Essential Rock Climbing Skills

Before You Climb, Learn the Basics of Climbing Safely

female rock climber scaling a rock face
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Climbing is a skill-based activity. Before you climb your first rock face, it's essential that you learn some of the basics.

Skills, like belaying, rappelling, and setting anchors, mean that you and your climbing partner can have a safe experience. Likewise, learning finger grips and practicing how your entire body moves in sync will help you climb faster and have more fun while doing so.

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Basic Techniques and Styles of Rock Climbing

Face climbing is moving up a cliff face using your hands and feet on the rock. It can be done on slabs, vertical faces, or overhanging walls

Climbers use a variety of techniques to climb different surfaces. These include six basic finger grips and learning how to move both hands and feet together to make the climb more effective.

Over the years, rock climbing has developed into three main disciplines. There is, of course, traditional climbing, but as your skills advance, you might also be interested in sport climbing or bouldering.

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The Art of Jamming Cracks

Climbers climb cracks, which are natural weaknesses in cliffs. This is done by "jamming," or wedging, their hands, fingers, bodies, and feet in the cracks.

While jamming can be done with any body part, the most secure and easiest to learn is hand jamming. As you learn it, you will also discover that there is a rhythm to the motion, which will help keep your movements fluid and efficient.

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Belaying Is Critical for Safety

Belaying is an essential climbing skill that you need to know to in order to become a competent and safe climber. It is the technique you will use to hold the climbing rope for another climber.

Every time you go climbing, both your partner and yourself rely on each other to give a safe and secure belay to mitigate the effects of falling. It is a skill that you can ​practice and perfect in the gym, which is a good idea for beginners before you try to tackle real rocks.

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Learn to Rappel From Cliffs

Climbing is about going up the rock and rappelling is the easiest way to get down one. It is a controlled descent that uses specialized equipment to ensure you make it down safely.

There are a number of things you need to know before your first attempt at rappelling. For example, you'll want to understand how to set anchors, how to tie strong knots, and how to brake. Practicing these skills and learning from a trained climber will make the experience better.

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Relying on Your Climbing Anchors

In most types of climbing, you will use a rope as a safety line and that rope will be anchored to keep it in place. The anchors are your most important safety device and it is crucial that you know how to properly set them.

When it comes to anchors, climbers have five basic rules. Most important among them is to know how to choose a good anchor site and to never trust a single anchor. ​If your first anchor fails, you'll have a backup to keep you from falling.

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What Is Top Rope Climbing?

The easiest and safest way for anyone to climb rocks is to do what is known as top rope climbing. This is perfect for beginners because you have a safety rope attached to you at all times.

Top roping means that the climbing rope is anchored at the top of the rock face. You're attached to it with a harness and if you do fall, the safety mechanisms typically stop you within a few feet.

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Learn the Language of Climbing

Climbing voice commands are basic verbal directions that climbers use to communicate with each other when they're climbing. By learning the basic commands, you can keep yourself and everyone in your party safe.

For instance, "On belay" means that you have your partner safely on belay. Other phrases like "Watch me!" and "Falling!" are critical to use and all of these will ensure that everyone can "Climb on!"