How to Choose Rock Climbing Shoes

In rock climbing, your shoes are your weapon. You go to battle with the rock, but having the right equipment for the right battle means the difference between victory and defeat. So, how do you choose the best shoe for your upcoming expedition? Well, it all depends on the type of adventure you’re about to embark upon. To begin, let’s break it down by which features are the most important and give you the best chance at sending it your first time:

Courtesy: 5.10
Courtesy: 5.10

Shoe Stance

A climbing shoe’s “stance” is basically the shape of it—specifically how much the toe is turned down below the heel. The degree goes a long way to determining control and pressure. There are three main stances: Aggressive, moderate turn down, and neutral. Each better suits a different style of climbing, whether that’s bouldering, crack climbing, or big wall climbing.

Aggressive

Aggressive shoes turn your toes downward while providing maximum heel tension and putting your feet in the power position for bouldering and sport climbing routes. All about precision, aggressive shoes allow you to focus power on the smallest of holds and propel yourself up a problem or route. Due to their asymmetrical shape, they are not meant to be worn for long periods of time, though. Bouldering problems and difficult single-pitch sport climbs are where these shoes excel.

Moderate Turn Down

Moderate shoes provide climbers with less of a camber than aggressive shoes. This allows them to excel in areas like slabs routes, longer multi-pitch climbs, and especially crack climbing. You sacrifice some precision but gain comfort and versatility with a moderately downturned shoe.

Neutral

Neutral shoes are the choice of many beginner climbers because of the all-day comfort they provide. Your toes lie flat within the shoe and get to be more relaxed than with any of the other stances. Don’t be fooled, though. Neutral shoes are not just for beginners and, in fact, are the choice of many big wall climbers looking for comfort while they scale long multi-pitch walls—think El Cap or Indian Creek.

GO: Aggressively Downturned | Moderately Downturned | Neutral

Courtesy: La Sportiva
Courtesy: La Sportiva

Lacing Systems

Believe it or not, the type of lacing system could mean the difference between topping out on a route or taking a whipper. Essentially, it keeps what’s in between your foot and the wall itself secure. The last thing you want is to lose a shoe when you’re three pitches from the top.

Lace-Up

As with traditional shoes, lace-ups make you pull to tighten and then are finished off with a bow or whatever knot you prefer. This system allows you to tighten your shoes as much as you want and at every spot along the lace’s length, allowing for the best all-around foot fit. Laces ensure your foot is completely locked in, wrapping the shoes around like shrink wrap, so you can really feel the wall when you go for the smallest of footholds. The only downside is, you don’t want them coming undone in the middle of a route. Imagine being 500 feet up and having to figure out how to tie your shoe in the middle of pitch seven.

Velcro

Grip, rip, and go. Velcro shoes are built for speed and on-the-fly adjustments when you’re climbing. A majority of aggressive shoes have Velcro straps, as climbers can put them on quickly before going after a bouldering problem or single-pitch sport route. On-the-fly adjustments are definitely a huge plus. 40 feet up a wall and you feel like your heel is slipping a little bit? No problem. Just reach down, adjust the strap to lock your foot in more, and keep sending it! However, compared to lace-ups, Velcro shoes don’t provide the same level of tightness and control. But, depending on the type of climbing you’re practicing, that may not be a concern.

Slipper

Can’t tame your excitement and just want to get on the wall as soon as you get there? Slip-on shoes cut all the time out of lacing up or strapping in. Instead, elastic material simply hugs your foot. That’s not their only benefit, though. They make great training shoes, because they have a softer outsole and midsole and therefore strengthen your feet quicker. Their lower profile also makes them great for thin crack climbs. Go ahead and wedge your foot up in there. Just don’t get your foot in too deep, or you may lose your shoe.

GO: Lace-Up | Velcro | Slipper

Courtesy: La Sportiva
Courtesy: La Sportiva

Outsoles

The outsoles are constantly battling to keep you on the wall or boulder. The rubber is what forms the bond between your feet and the rock. That’s one partnership with which you have to feel confident and trust completely.

Rubber Hardness

When you’re climbing, you have to trust every foot placement you make. Being confident that your foot will hold becomes a mental game, which is why having the proper rubber hardness makes all the difference. Soft rubber will be stickier, thus making it perfect for smearing and slab climbs where the footholds are tiny or nonexistent. They latch onto the rock, providing you with the best traction to top out.

Be cautious, though. Stickier rubbers degrade faster, so, for challenging, more technical climbs, you may want to think about a harder rubber. For gym climbing, crack climbing, multi-pitch big walls, and beginner climbers, you will want a harder rubber for its durability. You can wedge, lock, and heel-hook all day while trusting that your shoes will hold up and perform without question.

Thickness

Feeling the features of the rock while you climb aids in the mental game climbing brings forth. Having shoes with thicker rubber soles—typically between 4 and 5.55 millimeters thick—gives you the control and durability to edge all day. Thinner-soled shoes give you the ability to slab and smear, letting you feel the smallest of holds while you scale upwards. Once you’ve refined your technique and are dialing in your body movements on the rock, you might want to look into thinner soles, which are typically between 3 and 4 millimeters thick.

