Any advice for outdoors first-timers?
By - Remyrue
Hold on as to not fall
Lmao roger that
A friend of mine always says: "just crimp harder"
Well, thanks a lot, haven't tried that one before. I'm going to steel yours. :D
I resemble that comment!
Joking aside: It's also good to know when NOT to crimp harder and just let go. There's a time to go al muerte (when it's not likely to damage you), and a time when it is the wrong thing to do even if it means you won't send (because it's better to not send now, or until a year from now when you're able to withstand climbing it safely-- than maybe send and maybe need 4 months of rehab before you're even back to crimping at all... whether or not you sent).
I figure I should point this out in a thread about first-time outside boulderers...
>hen NOT to crimp harder and just let go. There's a time to go al muerte (when it's not likely to damage you), and a time when it is the wrong thing to do even if it means you won't send (because it's better to not send now, or until a year from now when you're able to withstand
Oh yeah, totaly true. Also learning to direct my effort, helped me a lot. Sometimes its smarter to work in sections and than put everything together, instead of wasting energy and eventually getting hurt, because your tendons are tired.
We say, you can't fall if you don't let go.
Climbing outdoor is a lot of fun but a few basic things that people have told me before I first went was first, obviously, leave no trace, pack all ur trash, a plastic bag for just trash is probably a good idea. Secondly, make sure to bring sufficient water! Depending on where u are, it can get pretty hot and it could get dangerous if you are dehydrated.
Personally, climbing outdoor was hard for me at first because I had no idea where to put my feet, foot placement is not as easy to figure out as gyms where they have colored plastic nubs for u. No shame in looking online for beta, but chalk marks and black rubber marks are often decent indicators.
Have fun and stay safe out there man
> leave no trace
This is huge.
I think all the other "how to get better at outside" stuff will just come on its own (and ultimately doesn't even matter as long as you're having fun) but the idea of being a steward of the land doesn't just come with time, it's gotta be taught (and reinforced)
Fortunately its easy to do. Just take all your trash with you, and pick up any odds n' ends you might see in the field (bits of tape, candy wrappers, maybe even an empty beer can or two if the people before you were real twats)
Call it out too. If you see people making an area filthy, mention it.
Obviously don't be a dick, cuz then people will just litter out of spite, but just gently point out that they missed a piece of trash.
If that fails then just pick it up yourself and then put on the most "son, I'm so very disappointed in you" face that you possibly can and maintain unbroken eye contact with them until they laugh uncomfortably and scuttle away.
Start with V0-V2s! Make sure to use a guidebook and after trying a climb a few times theres no shame in looking for beta online. My first few sessions outdoors I Actually found it really useful to look for beta online after trying a climb a few times. It helped me see footholds I didn’t even consider. Enjoy!
Thanks! Yeah we have a guidebook with a ton of detail which is super helpful. I'll def search for that beta when something stumps me, thanks for the advice!
Abandon your expectations of difficulty and grades. It takes a lot of time to transition to
Climbing outdoors, and I found it anxiety inducing and stressful. The big mistake I made was trying to measure my general climbing progression on outdoor rock but I would rarely be able to get out.
Really agree with the above comments about aiming for volume rather than a single big tick.
Make sure you take a small towel to clean your shoes before pulling onto the problem. This will provide better grip and not erode the footholds.
It will feel complex at first but take your time over thinking about what beta to use including the top out.
To get the most bang for your buck try to seek out highly rated v0-v2 climbs, not just any old v0-v2 climb.
When it comes to safety there are a few things to consider.
First and foremost is that the climbers head is the most important thing to keep safe during a fall. This doesn't mean you try to catch a persons head. It means that you need to consider what the possible objects are on the ground that you might split your head open on and which moves on the climb may lead to an awkward fall with the climbers head potentially touching the ground. Pad around that idea. The way to understand how the climber might fall is by thinking about where their hips are at any given time since that is where most of your weight is at and will dictate where the body goes during a fall. This is also why when spotting you want to focus on trying to guide a person towards a safe landing on the pads by catching/pushing them via their hips more than any other part of the body. Way too many people push their pads all the way up against the rock. That is an issue since your feet are the safest part of your body to touch the ground and thus you never need to protect with the intention where a persons feet will land. You need to protect with where their hips will land. So always keep the pads a bit away from the wall since as one climbs higher they will naturally fall further and further away from the wall.
