Getting Prepared – What is in My Gym Bag – Indoor Rock Climbing Gear

Woman standing with climbing equipment and helmet outdoor, front view. Face is not visible

If you are curious about what to bring to an indoor rock climbing gym, you are in the right place.  When I started climbing last year, I rented all of my gear at the gym.  The more I started visiting my rock climbing gym, renting gear started to become a little pricey.  So, I eventually bought my own shoes and gear.  It took me some time to figure out which shoes and gear that would work best for the level and that will work perfectly as I progress to the next level of climbing. To save you the hassle, here are some suggested climbing gear that you should bring with you at the gym.  

First, you want a nice bag to put your gear in.  You can choose any backpack or bag that you like that has various compartments.  I bought the Lululemon City Adventurer Backpack 17L.  This bag has many compartments including a bottom compartment for my rock climbing shoes. It also has an extra bag for sweaty workout clothes. There is an outer pocket for my smartphone, an inside pocket for my water bottle and a laptop compartment just in case I want to bring my laptop to the gym. The material is water resistant. So, if it rains, my items will be protected. 

When it comes to rock climbing shoes, there are many brands to choose from.  The best climbing shoe brands I believe that are on the market are the La Sportiva and the Butora.  The Butora Endeavor Wide Fit Climbing Shoe was the best choice for me because as I get better at climbing, I don’t have to upgrade my shoes right away as they are also great for advanced climbers.  You can find the Butora Endeavors in a narrower and wide version.  It’s eco-friendly and has 100% organic hemp lining to control stretch and odor. The only downfall is that Butora shoes run very small.   You must buy the shoes 1.5 size bigger than your regular shoe size.  I bought the Women’s Crimson size 10 (size 8.5 in a regular shoe).   The shoes are supposed to snug your feet but are not supposed to hurt or be painful.  If the shoes hurt, get a bigger size.  

Even though most climbers don’t wear socks with their rock climbing shoes unless they are renting their shoes from the gym, rock climbing socks are an option.  I decided to buy four pairs of rock climbing socks.  I made this decision after reading complaints about smelly shoes after wearing climbing shoes for a long period of time.  I haven’t found another brand that sells specific socks for climbing, but Butora brand has socks. They are made from 100% organic hemp like the shoes and snugs the feet so you don’t feel restricted in your shoes.  I bought a size X-large, and they fit perfectly. I’m not quite sure if these socks will stretch for people with a larger foot size, but you can either email or call the company for more information. 

Next, you will need a harness that is strong and comfortable.  All gyms have a harness for rent.  However, rental versions of a harness can be uncomfortable as it might not have padding around the leg and bottom area.  Being comfortable is vital  especially when you need to rest for a bit while on the rocks. There are many brands to choose from.  However, the Black Diamond brand is the most common and is known for its high quality gear.  During the time I bought my harness, I chose the Black Diamond Women’s XS Smoke Primose Harness.  This version is still on the market for both women and men.  It has adjustable leg loops and is well constructed. 

If you want dry hands while climbing, you need chalk.  There are many versions of chalk.  I recommend loose chalk or the chalk ball or both. There is a liquid version, but after using it for a while, I personally don’t like it very much as it dries out too quickly.  However, each individual is different.  So, it if works for you, use it. 

The type of bag you choose for your chalk depends on the type of climbing that you do.  I have seen large bouldering chalk bags and small chalk bags for rope climbing.  However, a regular small chalk bag will suffice. 

Most indoor rock climbing gyms provide belay devices and carabiners for rent, and some gyms might not allow you to bring your own belay device.  Make sure to talk to someone at your gym about gym rules.  I go to two rock climbing gyms.  One allows me to bring my own grigri while the other one doesn’t.  Most gyms use the Petzl Grigri 2 Belay Device which has a great automatic lock feature.  A lot of climbers use a ATC device, but please note, unlike the grigri, it doesn’t have an automatic locking system. So, if you are a beginner climber, I don’t recommended it. 