Edges

Climbing shoes continue to evolve as the limits on what can and cannot be climbed are pushed. Shoes with defined edges on the outsole give climbers the ability to balance on the smallest of footholds. They focus your foot’s pressure on a specific part of the rock as you reach for the next hand hold.

On the other hand, if you’re looking for a more “natural” feel on the rock while you climb, many brands have developed no-edge technology shoes. In this case, the rubber has a rounded, rather than defined, edge on the shoe’s sides and toes. The technology mirrors your foot more naturally. So, picture it like the way your foot naturally curves with your skin covering it; technology basically recreates this, just with a shoe. This allows for optimal edging, as the technology maximizes the amount of contact your foot has with the rock. However, these shoes tend to be on the higher-performance scale, thus costing more.

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Shoe Materials and Fit

It’s important to consider the materials that make up your climbing shoe, as they ultimately help you determine the best size. Unlike regular shoes, climbing shoes are supposed to be tight and a little uncomfortable.

Unlined Leather

Unlined leather shoes expand quite a bit as you break them in—sometimes, up to a full shoe size. When trying on a pair, you’ll want your toes right up against the end of the shoe, with your toes knuckled upward against the leather. It may feel uncomfortable at first, but as you break them in, your shoes will fit like a glove around your foot.

Lined Leather

Lined leather shoes tend to have minimal expansion when they are broken in—usually less than half a shoe size. The fit should be snug but not too uncomfortable, to the point your toes are curling in. This material also ensures the shoes do not stretch too much in crucial areas, like the toe box and heel.

Synthetic Materials

Synthetic shoes have very minimal stretching. You want the fit to be comfortable from the day you try them on. Synthetic materials also benefit from breathability and moisture-wicking technology, keeping your feet dry and comfortable as you climb.

GO: All-Around Shoes | Bouldering Shoes | Slab Shoes | Steep Shoes

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So, Which Shoes Should I Get?

Big wall/multi-pitch climbing: Comfort is key with long multi-pitch climbs. So, pick a shoe with a neutral stance that utilizes a harder rubber outsole with good thickness. This ensures the shoe not only lasts longer but also performs consistently as you scale 1,000-plus feet over multiple hours.

Bouldering: Get aggressive! Bouldering calls for a Velcro shoe that has a large downturned stance with defined edges to pinpoint small holds and overhung ledges. You’ll want a thick rubber outsole and a shoe made from lined leather or synthetic material. This ensures the shoe doesn’t stretch much and focuses the power where you need it most while also allowing you to strap in and out quicker.

Gym climbing: Look into either a lace-up or slip-on shoe to help build foot muscles. A neutral stance, unlined leather shoe with a softer rubber outsole will help you practice smearing the wall and deliver ample comfort for long periods of time, helping you improve endurance.

Single pitch/sport climbing: Select either a moderate downturned shoe or an aggressive stance Velcro shoe. These help you focus all your foot power and weight on the smallest of holds and let you adjust tightness on the fly. As well, go with a thinner yet harder rubber outsole with no-edge technology. This allows you to really feel every part of the wall, giving you a boost of confidence with every move upward.

Purchasing your first pair of climbing shoes is an exciting time. It’s the beginning of a bond among your feet, mind, and the rock. Stop at your local Eastern Mountain Sports and let the experts walk you through the process of choosing the right shoe for your climbing career. Happy climbing!


How to Buy Climbing Ropes

Whether you’re new or a seasoned sender, the process of buying a climbing rope is surprisingly confusing. Multiple styles, various widths and lengths, and other features make it difficult to know where to even start. While they’re versatile, knowing what you plan to do with your rope and what you’re looking for narrow down the choices and help tailor your purchase.
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Dynamic or Static?

Climbing uses two kinds of ropes: dynamic and static. The former is used for belaying the climber (i.e., holding a climber who falls), while static ropes are designed for anchors and hauling. To “hold a fall,” these ropes stretch when weighted. Elongation then dissipates the fall’s energy and reduces the force placed on the climber and their gear. This process dramatically reduces the potential for injury or catastrophic failure of anchors and gear. Unlike dynamic ropes, however, static options stretch very little, making them ideal for building anchors but dangerous to climb on.

GO: Dynamic | Static

Elongation

The UIAA’s two measurements—dynamic and static elongation—indicate how much a rope will stretch. Dynamic elongation is how much a rope stretches during its first UIAA fall. More elongation means a longer fall, but also less force exerted on gear and the climber. The maximum amount of dynamic elongation allowed by the UIAA is 40 percent.

Static elongation measures how much the rope stretches with an 80kg weight hanging from it. The maximum amount of stretch allowed for single and twin ropes is 10 percent, while half ropes can stretch 12 percent.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

Single, Double, or Half?

Single

Climbing article assetThe most common type, single ropes are easily identified by the “1” marked in a circle on their ends. That simply means, when you’re climbing, you only need that one rope.

Thanks to their incredible versatility, they are the logical choice for almost every application. Indeed, they are used in all manners of climbing—top rope, sport, trad, multi-pitch, ice, and mountaineering. First-time rope buyers, take note!

Single ropes, however, are not perfect for every application. So, if you’re planning on doing long multi-pitch climbs like Lost in the Sun (which has seven 60-meter rappels) or just really enjoy pitches that wander, a two-rope system might be a more suitable choice.

