Image Source: MCC/Sam Simpson

Your first climbs outdoors can feel very different to an indoor wall. A good stepping stone is to go “sport climbing” on bolted routes. The rope work and gear used being the same. Gaining experience on these routes will help you move towards “traditional” rock climbs.

For someone new to an outdoor climbing environment putting the odds in your favour will help. Go when the weather is good, climb with more experienced climbers or as part of a climbing club. You should also pick user friendly venues with single pitch easy access for those first outdoor climbs.

The best venues for that first outdoor climb will also depend on the grade you climb indoors and your ability and knowledge on using natural placed protection on “traditional” routes. The best information is often in the climbing guide books, helping to determine the grade of the routes and ease of protection use.

Climbing a rock face

Image Source: John Newbiggin

Make sure you’re fully informed on access rights before you start the climb too. Some climbing sites in the UK can have restrictions, such as private land ownership or during nesting bird periods. The best source of information here are our national bodies, The British Mountaineering Council and Mountaineering Council of Scotland, which both have good information on where and when we can climb.

Getting the gear can be the expensive bit when moving outdoors. The best advice is to climb with someone who has the gear to start with.  Your indoor gear will of course still work outdoors – your  harness, rock shoes and so on can be the same – but if climbing “traditional” routes you will need to invest in some protection equipment. A basic rack would be a range of wires, some cammimg units, some longer extenders and some slings. Shops often do deals on a “starter rack” so do some research.

Finally, remember there are loads of extra safety issues climbing outdoors. Weather conditions, loose rock on or above routes, other climbers and getting to or getting off a route just for starters. Being under the guidance of an experience current climber will help. Instructional courses also help here. With qualified instruction to help you with your first routes in the outdoor environment.


About the Author:

Phil Sanderson - Glenmore Lodge Instructor

Phil Sanderson is an MIC, Level 4 Inland accredited instructor at Glenmore lodge. Phil’ career highlights include climbing big walls in Yosemite including El Cap, Half Dome and Moonlight Buttress in Zion. He has also successfully tackled great Ice climbs such as Weeping Wall and Polar Circus in Canada and mastered big rivers in the Alps and Nepal as well as completing classic mountaineering experiences such as Everest, Ama Dablam and Lubje in Nepal.