Get High: Intro to Climbing

Get High: Intro to Climbing

Climbing header

Want a rocking good time? Gear up and learn the basics of rock climbing for fitness and for fun.

By Jay Cordes

Coming from New Jersey, the state that most people consider the industrialized armpit of America, I wasn't afforded a lot of opportunity for outdoor recreation. My experience as a cub scout didn't peak my interests either (I dropped out). Therefore like any other suburban kid I played a number of sports and then finally settled on soccer as my specialization. I played year round and it fueled my competitive drive.With that being said as I've grown older I have come to a few conclusions. The first, I cannot compete at the same athletic level as I could before. And second Nature is awesome.

Enter Rock Climbing.

The only opponent you face in rock climbing is yourself. There isn't a younger, faster, stronger person chasing you up the wall. That kind of stuff only happens in American Gladiators.

Rock climbing is an exercise in technique and determination. In addition to feeling an adrenaline rush as you climb a steep 60 foot face you find that muscles that you can't train in the gym start to stand out. Your forearms, shoulders, and back will all be shredded.


The Basics

There are few basics before you run out and get on the wall.

  1. Find a friend who knows what they are doing and tag along.

  2. Buy a how to book. Amazon offers a lot of How to books. You can even localize it to your nearest “cragging” area.

  3. Learn how to tie into a harness to climb. Most harnesses these days have a 2 loop protection that you need to tie into. To tie into a belay create a simple figure eight knot, run the rope through your belay loop, and then retrace your knot. Lastly, tie a simple overhand knot as a stopper with the excess.

  4. Learn the Lingo: Before you start to scamper up the wall you need to know the basic commands while climbing.

Before you climb:
Climber: “On belay.”
Belayer (person holding the rope): “Belay is on.
Climber: “Climbing.”
Belayer: “Climb Away.”

When you want to come down:
Climber: “Take?”
Belayer: “On me.”

climbing gear


Once you have been out a few times with your buddies you may want to start investing in your own gear.


Harnesses are your number one source of protection. Newer harnesses are made of ballistic strength nylon webbing. They are reinforced and actually pretty comfortable for all day climbing trips.

Black Diamond makes an excellent package in which you get a harness, belay device, karabiner and a chalk bag for around $100.


Climbing shoes are extremely important to your climbing ability. They are made with extremely sticky rubber that helps you hold on to the rock. Most people downsize a half or whole size from their street shoe to obtain more precise footwork. The top brands all offer their own distinct rubber formulas and there are both Velcro and lace up closure systems.

I started with the Evolv Defy shoe for around $80 and upgraded to the 5.10 Galileo $130


Rope is easily the most expensive item of gear you need to climb. Top roping requires at least a 10.0 millimeter diameter rope. Like all other gear there are many different kinds of rope. A dynamic rope (meaning it stretches when force is applied…like falling) is your best bet. This is the one I use.

Climbing is inherently dangerous and in no way does this article fully prepare you to do it

Do you rock climb for fitness or recreation? How did you start?