How to Start Rock Climbing


How to Start Rock Climbing

Getting started in rock climbing is fun, easy, and safe when done properly. If you want to know how to start rock climbing follow the steps in this article.

Your First Time Rock Climbing

The easiest way to start rock climbing is to buy a day pass to a indoor climbing gym. The day pass will let you try climbing with no need to buy rock climbing gear or commit to a gym membership. Climbing typically requires two people (one belaying on the ground and one climbing on the wall) so bring a friend or two.

Along with the day pass the staff will provide you with a rock climbing harness. The harness will let you connect to the rope so that you can climb safely.

Before you start climbing the gym staff will show you how to belay (take in slack in the rope as you progress up the wall) your climbing partner and how to climb safely. With the autolocking “clip in” systems found at most gyms you won’t have to learn how to tie any knots, follow any complicated procedures or operate any complex equipment. You’ll go from never having climbed to being having indoor climbing experience in just a few minutes.

The gym staff will make sure that you understand the process and will observe as you climb the first few times. Your first climbing experience will will go something like this:

  • First you clip the carabiner to the belay loop on your harness and the belayer holds the rope and prepares to belay.
  • Using verbal commands you and the belayer confirm that they are ready to belay and you announce that you are now climbing.
  • You climb up the wall using the plastic hand holds.
  • When you reach the top, are unable to continue up, or just want to come down you let your weight come onto the rope and let go of the wall. You are now hanging from the rope through your harness with your feet against the wall.
  • You ask your belayer to lower you and they slowly lower you to the ground. Congratulations, you are a climber!

Progressing as an Indoor Climber

Top Rope Climbing

Once you’ve climbed using the “clip in” system a few times you and your partner may want to learn how to climb using the standard top rope method. This means that the climber will have to learn how to tie the rope to their harness using a figure eight knot and the belayer will belay with a tube-type belay device attached to their harness’ belay loop rather than an autolocking belay device attached to the ground. The best way to learn this method is to take a class from your local gym.

When you start top rope climbing both you and your partner will need harnesses, locking carabiners, and belay devices. You will also likely want climbing shoes, chalk bags, and chalk.

This video shows top rope climbing and provides other information related to how to start climbing:


Another next-level way to climb is bouldering. In bouldering you climb without a rope and keep yourself safe by never climbing too high or out of control. When you reach the final hold of the route or otherwise want to return to the ground you downclimb (use the holds on the wall to climb down rather than up) or carefully drop to the padded floor below. Gym staff will provide instruction on how to boulder safely.

Sport Climbing

You can also sport climb in the gym. The distinction between sport climbing and top rope climbing is that in sport climbing the rope starts on the ground with the climber. As the climber progresses up the wall they clip the rope to carabiners attached to the wall. If the climber lets go of the wall they may fall a few feet before the slack goes out of the rope. The best way to learn how to sport climb is to take a class at your local gym.

This video shows the difference between top rope climbing and sport climbing:

Rock Climbing Outside

The best way to start rock climbing outside for the first time is to take a class. There’s a big difference between the carefully-controlled environment of the climbing gym and climbing on a real rock wall. You can’t learn by watching YouTube videos or by trial and error. Even learning from friends can be dangerous because of the bad advice that is often passed from climber to climber. The safest way to have your first outdoor climbing experience is with a professionally guided group or as part of a class intended to teach you how to climb properly.

After reading this article you should understand how to start rock climbing. If you have any questions about how to start rock climbing please post in the comments.

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