This is one of the biggest questions for climbers today with the explosive growth of indoor wall. When going outdoors there a lot of things that are different, the fear factor, quality of gear placements, weather, nature of the rock and the objective dangers. The below will help you make the switch from the artificial to the natural.
The outdoors is just that: Be prepared for mud, dirt, sand and wet rocks, especially on the approach. Take a cheap towel you can wipe your shoes on so you actually get some friction. Being used to clean mats indoor this isn’t something people think about.
No Colour: Outside the routes aren’t set to be climbed in a certain way and there are no colours to help identify which is the right hold to grab. Everything is a hold to use and this abundance of choice often confuses people when they are used to climbing a set route in a set way. Sometimes the hold you use won’t be the right one, other times it will be. This is where you begin to learn route finding.
Baby Steps: Indoor routes frequently have large moves between holds. As above the whole rock is available to you so you don’t need to make long, strenuous and potentially ‘hairy’ moves. Use small moves that won’t tire you out so you can climb for longer.
Drop your grade: While you can see what grade you are used to climbing using comparison tables you will find that climbing the same grade outdoor as indoor will be a very different, and scarier experience. Start low, it takes time to learn the outdoor way and you don’t want put yourself off by going to high to quick.
Go Slow: It’s a marathon not a sprint. Skills in the outdoors are acquired over time with considerable practise and patience. Don’t be disheartened if you don’t learn everything on day one. Build your skills, and confidence, bit by bit until you don’t really feel any different climbing indoors or out.
How much extra gear you will need will depend on whether you are doing Sport climbing or going straight to Trad.
For Sport you won’t need to get that much more kit; a outdoor rope (longer and with better protection) so you can lower off, a couple slings, carabiners and a set or two of quickdraws. A helmet these days is also advisable and required if you go with a guide/ company.
For Trad climbing you will need even more gear. Along with the quickdraws you are going to want more slings, carabiners and finally a rack of Nuts and Cams. If you have the option of sharing the gear with someone this will help cut the cost down as most Cams start at £50+ with a Nut set being around the same price.
Check out some our rope collection.
Ideally climb with someone who you already know and is experienced with the outdoors. This makes life considerably easier as they will be able to coach you through everything while also knowing how each other climbs. If you don’t know someone who is both try asking at your local wall if anybody else climbs outdoor and would be willing to take you along. If that doesn’t work join a local climbing club or book an instructor.
That depends on where you live. If you can reach the Peak District then good places to start would be the universally popular Stanage; Swanage has Sport routes on the coast, Little Tryfan in Snowdonia and Harrison’s Rocks in the South are all viable option. Have a search online and/or get a guidebook as decide where is best for you.
In the UK the main types of rock you will encounter are:
Gritstone: Great friction for footwork, handholds are mainly slopers, Cams will be your best Friends and mantle shelf all the way.
Limestone: Big Jugs, finger pockets and most routes highly polished these days so don’t rely on the friction much.
Granite: Better friction than limestone, normally gear placements are solid and excellent for Slab climbing.
Sandstone: Very soft, great for crack climbing without destroying your hands, good friction but mainly for top roping as placed gear will erode it fast.