With any belaying device, you will need a carabiner to hold the belay device and connect it to your harness.  The two carabiners that I bought included the Black Diamond Gridlock Screwgate Locking Carabiner and Black Diamond RockLock Screwgate Carabiner. 

If you still need help with finding rock climbing equipment and shoes, there is an online company called Backcountry that has Gearheads experts that will help you choose the right gear and answer any questions that you may have about a certain adventure or sport that you interested in.  

Learning How to Lead Climb – Part 2

It has been a little while since I finished the second part of my lead class and took the lead test. I just passed the test last Friday after the second try. I will explain more about this later in this post. Yesterday, a lot of good things happened. I climbed with my regular Meetup group at Brooklyn Boulders. I got some lead climbing in after helping one of my climbing partners with his lead test. He passed with flying colors. Lucky for him, he didn’t have to take a class to get lead certified at BKB. He is a seasoned climber and has been climbing indoors and outdoors for a long time. So, it was pretty easy for him. The highlight of my day was when I and nine other climbers were featured on Brooklyn Boulders on Instagram because we submitted our climbing photos and videos to win a one month membership for $10. In honor of Brooklyn Boulders 10th birthday, they decided to give away 10 1-month memberships for just $10. I was so happy when BKB chose me. I only had two more passes left in my 10-pack. So, this worked out perfectly. Happy Birthday Brooklyn Boulders!

There is supposed to be a Dyno competition and a big festival next Friday to celebrate their birthday. If you are interested, click here.

First Class Recap

As I mentioned in my last blog post, the first class included learning about quickdraws and how they are made, how to hold and clip into a quickdraw while climbing and the main three things to avoid while lead climbing: Z-clipping, Back clipping and the danger of having the rope behind the leg. To learn more, read the last blog post.

Second Lead Class Recap

When the class returned, it was time to do some practice falls and lead climbing. Of course, we couldn’t do it literally, but we were able to do demo lead climbing and falls with the assistance of our instructor. We did some command drills to practice how to take rope, feed rope and position our hands for a fall. The main focus for this class was learning how to lead belay.

How to Position Yourself and Feed rope out of an ATC

We should feed the rope quickly once we see the leader (climber) reaching to clip the rope, and then take the slack out of the rope after the leader has made his or her clip. During the first three clips, we should keep the rope “tight” because if the leader happens to fall during the first three clips, he or she will not hit the floor.

When feeding a rope with a ATC, the belayer should pull the rope out with his or her left hand. The rope will automatically pull the break hand up (right hand). The break hand should slide down the rope to feed the rope into the ATC again but should never release the rope. As a belayer, one should be close to the wall while belaying to avoid being smacked into the wall if there was a chance of the climber falling. The belayer should never be under the climber during the first three clips as this is considered the red zone. So, it is important to be on the side of the climber. However, I was told that once the climber is pretty far up, it is okay to be “under” the climber while belaying.

Foot stance is also important while belaying. In my opinion, staying with one foot forward is a great way to stay balance and sturdy while belaying. This helps to be in the right position once a fall has taken place.

Unfortunately, we really didn’t get a chance to practice belaying on a grigri as we have to learn this on our own. However, I actually like belaying on a ATC.

Catching a Fall

With a short or long fall, a lead belayer needs to “embrace” the impact by going “up” with the fall. If the belayer is lifted off his or her feet, he or she needs to be facing the wall or the rock. The belayer’s feet should be ready to be placed on the wall or the rock in order to stay stable while catching the fall.

Again, it is necessary to be close to the wall or rock to avoid being smacked into the wall or rock.

The Lead Test

I finished my lead class on the 11th of this month and took my first lead test the week after on a Friday. My partner, at that time, also needed to take the test to be lead certified. If you ever decide to take a lead test, there are three parts to the test: Naming the three common lead climbing mistakes to avoid, completing a lead climbing and belaying test.

The tester wanted us to name the three common mistakes and why we should avoid them. After, depending on who is climbing first, we had to do a lead climbing route, fall twice and then complete the route. This actually took a lot out of me because falling can take a lot out of a person, but I had to finish it.