Now that I got the main danger out of the way lets talk about the most likely injury to happen. The most likely one is some sort of a sprained or twisted ankle. This typically happens because a climber lands on the edge of the pad or on the crack of where the two pads meet. There isn't much to really be done about this other than be mindful of it. Main thing is to try and set the pads up in a way where the person isn't going to land with their feet in between the pads. This can be difficult to do and in practice it is always better to have the pads protecting the climber from dangerous objects and centrally below them than trying to avoid having them land with their feet in the crack. I'm more of just throwing this out there so you are mindful of it instead of saying there are specific things to do to mitigate it.
Another part of protecting the climber is understanding how to move the pads as they climb. Don't just put them down and forget about them. Sometimes you have to move a pad mid climb so it's still underneath where the climber is most likely to fall at that given moment.
Before climbing it can be helpful to have a discussion about the areas you feel most likely to fall like on whatever you think the crux move is. It's also good to discuss which moves while maybe easy might lead to an awkward fall and to consider how you should be padding to protect that awkward fall and to be diligent in spotting during that maneuver. When climbing make sure to not do any unexpected moves the spotter isn't aware of like dynoing without first telling them you plan to do so. I literally kicked my partner in the face on accident when I realized mid-climb I could dyno a move and didn't tell them ahead of time. I stuck the dyno, but they weren't happy with me dabbing on their face.
Biggest thing I noticed when climbing outside initially was that handholds tended to be tiny awkward crimps or slopers and footholds were almost non-existent compared to in the gym. I also had my ego crushed since the style is very different from the gym and it took a long time to climb as hard outside as I do in the gym. Your fingers will get wrecked. Climbs also often feel impossible because figuring out beta can be extremely difficult since you have to find the holds yourself. Once you figure out a beta that works for you though a climb can seriously go from seeming impossible to easy in a second. So don't get discouraged if something isn't working just look for different holds to use and be open minded towards new beta. Also realize that you and your girlfriend are likely to have much different beta on each boulder, so don't assume what works for you will work for her.
> To get the most bang for your buck try to seek out highly rated v0-v2 climbs, not just any old v0-v2 climb.
just to caveat this a bit, high rated v0-v2 climbs are often highly rated because there is something outstanding about them, but often this can mean that they are particularly tall or scary or challenging. [The Hunk](https://www.mountainproject.com/route/106382086/the-hunk) is incredible, but it might not be the right thing to climb on your first day.
Every serious outdoor boulderer should get a blubber pad to cover pad seams if they can afford it. Something to think about for the future.
As a frequent user of *that* pad (when someone else carries it, sets it up, etc), and a frequent not-user of that pad-- I don't think every serious outdoor boulderer should consider that pad. I have friends who love it. And I know people who don't think it makes any observable difference at all in 99.99% of situations (including me).
There are even times where I WANT to see and track the seams, edge of pads, obstacles.
But hey, it lets you show off your cool, trendy, organic gear to prove your seriousness, and you can do acro/yoga on it like the cool kids.
I really don't think it makes a measurable safety difference. Cool idea? Asthetically and psychologically comforting? Potential dual use for chilling/yoga/streating? Yeah, totally. A major or even minor safety improvement? I doubt it.
For your first time outside don’t try to climb at your limit, climb as much as you can on easy medium stuff. Quantity over difficulty so you get more familiar with the holds/rock.
I think this is the best advice, getting on more stuff and just climbing a lot will help adjust towards what to look for and feel outdoors than projecting anything harder
This is so important, get the mileage in learning about climbing on real rock, especially if it's something that generally isn't very well represented by the gym (like a lot of peak district grit). You also have a better first day out if you manage to complete lots of different climbs rather than struggling on one.
I guess the first outings should be success-driven, that is, no injuries, no weird falls and a lot of tops. Ease yourself into the outdoor scene and create a positive experience.
* Falling is different
* You don't have endless mats behind you.
* It's best to try to fall on your feet or on your ass
* Spotting is _(much more)_ important
* Job of the spotter is for you to land in a _"straightish"_ position
* They shouldn't catch you, just redirect your upper body to land after your lower body _(or not landing at all)_
* Redirecting using palms to the lats the ass the of the climber is probably the best technique _(edited)_
* Adjusting crashpads
* This is an important part of spotting!
