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A Runner’s Guide to Climbing

From the outside, climbing can seem pretty intimidating. New techniques, safety protocols, and images of Alex Honnold free soloing cause a little hesitation in even the most resilient of athletes. With a little knowledge of the sport and a buddy, however, the barrier to entry is overcome easily.

Types of Climbing:

The first thing you’re going to need to figure out is what kind climbing you’d most like to try. Indoor or outdoor? Bouldering or sport climbing? If you’re unsure, climbing gyms are a great place to test the waters and meet some climbing partners. Most gyms have bouldering and sport climbing walls so you can try different disciplines, get fit, and hone in your new skills. From our experience, this has been the perfect first step before you head outdoors to climb. 

 

Whether you’re climbing in the gym to start or have a group to go with outside, there are four main climbing disciplines that you can explore. 

Bouldering

This is arguably the easiest discipline to start with when you’re first getting into climbing due to the minimal amount of gear required. All you need is a bouldering pad, some chalk, and a pair of climbing shoes. Bouldering is famous for its gymnastic moves that highlight a climber’s strength and problem solving skills. Kind of like a sprinter or track runner, boulderers will spend months trying to achieve a specific goal, slowly bettering their performance overtime.

 

Top Rope

This discipline is the perfect place to start if you want to climb with ropes either indoors or outdoors. Your rope is anchored at the top of the pitch, so when you fall off the wall you won’t travel very far. A belayer has control of the other end of the rope to make sure your falls are as safe as possible.

 

Sport

This is the next step in the natural progression of climbing. Instead of having your rope anchored at the top of the pitch, the climber starts from the ground clipping pre-existing bolts with quickdraws, and running their rope through each draw as they go. This is called leading and is how you have to get your rope up at most outdoor crags. Since the rope isn’t anchored at the top of the climb, taking a fall when you’re lead climbing requires more practice and effective communication with your belay partner. This style of climbing can be compared to a marathon. The moves can be as athletic as what you would expect from a boulder problem, but the routes are a lot longer.

 

Trad

Traditional climbing, or trad, is the climbing discipline that requires the most experience and gear. The climber places removable protection—cams and nuts—in cracks and crevices as they ascend the wall. This style of climbing can pose a higher risk, demanding focus and confidence on the wall. Trad and sport climbers will often continue up the wall for multiple pitches to reach the true summit. 

Gear

Unless you’re bouldering, climbing can be a very gear intensive sport. As you explore different disciplines of climbing, you’ll need to continue to acquire new gear. To start out, there are a few things you’ll need to get off of the ground. 

A good pair of shoes will get you on the wall to start crushing V0’s at the gym. You’ll want to size down from your normal running shoe fit for precision control on small toe holds.

A chalk bag and chalk will help keep your sweaty hands from slipping off of the holds allowing you to progress onto harder and harder routes. 

To start top-roping and sport climbing, you will need a harness, belay device, and a locking carabiner. Quickdraws, a rope, and a personal anchor will get you outside and wrestling some real rock. 

A good pair of durable headphones, such as the EARTHPROOF Jaybird Vista, will keep your spirits high as you start using body parts other than your legs when you work out. 

Make sure you take them out when rope climbing, as you always need to be able to communicate with your belayer! 

 

Trad gear is specific to the route you will be climbing, but in addition to the gear required for sport climbing outdoors, you can expect to need cams, nuts, slings, and more.

Although our highly anticipated races have been cancelled for the year, there is no reason to squander our fitness bases and stay inside. There are many other sports, such as climbing, that will keep your stoke for the mountains alive, help keep your fitness levels up, and carry you into next season. Throw those old running shoes back on, and start your long approach to the local crag. We promise you will have a leg up on your non-runner friends (at least on the approach).