Once the climbing part of the test was finished, we took the lead belaying test. This included knowing how to position the rope on the ground, tightening a knot at the end of the rope to make sure it is secure, making sure that the rope and the belay device are successful inserted into the carabiner and so on. We also had to show how to feed the rope, take the rope and catch a fall and knowing when to do so.

After taking the first test, I failed. I really thought that I was going to pass but unfortunately, it didn’t go as I planned. The first lead tester was rather strict which was good because he helped me understand what I needed to fix in order to pass the second time. He told me that my technique was there, but I needed to climb a little quicker while clipping and make sure not to be under the climber during the first three clips.

After studying and practicing again, I decided to retake the lead test last week and took it with a different tester. At first, I really thought I was going to fail again because I ended up not finishing the route that had some challenging finger holds (By the way, yesterday I mastered that route). So, the tester gave me another chance by allowing me to choose another route that was not as challenging.

During the test, she told me that I had very good belaying skills, and did a great job falling and clipping. I was elated when she told me that I passed. I didn’t have to complete the route after falling, but I was willing to complete it if she wanted me to.

My Final Thoughts

So, my lead climbing journey was everything that I expected it to be. It’s challenging but fun at the same time. I actually enjoyed falling. I still have to work on my clipping skills. I just might do another clipping technique that other climbers have showed me. My next step is to take the BKB Climbing Workshops: Stop Saying Take: mental Training for Sport Climbing and Sport Anchor + Rappel.

Question of the Day

What was it like when you took your lead test? What advice do you have for those who are interested in lead climbing?

Learning How to Lead Climb – Part 1

Young female rock climber clipping rope while lead climbing

My Climbing Journey So Far

As you know, I started indoor rock climbing last year in April during my birthday. Since then, I have been extremely determined to learn how to climb efficiently and effectively. It has been a wonderful journey but also a challenging one.

So far, I took Intro to Climbing and Learn the Ropes last year at Brooklyn Boulders. Considering the fact that I have a slight fear of heights, learning how to climb has been a great effort and success for me. My rock climbing buddy, June, and I were climbing 5.10+ routes last year, and we thought we were the bomb or for me, Catwoman. I know that this is not the highest level, but it is not the lowest level either.

Unfortunately, I took a winter break and was inactive for almost five months, believing that it wouldn’t hurt to do so. I didn’t start climbing again until mid-April. I know now that I made a huge mistake. Since then, I noticed there were some setbacks, but nothing that can’t be fixed or improved. I just needed to get the feel of the wall again and implement what I have learned last year. I still struggle with using straight arms while climbing however. It is a lesson learned. So, this coming winter, I will not take a break but continue to climb.

What’s Currently Happening

The most exciting experience this year as a climber was joining a rock climbing community this May through Meetup which opened the door to meeting more climbers like myself and those who are more advanced. During the Meetup, I met a wonderful female climber who likes to boulder a lot, which was something I really didn’t focus on last year. This actually played a huge part in regaining my strength in my fingers and arms. It also helped me to focus more on my footwork. After joining and regaining my confidence, I was motivated to face my fear and learn how to lead climb.

Note: If you are interested in lead climbing, I would suggest that you take the beginner and intermediate classes first before taking a lead course or at least have been currently climbing indoors or outdoors.

So, last Sunday, I took my first lead climbing class. Actually, there are two three-hour classes in order to learn how to lead climb. I was a bit nervous and as I said before, I am still battling with my fear of heights. I have to say that it was definitely a learning experience for me. There were six people in the group (including myself). Everyone in the group was very friendly as well as the instructor. Before we began, we introduced ourselves and learned a little bit about each other. The icebreaker question was “What was the strangest thing that we have ever eaten?” Many had interesting answers from bull balls to lamb brain. I couldn’t think of anything that was stranger than calamari until after my answer.

