GYM TO ROCK
Looking to make the transition from indoor gym climbing to outdoor rock climbing?
You are in the right place!
Read The Code and Leave No Trace. Educate yourself on how to respect the dangers, respect the environment, respect other climbers and respect access.
Learn the Area
Find a guidebook
Research the area on local climbing forums or sites like Mountain Project or The Crag
Ask local climbers/gear shops/guides about safety or access considerations.
Research the difficulty, protection, hazards and rules of the area.
Know the local climbing ethics/rules and abide by them
These climbing areas exist because someone put in the time, money and hard work to develop the climbing, trails and gain approved access (ie. route developers, access groups, volunteers). Do your part to help keep these areas safe and open for everyone to enjoy. Support your local access coalition and get involved in the community events and clean ups. Report unsafe or concerning issues at the cliff to local guides and climbing organizations.
Outdoor Safety Considerations
As incredible as it is to climb on real rock, unfortunately, it comes with the inherent risk of rock fall.
Climber cautions: When you are climbing outside, knock on the rock if it looks suspect. If it sounds hollow, look for a more solid sounding place to grab or stand on. Warn your belayer if you find loose or suspect rock, try not to pull outward on loose rock. If a rock breaks, or if you drop gear, immediately yell "ROCK!" as loud as you can (at least twice). Be aware that springtime can be much worse for rock fall as the freeze thaw effect can shift the rocks. Wear a helmet.
Belayer hazards: Do not stand directly beneath the climber, adjust your positioning as they advance up the route. If "ROCK!" is yelled, don't look up. The safest place is generally as close to the wall as possible, or underneath a roof/overhang. Be aware that springtime can be much worse for rock fall as the freeze thaw effect can shift the rocks. Wear a helmet.
Climbing outside brings the added risk of weather, which in some cases can pose extreme risk to a climber, plan ahead - check the forecast.
Rain can make rock slippery and thus increase your chances of falling. Soft rock like sandstone will be more susceptible to breaking after rain. You will risk permanently damaging certain types of rock when wet - it can take between 24-48hrs to dry. Wet rock can also decrease the strength of your gear placements when trad climbing.
Wind can make communicating difficult. Use simple words that are easy to understand/differentiate when communicating with your partner. For example, "On belay" and "Off belay" are easily confused in wind, as are "Safe" and "Take", either could pose a deadly situation. Use easy to differentiate expressions like "In Direct! <insert belayers name>" and "Belay off! <insert climbers name>" --using your partners name is ideal to not get confused with a nearby groups that are also yelling commands. Wind can also pose the extreme likelihood of your rope getting stuck when pulling ropes down after a rappel/lower.
Lightning is a serious weather hazard for climbers. If you are climbing a big wall that requires hours to complete, check the weather conditions before you are committed halfway up a mountain when a storm rolls in. "When thunder roars, go indoors" is a good rule of thumb, if you get caught in a storm you need to be aware of what not to do.
Climbing Systems & Safety Gear
The skills you need to stay safe on a cliff take time to learn and master. Take a course and learn up to date skills from trained professionals. If it has been a while since you've used the skills, consider a refresher course. Once you learn necessary outdoor climbing skills, always use appropriate back-up's for your climbing systems and triple check everything.
Always have a proper knot tied at the end of your rope while lowering or rappelling (Double overhand with a 10-12inch tail)
Always use a back up for your rappel device (third hand= friction hitch /fireman belay).
Always build safe and sufficient anchors
Always protect yourself when working on a cliff edge
Always keep your hand on the break when belaying, the Gri-Gri is not a handsfree device
Triple check everything
Accidents are often caused by complacent small mistakes, or lack of knowledge and bad habits. These accidents can be catastrophic and are almost always preventable. Develop good habits that will keep you safe, triple check everything before you leave the ground. It is important to always triple check the system, it will keep you and your friends alive. Climbing is inherently dangerous and the risks increase dramatically if you miss an important step. Slow down and pay attention.
Both climber and belayer check that belay device is properly loaded, attached, locked.
Both climber and belayer check harnesses and the climbers figure 8 knot.
Communicate with your partner
Your climbing gear is your lifeline, treat it that way! Replace anything that you are starting to question, how much is your life worth?
Inspect your carabiners for sharp grooves, and make sure the gate functions properly.
Inspect ropes for flat spots/core shots and switch up the end you're climbing on regularly.
Inspect slings/draws for wear and tear. Take note of expiry dates.
Protect your rope/cord/webbing from sharp edges. Untie knots after each climbing day.
Buy a rope bag to keep your rope clean.
Don't store your gear near strong acids or chemicals such as batteries, strong acids, chemicals, petroleum products, and cleaning solutions. Find a protected spot like a storage bin and store in a temperature controlled environment, away from sunlight.
Do not put your rope on the ground in a parking lot/road/garage. Gas and petroleum products will silently eat through your rope!