Climbing is one of America’s fastest growing sports. With new gyms popping up every day, it’s important to help future climbers find their place in the community. Here at The North Face, we’ve culled together a quick guide that addresses the most important question of a climber’s life: Who Am I?
Take a moment to consider the information in this guide and we’ll have you sorted out, no sweat. Let’s get started!
Statistically, a lot of you are going to be boulderers. The minimal gear makes this the most accessible form of climbing—a pair of shoes and some chalk are all you need to get going.
At its heart, bouldering is all about finding the hardest way up a chossy little nugget that was once attached to a real mountain. Because the goal is trying very hard for a very short time it’s fair to think of bouldering like sprinting—but without the cardio. If you’re into things like getting yolked, pantomiming, resting, and overtraining then you’re most likely a boulderer.
If getting yolked and training piqued your interest but you’d prefer to climb higher than 15ft off the ground then you might be in the right place. Sport climbing—often called ‘leading’ in the gym, but that can be, well, misleading—relies on quickdraws (those hook things) to keep you from falling to your doom.
It’s cool because instead of climbing to the top of a cliff, you stop at an arbitrary point and lower off. Why stop before the top, you ask? Because this is climbing, not hiking. Try to keep up. Plus, you might get into the Olympics. So, there’s that.
If you’re under the age of 50, probably not. But hey, you’re here so let’s just make sure. Trad(itional) climbing is what a lot of people who don’t climb think all climbing is because they’ve seen Cliffhanger. Generally, it’s defined by the use of passive protection—stuff you jam in cracks to secure the rope and take out when you’re done—rather than bolts.
Those cracks will be where you spend a lot of your time, jamming your hands, feet, legs, arms—literally whatever—into constrictions and hanging the entirety of your mass from them. It hurts, sure, but your shoes will be pretty comfy.
That’s it—simple, huh? All that’s left now is to strut into your local gym tomorrow and proudly take your place amongst your new tribe—trad climbers, check the saunas for yours. Introduce yourself and then start watching and listening.
No class, book, or magazine will ever teach you more about being a better climber than a better climber can. It’s called mentorship and it’s worked for centuries. Get into it!
Oh, and one more thing. This is important. Whether you’re a pebble wrestler, rope weenie, or geriatric/old-soul, do not get suckered into Alpinism. Inevitably, you’re going to see Meru and think ‘That’s what I want to do!’ But the thing is, it’s much too cold. You’ve been warned.