Twin

With a circled infinity symbol (∞) on their ends, twin ropes are the simplest of the two-rope systems to use. Designed to be used as a pair and clipped simultaneously for protection, they offer multi-pitch rock and ice climbers two main advantages. First, they add redundancy to the system, as the leader is attached to two (as opposed to one) ropes. Second, in contrast to single ropes, where a climber can only rappel half the rope’s length, the two ropes allow climbers to make full-length rappels. Because you climb with two, they are typically narrower in diameter than a single rope.

Twin ropes, however, are still susceptible to rope drag on wandering routes. As well, they may complicate rope management at belay stations—something that can be particularly challenging for newer climbers.

Half

Half ropes—sometimes called double ropes—are the other two-rope system. The main difference is, unlike twin ropes, they are clipped to alternating pieces of protection. If this is done correctly, half ropes reduce drag on wandering routes. Because they are clipped independently of one another, half ropes also lessen the force a fall puts on protection. For this reason, they’re a favorite of climbers operating on delicate mediums, such as an ice formation. For identification, a “½” mark is added to their ends.

GO: Single Ropes | Twin RopesHalf Ropes

If all of these options sound appealing to you, you’re in luck! Rope construction and technologies are improving so rapidly that manufacturers can construct one that meets the standards for two, and sometimes all three (e.g., the Sterling Nano), of the aforementioned categories. If in doubt about a rope’s intended use, simply check the rope tag—located on both ends—and look for the corresponding symbol.

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Diameter and Weight

Rope diameters range from less than 8mm to more than 10.5mm. Traditionally, single ropes are wider (9.0 to 10.5mm) than twin and half ropes (7.8 to 9.0mm). In general, thicker ropes are heavier and more durable, and skinnier ones are lighter and less durable. For this reason, thicker ropes are typically used for activities like top roping, and skinnier ropes are better for sport climbing. Climbers looking for one rope to do it all will be happy with a rope ranging from mid-9mm to low-10mm, as they offer a good blend of performance and robustness.

Because the way rope manufacturers measure the diameter isn’t standard—for example, some are measured under slight tension—the rope’s weight can help paint a clearer picture of its intended use. Heavier ropes tend to be built for longevity, while lighter ones are constructed with performance in mind.

Length

Ropes today come in a wide range of sizes. You’ve got gym-friendly 35-meter lengths to pitch-stretching 80-meter monsters. As a general matter, 60 meters is the most common, and will work at the majority of crags for everything from top-roping to ice climbing. That said, due to the recent trend of developers putting up longer sport routes and rope weights falling dramatically over the last 15 years, 70 is quickly becoming the new 60. A good recommendation is, be familiar with standard pitch lengths at your crag and purchase accordingly.

As leading in the gym has grown in popularity, ropes shorter than 60 meters have, too. They offer a more affordable (and more transportable) option, but if you take these ropes outside, be extra cautious and confirm the rope will be long enough for the route. Don’t be the fool who lowers your climbing partner off the end of a too-short rope!

GO: Under 50 meters | 50 meters | 60 meters | 70 meters

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Dry Treatment

Ropes lose a considerable amount of their strength when wet. Furthermore, a wet rope weighs significantly more than a dry one. Because of this, most ropes come with the option of a dry treatment. More expensive than their non-treated counterparts, dry-treated ropes are favored by ice climbers and mountaineers for obvious reasons. But, dry-treated ropes offer a host of advantages for most climbers. Particularly, a dry treatment decreases rope drag and helps ropes run smoother through gear. More importantly, the same treatment that keeps your rope from absorbing water also helps to keep dirt out of your rope, thus extending its lifespan.

Dry ropes come in three forms: ropes with dry-treated sheaths, ropes with dry-treated cores, and ropes with dry-treated sheaths and cores. Treating the sheath (i.e., the rope’s outer shell) helps repel water, reduces the rope’s friction on the rock (thereby reducing abrasion), and gives the rope a nice slick feel and handle. For the core, dry-treating reduces the amount of water a rope will absorb and also reduces the likelihood of dirt and grime working its way into the core, the rope’s most important part. Dry-treating both the sheath and core combines the two treatments and offers the most water protection. However, it is also the most expensive and perhaps best reserved for ice climbing, mountaineering, and other climbing done in wet conditions.

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Middle Marker

Middle markers aid in a wide variety of ways, such as indicating it’s safe to lower a climber to ease in threading rappels. Most ropes today feature some kind middle-mark indicator—with features such as changing patterns, a distinctive mark, or a special weave to highlight a rope’s midpoint. Bi-color ropes offer the clearest indication, but also tend to be the most expensive. Ropes with colored middles offer a cost-effective solution, but the color can fade with use, and the middle mark can be difficult to see in fading light.

UIAA Fall Rating

The United International Climbing and Mountaineering Federation (UIAA) tests climbing ropes to see how many falls they can hold before failing. For single ropes, the test involves dropping an 80kg weight on the rope. With twin ropes, 80kg is used for both ropes. For half ropes, a 55kg weight is dropped onto a single strand. Single and half ropes must withstand a minimum of five falls, and twin ropes 12. Any rope that meets the UIAA fall standard is considered safe for climbing.