The instructor took on a more of a discussion teaching approach with open-ended questions which was great since this kept us more interactive in a three-hour class. We talked about quickdraws for a long time from the way they are designed to how to properly handle them while climbing. After the discussion, we went into practice. All six of us had to learn how to clip our rope from different clipping positions using our left and right hand. At first, it was difficult for me to push the rope into the clip, but eventually, I got the hang of it from the ground of course. I definitely realized that this wasn’t as easy as it appears on YouTube tutorials and the videos that I have seen with professional climbers.

We then went over the most common mistakes of lead climbing: Z-clipping, Back climbing and the danger of having the rope behind the leg.

Z-clipping occurs when a leader pulls the rope below the previous quickdraw instead of from above and from his or her knot.  This usually happens when two bolts are situated closely together.  If it is not noticed quickly, it can create a longer fall because the leader is not protected by the most recent clip but the previous one.  It will also cause a drag in the rope.

Back clipping is when the leader is climbing and clip the rope incorrectly.  This can cause the rope to unclip due to the rope not being properly clipped into the quickdraw.  The rope should run out of the quickdraw instead of facing the rock or the wall.

Lastly, the leader should avoid having his or her leg behind the rope as this will cause the climber to flip upside down if he or she falls. To avoid this, step over and around the rope.

We eventually had to do demo clipping sessions on the rocks. Unfortunately, even though I understood what the teacher was saying, I encountered some of these screw-ups anyway. It was one thing to hear it, but demonstrating it was a whole different story. Being alert and understanding how to maneuver while lead climbing are crucial aspects to learning to lead. I learned this very quickly. Everyone climbed on a 5.9 route except for me because I was struggling with clipping and climbing at the same time. I know now to make sure that I get in a position that is comfortable enough and stable enough to clip the rope.

I liked the fact that we had to do several demos in order to get the feel of clipping our rope into a quickdraw. During my first demo, the route that I was on had two bolts that were very close to each other. Instead of pulling the rope from my knot as instructed, I pulled it from the bottom of the last bolt (Z-clipping). I honestly didn’t notice until one of the students and my instructor got my attention. So, I had to undo the last clipping with one hand in order to clip the rope correctly.

When I finally release the rope from the clip, I nervously did a back-clipping into the same quickdraw that I did the z-clipping in, and once again, I had to make sure to stay calm in order to do it correctly. However, I’m glad that this experience happened during this class instead of later. I felt a little discouraged but these mistakes helped me to be a problem solver and fix the problems that I was encountering.

The last part of the class was to do a demo fall. I thought that this would’ve been the worse part of this class, considering the fact that I never really “fallen” from rope before. So far, it wasn’t that bad maybe because I have fallen a lot during bouldering. The only thing that I need to remember is to not grab the rope while falling but have my hands free in order to train myself to use my feet and avoid any arm or shoulder injuries.

Conclusion

Lead climbing is an adventurous sport but complex and dangerous. So, alterness is key. Continuous practice will help me get comfortable. I’ve decided to get some more practice at the gym before taking the second part of my lead class this Sunday. We will go over how to belay for lead climbing and hopefully go over what we learned last Sunday.

Question

Do you go rock climbing? If so, what type of climbing do you do?

Dealing With Fear When Climbing

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

It is perfectly natural to have fear while climbing and recognizing that you are not alone is important. I have heard several testimonies that were similar to mine. Each climber said that they had a fear of heights before climbing and how it helped them with their fear. This fear is not just among regular climbers but even professionals. One day while browsing on YouTube, I landed on an interview with Roanne Voorst on EpicTV. She had interviewed several well-known rock climbers about fear including Alex Honnold and Hazel Findlay. I would never thought that professionals like these would have a fear because they appear fearless especially Alex Honnold as he climbs without a rope. If you would like to see the interview, click here. Roanne Voorst also wrote a book called Fear!.

So, who doesn’t have a fear? Fear is a huge issue, not just in relation to climbing but in many aspects of our lives. Fear immobilizes us and deters us from moving forward in many aspects of our lives, physically, mentally, emotionally, financially and spiritually.

If you are dealing with fear and don’t know how to manage it, here are some ways you can fight fear.

