The Future of Climbing in a COVID-19 World
What a crazy moment. For several weeks, I didn't even think about writing about climbing. In fact, the first week of lockdown I had a good laugh at all that home workout flooding the internet and it was like, whoa people, let's just step back and relax, this isn't going away anytime soon. People thought […]

What a crazy moment. For several weeks, I didn't even think about writing about climbing. In fact, the first week of lockdown I had a good laugh at all that home workout flooding the internet and it was like, whoa people, let's just step back and relax, this isn't going away anytime soon. People thought they would send their project in April after this thing had passed very quickly. Or not.

Now that we've settled in, each day brings a slightly clearer picture of what the future holds. And as some of those restrictions are relaxed, "normal" life begins to creep in again. At least until the next big wave and we all have to hide back home again. Who knows?

But if we can continue to slowly tone down this thing and the economy doesn't collapse into some sort of Mad Max-type dystopia, here are some predictions on how this pandemic could turn the escalation this year and beyond. .

TR solo with a buddy becomes the new normal

The other day a friend invited me to solo rope with him. Maybe this is the new normal? I always choose not to climb, but it made me laugh to think of the two of us driving separately towards the cliff, setting up our own TR solos, and climbing close to each other, but not with each other. 'other. I think most people agree that the real issue with rock climbing right now is not the unlikely scenario of catching the virus in the holds, but from your partner and the people you are with. With TR solo we could all be alone together! (But not too many of us!)

A bunch of new rocks will be developed

Locked and loaded, who wants new roads?

I imagine that many road developers will take the opportunity to explore rocks that they have always wondered about or never took the time to. (Kind of like how I feel about the long overdue redesign of this website). It doesn't get more socially distant than hanging from a rope on a cliff that no one knows anything about. With that will come a host of pandemic-themed road names, so you can expect to be able to climb a “flattening the curve” and “social distancing” in every state with rock from now on.

Dark rocks will become popular

Somewhere near Redstone, CO…

I can't even fathom what climbing in Rifle will be like this summer, it seems so unlikely that people will actually abide by the rules of social distancing. "My project is more important than your health, my brother." So, for those who don't want to risk exposure to asymptomatic wearers breathing heavily all over Ruckman Cave, the best option is to research the dark. In fact, last weekend I was on a hike and saw people climbing a cliff that I hiked hundreds of times and never saw anyone. 2020 will be the year of the dark! (Unless everyone else is doing it, then Rifle might be safer.)

Home walls continue to grow in popularity

If you have tried to buy a hanging sign Over the past month or so, you know they're hitting the shelves, and that trend is likely to continue. Gyms are cool, but nothing beats the convenience of being able to get strong at home, and as more people get interested in them, we'll likely see an increase in this type of workout. What will be interesting to see is what percentage of people will continue to use theirs for more than a few months. Like any new shiny toy, the chandelier tends to fade when you realize you're the one who has to reset the wall whenever you want new items to climb.

It turned out that all we had to do was hang small edges after all

The new Metolius Prime Rib has been my lockdown training companion. Note the sophisticated adaptation of the hangboard to a pull-up bar.

It will be quite funny when a group of climbers come out of this route and smash anything in sight once they get back on the rocks. While mega-gyms are super fun, they're not very effective at building strength, unlike hanging small edges at home. There is a ton of good information out there on home training, and those of you who don't get injured will likely hit new levels of grinding.

Gyms will see their profitability drop

New guidelines could reduce the number of routes in this photo from 1/2 to 2/3. Yikes.

Much like thinking of Rifle, it's hard to imagine climbing gyms are what they once were. We have a long way to go to see what the future will look like, but some groups have been trying to figure out what might work to reopen them. You can read it yourself here, but fewer climbs, limited hours, and mandatory masks will likely reduce traffic to the climbing rooms. And since everyone will now have their own walls, hanging boards, etc., they might find that they don't even need the gyms after all (except it's nice to see friends, that would be. well ...)