As a note, the lab tests subject ropes to more force than they’ll likely encounter in a real-world scenario. More so, the outdoors subjects ropes to hazards like sharp edges and worn fixed draws. So, get in the habit of inspecting your rope, especially if you’ve taken a big whipper.

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So, Which Rope Should I Get?

Although most ropes are pretty versatile, here’s a quick breakdown by activity:

Multi-pitch ice climbing: You want a rope that is long, skinny, and dry treated. Consider half and twin ropes—or, even better, ropes that rate as single, twin, and half—if your ideal routes involve long approaches and rappels, or if you’ll often be climbing as a party of three.

Top-rope cragging: Pack a beefy, durable single rope in the low-10mm range.

Sport climbing: For clipping bolts, a 60- or 70-meter single rope of medium diameter (9.4-9.8mm) is ideal.

For multi-pitch rock climbing: Bring a 60- or 70-meter rope of medium diameter (9.4-9.8mm). As with ice climbing, consider half and twin ropes—or ropes that rate as single, twin, and half—if your ideal routes involve long approaches and rappels, or if you’ll often be climbing as a party of three.


Video: Top Rope Tough Guys

What kind of boat anchor do you carry on your rack?


Rumney's Multi-Pitch Moderate Rock Climbs

Rumney has a well-deserved reputation as the best sport crag in the Northeast, thanks to its high-quality, single-pitch, bolted climbs at almost every grade. But, did you know that Rumney is also home to a handful of fun, moderate, multi-pitch sport climbs? Here’s a best-of list for almost every grade, along with tips for honing your multi-pitch skills.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

Jimmy Cliff: Clip a Dee Doo Dah, 5.3

Don’t discount this remarkable route because of its modest grade. Clip a Dee Doo Dah delivers two pitches of fun slab climbing on surprisingly sticky stone leading to a cliff top with a breathtaking view of the Baker River. This route is so good, you’ll want to bring your approach shoes, so you can make quick time on the trail back to the base of the route and do it again!

Clip a Dee Doo Dah is well protected and a fantastic climb for newer leaders. With a two-bolt anchor and decent ledge atop the first pitch, it is also a great place for any climber to practice multi-pitch rope management. In particular, carefully consider where you build your master point and put your belay. Putting it too low may lead to exhausted elbows and a messy rope stack as you try to keep up with your partner charging up the route.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

Jimmy Cliff: Lady and the Tramp, 5.4

Immediately to the climber’s right of Clip a Dee Doo Dah is Lady and the Tramp. It features the same stellar rock found on its popular neighbor, but it’s a little bit steeper and has a few bulges, with the most notable one being directly above the belay at the top of pitch one. It, too, is an excellent route for leaders new to multi-pitch climbing.

In terms of skill building, the route presents a great opportunity for recognizing the dangers of falling directly onto the belay. Particularly, watch out for the crux on the second pitch, located just above the first anchor and initially unprotected. Although a fall is unlikely, the consequences are significant. As such, get in the habit of clipping one of the anchor bolts before leaving the belay.

Speaking of belays, Clip a Dee Doo Dah and Lady and the Tramp share an anchor atop the second pitch. So, in case it’s occupied, bring a cordelette, so you can build your anchor on one of the many nearby trees. Bonus points for safely extending the anchor, so you can watch your second climb!

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

Main Cliff Right: Model Citizen, 5.6

Model Citizen is a great introduction to Rumney’s more vertical multi-pitch climbing. Featuring huge holds and interesting movement, the first pitch leads to a two-bolt anchor on a modestly sized belay ledge. More of the same type of climbing follows on pitch two. In fact, if you have a 70-meter rope, the two pitches can be combined into one monster-long pitch, albeit with the leader only being lowered to the anchor on the top of the first pitch.

A key for this route—and the others that follow—is that the top of the final pitch is not intended to be a belay station. Rather, the leader should build an anchor, clip the rope into it just like on a regular single-pitch sport climb, and then get lowered back to the first-pitch anchor. The second can then clean the route and anchor, before being lowered back to the first-pitch anchor. From there, the parties can do a single-rope rappel to the ground. Have questions about the best way to rappel? Check out tip 2 and the associated video in this goEast article.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

Main Cliff Right: Crowd Pleaser, 5.7

Another fantastic multi-pitch route, Crowd Pleaser begins a few feet to the right of Model Citizen in a left-facing corner. After an awkward first move or two, the route continues on good holds to an initial two-bolt anchor, for those wanting to top-rope the first pitch. Assuming you’re doing both, keep climbing just a little bit higher to the top of the first pitch. Here, there’s another two-bolt anchor with a nice ledge to belay from. The second pitch begins as low-angled slab before turning into fun, exposed climbing on the arete.

Pigtails, otherwise known as ramsheads, have been a popular option for equipping lower-offs in Europe for years. Inexpensive, robust, and easy to use, they are becoming a more common sight at Rumney, thanks to a grant from the American Alpine Club and the Access Fund. And, unlike other top anchors, they are certified and tested for use as a lower-off—a pigtail is rated to 18kN. Plus, they have no moving parts to wear out or rust.

