So, you wanna _________?

So, you wanna go climbing and you aren’t sure where to begin?  theDIHEDRAL is here to help.  Climbing is an excellent way to get great exercise without realizing that you are actually getting great exercise.  Climbing is also an excellent way to meet new people, create lasting memories, and have lots of fun.

As always, my first bit of advice is to say “yes” if someone invites you to go climbing with them.  If someone invites you for a day on the rocks, there is a good chance that they will have the extra gear and know-how to keep you safe and get you started.  However, if you are planning on treating yourself to your first climbing experience, then here is my advice on how to get started!


Unless you’re invited on an outdoor trip by someone you trust, I would start off at a climbing gym.  Climbing gyms are great for several reasons, the most important being safety.  Staff members at climbing gyms are trained to show you the ropes (not sure I have ever used that phrase in a literal sense before).  They’re paid to make sure you know what you’re doing, that your being safe, and that you’re having fun.  Another benefit of a climbing gym is that you’ll be surrounded by people who were once in your shoes (also literal if you are wearing a pair of rentals).  Most of the climbers I know are stoked to talk to new climbers about how to get better, or more efficient, or pretty much anything that has to do with climbing.  So, if you go and have questions, then I’d encourage you to ask pretty much anyone at the gym.


If you’re planning on going alone, then you will probably be sticking to a style of climbing called bouldering.  Bouldering is a type of climbing that doesn’t require any ropes because the tops are limited to a height that would be reasonable for anyone to drop/jump from.  Many gyms also offer the chance to climb higher walls using a piece of equipment called an auto-belay.  An auto-belay allows climbers wearing a harness to attach themselves to an auto-belay rope that is anchored at the top of a climbing route.  Once the climber makes it to the top, or falls along the way, the rope engages a mechanism in the auto-belay, and it slowly lowers the climber to the floor.  It’s like an elevator that only goes down.


A day pass will run about $20 plus gear rental (shoes/harness) $5 – $10.  If you start early in the day, this could amount to a great deal.  Most first-time climbers will last only as long as their fingers and arms will support them, so try not to overdo it too quickly.


Most climbing gyms offer some type of food for purchase.  Usually, it comes in the form of overpriced energy bars, but there are some gyms that offer full meal service.  To be safe, I would pack some snacks to replenish the energy supply along the way.  Another option is to take a break and go out for lunch.  After lunch, perhaps the projects that were giving you trouble at the beginning of the day will be easier to complete once you return!  Also make sure to bring a water bottle because hydration is a must!


Wear comfortable breathable clothes.  You want to wear something that will not restrict your range of motion.  Shorts, stretch pants, yoga pants, t-shirts, and tanks are all good options.  Water bottle is a must.  You don’t need to have a water bottle covered in stickers on day one, but if you stick with climbing long enough, it kind of just happens, so be prepared for that.  If you don’t mind wearing rental shoes, then that’s my advice for your first time climbing.  In that case you’ll want to make sure to be wearing socks, no one would ever expect you to put a bare foot into a rented shoe.  You can also rent a harness if you plan on hitting the bigger walls/auto-belays.  


Jargon can be tricky, so don’t expect to understand everything on your first day of climbing.  However, here are a few terms to help you navigate the terrain on day one.  If someone is struggling to make it up a route just say things like “come on”, “you got this”, “you’re almost there”, and “breathe”.  If you really want to stand out, try saying them altogether e.g., “Come on, you got this, you’re almost there, breathe”.  If your arms feel weak just say “I’m pumped”.  If you want someone to explain how to do a route, ask “you got any beta”.  Finally, if you feel confident that you’re going to finish a route make sure to proclaim “I’m about to send this mother f-er once and for all”.  “Mother f-er” is totally optional depending on your mood.

Soooooo, if you want to go climbing, just stick to these basics and you’ll be sending mother f-ers left and right.  If you have any questions or want some specifics, I am here for you.  Just write or comment below, and I’ll do whatever I can to help!

Happy Climbing!


17 Replies to “So, you wanna _________?”

  1. Love the advice on the jargon. 🙂 I can’t see myself ever climbing anything except a small hill while geocaching (and even that doesn’t go so well), but I love your site for the writing. I also like reading about adventures that other people do. 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Suzanne, this totally made my day! Thank you! I’ll keep hope alive that one day we can convince you to give climbing a try, even if it’s a pebble!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I dunno about that bouldering definition. I got stuck on a boulder in, uh, Boulder. Because of its shape, height, and location, there was no jumping off. The trail below was narrow and it dropped off. All around it were sharp, pointy things. One way down. There are those times when the top of a boulder is a bleak and scary place. And those times, the best advice, “Don’t turn around and enjoy the view. It will paralyze you. Just come back down the way you went up.” 🤪 Luckily I wasn’t alone. There are some rocks outside Santee, CA that are good bouldering rocks and it was a good day when someone thought, “Hmm, let’s use some phoam pads on the ground so after we send this mother phucker we can have a soft landing.” And, well, sonny, back in my day there were no climbing gyms.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I really need to write a part 2. Highball boulders are scary death traps. I’ve gotten myself in trouble a couple times thinking that I could figure out a way down once I made it to the top. I guess there is always a way down, just not always a safe way down. The days before boulder pads are a scary thought.

      I don’t usually write much on my scary/stupid climbing experiences, for some reason it seems like these types of stories are romanticized and used as a benchmark for bravery rather than a warning of stupidity, but yes…getting up caught on a boulder with limited ways to get down really sucks!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Sometimes you don’t know what something is until you climb up it. Then, when you get down safely, you’ve learned to look around before you go up. Anyway, that boulder was 48 years ago which indicates it was a good teacher, even though I remain kind of a crash test dummy, I’m less so because of that rock. It wasn’t a gneiss experience, but an important one in the conglomerate of my life experience — on and off rocks.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. That is so true. There is such a fine line between curious and foolish, sometimes we don’t know which side we were on until the outcome is complete (both short term outcomes and long term outcomes).

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Transferring from Indoor to Outdoor climbing. I went out with friends at first and then i hired a guide to teach me. I basically knew what i was doing but a professional guide will make sure that everything you have been taught by your mates is the safest and correct way. They also gave me a list of routes and climbing areas that they felt were around my grade and could be a fun and safe challenge. Friends make mistakes and slip into bad habits which will get passed onto you. Guides will not. Its there professional reputation on the line. I end up hiring a guide or going on a course for most of my new adventurous activities. And if you are already at a competent skill level then they can change the day around to suit your needs.

    Liked by 1 person

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