* Weird landings
* Stay away from weird landings or slopping terrain that goes away from the problem _(at least for now)_
* No need to place yourself in those situations on the first time out
Spotting by checking off someone's ass is a great way to throw their body off axis. Especially male-bodied, with a high center of gravity.
Palms to the lats is tried and true.
Ohh then I haven't been doing my part well. When the climbers falls kinda straight, I've been slowing the fall using this method, but I never do this, or wanted to advocate, when falling off-straight.
My comment needs an edit and my own general guideline needs some adapting. Thanks.
\#1 priority for a spotter is to make sure a person lands on the pads.
\#2 is getting them to land on the pads in a way that protects them from landing area objects.
\#3 is getting them to land on their feet.
I can think of at least one boulder problem off the top of my head where it's very easy to land on the pads, so the spotters main job is to make sure they don't hit the tree that's behind them when they very likely (for this problem) land on their heels and roll back. That typically means letting them hit the pad and then redirect (aka, shove) them to the side if they're headed for the tree.
Each problem that doesn't have a perfect landing area is going to call for different tactics at different points in the climb, so it's important to read the beta and try to strategize accordingly. Especially if you might need to move or shift pads as the climber progresses.
I think one of the more interesting boulders with unique spotting beta is a v7 in Leavenworth next to the Sword Boulder. Forget the name, but it involves walking up on a slab a tiny bit and then dynoing to a crimp just above the lip. If you miss the dyno you can somewhat 180 corkscrew off to the side into another boulder. So the spotting beta is literally having someone stand between you and that boulder and shoving you extremely hard back onto the pads lol.
I recommend Pilgrimage for examples of the violent, nail your climbing partner mid-air (or post first-bounce) so the stay on the pad technique. It's best to discuss that with your climbing partner BEFORE trying a move that might need it when possible.
I'd call spotting the ass advanced/expert technique. Personally-- I mostly hate it. There's definitely the risk of knocking someone over, and it has the tendency to create bad habits in both the spotter and the spottee (ask me about it; climbing with someone who has become so accustomed to being spotted in this way and then it becoming a crutch/shifting of responsibility about managing one's own falls when possible.... isn't super fun).
BUT: There are also times (a pretty narrow fall-height range) where it definitely makes a difference/can make certain folks more comfortable/be gentle on backs/knees.
And in those rare cases, it can make (as the spottee) certain falls feel much safer/lower impact.
One of the things people often talk about is how small outdoor footholds are. What I found more surprising was just how little friction a lot of outdoor footholds can be! Took a lot more care to make sure my feet stuck, even on large holds! My area is known to be pretty polished though - this might be different depending on where you're going.
Also I agree with the other commenter about trying V0-V2: often I found they had movements and holds types (e.g. slopers) that I just wouldn't see on any similarly graded climbs indoors. Made those climbs a lot of fun, even if they weren't as difficult.
Good luck with the climbing!
Yeah the foothold friction is definitely a rock dependent thing. My area has a lot of gritty gneiss and I always find myself surprised at how well my feet stick rather than how much they slip
That makes sense. The limestone near me is polished enough that one of the popular circuits is called "glasswalker". I was surprised how much I could trust my feet even with the polished feet though - just had to get weight on them and be careful
What I find a bit challenging ist not to quickfire on boulders. If you plan to climb the whole day or even multiple days in a row, then you should take plenty of time after a failed attempt until you get on the wall again. Also tape your fingers as soon as you feel your skin getting sore, most stones are much tougher to the skin than plastic holds, when you have no skin left then the trip is over so better tape to early then to late.
One other thing, depending on your area: prepare for offline navigation... I have seen plenty of people stumbling around in the forest because they had no data connection and suddenly google maps is no help anymore.
Find out what the local rules and etiquette are. My first time outside was on sandstone, which is very brittle. When sandstone is wet you can easily damage it, so everyone waits until it's dry.
In some places it's frowned upon to use (lots of) chalk or to make tickmarks. Parts of the crag could be closed to the public due to issues with vegetation or wildlife.