Want to learn more about using the pigtails found at Rumney? Check out this fantastic video the Rumney Climbers Association published.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

Main Cliff Right: Tipping Point, 5.8

The hardest move on the first pitch of this juggy gem of a route might be the first one. So, consider having your belayer spot you until you make your first clip, or you could face a long tumble down the hill. Tipping Point’s first pitch is filled with dreamy climbing, once you unlock the hidden holds, and it ends at a huge belay ledge. Build an anchor, bring up your second, and then continue up. The crux comes at the top of the second pitch, where the slab turns vertical. Although it can feel challenging compared to the rest of the route, the holds are all there, the climbing is fun, and the position is fantastic.

The anchor on the first pitch is the perfect place to practice using the quad anchor. The quad is our go-to anchor on two-bolt anchors, and if you’re unfamiliar with it, check out this excellent video from the AMGA showing you how to use it.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

Main Cliff Right: Charity Toad, 5.9

If you’re looking to beat the crowds on Model Citizen, Crowd Pleaser, and Tipping Point, check out Charity Toad. This three-pitch climb is the hardest of the Main Cliff Right’s multi-pitch routes, connecting Charity Case with the final pitch of White Toad via a short traversing pitch. White Toad’s final pitch is airy and very exposed—and definitely worth checking out.

Since you can access several climbs from the top of the first pitch, and the route’s second-pitch traverse crosses at least one more, Charity Toad’s first-pitch belay anchor is a great place to sharpen your route-finding skills. In addition to reading the guidebook, consider taking a screenshot of the route description and map with your smartphone. That way, you’ll have all the beta with you while you’re climbing the route. Of course, if you want to minimize any potential route-finding confusion, just climb the first two pitches of White Toad instead. But, since White Toad’s first pitch only goes on gear, you’ll have to bring your trad rack.

Have you climbed any of aforementioned routes? Tell us which one is your favorite in the comments.


At-Home Training for Climbers

While we’re always psyched on climbing, the sad reality is you don’t always have enough time to visit the crag, boulders, or even the gym—especially during the work week. Lucky for us, there are numerous ways to stay strong and build climbing fitness without leaving the house. Try some of our basement beta, and you’ll realize that training in the home gym during the work week can translate to sending on the weekend.

Courtesy: Beastmaker
Courtesy: Beastmaker

Hangboard

Hangboards are one of the most popular at-home training aids. While that might be because they’re small, easy to mount, and inexpensive, these devices are also very effective. Climbers literally hang from a variety of different-sized pockets and holds to build finger strength. As a side note, this is why hangboards are also sometimes called fingerboards.

Pull-Up Bar

Although less climbing-specific, a pull-up bar suits anyone who wants to take a break from their fingerboard, rest sore fingers, or simply work larger muscles. In fact, you can use it in all manners to build climbing strength. To start, the classic pull-up is a great exercise for increasing pulling power. Then, Frenchies—pausing to lock off at certain angles through the movement of a pull-up—are a fantastic method for building endurance and simulating the pause climbers take when clipping a bolt or placing gear. Allez!

Courtesy: Sestogrado
Courtesy: Sestogrado

Rock Rings

No room for a hangboard? Don’t have a wall you’re comfortable drilling into? Live a life on the go? If you answered yes to any of these questions, rock rings may be the best solution. Used as a pair, these individually molded grips are suspended using a cord that can be hung from any number of anchors. Think about a basement beam, a backyard tree, or even a swing set at the local park. Although lacking the diversity of a hangboard, rock rings let you move freely. In turn, the motion places less strain on your joints compared to doing pull-ups or Frenchies, which involve a fixed position that may be hard on the elbows.

Courtesy: Reading Climbing Centre
Courtesy: Reading Climbing Centre

Campus Board

If you have a bit more room available, consider a campus board. Wolfgang Güllich devised its simple, utilitarian, and effective design to train for sending the world’s first 9A, Action Directe. On a series evenly spaced rungs on a slightly overhanging wall, climbers move up and down without using their feet to primarily build power. Additionally, you can increase finger and core strength and improve accuracy when moving between holds. Because of the physical demands, it’s not recommended for new or young climbers.

Crack Machine

Climbers looking to crush cracks can build a crack machine to practice technique and gain strength. Simple and easy to construct, crack machines feature two stiff wooden boards mounted to resemble a crack. And, while advanced constructors will create adjustable machines, most basement builders will find it easier to create multiple cracks in the sizes they want to train—primarily finger and hand. The best part is, a little goes a long way, and you can climb both up and down when training.

Home Wall

For those with room to spare, a home wall is the way to go. From mild to wild, a home wall can range from a simple mounted piece of plywood to a full build rivaling the rock gym. Whether it’s freestanding or mounted to the wall, the most important components are the holds. Consider a wide variety of shapes and sizes for increased diversity and fun in setting. Overall, the best home walls tend to be the most frequently used ones and ultimately do their job—getting you strong for climbing.

Courtesy: Moon Climbing
Courtesy: Moon Climbing

Moon Board

For pro climbers and those truly dedicated to getting strong, try a Moon Board. Back in the ‘80s, legendary U.K. climber Ben Moon devised the first Moon Board in his basement in Sheffield, England, and by the 2000s, the trend had caught on. Compact and simple in design, Moon Boards have a uniform size and configuration: 8.06 feet wide, 10.40 feet high, and positioned at a 40-degree angle. The holds are placed in fixed locations, creating a wall that is the same, no matter where it’s located. Because of the universal layout, it’s possible to project the same route as your buddy across the country, or your favorite pro climber.

