Sport Climbing 101- A Beginner’s Guide

Sport Climbing 101- A Beginner’s Guide

  • Hamxii Collaborator

Beginners Guide To Climbing

 Whether you prefer indoor rock climbing, rock climbing in the great outdoors, or you are considering giving ice climbing a try, sport climbing can be potentially dangerous if you don’t know what you are doing. However, as with many things in life, to know what you are doing, you have to go out and do it.

     Now, with that being said, we are going to take a look at some beginner tips that will have you in your harness and scaling that rock face in no time. Let’s get started:

A Beginner’s Guide To Sport Climbing

     You might have heard rock climbing called Sport climbing, Bouldering, or Traditional climbing, and these terms essentially mean the same thing and they refer to sport climbing and its three main disciplines. Many climbers do favour boulders today as they are more Instagram friendly, however, you will get more thrill and be able to use your skills more frequently climbing something a bit more challenging. As a beginner, boulders are a good start though.

What Is Sport Climbing?

     While sport climbing is the broad term you will hear more often, there is a difference between sport climbing and bouldering. Let’s take a look at those differences:

     Sport climbing is ‘the act of climbing single- or multi-pitch routes, protected by permanently-fixed bolts and anchors drilled into the rock, using a rope and the aid of a belayer.’ The main difference between sport climbing and bouldering can be found within the previous sentence. You see, bouldering doesn’t have, or need, the same protection as sport climbing as there are no ropes, but you do have crash pads. Likewise, traditional climbing calls uses temporary gear and anchors to protect the climber, while sport climbing uses permanent ones.

Find A Mentor

     Whatever type of rock climbing you decide on, be sure to find a mentor. Not only will this add a level of safety, but you can take advantage of their skill and knowledge and learn quite a bit of information in a noticeably short time. The technicalities and nuances of climbing can be challenging to understand at first and this is where an experienced mentor really pays off.

How Sport Climbing Works

      Before you can actually climb anything, you must have a route in mind. In many cases, there are only a few ways up, regardless of how many ways down there are. The person in charge of the climb, typically an advanced climber, will determine the route. That person will use either a hand drill or a power drill to outfit the line with bolts and bolt hangers.


     Once a route is decided upon, the pitch comes into play next. The term “pitch” refers to ‘a route length that can be climbed and protected by a rope of average length.’ This is typically between 60 and 70 meters. Most climbing areas have single pitch climbs set up, but multi-pitch sport climbs are common as well.

     The actual climbing process is rather simple. With a few meters of rope between them, a climber and a belayer tie into one end of a single rope. As the climbers ascends the route, he or she clips into carabiners spaced intermittently up the wall. These act as anchors to protect the climber from falls. As the climber climbs, the belayer “feeds” slack in the rope, and manually brakes any falls with the aid of a belay device.


Basic Sport Climbing Gear

Climbing basics

You will need some basic sport climbing gear to get you started. This list includes some of the basics, but climbers typically never stop buying rock climbing gear. They will either find something new and innovative to make the climbing experience better, or they will be constantly replacing or upgrading their current gear.

Here are some of the basic items that you will need to get started in sport climbing:

Harness- you will need a comfortable and well-made harness. If your harness is too small, it could cut off the circulation to your legs, and if it is too large, you will find yourself struggling to size it.

Climbing Shoes- choose climbing shoes that are comfortable and that fit your foot properly. If your feet are uncomfortable, climbing will be uncomfortable!

Rope- when it comes to rope, you want durability. Typically, a good first rope is a 70 meter length and 9.7 - 10 mm diameter.

Quickdraws- a quickdraw consists of two non-locking carabiners attached by webbing. You clip your rope into a quickdraw as you climb, and they allow for extra distance between the anchor and the rope. This is done to reduce rope drag.

Belay Device- a belay device is a critical piece of gear that you will need and you want to buy the best possible belay device available. If you can belay with a simple locking carabiner and ATC setup, you are well on your way. Once you have mastered this classic belay setup, you should upgrade to a belay device with auto-locking capabilities.

Chalk Bag- choose a chalk bag with a waist strap and be sure that it is small enough to fits your hand easily.

Pack- your rock climbing gear backpack should be spacious enough to transport all of your sport climbing gear. Sometimes the hikes to the crag are long, so choose a backpack that is comfortable enough to wear long distances.

Belay Gloves- belay gloves are designed to protect your hands from rope burn while belaying. choose a sturdy pair of leather gloves.

Belay Glasses- belay glasses relieve neck strain while belaying. They use mirrors to angle your gaze upward.

Helmet- a helmet can protect your head from falling debris, gear, the random overthrown Clif bar and anything else that wants to cause it harm. Wearing a helmet while climbing and belaying is the easiest way to stay safe. Don’t skimp on your climbing gear, especially your helmet!

Climb Somewhere That Makes Sense

     If you are just starting out in sport climbing, Canada has some incredible beginner and intermediate climbing opportunities. Experts recommend that you start your sport climbing journey indoors as it is much safer and the bolts are more closely spaced. You will also have a much better chance of finding a mentor that way.


Whistler Alpine Guides- Whistler and Squamish, B.C.

Skaha Rock Adventures- Penticton, B.C.

Yamnuska Mountain Adventures- Canmore, Alta.

On the Rocks- Beaver Valley, Ont.

Maikan Adventure- Trois-Rivières, Que.

Adrenaline Adventures- Moncton, N.B.

Cape Enrage- Waterside, N.B. (on the Bay of Fundy, the walls are inaccessible for a few hours during high tide)


Cliffhanger- Vancouver, Coquitlam and Richmond, B.C.

Vertically Inclined- Edmonton

Grip It- Saskatoon

Vertical Adventures- Winnipeg

Climber’s Rock- Burlington, Ont.

Basic Sport Climbing Etiquette

     As with anything we do in life, being polite to others and showing them consideration is important. The same principles hold true when it comes to both indoor and outdoor sport climbing. While rock climbing is an individualized pursuit, we do still encounter others out on the trails and at the climbing areas. With some basic sport climbing etiquette, we can all have a much better time out there.

With that being said, here are some things to keep in mind when it comes to respecting your fellow climbers and the climbing areas:

Keep It Quiet- avoid any excess yelling, screaming, or loud music. Most sport climbers like the peace and quiet they get from the climb, and so should you.

Keep Organized- don’t leave your gear lying around. Do your best to consolidate your gear and stay as organized as possible. Not only will this free up space on the paths and at the crag, but you will be less likely to lose anything.

Clean Up After Yourself- when you are done climbing, clean up your mess and any mess that is left lying around the climbing areas and paths. After all, it’s our responsibility to keep our climbing areas clean.

Be Kind- popular climbing areas can be very busy and it pays to be kind and respectful of your fellow climbers. If you aren’t good at sharing, avoid the busy climbing areas and find something that is less used. Remember to respect your fellow climbers, don’t rush anyone to climb faster, don’t crowd a belayer’s space, and don’t be mean.

Where To Find Your Rock Climbing Gear

     When shopping for sport climbing gear, you want a reputable online dealer that carries name brand climbing gear and that can offer some useful tips and advice that will help you get started and become a better climber. Find a rock climbing gear retailer that can grow with your needs and that carries everything for the beginner to the advanced rock climber.

Contact My Climbing Gear

     For more tips and advice designed to make you a better climber, contact My Climbing Gear and shop a wide selection of name brand climbing gear and apparel today.

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