I’ve never climbed somewhere where it’s *not* considered disrespectful to ~~use~~ leave tick marks.* That doesn’t mean you can’t use them; just clean them when you’re done (your chalk brush is helpful for this).
*The reason for this is that marking non-obvious holds is giving the next person unsolicited beta. Don’t ruin someone’s onsight just because you were lazy.
Not brushing your tick marks is disrespectful *everywhere* - it just goes without being called out on in some places.
That’s what I thought, but didn’t want to assume. Thanks for clarifying.
it might seem pretty obvious but scope out the downclimb first. Also, clean the top out too if you can. you don't want to be too stoked near the lip and then flail around near the top out not knowing what to grab on to.
I may not be as strong as you guys on indoor boulder problems, but the hardest parts of outdoor boulder problems is the top out. you may have climbed a v0-v2 problem but the topout would sometimes feel like a v5 (for me, at least). it gets easier once you get used to it.
also, try not to get too stoked and burn out on the first boulders you find. try to space out your attempts as your skin would probably give out first before your muscles do.
Just have fun
Remember to bring a hammock and an obnoxious dog. Blast music as loud as your crappy Bluetooth speaker allows.
But seriously...this behavior is so f**** annoying! Why do people think everyone likes their favorite music and why is it ok to behave like that in a natural environment?? Blow's my mind 🤬
I think be outside climbers put the pads really close to the wall on vertical climbs, move them back a little further or think of spots where you might fall. Keep the head off the ground when spotting or try to direct them back to the pads.
Just enjoy the moment and take it all in. It's a different sport and takes different experience, hope you guys enjoy your time.
Probably the most useful advice I’ve heard for outdoor bouldering: where your mind wants a foot to be, use that foot. Although the feet outdoors can be small, smeary, or invisible, the magic is that you can make almost anything work. It’s like “open feet” problems indoors. Don’t get stuck trying to use feet that other people are using if they don’t feel like they’re going to work for you.
Yeah, my biggest surprise was how magic rock is comparatively for infinite foot options!
Quick list of some dos and donts for outdoors that indoor peeps might not know:
- Respect the rock, don't warm up or climb in trainers full of grit and dirt, clean shoes before climbing, don't leave behind hideous tick marks, if the rock is damp/wet don't climb on it as it is weaker and erodes and damages much faster.
- Lower expectations. Just have fun, maybe go for a higher volume of lower grade problems to get you both used to moving on rock.
- Depending on which climate you're in consider which type of rock you go to. This might not be a huge issue for a first trip out. But for instance in the UK if you take the Peak District as example, you have Gritstone or Limestone. Climbing on grit in summer heat is grim but many people don't know the difference. You'll shred through your fingertip skin in the hot and sweaty conditions and probably fail things way below your grade that require friction. So more experienced people often head for some shady Limestone. Might not be as picturesque but you'll likely have more success.
- Have fun. If as long as your sensible two pads will be very safe. If you don't fancy a landing, just move on to the next problem. No point having that nagging sensation in your kind first time outside.
Outdoor is great. You'll probably learn more technique quickly because **rocks hurt** much more than plastic. Generally a 5/6 indoors is a 3/4 outdoors (using my local gyms and local crags as reference) but the more you climb outdoors the more you'll probably care less about the grades. Start small, be safe n have fun, outdoors is much more rewarding than gym climbing :) once you get bored of bouldering try sport climbing / top roping :)
Be prepared to get your asses kicked grade-wise.
Rock is hard and rough but you get used to it. Going down is harder than going up, plan.
Really nice to see how nice this thread is! So much good advice and positive energy. Good luck on your trip, stay safe and have fun!
I’ll second the pad placement comments. Too often I see new outdoor climbers spend a few seconds on pad placement. It’s just asking for an injury. A few tips:
1. Try to anticipate where the fall zone is prior to climbing and cover any obvious rocks etc that may be in that zone.
2. Eliminate gaps between pads. Don’t leave gaps for your foot/ankle to fall through.
3. Try a problem and maybe even get a feel for the fall zone as you work the problem. You may need to adjust pads as you figure out the angles etc.
4. Recheck pad placement often. If you’re on a slope pads can shift a lot and create gaps etc. recheck the pads frequently.
