10 Reasons Why Everyone Should Rock Climb
We’ve all seen the pictures. The lone climber suspended in the air against an epic mountain backdrop, nothing but a thin rope and piece of metal saving them from the perilous fall below…
And for most of us, our response falls into one of two categories: either “that’s amazing!”, or “never, ever in my life”.
If you fall into the first category, you’re going to love me after reading this list, because as it turns out, you don’t need to be a professional to rock climb. With just a little bit of practice, and a lot of determination, you could be that climber in the pictures.
If, however, you fall into the second category, before you shake your head and back away slowly, you should know each of these ten reasons why everyone should rock climb is almost directly targeted for you. Because, if you say “I can’t” before you try – or at least know more – you’ll never know what you’ve been missing.
And once you try… I can almost guarantee there’s no going back.
So. Everyone still with me? Good. Here’s 10 reasons why everyone (and I mean everyone) should rock climb.
1) Anyone Can Do It
Whenever I ask someone why they don’t want to try rock climbing, the responses typically fall along the lines of “I’m too fat”, or “I’m not strong enough”, or “I don’t know how”. And the simple fact is, neither of these excuses are actually good ones.
Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to be a fitness trainer to be able to rock climb. You don’t even need to know all the in’s and out’s of the sport before starting, beyond just the basics (I learned those in 20 minutes when I first started climbing).
As long as you have just one seasoned climber with you – and ready to catch any falls – there’s nothing to stop you from slipping on that harness for the first time, and conquering those walls.
While rock climbing does require some strength and stamina, most beginners are surprised by their own strength and ability – rock climbing working those hidden muscles we didn’t even know we had. Plus, do to the sheer variety of styles, routes, and difficulties, it’s easy to customize your climbing experiences to your strengths and weaknesses – or even to what you’re feeling that day.
Large or skinny, tall or short, weak or strong, rock climbing has no limits, and neither should the climber. If you can’t do one route right away, try an easier one. You’ll be surprised just how much you can achieve, and just how quickly you’ll get stronger.
The real secret to rock climbing: try your best. In everything, try your best.
2) It’s Easy to Learn
To the eyes of a casual observer, rock climbing can seem like an extremely complicated sport. All those technical knots, baffling gear mechanics, and odd-sounding climbing terms are enough to make any man’s eyes glaze over.
And with something as big as your life, or the life of someone else literally on the line – leaving no room for error – most people shy away from the opportunity to learn.
But the reality of the matter is, rock climbing, and everything that goes along with it, is a lot easier than it looks.
To start, sport climbing – the standard kind where you clip into bolts along the wall as you go along, having one person below to “belay” you (controlling the rope, catching your fall) – is super simple.
If you’re the climber, as long as a lead climber has gone ahead to “top rope it” (have the rope funneling up through a loop at the top of the wall, then back down again), all you have to do is tie in with one super simple knot, and climb.
If you’re belaying, as long as you remember to keep your hand holding the rope down at all times (on the “brake”), and a few other important safety checks, you’re good to go (having someone teach you first, of course).
As a whole, the average beginner can learn both in about 20 minutes – making them skilled enough to accompany any other climber on outdoor, or indoor excursions.
As long as you have a seasoned rock climber beside you to teach the basics, improving your skills as you progress, and ready to step in when necessary, anyone can become a pro in no time – with comparatively little effort.
3) Forces You to Conquer Your Fears
Do you have a fear of failure? You should rock climb.
Do you have a fear of heights, death, and trusting something other than yourself? You should rock climb.
Do you have personal insecurities? You should rock climb.
If there’s one thing about rock climbing, it’s that it slowly, systematically eradicates your fears – forcing you to face them, and come out on top. It teaches you focus, dedication, perseverance, and courage. It teaches you how to let go and trust – trust your gear, the person on the other end of the rope, and yourself.
It teaches you that you are stronger than you realize – capable of more than you thought possible. That even when you feel like giving up and think you can’t go on, if you persevere and try your best, you can be standing at the top in victory, looking down and thinking “I did that”.
