Climbers Rock or Why its nice to have a mentor

Helping Hand

Being new to climbing is interesting. When you first start out, like most sports, it’s because someone grabbed you and said ‘Hey, lets try you at rock climbing today.’ So along you go to test out this new thing that is meant to be awesome and you realize that you love it, but what do you do next? Well, if you are anything at all like me you call, text and, in general, harass your friend to take you out again. Frankly, I’m lucky that I moved to the other side of the world because I’m sure they were going to stop talking to me at any given moment.

For me and it seems quite a few others in my situation the next stage was joining an indoor climbing gym. I wanted to gain confidence with my abseiling, get familiar with the using a rope and build up my body strength before I played with the ‘big boys’ outdoors. Climbing in any good climbing gym is an enlightening experience. They’ll have youth clubs and semi-pros training on a regular basis alongside people like me who are beginning the climbing learning curve. Its exciting to watch.

There comes a point though, when it is time to start learning in the great outdoors. For me this is the why I climb, so that I can be outside, but there is a huge leap from climbing indoors to being out in the great wide world. Belaying is different, the safety is more complex and the routes aren’t conveniently laid out in colour coded holds for you to follow. How do you take this leap? I struggled at first. The gym I belonged to offered a range of courses to prepare you for going outside, but they wanted you to be climbing at a minimum level of 5.10d or 21, just a little bit above my local crags level of 5.9 (17) and mine to be fair!

The next question is where can you find someone willing to rope you in so you and a partner can practice just the climbing element? Well., this is where the climbing community has been one of the best. My local area has a climbing website (google it- I’m sure yours does too). A place where you can post lost gear, talk about local events and, most importantly, post for climbing buddies. My first post resulted in many, many questions to access my ability and one person who was meeting with a group of their friends and said I could come along and join them for a climb. Exciting. On that trip I went along and was taught the figure of eight knot and how to belay outside.

A few weeks past, more indoor climbing, and I began to crave being outside again. Off I went to the local climbing site to see if anyone was prepared to take me out. This time I struck gold. When I arrived for my lesson at the local climbing crag, I was met by a climber with years of experience. His first thing to me was that he needed to know I was safe helping him climb and therefore he was going to access my ability. I showed him my knots, I top roped and lead belayed him, then he asked me to clean my own route. I made it clear I didn’t know what he was talking about. The rest of the short time we spent climbing was my first outdoors lesson. I have another one set up for next week, next time is lead climbing! Talking to a friend afterwards they said, ‘Its great. You’ve been climbing adopted.’ I guess I have.

The climbing community is one of the nicest I’ve ever encountered. I think I’d be hard pushed to find another sport as technical as climbing where someone will just pick up a newbie and help them realize their dream of climbing outside. Thank you fellow climbers!

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