As such, serious climbers can find thousands of established problems posted on moonboard.com and the MoonBoard App. Even better, with the addition of an LED system, you can download and illuminate the problems to make route finding easier.

Books

Strong fingers and abs only get you so far, especially if your training plan is haphazard, your mental game is lacking, or your technical skills are weak. If any of that rings a bell, check out one of these books for training your brain.

  • If you have the hangboard or home wall but are unsure of how to best use them, The Self-Coached Climber offers excellent advice for developing your own training plan. And, for something even more programmed, check out the training plans available from Uphill Athlete and the Mountain Tactical Institute.
  • For climbers truly looking to train their mind, The Rock Warrior’s Way is an insightful read about mental training.
  • The Mountain Guide Manual: The Comprehensive Reference—From Belaying to Rope Systems and Self-Rescue is an incredible technical skills guide that will greatly improve your climbing systems’ efficiency. Practice them at home, and you’ll find that you’ll have a lot more time to spend sending at the crag next weekend.

Have a training technique we didn’t mention? If so, tell us about it in the comments.


Video: Rope-Soloing El Cap in 24 Hours

Rope-soloing is one of the most misunderstood climbing disciplines out there, but it might also be one of the most exhausting. Doing 3000 feet of it in 24 hours on one of the world’s more famous big walls? That’s an accomplishment worthy of a video.


The Dos and Don'ts of Indoor Rock Climbing

The climbing gym is a magical place, and most outdoor sports don’t have an indoor equivalent. If they do, it doesn’t offer nearly the same level of enjoyment as the real thing (ahem, running and biking). When it comes to climbing, however, even though we will always prefer real rock, the rock gym never feels like less of a compromise. A few things that frequently occur here can make it a less-than-great experience, though. Having a little etiquette will ensure your sessions are fun for you and everyone around. So, what are the dos and don’ts of climbing indoors?

Courtesy: Markus
Courtesy: Markus

DO: Be supportive of other climbers!

While climbing isn’t exactly a “team sport,” it is most definitely a community activity. Just as they do in the wild, climbers indoors rely on each other for a secure belay, a good spot, and words of encouragement. Here, be sure to do that whole “treat others as you wish to be treated” thing. Cheer others on, move a crash pad underneath a fellow boulderer if they’ve misjudged where to put it, and offer up advice when someone asks for it. But…

DON’T: Start handing out unsolicited advice while they’re climbing

This is called “spraying beta,” and nobody likes it. Even if you’ve watched a climber flail on the same section of a route or boulder problem for the last 20 minutes—and you know exactly what they need to do to move past it—unless they ask for your help, keep your mouth shut.

DO: Jump on hard-for-you routes!

A regular gym is where people can try to get better at running or spinning, or make gains in the weight room. But, progress never happens if you stick to the same routine. Similarly, a rock gym is where climbers can go to fine-tune their technique and build strength for scaling harder routes. And, similarly, it will never happen if you climb the same grades each time.

So, yes, jump on that V6 you’ve been eyeing for the past week or two, even if you still sometimes struggle to send V5s or V4s. Or, try out the new 5.11 your favorite setter just put up, even if you had a hard time figuring out the 5.9 they set last month. In order to get better, you have to push yourself out of your comfort zone and try harder things. However…

Courtesy: Aimee Custis
Courtesy: Aimee Custis

DON’T: Hog the wall while you try to figure it out

Unless no one else is there, never take over a particular route or section of the bouldering wall as you try to piece the moves together. In general, repeatedly falling off and jumping back on is a good way to build character. However, doing this without allowing other people to give it a shot earns you a bad reputation.

DO: Look around, mingle, and be social!

Maybe you’ve noticed the same person or group is always there when you are. Or, maybe a particular climber that you just can’t help but watch makes you wonder if they have springs in their bones. In either case, strike up a conversation! You can’t have too many climbing friends, and the rock gym is the perfect place to meet new ones. Just make sure you…

DON’T: Get in the way of other climbers

Nevertheless, people are still primarily at the rock gym to get in a good workout. So, avoid getting so involved in conversation that you fail to notice you’ve parked yourself right in front of a climb someone else is waiting patiently to jump on. When you’re bouldering, keep in mind that the crash pads are there to break a fall—not offer you and your friends a cushy place to sit and debate which bar you should head to when you’re done. And, if you’re walking and talking, be sure to stay aware of your surroundings. Otherwise, you’ll end up walking underneath people who are climbing.

Courtesy: Meraj Chhaya
Courtesy: Meraj Chhaya

DO: Bring your kids to the gym!

The next generation has to start somewhere, and bringing your little ones is as good a place as any. The gym allows you to show your kids the ropes (overly obvious pun intended) in a relatively controlled environment, without the distractions or potential dangers presented by climbing outdoors. Having them at the gym also keeps things entertaining for the rest of us. There’s nothing I love more than watching a 7-year-old make it farther on a new boulder problem than my husband can on their first try.

