Transition From Indoor to Outdoor Climbing

Transition From Indoor to Outdoor Climbing
Whether you've mastered all the walls and boulders at your indoor rock climbing gym or you've just begun to learn how to handle the ropes, climbing quickly becomes a sort of addiction. For those who want to transition their need to reach great heights to the great outdoors, realize that climbing outdoors is a very different experience than climbing indoors. Take the time to learn the skills you need to be safe and enjoy your climb to the top.


Difficulty: Easy

Step 1
Climb with top ropes and boulder at the indoor gym. Even though you are itching to climb the face of a cliff, you need to cement your basic skills. Feel confident climbing at least a 5.9 standard route. Practice down climbing to get used to looking down for foot and hand holds. Perfect your figure eight knot. Keep it close to your harness with very little extra rope at the end. Work on your weight transfer and body positioning. Challenge yourself by coming at routes from different angles.
Step 2
Train your body. Even if you are used to climbing for hours at your rock gym, outdoor climbing is a different beast. Your body dehydrates and tires faster in the sun and on longer routes. Get used to hiking up trails with gear packed on your back. Pull out the weights and train your muscles. Be sure to work opposing muscles so you have a well-rounded workout. Develop your endurance with high repetitions using a low resistance. Do this with weights or on an indoor rock wall.
Step 3
Learn how to lead climb. When climbing outdoors you have to be able to set up ropes. Sometimes there's no way around for you to do it. The best way to learn is to take a class at your climbing gym. Your instructors likely have a lot of experience lead climbing. It is best to learn from an expert than to risk your life learning from your own mistakes. Be sure you learn how to lead climb a 5.8 standard, how to comfortably clip rope through a karabiner, how to properly belay without a floor anchor and most important, how to fall. Yes, there is a wrong way and a better way to fall.
Step 4
Take an outdoor climbing transition class. If your indoor climbing class doesn't offer one, check with outdoor equipment stores like REI or check with local climbing groups. They either offer the classes themselves or know who does. Learn how to decipher outdoor routes, to navigate problems during a climb, to work with top anchors, to find a resting position, to climb a crack, to place protection devices like bolts and how to friction climb.

Tips & Warnings

Be a steward of the land and animals while climbing. Give climbers a good reputation by treating the land with respect. Develop your climbing skills and take indoor climbing classes during the winter so when the warm months roll around you are ready to take to the outdoor climbs with confidence. Practice shifting your weight when working out at an indoor rock gym. As you move from hold to hold, focus on only moving the part of the body reaching for the foot-or handhold. You want to shift your weight separately from the rest of your body and be in total control of your body's movements.
Do not attempt outdoor climbing without adequate training. Time spent climbing at an indoor gym does not qualify you to handle the dangers or techniques needed to survive on an outdoor climb. Never climb alone. When you begin to climb outdoors, always go with someone who has more outdoor climbing experience than you do. Reading the terrain when climbing outdoors is a completely different experience than when you climb indoors. The holds often blend into the rock. Take it easy when you start to climb outside. You never know what kind of problem you may encounter on the route or how long the route takes to navigate. Take your time and enjoy the new adventure.

Article Written By Lisa McKeown

Lisa McKeown grew up riding and exploring the snow and sun of the Rocky Mountains. She has taken her love of the outdoors from the Alps to the Olympic Mountains and continues to share what she learns from her adventures in her writing.

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