. People in the climbing community tend to be non-competitive and are always happy to show you another way to do a route or help you out with a tricky move. In short, it's okay if you don't have any climbing friends when you start the sport because you will make them! Show up to the gym to go bouldering, ask to trade belays with someone or sign up for climbing groups in your local area if you want to get outdoors.
In sum, I think we have successfully refuted any hesitation about starting to climb. It's an absolute blast, a great workout and a break from the stresses in everyday life. What are you waiting for? Climb on!
Paula Mahlburg is a Colorado Girl who, after a stint in Missouri, has returned to Denver, CO where she loves climbing mountains, running long distances and watching the Bachelor. Find out more about Paula on here blog Return to the Motherland.