5. If you end up really liking outdoor bouldering invest in a “blubber” or similar pad that can be placed over multiple pads to eliminate gaps. I have a simple organic slider pad and it’s very useful.
Edit: also a PSA on brushing tick marks. If you use chalk to mark the rock/a hold, remember to brush it off when you leave the boulder.
Bouldering outside has a much slower and chill pace than indoor bouldering
Start at V0 and gradually work up. Don’t rush the jumps. Starting “easy” builds a good base of technical skill and strength that you’ll need on harder stuff, especially top outs or sections between cruxes. It’s also the only way to get enough volume in to progress, as by definition you can’t work limit climbs as often.
1. Setup the pads right and plan spotting.
2. Try to save skin. Chalk up, move accurately and with control, and try to cool your skin if possible on hot days.
3. Footwork is king. Really get the movement dialed from the feet up, not the other way around.
4. Chill and have fun! Honestly, having fun and following psych helps a lot, including with progression. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself and treat every outing as a learning experience.
Chase stars, not grades.
On the topic of safety, I think the biggest difference from indoor climbing is *consider your landing zone.* Outside it can often be sloping, over a bush or a particularly nasty rock, etc. For your first time outside i'd certainly stay away from those problems and choose more easily protectable climbs.
Logistics is harder outside. If you've never been to a particular area, you'll probably get lost your first time hiking in. A guidebook is pretty much always worth it (with MP as a supplement). You will climb less than inside, cause you know you have to hike in, find the place, set up crashpads and move them from problem to problem, etc, so just try to go in with not too many expectations.
**Edit: I think this is a really nice video that summarizes a lot of key points: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vhL5bq_GkKc**
I think you already got a lot of good advice. I'll add a few things. Since you mentioned spotting specifically:
- Outdoor falls aren't like indoor falls (the whole fall & roll back form). Not saying it can't be, but because of various things like limited mats and rough terrain, you have to be more cognisant of how you fall. If I'm on a climb and I want to get down, I'll at least try to down climb a bit (or all the way), I always look down to see where my landing is to prepare myself, and more often than not I'll try to land just on my feet. Some falls are inevitable and can't be helped especially if you're trying certain moves, but I think as a beginner it's a good idea to be more strategic in how you step down or "fall" from a boulder so you can gain an idea of how it feels. Also from this, because you're being more strategic in when/how you fall, this will also give you more information about pad placements.
- Speaking of pads - I think this is something you should take a bit of extra care to do when you're outside. I always try to think about where I would realistically fall. If you're on an overhang, you probably wouldn't be shoving the pad all the way against the wall. To give an example, notice how the pads are pulled out. It makes sense since that's where the fall zone is: https://i.imgur.com/jzZmQp7.jpg Whereas if you're climbing a slab or a vertical boulder of sorts, then you would probably want it closer to the wall. Or maybe you're on something where you are climbing the right side of the face but the fall swings you far left. In that case you would pad the left side more than the right. That sort of thing. Overall, just be mindful of where you put pads. I also think if you're more strategic in how you place them, you can maximize the pad in the ground it can cover.
- Don't forget pad placements might be needed on top of rocks or against trees. For example, notice the pad where the spotter is - covers a big rock she could fall on: https://www.climbing.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/alex-puccio-terre-de-siene-1-of-1-2.jpg?width=730
- When you're spotting, it can be *so* easy to watch the climber and the holds. But as the spotter you should be watching their MOVEMENTS and hips/legs. People sometimes get so mesmerized by a climb that they just aren't spotting. If you see your climber shaking, uncertain with their foot work, or about to make a hard move, you should be ready for a good spot & be mindful of where their hips will be. This way, if/when they do fall, you can guide them safely. I always track the hips even as they're falling...and I think this is a good way to do it because if their back or head were to possibly hit something, you can also shove them out of the way or block their head from hitting something. But yeah, I have just seen a few instances of people just watching the climbers hands & next holds they should be using...but how can you watch their body if you're watching the next thing? :P.
- Don't be surprised if you spend an entire session where it feels like you got 5 minutes of climbing in and hours was used looking for boulders, sitting around resting, etc. I think the thing that surprised me THE most about outdoor bouldering was just how different the pace is from inside. I'd go out, get a few attempts on whatever lines and go home. Initially I thought I was doing it "wrong" since it felt so laid back but as I started bouldering more and more outdoors I was like...oh...this is kind of a big part of it lol. And realistically, you should be pacing yourself because it can be very tiring and so you need to conserve that energy.