And even when you do fall, even when you fail, rock climbing teaches you that it’s okay. That it’s not the end of the world. That you can still pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and try again.
And that no one will think any worse of you for it.
Rock climbing brings out the best in yourself. It puts a spotlight on the inner spirited, strong, courageous badass in all of us, who never takes no for an answer and never gives up.
Want to make yourself a better person?
You should rock climb.
4) Climbing Makes You Stronger
Rock climbing not only makes you mentally and emotionally stronger, but physically as well.
As discussed in reason #1, anyone can rock climb if they start small, but choose to challenge yourself with harder, more strenuous routes and rock climbing just might become your new favorite workout.
Instead of working the “show muscles” you see in the mirror, rock climbing instead strengthens those you use every day – specifically your core, legs, and arms. It’s a full-body, calorie burning workout that fine-tunes your figure, stamina, and strength, packaged up in an invigorating game with a social environment.
Once you start, there really is no going back to standard workouts – unless of course they are designed to make you stronger for more rock climbing.
So whether you’re a fitness nut, or one of those people who’s New Year’s resolution to hit the gym every week fails, rock climbing is the way to go.
5) Challenges Your Brain
Contrary to what people might think, rock climbing is actually more mind, than it is matter. In other words, you can be a five-foot, skinny nothing and still climb better than The Rock, Dwayne Johnson.
There are these shoes we wear in rock climbing that are purposefully a size too small for our feet (uncomfortable, I know). The purpose? To curl your toes and tighten your calf and leg muscles, affording you extra leg strength and a solid grip on even a hold three centimeters wide.
It is because of these shoes that even when we don’t have a handhold, or the strength to reach one, we can use our legs to compensate, push off, and make us an extra few inches taller to reach that next hold.
Plus, not to mention there are literally hundreds of different ways to position your hands and body to get a good hold when you think there isn’t one.
And yes, we rock climbers have a ridiculous name for all of them. Its a common occurrence for passive viewers to break out laughing at the jargon other climbers shout out to each other in advice.
So even when it seems impossible and you’re stuck, with the right technique, and the courage to trust your gear and take the leap – even when it feels like you’re gonna fall – walls that don’t seem humanly possible to scale, can be conquered.
In all reality, rock climbing is really just a big chess game. You always want to be thinking three, four, five moves ahead – as many as it takes to reach the top.
6) Makes You Explore (and Climb!) the Best Nature Has to Offer
Let’s face it: to rock climb, you need a really big rock – lots of it. And more often than not, that means breathtaking scenery.
Nothing feels quite as good – or gets you more excited for rock climbing – than arriving on the scene of a beautiful mountain back drop, towering rock, or massive boulders – surrounded by trees, plains, rivers, and lakes – thinking “I’m going to climb that”.
I can say for a fact that after you climb your first real rock, reach the top and turn around for the view, you’ll never think of views the same way again.
Because mixed in with all of nature’s beauty, is this simplistic, raw oneness with it. This encouraging, yet oddly humbling feeling as you fight to both conquer the rock, and work with it. This proud exhilaration welling up within you as you turn around and open your eyes to see where you are, what you’ve accomplished, and what you’re capable of.
Add in a refreshing hike, or the added adventure of camping or backpacking if you’re daring, and you’ve officially become an outdoor climbing badass, worthy of all those Instagram follows.
7) Rock Climbers are Social Saviors
It’s a fact: rock climbers make the best people.
Find any rock climber anywhere, and I can almost guarantee that they will rank up there as one of the nicest people you’ve ever met. I don’t know why, but they just do.
Maybe it has something to do with the fact that they know exactly who they are – having discovered that long ago on the faces of some particularly hard climb. Or that they aren’t afraid to do what they love, putting their whole heart and soul into it. Or maybe it’s because they’re too busy having fun and enjoying themselves in a gym or outside, that they don’t feel the need to spoil it by being rude.