This thing is such a moving target, who knows what's really going to happen. Maybe the economy is completely collapsing and we are starting to strip cliffs of bolts and sell them. Perhaps this is the start of our descent into post-apocalyptic madness, in which case the people who buy all the guns and booze might have a leg up on the rest of us. Or maybe we find a magic cure (not Lysol) and a vaccine arrives sooner than expected.

Only time will tell, but please everyone continue to be safe and doing your part to help contain this thing. Better days are ahead.


Rock climbing is everywhere these days. From the Dawn Wall to your Instagram feed to the new gym going up in town, climbing is no longer the fringe sport it once was. Kids are starting to climb almost before they can walk, and now more than ever, there’s no reason for you not to give it a try as well. However, climbing can be one of those intimidating hobbies to begin. Many ask, “How do I get started ? ” citing fear and feeling overwhelmed with gear and safety as huge barriers to entry. We get it, and so what follows is everything you need to know to get out on the rock'n'roll.

The term “rock climbing” encompasses a great number of techniques, from bouldering to big wall climbing, to mountain climbing and mountaineering. Before you begin, it might be important to first identify what style of climbing you are interested in, or perhaps to ask, “Why do I want to climb ? ” Do you want to summit peaks, boulder at your local gym, or perhaps learn to lead climb at the local crag ? Do you want to make friends, be outdoors, or get in shape ( or all three ) ? Once these questions are answered, you can work out the potential steps you’ll need to take to get there. Below ( in the Sport vs. trad vs. bouldering section ) we attempt to inform this decision by breaking down the various genres of climbing; each has its own specific culture, gear, and learning curve.

Climbing is a complex sport : it’s potentially expensive to get into, difficult to find mentors, and can be dangerous if not done correctly. With the evolution of climbing gyms, however, it’s easier than ever to give climbing a try : just grab a friend and head to the nearest gym, rent a pair of shoes and a harness, and jump on the bouldering wall. However, if and when your progression leads you to climbing on ropes and outside, technical skills become essential to safety. Many choose to learn from friends; however, safety is so important that we recommend enrolling in a formal chic. The easiest and best way to learn the essential skills, which include belaying and tying proper knots, is by taking an introductory course at your local gym. Or, if you’re interested in climbing outside or even more specifically climbing in the mountains, seek out a class either through your gym or a local guide.

The first indoor climbing gym opened in Seattle in 1987. Now just 30 years later, there are 430 gyms across the nation, with over 50 more in construction at the time of writing. Areas like the Denver metropolis have as many as 10 gyms, all stuffed to capacity each day. Whereas climbers used to be a tiny community of mostly adult men with access to the wilderness, the climbing gym revolution has brought climbing to the masses. It’s safe to say that more people now climb indoors than outdoors. The climbing gym has developed its own culture, and climbing inside - “pulling on plastic, ” as climbers often say - is vastly different from climbing outdoors. It is arguably safer, much more convenient to access, and far more social; for these reasons, the gym is an super place to begin climbing. Gym passes cost anywhere from $6 to $30/day, with monthly memberships being the best option for those who go regularly. Outdoor climbing takes place on boulders, on cliff bands, and in mountains - anywhere where there is solid rock'n'roll, climbers can be found. Some of the most popular types of rock to climb include granite, sandstone, limestone, basalt, and conglomerate blends. Each of these kinds of rock'n'roll has its own style of climbing, from overhanging jugs much like gym climbs, to technical slabs, to splitter cracks. Climbing outdoors demands a higher level of expertise than climbing in the gym, as there are more variables and dangers on real rock. Weather can be a factor, as well as rock fall. Climbers will also need to possess a great deal more gear to climb outside, including their own rope and harness, quickdraws or other protection, a personal anchor and locking carabiner, and a helmet. Although many climbers begin in the gym, some learn to climb immediately outside, most commonly with the help of a guide or an instructional course.