If you are a spiritual person, I would say pray first. Prayer is powerful especially if you have faith like a child and had supernatural experiences before. We all need something more powerful than ourselves so if you are a praying person, ask God for help when in fear. It helps.

Positive thinking is key to success. When climbing the route that you have chosen, picture yourself completing it. Seeing yourself completing a route helps you to think about what you would like to accomplish rather than the fear itself.

In addition to positive thinking, when in fear, try to speak positive words out your mouth. Speaking positive words helps dispel negative thoughts.

Of course, not looking down helps a lot too. However, if you catch yourself looking down, don’t panic. Instead, image being in a secure place that is considered high up such as a tall building or an airplane.

Preparing for the physical symptoms of fear such as trembling of the legs while on the rocks, rapid heartbeat and the sensation of butterflies within the stomach can help you accept your fear without quiting. When people have a phobia, it’s not really the object or the situation that they are fearing. It is usually the uncomfortable feelings that occur during their anxiety. So, if a person has a fear of crowds or cats, they try to avoid those situation because of the “feelings” that occur. Exposure therapy could be a solution as it exposes a person to the anxiety source in order to help overcome anxiety or distress, and in this case, fear of climbing or heights.

If you have a fear of heights or have conquered it, please share your story and tips!

How to Find Rock Climbing Partners

Athletic young woman rock climbing with carbines and rope on summer day. Man standing on the ground insuring the climber

Finding a climbing partner is not as easy as you think. When I met my first climbing partner last year through a class at Brooklyn Boulders, I was elated. She was a newbie like me, and we hit it off immediately. As my belayer, she was very attentive and an effective listener. However, there were times when I was not able to climb with her, and finding someone, who was in my area, was a little complex. Through some research, I eventually was able to find like-minded people in my area who were also looking for someone to climb with. 

Before you spend a full day with your new climbing buddy, interrogate them. Ask them about their rock climbing experience. Make sure they are a very good communicator, receptive to constructive criticism, and fun to hang out with. You don’t want a climbing partner who is not attentive to your needs as a climber.  

If you are having trouble finding climbing partners to consistently climb with, here are some ways to find climbers like you whether you are moving to another town, or just seeking ways to find a climber partner.  

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.

Join a rock climbing gym in your area if you haven’t already. Joining a climbing gym is a great way to make friends and meet new people with the same passion. From my experience, those in the climbing community are generally friendly people and they’re willing to share tips with new climbers. You will have plenty of time to make conversation with others while waiting for someone to finish a climb, or while resting between climbs. There are also climbing classes that you can take to meet new people. Here is a full list of U.S. bouldering and rock climbing gyms.

Find a climbing group on Meetup. Meetup is a free social media platform where you can find groups with members with the same interest as you. You will meet at a certain day, and at a certain time every week. To find groups in your area, type “rock climbing” in the search engine. Once you find a group of your choice, you can let the group know the level of climbing you are on. If you have any questions about a group that you joined, you can always text the group leader via the Meetup app. If you still can’t find a group on the Meetup app, you can always start your own Meetup group on the platform for others to join in your area.

Search for climbing partners on Mountain Project. This website is strictly for rock climbers, and is used to find climbing partners in your area, rock climbing routes, along with real-life experiences, and get advice from fellow climbers. You can search for a partner or post a message that you are looking for a partner.  

Try Airbnb. Airbnb is known for their homestay services, and it free to join. Recently, Airbnb created a new platform for hosts to list Airbnb Experiences where you can enjoy creative and adventurous activities worldwide. During these experiences, you should be able to meet potential climbing partners and exchange contact information to continue your rock climbing journey.  To search for a rock climbing experience in your area, type your city’s name, or a popular city in your area, and then type “rock climbing” in the search engine. If you are new to Airbnb, new members get a nice discount towards their first adventure. If you can find an Airbnb host who has an indoor or outdoor rock climbing experience, go for it.  

Try to avoid dating websites, and if you choose to use a regular social media platform like Facebook and Instagram, make sure you are joining a legitimate climbing group.  