- Don't worry too much about topping stuff. I think as your first time out, just get an idea of what the rock is like. At the beginning of a session, I just pull on the rock/hang on some nice jugs, play around on easy holds, or if there is something easy I can traverse, I'll do that as well. Basically, it's a nice way to get a feel for the holds, warm up a bit, but the commitment is also super low (ie. you might be one foot off the ground versus trying to climb up an entire line your first time).
- Be safe and have fun :).
- Be kind to your surroundings. If you leave significant chalk marks on the holds, brush them off. Pack out all of your garbage. If you see garbage, take it with you. We're so lucky to be able to spend time outdoors and we should do our best to leave it in the same, or even better shape, than when we got there.
Mind the weather. Sometimes the wind kicks up/sun goes down and it gets cold in a hurry, or you are climbing in full sun and roasting. Bring some layers and sunscreen, lots of water, etc.
Be humble and patient. Most gym ratings are crazy soft. Outside will definitely feel harder, if for no other reason that you are getting use to real rock. This is especially true for footholds.
Mind your landings. Outside has uneven landing zones, rocks, sticks, etc. Be much more mindful of these hazards in your fall zone.
This is a bit area dependent i guess. Speaking from a uk perspective I've spent hours trapsing round churnet trying to find a lump of rock whereas burbage south valley is dead easy to find the different boulders. Font is even easier from experience.
I see. Sorry.
No need to delete your comment! I thought it was a valid viewpoint just wanted to add that if you can find places that are a bit easier to find them do, sometimes that isn't possible. I've been in your position - spent 3 hours looking for rock and not climbed anything!
Take time to think about pad placement. Read each problem and think about possible moves you might fall and how you would possibly fall. Inspect the ground and try to cover or be mindful of anything like rocks or roots you don't want to land on. It doesn't hurt to practice spotting in the gym even if you get weird looks. I imagine there's great tips here and on youtube of great spotting technique.
hand and footholds are going to generally be less obvious and/or comfortable depending on where you're bouldering. For me, when I first started footholds were the biggest shock. One game I would play while resting is to draw an imaginary box on the boulder and pick out all the possible footholds and how I would place my foot on them.
I would suggest for a while just go out and climb as many high quality boulders as you can. worry less about grade and more about topping out climbs. This will build confidence and improve your technique.
Make sure there are no gaps between the pads, and also they are not wobbling. I've strained my ankle a few times by landing right on the gap or on a wobbly pad. You can use something like Organic blubber pad to fill in the gap or stuff it underneath to make the wobbling stop.
Also when spotting outdoors my eyes are really zoned into the climbers back with my arms extended and knees slightly bent. When I started climbing outdoors I used to follow the climber's hands and feet with my eyes a little, but when I did that I was often too late to react to the fall. I've strained by thumb because I was a split second too late to adjust my spotting hands.
1. Be prepared for your grade to tank to basically noob levels, but be aware that you'll progress quickly if you pay attention to the differences and get into the outdoor mindset.
2. Make sure you know how to pad a fall, spot a fall, and how to fall in the first place. Pay attention to not just where the holds are, but where your body is likely to be and whether there are dynamic moves that could ping you off weirdly. For spotting, remember "spoons not forks"(no outstretched fingers), and that you're trying to direct the climber to the pad and upright them, not catch them. For falling, it's less of a roll like in the gym, and more like a "crumple". You don't want to roll off your pad, so you more or less bend at the knees and let yourself crumple straight down. Think cliff diving form but definitely don't lock your knees.
Download the mountainproject app and the area where you are going ahead of time (before you're out of cellphone reception). Guidebooks are nice but sometimes outdated. I find MP to be a good complement to traditional guidebooks. Comments from other climbers can also help with beta, risks, etc.
Embrace the humble pie
Spot your top outs and down climbs before you go to try the problem. Spot each other diligently. Check your pad placement and make sure they're married up, no rocks between seams. Bring a first aid kit. Have your maps of the area downloaded. Other than that try to climb as much V0-V2 as you can, figure out the style of the place, build experience, have a blast.
Trust the rope