8 Top Tips for Planning Your First Climbing Trip
Indoor climbing has its highs, but when the lure of sunshine and real rock beneath your fingertips beckons – it’s time to get outside for your first climbing trip. Like any successful venture, careful planning is key to making sure everything runs smoothly. So here are some tips to help you set off on the right foot from climber Sophie Deal.
1. Choose Your Destination Wisely
Tempting as it is to just pick somewhere and go, it’s important to consider the area beforehand and check it suits your expectations. Make sure there’s a good spread of routes that sit (realistically) at your grade, or you could be in for a very frustrating experience. Once you’ve decided, study the guidebook extensively for helpful information and check climbing sites/forums like UKC for tips from fellow climbers.
2. Plan Around The Weather
It’s frustratingly beyond your control, but the sky’s variable mood swings can make or break your trip. Check the forecast and consider a backup plan if it’s looking ominous. It’s worth seeing if there’s an indoor wall or decent pub nearby so you don’t end up sulking in a tent all day.
Thankfully, not all climates are unpredictable. So if you’re heading to sunnier shores, you can generally judge what to expect by the season. Perfect climbing temperatures sit between 15-24˚C (Mediterranean spring or autumn). Temperatures higher than this decrease friction between your hands and the rock, so it’s best to avoid summer months.
3. Set Objectives
Having your own ambitions for the trip is important, but it’s equally necessary to check they align with your companions’. You may have your heart set on all-day multi-pitch extravaganzas, but if your friends would prefer to do four relaxed climbs and hit the pool for the rest of the day, you may not get far without a bust up. Get everyone to discuss beforehand what kind of routes they want to climb, who’s willing to lead/second and whether you want to do any activities other than climbing.
4. Plan How You’re Going To Get About
Climbing’s the exciting bit, so logistics can sometimes take a back seat. But there’s no joy in showing up to your accommodation intending to walk to the crag, only to discover it’s thirty minutes away (which can feel more like an hour if you’re loaded with gear). Work out how long it will take to travel between each place you’re going (crags, supermarkets, restaurants) and how much this will eat into your precious climbing time. It may be worth considering car hire or using public transport.
5. Clock Your Local Amenities
Handy pre-trip questions include:
- Where’s the nearest supermarket?
- What are the opening times?
- Where’s the nearest climbing shop (in case of emergency gear replacements)?
- If you’re in a foreign country, what’s the emergency number?
- And, crucially, where’s the pub?
It’s good to know what’s around beforehand, partly for your own safety, and so that you don’t have to waste time figuring out logistics when you could be on the rock.
6. Take Time Assembling Your Kit
This is important to get right, as leaving behind any essential gear can be expensive or limiting. Even something as small as one forgotten carabiner can be a significant setback.
Your gear checklist obviously depends on the type of climbing you’re doing. For sport or trad, check your guidebook to get a sense of what length rope and slings you’ll need, and how many quickdraws/nuts to take.
Whether or not you’re bouldering, a crash pad can give you extra reassurance on routes with awkward starts, or long runs to the first bolt.
Further safety can be achieved with maillons and clipsticks, helping give you more peace of mind on routes.
Multi-day climbing trips can quickly take their toll on your hands, so don’t forget to pack lots of climbing tape and skin repair balm.
And last but not least – take plenty of water! Hydration bladders are ideal for outdoor trips, giving you easy access to a decent amount of fluid, without lugging heavy bottles around.
7. Do Pre-Trip Training (mind and body)
Pre-trip training plans are a great way to get psyched up, and build your strength and stamina for more rewarding days on the crag.
To stay as safe as possible, be sure to brush up on practical skills too. Re-familiarise yourself with knots and belaying techniques. If you’re sport climbing and don’t already know how to thread a belay, learn before you go – not when you’re 30m above ground in dizzyingly hot weather!
Overcoming fear of falling also increases your confidence on rock. Start by practicing a few small falls with an experienced belayer to boost your head game.
And to avoid arriving sore, stay fresh by laying off climbing a few days before the trip.
8. Pace Yourself
It may sound patronising, but when faced with an enticing new crag it’s easy to get excited and overexert yourself on the first day. Take it easy, build up slowly and remember to stretch well before and after you climb. Be your own nagging mother – she knows best, after all.
Most importantly relax and enjoy your trip. Happy climbing!
Sophie is a freelance copywriter and journalist from Wales. A keen climber, hiker, cyclist and slackliner, she’s rarely seen without bruised knees and a backpack full of malt loaf. To read more of her work, visit sophiedeal.contently.com