How to Get Better at Indoor Rock Climbing as a Beginner

girl is climbing in the training room

As a beginner, it is best to start climbing with someone who is more experience than you or has the same motivation as you do. When I first started, I didn’t know much about climbing. At the time, I wasn’t apart of any rock climbing community or climbing gym. To help those who don’t know the first steps to take, here are some ways to get started.

Finding a Group or a Person to Climb With

There is an app called Meetup where you can find groups with members with the same interest as you do. If you are looking for a rock climbing group, you can join the website or app, find a rock climbing group and join. You will meet at a certain day and at a certain time every week. This is great because it keeps you motivated and interactive with people that have the same mindset as you. If you can’t find a group on the Meetup app, you can always start your own Meetup group for others to join in your area.

Another option is just joining a rock climbing gym in your area. You can google ‘indoor rock climbing gyms near me’ to search for your nearest climbing gym. A gym alone can help you meet climbers and form friendships. You can also take rock climbing classes with other potential climbers. However, if you don’t feel comfortable meeting with strangers, asking your friends and family to join you is always an option.

If you are still struggling with finding a partner, you can try Airbnb. Airbnb now has Airbnb Experience where you can do and find creative activities within your city or another city. This is how I started climbing. I met with a host who had an Airbnb rock climbing experience for those who are in the Chicago area . Since, I knew nothing about climbing, I decided to buy this experience. The host was friendly. He was a consistent climber and taught me and four other people within the group some footwork techniques and had us do certain rock climbing routes within the gym. So, if you can find a host in your area on Airbnb, go for it.

Choosing your Climbing Position 

There are three main types of climbing: bouldering, top rope and lead climbing.

Bouldering is a form of rock climbing that is performed on low rock walls or outdoor rock formations, without the use of a rope or a harness. You don’t really need previous experience or instruction to do this. You can just do it on your own.

Top Rope climbing requires instruction if you want to become a belayer. With this type of climbing, the rope is already setup on the wall for you. To get started, you (the climber) and belayer attach to opposite ends of the rope. You and the belayer will make sure that you are ready to climb. Once you are on the wall, you will ascend the wall while your partner (belayer) pulls up slack in the rope through a belay device. If you want to do top rope, you can do it with a certified belayer or with an auto-belaying device at the gym.

Lead Climbing is more advanced than top rope and commonly seen when climbing outside. In this type of climbing, the climber brings the rope up the wall with her as she climbs, clipping into the carabiners attached to the wall. Lead climbing requires advanced training and climbing skill. You will need to take a class to get certified. You can do this at your local climbing gym.

Buying the Proper Gear 

Proper gear is key.  If you are not sure on what to buy as a newbie, you want softer climbing shoes so you can get a better grip on the wall.   For bouldering, you will need climbing shoes, chalk and a chalk bag.  For top-roping, you will need everything for bouldering in addition to a harness and a belay device (if you are certified to belay). Sometimes, gyms already have a belay device ‘available’ for you and will not allow you to use your own belay device. Leading climbing gear requires everything plus carabiners and ropes —all of which should be available to rent at your local climbing gym.  To learn what is in my gym bag for indoor rock climbing, click here

Taking Classes and Learning from the Best

As I mentioned before, you will need to take classes to get certified as a top rope and lead climber. However, you can also take classes to improve your footwork technique and strengthen your core. I can’t speak for all climbing gyms as all gyms don’t have the same offerings. However, there are some that have exercise classes to strengthen your core and to improve your endurance. The gym that I climb at offers specific classes for women and ways to level up if a person is struggling to break out of a certain climbing level. Check out your local gym to see what it has to offer.

In addition, watching various media of professional climbers can also give you ideas on how to be a better climber. There are so many videos on YouTube that you can take advantage of.

Here are some YouTube channels that I have watched to improve my climbing skills:

Bouldering Vlog

REI – Climbing Expert Advice

EpicTV Climbing Daily

Alex Tsway

Flexibility Tips/Routines by Alivia D’Andrea

If you have tips or would like to share your experience, please leave a comment below and climb on!