Are you excited for the outdoor climbing season? I sure am! It’s been a relentless winter, but signs of springs are finally starting to show up. The sun and warming temperatures are finally starting to melt the heaps of snow that got dropped on us this year, which means that climbers are starting to get super psyched to get outside. It’s been a long hibernation.
I bet you’re already starting to get into the routine of checking the weather and eyeing conditions at your local crag; just waiting for that first good weekend to come so you can starting pulling on real rock. I know the fantasizing of the outdoor season has probably already begun, so before you get too ahead of yourself, lets take a step back and make sure you’re fully prepared to get outside.
1. Check Your Gear
Our gear is what keeps us safe. Although gear should be checked before any outdoor trip, it’s also a good idea to give it a thorough check after it’s been sitting unused for months in your basement. This is especially important for route climbers. Your rope is your lifeline, literally. Look for any damage like rips, tears, frays, or deformities, and same goes for other gear like your harness, draws, cams, nuts, slings, etc. For boulderers, it’s a bit more simple. Besides your spotters, your crash pad is your main safety measure. Make sure that it hasn’t flattened out and can still provide you a comfortable landing.
2. Plan for safety
Before making your first trip out to the crag you have to make sure you’ve got everything you need. The most important being an experienced climbing buddy. If you’re new to the world of outdoor climbing, this is especially important. Climbing can be dangerous, so you want to learn from an experienced climber everything that is involved in outdoor climbing. That being said, regardless of your experience, it’s never a good idea to go out climbing alone (specifically bouldering, since routes are pretty hard to do alone). You can never be too good to avoid safety.
So, besides having an experienced partner, you also want to make sure you always have the essentials with you. Inside your pack you should always have a headlamp, first aid kit, cell phone, water and snacks. Plus, you want to make sure you have the right approach shoes. I have a bad habit of hiking in flip flops, it’s not a good idea. Then lastly, for boulderers, make sure you (or the group you’re climbing with) have enough pads to make landings safe, especially if you’re planning on climbing a problem with a sketchy landing.
3. Work on Mental Space
The head game in indoor climbing versus outdoor climbing is quite different. Most climbers move to indoor climbing during the winter or summer seasons, and therefore it’s important to work on your mental space when getting back outside. Indoor climbing gives use a sense of safety and security, whereas when outside we feel more vulnerable and exposed. Start by having confidence in your climbing ability. Many climbers start to doubt themselves once they get outside because they allow their fears to take over. This results in over gripping , poor technique and fast pump outs. Work on learning to focus your mind. Once you can do this than your climbing potential is limitless. Take deep breaths, relax, and have fun.
4. Check Access
Unfortunately, climbers have to deal with a lot of access issues, and the last thing we want to do is make things worse. Be sure to check if anything has changed over the season that could affect the climbing at your desired crag. This can include things like full closure, payed entrance, or limited entrance. I’m sure you agree that we want to keep our climbing accessible, so we have to do everything we can to keep the owners and authorities content. Make yourself aware of all the rules, obey them, and climb responsibly. Also, if you do become aware of any access changes, warnings, or other notifications please notify your fellow climbing community so you can work together to maintain the climbing area open.
5. Pick Projects
A great way to get super psyched for the upcoming outdoor season is to pick some projects! Setting goals is an effective way to stay motivated and make progress, as long as they are realistic. Picking a project that is WAY beyond your limits will only bring frustration and self doubt. Do a little bit of research, watch some videos, and talk to your buddies. Find a climb that really inspires you and you’ll enjoy the journey just as much (or even more) than the send. The hardest part is not getting caught up with grades. Yes, it’s nice to improve, but it will take a lot longer and you’ll loose the enjoyment if you find yourself just chasing grades.
Where are you psyched to climb this season? Share your thoughts below!