I can remember the first time out.
My hands were like waterfalls; unstoppable sources of pouring water (aka sweat)…feeling as if anything I touched would be slippery in my hand and definitely not helpful to my journey up on a vertical rock surface. My mind was exploring emotions ranging from excitement to fear from the unknown and happiness because this would be my first time really rock climbing.
In all, I felt prepared; I was equipped with the gear to keep me safe, prior knowledge from a couple experiences in the gym and reading up on the sport. Lastly, and most importantly, I was equipped with an experienced partner who knew how to belay and show me the other important things in between.
I think all too often, people focus on climbing and the technique to get up and fall safely but knowing how to belay is extremely important in preventing injury and even worse. The first-time climber should be responsible in knowing your partner and how they belay because in the end, you ARE putting your life in someone’s hands but by being discriminating on who belays you, you are being responsible for yourself.
I am lucky to live in an area where climbing is popular (Red Rocks) and also lucky that the owners and people that work at the local gear shop (Desert Rock Sports) are all super knowledgeable and experienced folks that were willing to help regardless of making a sale. You can easily look online to search for your local area gear shop. If there are none, write me and I’m happy to help you find something – even if it’s to talk to someone on the phone live.
Here are the beginning items you should look into purchasing if you’ve decided you really want to pursue climbing:
I think the first thing I will mention about this is – you don’t wear socks with your climbing shoes. It’s usually the first shock people get before actually climbing, “I don’t wear socks???”. Nope. It’s not a running shoe. It’s more like a ballet shoe maybe. It will hug your foot to ensure you keep your balance on the rock. It should not be loose because you want your shoe and your foot to almost become one machine.
The first step I took was to go to my local climbing gear shop and try different pairs on. Keep in mind, unless you’re in one of the larger gear stores, the store will only have an inventory of a handful of pairs. And hopefully, they’ll have some good choices. There are online stores that keep a large inventory of various brands, colors, etc but you can’t try them on and it’s better saved for the folks who know exactly what they are buying.
The day I went in was a bit of a fluke. It was a Sunday and the hours of operation usually have them closing by 5pm but I went ahead and went there at about 8pm at night. They were open because they were conducting their inventory, what luck!
I was out hiking all day and thought, “Hmmm…I don’t need to wash up my feet, I’ll just wear socks.” (see, the whole sock thing). First thing I’m told (and funny enough, by a most gorgeous sale rep) is that I’m to take my shoes off in my quest to find my perfect pair of shoes. I was extremely reluctant in becoming a human air freshener of the rotten, dirty feet variety smell..but I had to do it. This is how wonderful the folks are at Rock Sports because the guy selling me the shoes didn’t flinch an inch and was so amped about teaching me the basics on finding the perfect fitting beginner shoe that he just ignored the aroma of my wonderful feet. Awesome.
He had me try on several pairs and then they have a small climbing board off to the side where he instructed that I put pressure on my toes on some foot holds to try it out. Just in case you’re curious, I went with the LaSportiva Mythos (about 3 sizes too big…haha..). The Mythos are a very comfortable shoe and not only are they good for beginners but because of their fit, they are great for all-day, trad climbs. It was later that I began to search for a more aggressive pair of shoes and now have the LaSportiva Muiras (which are 2 sizes smaller ;)
The bottom line is, we all have different shaped feet so you would be best to try on several pairs first and sometimes your gym has rentals and you can try them on there as well. Also, keep in mind that climbing shoes stretch.
The shoes were my first purchase because you can still boulder with just the shoes and chalkbag and do this for a period of time that will tell you whether you’d like to go further. Or you can just jump right in and get a harness. Ideally, you don’t want anything too loose and too tight. Trying various sizes and brands may help narrow the right choice down.
So, the next time I went to Rock Sports, Travis Graves, ones of the owners showed me several harnesses; explaining the function and how it should fit.
Ahhh…the essential chalk holder. I’m proud to say my past collection has included plastic baggies binered to my harness to some chic, black Mamut bag that I have since lost (was my favorite). This choice is all up to your tastes. Some chalk bags are huge…bucket style…some are smaller but most of them are generally the same size. You may also prefer to wear them around your waist, or just clip them to a biner to your harness or do like I occasionally have done and wear it like my former Brownie girl sash. Do what you feel comfortable with and whatever might be practical.
TO BE CONTINUED……………………………..