DON’T: Let them run wild while you climb

There’s nothing worse than a kid running around while you’re belaying or underneath while you’re bouldering. If you’re going to let your kids tag along, they should know proper gym etiquette, too! When you teach them how to tie in, also explain why it’s important to give other belayers some distance and not run around, behind, or in front of them. As they get more comfortable falling or jumping off a boulder problem, make sure they understand that adults also fall and jump. As such, being too close—either underneath or on another problem that crosses paths—is dangerous for both parties.

Courtesy: Aimee Custis
Courtesy: Aimee Custis

DO: Have fun!

The best part of climbing, whether indoors or out, is that it’s fun. On-sighting a new route is always exciting. As well, topping out a gym’s bouldering wall can sometimes be more satisfying than topping out an actual boulder because you know there’s a safe, easy way back down. And, climbing with friends is almost never not a good time.

DON’T: Be that guy or girl

Despite climbing’s inherent fun-ness, there are plenty of ways to ruin it. Don’t be the person who makes a trip to the gym a nightmare by doing these things:

  • Unnecessary screaming, yelling, or grunting. Making noises while you’re climbing happens. When you’re outdoors, the open space makes it more tolerable for those around you. At the gym, however, the confined space turns even the least-offensive grunt into the noise of someone who just popped a shoulder out of place or broke an ankle. Try to keep your noises to a minimum.
  • Bouldering with a harness on. There may be nothing dangerous about this, and it probably won’t affect your own enjoyment. However, it does make you look foolish, and it’s embarrassing for your friends. Take your harness off when you’re done with ropes.
  • Dressing inappropriately. Guys, most rock gyms are climate-controlled places, which means there’s almost never a need to take off your shirt. Ladies, booty shorts with a harness is neither attractive nor comfortable. Keep your rock gym wardrobe simple: a T-shirt or tank top with climbing shorts or leggings. And, unless you’re renting shoes from the gym or have a medical reason to keep them on, take off your socks!
  • Throwing a wobbler when you don’t send. This is especially common amongst boulderers, but it happens on the ropes, too. Either way, it’s not a good look on anybody. Remember that you’re there to get better at the sport, and that you have to fail occasionally in order to do it. Nobody wants to listen to you curse or watch you throw your shoes at the wall. Keep it together, take a few deep breaths, and jump on a route you know you can do to build your confidence back up before returning to your new project.
  • Chalk snafus. Some gyms require chalk balls in an effort to keep their facilities clean. But, if we could all just be a little more mindful, it wouldn’t be an issue. Pay attention when you’re walking around, so you don’t knock over someone’s chalk pot. Don’t scoop out a handful, and then sprinkle half of it on the floor as you rub it into your hands. And, don’t forget to cinch your chalk bag shut when you pack your stuff up.
  • Gym Sprawl. Unless you’re at the gym during a quiet time of day, bring only what you need onto the floor. This usually entails your shoes, chalk, and harness. I know it’s nice to check your phone or grab a sip of water in between routes without having to walk back over to the cubbies or locker room. However, if the gym is busy and everyone has their non-essential stuff at the wall, moving from climb to climb becomes an obstacle course—and not a fun one. Plus, if you leave your stuff in a cubby, your chances of leaving something behind or going home with a broken phone because someone stepped on it are a lot lower.

Did I miss anything? Share your tips for proper rock gym etiquette in the comments!

Courtesy: Aimee Custis
Courtesy: Aimee Custis

Video: First Teaser for The Dawn Wall

In January 2015, the world held its breath as Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgenson worked at the first free ascent of El Capitan’s notoriously difficult Dawn Wall. But for Caldwell, the climb was more than simply a six-year effort. This video is just a taste of what we’ll be looking for in the full film, coming later this year.


9 Tips for Taking Your Climbing from the Gym to the Crag

With ropes hung, routes marked, and a trained staff on hand to ensure safety, the rock gym is a great place to learn how to climb. But, pulling on plastic just isn’t the same as climbing on real rock, and many climbers eventually look to expand their horizons to local crags. If you’re considering taking your climbing outside this year but aren’t quite sure where to start, here are some things you need to know.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

1. Pick Your Discipline, Then Get the Gear

Bouldering and top-roping are the main options for most new-to-the-outdoors climbers. Both styles involve some common gear, namely shoes and chalk, but also require some items specific to the activity. Thus, deciding on a style is an important initial step.

Bouldering is a popular way for gym climbers to transition outdoors, because it doesn’t require knowledge about anchor building or belaying. When bouldering, climbers use a crash pad, rather than a rope, to protect themselves when they fall. Bouldering crash pads come in a variety of sizes and styles, and it’s not uncommon to use multiple ones to protect your climb. Although bouldering requires less technical knowledge, the physical climbing encountered is often more difficult than what’s found on top-rope routes.

Climbers who have been top-roping in the gym can replicate that experience outside if they know how to build anchors and have the gear required to do so. The specific gear will vary between locations, but a static line, a few slings, a cordelette, and a handful of locking carabiners—larger carabiners like the Black Diamond RockLock Screwgate are great—will usually do the trick at areas with first-timer friendly setups. In addition to anchor-building gear, invest in a belay device, your own climbing rope, and a harness, if you’ve been relying on a gym rental. Top-ropers should also add a helmet to their kit, as time spent below a cliff exposes you to the threat of something being knocked down on you.

