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Mastering the act of rock climbing requires a great deal of focus and patience to truly master. Given the time investment, it can also be one of the most exhilarating and adrenaline fueled activities that you can participate in to get you outside and moving in a truly unique way. But if you choose to start rock climbing, there are some crucial safety tips you must keep in mind to ensure that your trip is a good one, not a tragic one.
Never Climb Alone
In large part because you will likely be out in the wilderness away from society and thus speedy emergency help, you should always have at least one other person with you while climbing. Having a climbing partner is also an important safety factor because you should always have a belayer, or the individual at the base of the rock wall who is responsible for ensuring that the climber remains safe.
The belayer is responsible for helping to regulate rope tension while the climber is climbing. If the climber stops, the belayer will keep tension in the rope to help prevent a fall. Self belaying is a rock climbing technique that can be used by more experienced rock climbers who have a clear idea of what they are doing. But even an experienced rock climber should still have a climbing partner so that, in the case of an accident, the pair have someone who can either help or go for help as needed.
Know Your Harness: Is it Ready?
Rock climbing requires that you equip yourself with the best gear you can find. Part of this equipment involves your harness*, which should include the following basic components:
- Waistbelt – The part that buckles around your waist and holds the rest of the harness up.
- Buckles – Usually crafted of metal and slightly off center so it does not interfere with your climbing rope. The buckle allows for adjustments to the fit of the waistbelt.
- Leg Loops – The padded loops that your legs will sit in while climbing.
- Gear Loops – The average harness has 4 gear loops that can be used to carry the different equipment that you will need for your climb.
- Haul Loop – Sits on the back of the harness so that you can attach a second climbing rope or haul line.
- Belay Loop – The strongest structure of the entire harness meant to be the load bearing central piece of the harness.
- Tie-In Points – The 2 loops connected to the belay loop that are strong and meant to hold cords or ropes.
- Rise/Elastic Straps – This refers to the distance between the leg loops and the waistbelt. They can serve as a seat harness while climbing or they can be removable for a drop seat harness.
A hobby like rock climbing is not one that you can afford to not purchase high quality equipment, especially when it comes to your harness. To stay safe, you should do your research thoroughly and find the best possible harness for your money that will provide the stability and support that you need while rock climbing. In this article, you will learn how to choose the best climbing harness for you.
What Other Gear Should You Have on Hand?
- Climbing Helmet* – Protect yourself from possible head injury from a fall, minor rock slide, or other possible accident that could occur. No matter how safe you are, there is always room for accidents to happen, which is why being prepared is so important. How to Choose a Rock Climbing Helmet
- Climbing Rope* – You want a rope that is long enough to be able to safely lower you back to the ground when it is time. There are two types of climbing rope: Dynamic, which can stretch to absorb a great amount of impact, and Static, which are stiffer and best for hauling loads or for fixed climbing. Understand what type of climbing you are doing to decide which ropes will work best for you. How to Choose a Rock Climbing Rope
- Rock Climbing Shoes* – These shoes are specifically designed with textured footholds to help you keep your grip while climbing. These shoes are not meant for long walking, however, so you should always have a backup pair of regular hiking shoes packed in your kit. How to Choose Rock Climbing Shoes
- Chalk* – This is used to help you keep your grip while climbing by absorbing moisture. What is Rock Climbing Chalk for?
- Carabiners* – Strong, metal rings with spring loaded clasps are used to connect your climbing ropes as well as your gear to your harness or pack.
Pay Attention at All Times
You should always be aware of your surroundings, your gear, and your fellow climbers. This means being aware of where the lead climber is and ensuring that his or her belay is secured, especially since the lead climber is the one at the greatest risk of falling or going off route. Before you set off, always double and triple check that:
- Your gear is securely fastened and ready to go
- Your rope knots are properly tied and strong
- Your rope has been properly threaded through the belay device and that your locking carabiner is secured to the belay harness
- Your ropes are clipped correctly and will not come undone or get in the way while climbing
- Your anchors are secure and there are enough to ensure your safety
Bring Enough Gear, and then Some
Without overloading your kit, you always want to make sure that you have the gear you need in ample supply. Before you head out to start climbing, survey the area you will be in and get a good idea of what kind of gear and how much you will need for a successful climb. This requires that you see the area rather than rely on a guidebook which may leave out crucial details that the author did not notice. If you are ever in doubt about how much gear you might need, bring a few extra clips (etc.) just to be safe.
In addition to rock climbing gear, you should always have a hefty supply of water so that you and your fellow climbers do not suffer from dehydration. Especially as you move up in elevation, your body will require more water to stay hydrated. Plus, with all of the physical activity that you will be doing, you will likely be losing a lot of key nutrients via sweat that must be replaced to keep your mind clear and focused.
