Even if enjoyed by the same people, the reality is that climbing outside means you leave behind many of the luxuries of the gym that you take for granted. Although you can still go find a tree to pee behind and bring your speakers with you the best thing to do is be considerate of other people and respect the crag!

Grading

So you have your guide book and you’re at the crag, but you can’t climb the V0 slab. Don’t be too disheartened! Climbing outside is a completely different game to climbing inside. You’ll get the hang of it. When starting out on real rock, take your time, try and learn how to read the rock and find the best holds you can. Practice a little patience and you’ll begin catching up on your indoor grade in no time.

What to bring

In terms of bouldering essentials for outside, we will all know the obvious bits! Rock shoes, crash pad and chalk are a must. But there are other bits worth bringing along which can vastly improve your day out. 

  • A small towel: Dry off damp or wet holds and clean your shoes! Well worth the efforts as it can reduce rock erosion as well. 
  • Climbing brush: Scrub those handholds! A plastic bristle brush will be sufficient for this, never use a wire brush as it will damage the rock!
  • Thera band: If you’re used to the equipment of a gym, warming up outside can be quite a challenge! Thera bands will help you warm up your arms and shoulders and prevent injury, If you don’t know what a Thera band is, speak to any member of staff at The Climbing Hangar and they’ll be happy to show you some of the basics.

Safety

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Climbing is dangerous and we all accept the risk that comes with the activity. While it’s important to remember that the risks of indoor climbing are still relevant outside (falling climbers, keeping the fall zone clear of stuff), there’s a bunch of new challenges to consider

Random risks: When we climb inside the list of risks is fairly short and relatively predictable.  Outside adds a new dimension. Holds breaking, birds’ pooing and people accidentally dropping things from above you can all lead to nasty tumbles so stay alert even if you’re not the one climbing! 

Falling/ jumping off: Inside we all do it. Falling off and jumping off are the quickest ways back down to the ground. But if you’re new to climbing outside practice jumping off from a couple of feet and get used to the feeling. It is very different to falling on the mats at your local wall. 

Falls often occur due to a simple lapse of concentration, so learning to fall properly is especially important when climbing outside. You have a smaller landing zone and the consequences of missing a crash pad can be brutal especially if you’re up higher than on an indoor wall or practicing ‘topping out’ (actually getting up on top of the boulder to finish the problem). Climb well within your ability when you first start outside – you’ll reduce the risk of falling off – and unless you really have to, don’t jump off the top of the boulder. Your knees and ankles won’t appreciate the abuse and your crash pad will last longer.

Crash pads/pad placement: An absolute must at the crag. Even on easy climbs all it takes is one slip and you could be looking at dragging yourself a long way down the hill to get help. Depending on the moves you make (eg.doing a massive dyno) you can sometimes fall quite far back from the base of the boulder so taking your time placing the pads and working out the fall zone is important. Be wary of gaps between crash pads; inevitably the one time you see it and ignore it, you will fall between pads.

Spotting: You’ll get away without a spotter on the thick mats at the gym, but outside this is a really important skill. People will have different ideas about the function of a spotter, so these are just my thoughts.

Unless you’re superman, don’t think you’re going to catch your friend who weighs 70kg falling from 6m. Stand clear of the landing zone. Your job here is to do three things. 

  1. Adjust the pads if needed to ensure that should the climber fall they have a soft(er) landing. 
  2. You’re there to act as a barrier should the climber fall, guiding the mass of flailing limbs onto the pads. Your priority is to make sure their head is not the first thing to hit the ground and that even after the initial impact they don’t roll off the pad and sustain any further injuries. 
  3. Moral support/heckling. Aside from helping them out if they look a bit stuck, it’s always good for the climber to know you’ve got their back in the event of a fall!

Getting out

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For me a good day out is one where no one gets hurt and I get some climbing done with my mates. The most important thing when starting out is to have fun and be safe. By putting yourself at unnecessary risk, you run the risk of spoiling both your own day and that of other crag users around you, so be considerate! Obviously accidents can still happen but you should try and minimise the chance of these!

As a general guide, the Country side code is a good port of call if you’re headed out to the crag this summer and worth a read before you go: https://www.threepeakschalleng...

If you are keen to get outside this summer and want advice on where to begin, speak to any member of Climbing Hangar staff and they’ll be happy to help.

If you’re looking for any of the bouldering essentials mentioned above (Thera band, rock shoes, chalk, climbing brush) all of these are available from The Climbing Hangar Shop! We now also do rental crash pads for those of you who don’t want to commit to buying your own just yet, so you can try before you buy. 

Still unsure about heading out? Keep an eye out on the Facebook page for details of the next ‘Hangar Day Out’, where some of our staff will be out climbing with an open invite to anyone who fancies giving it a go on real rock!

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