Either way, to this day, I still have yet to find a mean rock climber.
And if you’re a climber yourself, you might be surprised by a sudden feeling of kinship with other climbers – even total strangers. Because we’re all in the same boat together. We all share the same interests, the same challenges. Often, we may find ourselves putting our lives in the hands of someone else, counting on them to catch us when we fall.
And that tends to create a bond relatively quickly.
Tired of being the prissy party-pooper? You should start rock climbing.
8) No Judgment – Only Improvement
I can still remember the first time I walked into a climbing gym. A friend had talked me into joining their group, myself having climbed only once before, and I was terribly nervous and insecure. I had no idea what to do, or what to expect.
For anyone who’s ever been to a standard fitness gym, one can always find this unspoken need to impress. You know what I mean: the need to be less pathetic in the eyes of the bodybuilders by the weights, to show off in front of that hot girl by the water fountain, or to appear more fit than we actually are for our neighbors on the treadmills.
And though we may love working out – or the idea of it – that lingering need to impress, always making us insecure and striving, is stressful.
Walking into my first climbing gym, I was expecting that familiar stress, but what I got was a different vibe altogether.
I saw professional climbers offering kind advice to newbies on the wall. I watched those same newbies giving others high fives after a completed route. I witnessed the smiles on the faces of those swinging in the air, resting after a fall and failed route. I joined in the uproar of amongst at least fifty other climbers, as the whole house clapped and cheered on one woman stuck on a particularly challenging move.
There is no judgment to be found in a climbing gym – no shame in taking an easier route – there is only the mutual understanding that we all love one thing, having to start somewhere to achieve it.
Climbing is all about individual improvement, social interaction, and enjoying the outdoors.
Tired of carrying the weight of failure? The pressure of success?
Join a climbing gym. You’ll be glad you did.
9) Options to Suit Your Style
As individual human beings, we all have different tastes. Different things that we enjoy… well, differently. And when it comes to rock climbing, there are a broad range of methods to fit your individual style.
For beginners and those liking a little more security, there’s the standard “sport” climbing, which involves climbers hooking into bolts already screwed into the rock face – all the while being belayed by someone below.
For traditionalists and climbers who want to make their own routes, “trad” (short for “traditional”) climbing is the best – this climbing method involving wedging specially designed metal hexagons and widgets into cracks in the rock face, using these to secure their rope in the event of a fall.
For the climber who likes solving complex route problems over height, “bouldering” is a common go-to, or “in-between” climb – as it involves scaling a smaller boulder versus a rock face, using no ropes and only a mat below to catch a fall.
Lastly, for the extreme climber, the famed “free climb” – which, as the name suggests, involves climbing up a rock face with no aid from gear besides that necessary to catch a fall.
But that’s not all!
In addition to these four climbing methods, are many more techniques and styles imbedded within. For instance, for those looking to test their endurance or reach a higher height, “multi-pitching” is for you – climbers reaching the end of their rope only to start again and climb even higher.
Or perhaps you desire to challenge yourself with various difficulty levels – from a 5.0 to a 5.15?
With rock climbing, if you don’t like one style, try another. There is no limit – only what is humanly possible.
10) Highly Addicting
If you haven’t yet already drawn this conclusion from the other nine points, rock climbing, no matter the form or place, is highly addicting. In the fullest sense of the word.
Once you start, once you feel the rush from your first fall, the sense of pride and awe from your first summit, and the surge of confidence as you notice your body getting stronger, there really is no going back.
Balancing outdoor climbs and excursions in the summer, with indoor gym visits in the winter, is by far the best and most fun way to stay in shape, stay active, stay outdoors, and stay connected with amazing people.
Sure the right gear might be a little on the expensive side, but ask any rock climber and they’ll tell you the experience is more than worth every penny.
Don’t believe me? Try rock climbing to see for yourself.
Just don’t say I didn’t warn you.