Estimated reading time: 5-6 minutes
So you’ve decided to start rock climbing, eh? Good idea. It’s a great exercise, fun to do with friends, and can give you a sense of accomplishment when you hit the top. But instead of paying around a million dollars for all that new gear, try buying it second-hand from KSL Classifieds. Many members of Utah’s pro-rock climbing community started out with used gear, so you too, right? Yes, as long as you know what you are buying.
Mandatory Disclaimer: Climbing is inherently risky. It is up to you to educate yourself on the proper climbing equipment and techniques to ensure your safety and that of other climbers.
Escalation 101: the beta
First of all, decide what kind of climbing you want to do. Most beginners start with bouldering or top-roping. Bouldering involves climbing short sections, usually a boulder, without a rope. It requires less material (no ropes or harnesses) and is ideal if you have vertigo. Top-roping involves climbing with a rope attached to a climber then threaded through a bolt at the top of a track, then up to a person holding the rope or a belayer. Top-roping is all about rappelling or descending with the rope, which is probably the most fun part of climbing.
Are you wondering where to start? Make your life easier and start with indoor rock climbing in a gym. Take a class and learn the basics like figure-eight knots and belaying your partner. You won’t have to worry about environmental issues like the weather or rockfall and the padded floor makes the landing softer on the joints. Outdoor rock climbing is great too, but there is more to worry about. But hey. You do you.
You will need the essential equipment: a helmet, a harness, climbing shoes, a crash pad (for bouldering), a rope, a belayer, carabiners. And friends you trust with your life.
Yes, you should wear one. Boulders fall, boulders fall sideways, you fall into a boulder, a boulder falls into you (just ask Gavin), or someone drops equipment on your head. Wear a climbing helmet! When buying used, look for an expiration date. Ask the previous owner if he suffered any falls or knocks. If so, you might want to keep looking. Once the foam on a helmet has been compressed or cracked, it will not protect your head as it should. A helmet that has had a serious impact should be discarded.
The type of harness you want will depend on the type of climbing you do, but for the beginner, comfort is key. You will be hooked to this harness all day long, so find one with leg and waist padding. Buying a used harness can be risky. The buckles must be in perfect condition, without notches or deformations. The harness webbing is usually made of nylon which will degrade in the sun. Check for any discoloration, fraying or tearing and check the date of manufacture. Most soft climbing gear has a lifespan of 10 years and anything older should be removed. Once you have a harness, store it according to the manufacturer’s recommendations to keep it strong and secure.
Like the harness, the type of climbing you do will determine the length and thickness of rope you need. Be very careful when buying a used rope. Any discoloration, fraying, inconsistency or encrusted dirt are of concern. The seller must disclose if the rope has suffered serious falls or other trauma. Also purchase a rope bag to protect this expensive item from water, dirt, and sun.
Shoes are a great second-hand buy. Be sure to try them on as fit is very important. Shoes with a lower toe or curved sole will generally be intended for aggressive climbing (read: advanced). A “neutral” shoe is best for beginners as they are more comfortable to wear all day. You want the fit to be snug, but not painful. Any pinching around the heel should be avoided. Just say no to wrinkled toe knuckles. Look for a sole that is flat or most similar to a regular shoe and not a torture device.
Carabiners and belay devices
Carabiners are those metal buckles that have hinged doors. They are connectors, like a link in a chain. Their versatility means you should pick up a few as they are nice to have on hand. You will need at least one locking carabiner to secure. You can buy used carabiners, but inspect them first to make sure the doors are working well and that there are no visible grooves or cracks. Check with the manufacturer to make sure they haven’t been recalled. Ditto with belay devices.
Are your hands sometimes sweaty and you can’t grab anything? Get a used chalk bag. Chalk is magnesium carbonate that climbers use to absorb sweat on their hands so they can grab a hold. Chalk bags can be attached to a hardware loop on your harness for easy wall access. Note that some outdoor routes require that you have rock-colored chalk for rock preservation and that you follow the ‘leave no trace’ principles.
A crash pad is a foam mat that is placed under a block to cushion its fall. Buying a used carpet is great as long as the foam compresses and shrinks. Try folding it up and testing the backpack straps to determine if you will be able to carry it comfortably. Sweaty climbers have ridden on it, but that’s just one of the benefits of buying second-hand.
Come up, my friend. This was your first step towards the free Mount Timpanogos solo. Once you get the hang of it, you can try sport climbing, artificial climbing, and ice climbing. Find all your climbing, outdoor equipment and more on KSL Classifieds.