Some climbers who lead in the gym may also want to take the sharp end their first time climbing outside. For those looking to jump right into sport climbing, check out our sport climbing gear list.

2. Get the Guidebook

Doing some research before picking a destination saves a lot of time and aggravation. For example, does the area you’re planning on visiting have fixed anchors, or will you have to build your own? Guidebooks are a valuable resource for learning about what to expect at a climbing area, and offer up information on everything from where to park to what gear to bring. Although guidebooks are helpful, an internet search lets you broaden your knowledge of an area and get up-to-date information about access and conditions.

Pro Tip: If it’s your first time out, avoid routes that the guidebook says require trad gear (camming units and nuts) for building the top-rope anchor.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

3. Pick the Right Location

Choosing the right location for your first time climbing outside can make the difference between success and frustration. Boulderers will want to find spots with a wide variety of problems and safe landings. A few popular destinations for newer boulderers in the Northeast are Hammond Pond, just outside of Boston, Massachusetts; Lincoln Woods, a short drive from Providence, Rhode Island; and Pawtuckaway State Park, about 30 minutes from Manchester, New Hampshire. Fellow gym climbers can also be a great resource, so don’t hesitate to ask around the gym’s bouldering cave about nearby areas to visit.

New outdoor climbers looking to top-rope should seek out sites with easy setups. Ideally, the location will have a diverse grouping of climbs, easy access to the cliff top, and simple anchoring solutions. Greater Boston has a plethora of excellent crags for first-time top-ropers, including Hammond Pond, Quincy Quarries, Rattlesnake Rocks, College Rock, and Crow Hill. So, too, does Connecticut, with Ragged Mountain being a popular destination.

Pro Tip: A 75- to 100-foot static line is a great solution for when the guidebook recommends bringing “long slings” for top-rope anchors.

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4. Partner Up

No matter if you’re bouldering or top-roping, a good climbing partner is critical. Although bouldering can be a solitary sport, it’s much easier and safer (and more fun!) with a partner. A good bouldering partner spots you when you fall and moves the pads underneath you as you climb. They also are great for helping you decipher moves and keeping the stoke high.

A top-roping partner is essential, as they will literally be holding your life in their hands while belaying. In a perfect world, a new outdoor climber’s partner will have more experience and can serve as a mentor through the transition.

5. Don’t Set Your Expectations Too High

Although gym and outdoor climbing have many similarities, the transition may be challenging. For instance, the grades are harder. So, even if you’ve sent all the “hard stuff” indoors, don’t plan on crushing your first day on real rock. You’ll also need to re-train the way you think. Outdoors, the routes aren’t marked with brightly colored tape and may be difficult to follow. In addition, real rock holds may be hidden and may be greatly different from what you’ve encountered at the gym. Along with these points, indoor climbers often start to learn a gym’s holds. While the gym may change specific routes, climbers have likely gotten familiar with approaching particular holds.

6. If You’re Climbing on a Rope, Learn Some Basic Skills

If you’re going to be climbing on a rope, get familiar with some basic skills. Even something that you’ve been doing in the gym, like belaying, can be complicated outside due to hazards like rocks, uneven ground, and roots. Furthermore, if a climber is heavier than the belayer, the use of a ground anchor might be necessary. Speaking of belays, if you had to execute a belay escape, could you? To prepare, spend a few minutes at the end of each gym session to practice these skills before going outside.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

7. Hit the Books (and Not the Guidebook)

Before heading to the crag, take a moment to hit the books, and brush up on the techniques and systems needed for outdoor climbing. A Falcon Guide: Toproping is one of many great books available to new outdoor climbers. For climbers interested in learning to advance their systems, in addition to their skills, to the next level, Mountaineering: The Freedom of the Hills covers everything from basic to advanced topics in all climbing genres.

8. Safety is Critical

Whether you’re climbing inside or outside, the sport is dangerous. But, the outdoors has far more hazards to manage. Here are a few tips to keep you safe:

  • Close your top-rope system by tying a knot at the end of your rope. That way, you can’t lower the climber off the end.
  • Always be mindful about where the cliff edge is, especially when you’re setting up a top-rope anchor. Anchoring yourself in while building your anchor is a great way to stay safe.
  • Rocks break and nearby parties sometimes knock stuff off while they’re setting up. Wear your helmet even when you’re not the one climbing to protect your head.
  • Boulderers should scout the descent and be comfortable with it before committing to the climb.
  • For boulderers, falling is almost as important of a skill as climbing. Practice correctly falling—ideally, with slightly bent legs to absorb impact, and avoid leading with your hands to protect your shoulders, arms, wrists, and fingers—and spend some time identifying safe landing zones before you head up.

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9. Take a Lesson

If you’re interested in getting outside but don’t feel confident doing it yourself, sign up for a lesson with the Eastern Mountain Sports Climbing School. In no time at all, the Climbing School’s AMGA-accredited guides will have you familiar with the fundamentals of building a top-rope anchor and mitigating outdoor climbing hazards.

Can you think of any other gym-to-crag tips? Share them in the comments!