Learn the Basic Commands Used by Rock Climbers
Not only should you practice good communication with your fellow climbers, but it would behoove you to learn the rock climbing lingo for a more productive and safe climb. Rock climbing commands are important and unique because they tend to be short, quick statements that are meant to convey a general sense of what needs to be done. In a rock climbing setting, there is usually little enough time to form full, complex sentences. Furthermore, the distance between climbers will make it difficult enough to hear one another and a short, loud command is far easier to understand. These commands include:
- Climber to Belayer: On belay? (Am I secure?)
- Belayer to Climber: On belay! (Ready, and you are secure.)
- C to B: Climbing! (I will start climbing.)
- B to C: Climb on! (You may begin climbing.)
Commands on Rock Face:
- C to B: Slack! (The rope is too tight, loosen it up.)
- B to C: Slacking! (I’m loosening the rope.)
- C to B: Tension! or Take! (The rope is loose, pull it tight.)
- B to C: Taking! (Pulling the rope tight.)
- C to B: Watch me! (I am going to move, and I may fall. Keep an eye out.)
- B to C: Go ahead! (I am ready, make your move.)
- C to B: Falling!
- B to C: Got you! (note: while falling, a climber may not have the time or frame of mind to actually call out; it is the belayer’s job to “take the fall” and ensure the safety of the group.)
- C to B: Ready to lower! (I cannot climb up anymore, so lower me down.)
- B to C: Lowering! (I am preparing to lower you down.)
- C to B: Rock! (A rock or piece of equipment has come loose and is falling, so look out!)
- C to B: Rope! (A rope is being lowered, stay clear!)
Consider Taking Climbing Lessons
There are numerous facilities that offer indoor climbing walls with skilled instructors that can give you an excellent place to start learning how to climb effectively. It is not in your best interest to buy a bunch of expensive gear and immediately head out to the wilderness if you are not entirely sure what you are doing. The best safety tip is to be prepared, and this goes far beyond a mere equipment check.
One of your first steps to prepare for a rock climbing adventure is to find a gym or other facility that offers indoor climbing. From here, you can practice several different types of rock climbing in a more secure and safe environment:
- Bouldering – This type of climbing does not involve ropes and does not go up quite as high as other forms of climbing. This is a good form of rock climbing to start with that will give you a feel for what it will be like and is much less expensive up front. Also, this type of climbing does not require a partner if you cannot find someone to go with you.
- Sport Climbing – This is your traditional, most popular form of rock climbing that involves a harness, ropes, anchors, and climbing partner.
- Top Rope Climbing – Also known simple as “top roping”, this form of climbing involves an anchor at the top of the climb that you will work your way up with the help of a belayer at the bottom of the incline.
There are more forms and styles of climbing that you can learn as you become more experienced and comfortable with rock climbing, but these three styles are a good place to start building your rock climbing foundation. Once you have a strong foundation and a good backing of knowledge of what you must do, then you are ready to go out and tackle the wider, outdoor world. But for your safety and the safety of your fellow climbers, do not go out and start attempting to climb if you are not comfortable or aware of what you are doing.
This short guide outlines a few of the most important safety tips that you should always keep in mind when preparing to rock climb. This guide is not comprehensive, but should give you a good place to start building a foundation for your personal rock climbing adventure research. The key points to take away from this safety guide are:
- Don’t climb alone. Always bring a fellow climber so that the two of you can keep an eye on one another, belay for one another, and seek out help if needed.
- Gear up. You can always find good deals on rock climbing gear, but you should never skimp when it comes to purchasing the tools and equipment that will mean the difference between a fun adventure and a tragic incident.
- Be aware, always. While fun, rock climbing is inherently dangerous, and you should always be aware of your surroundings, your fellow climbers, and the placement of your gear.
- Be prepared. Before you go out to start climbing, visit the area you intend to climb and get a good idea with your own eyes what you might need. And always make sure to stay hydrated!
- Learn basic commands. Don’t waste time trying to communicate with long ideas; learn the basic commands of rock climbing to ensure quick, efficient communication that could be the difference between a fall and safety.
- Prepare and educate yourself. If you are not comfortable rock climbing or you are not entirely sure what you should be doing, then find a local indoor climbing wall where experts can help teach you in addition to allowing you to practice in a more secure environment.
Attention: You have to take care of your safety when climbing! The information on climbtheearth.com only helps you to learn. Before you climb, you should make sure that you have been properly instructed by an expert and that you follow all safety precautions.
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