Rock climbing is generally broken down into three categories : sport climbing, traditional ( trad ) climbing, and bouldering. Climbers tend to specialize in or prefer one discipline over the others, though many climbers participate in all three. Sport climbing is a style of climbing where the leader attaches quickdraws to pre-existing bolts, looping the rope through the quickdraws for protection while ascending the cliff. Sport climbs are often one-pitch climbs where the leader then comes back to the ground after fixing the rope to the anchor, though in some cases these climbs might continue up larger faces for multiple pitches. As a discipline, sport climbing focuses on difficult movement, endurance, learning to face fears, and risking a fall ( and being caught by the rope, évidemment ! ). Trad climbing is the most rootsy and historical form of climbing, in which the leader climbs weaknesses in the rock ( generally, cracks ) and places gear in these weaknesses that will hold the rope in the case of a fall. Although trad climbs can be single-pitch routes like the majority of sport climbs, they often ascend features that are more than one rope length and end at a summit ( these are called “multi-pitch climbs” ). Trad climbers generally love long and adventurous days of climbing in wilderness areas, focusing on movement, logistics, technical rope and gear skills, and partnership. Bouldering is perhaps the most modern form of climbing, and certainly the fastest-growing. Boulderers ascend boulders or short cliffs ( generally 20 feet and under ), using pads and spotters at the base for protection instead of ropes. Bouldering is a form of climbing that focuses on difficult movement and problem solving, and is more social than the other disciplines. We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention a few other forms of climbing : aid climbing, alpine rock'n'roll climbing, speed climbing, and deep water soloing. Pick your poison ( or shall we say passion ) : each has its own set of joys and challenges !

One of the first things you’ll learn when starting to climb is how to choose a route that suits your ability level. In the gym, climbs generally are labeled with a difficulty rating; outside, climbers use guidebooks and often a phone application called Mountain Project to identify the difficulty of climbs. In the U. S., climbs are rated using the Yosemite Decimal System; in short, 5. 3 is a very beginner climb, and 5. 15 is an expert-level route. These ratings do not denote danger, only difficulty. As a beginner, you’ll most likely be choosing routes 5. 7 and under, and often routes that can be top-roped. Top-roping means that the climber establishes an anchor from the top of the climb so that the rope is already in place, rather than leading the route from the bottom. Many routes in the gym are set up with top ropes; outside, climbers can often hike to the top of the cliff or feature to drop a rope down over the climb.

Each discipline of climbing necessitates a different set of gear. For all variétés of climbing, however, a beginner will need a pair of climbing shoes. For just starting out in the sport, we recommend finding a comfortable pair of climbing shoes ( don’t be persuaded by the salesperson at your local gear shop to purchase painfully tight shoes ). Delicate footwork will come later in your climbing career; for now you will just be developing an ability to stand on your feet and trust the rubber of your new shoes. All climbers will generally want to carry a chalk bag and chalk as well, which they will either wear around their waist or keep on the ground ( sometimes the case while bouldering ). Climbers dip their hands into chalk to dry off sweat and keep them from slipping off the rock. Boulderers will need the above two pieces of gear, in addition to a bouldering pad ( and friends with bouldering pads ! ). Bouldering pads are placed in the fall zone of a boulder problem, and the more the merrier ( and safer ! ). tera climb on ropes both in a gym or outside, climbers will need a climbing harness. Climbing harnesses come in a range of weights and specifications - some for sport climbing in particular, some with larger gear loops or more padding for trad climbing. Harnesses need to be replaced every few years for safety reasons, so we again recommend purchasing an affordable harness and replacing it when you have a better understanding of your needs. Along with a climbing harness, it is essential to own a belay device and locking carabiner. This equipment will enable you to belay your partner in the gym or outside, and rappel if needed. If climbing outside, a helmet is extremely important in case of rock'n'roll fall. The above-mentioned gear provides the basics for personal gear needed for a day of climbing or bouldering, either in the gym or with an experienced and well-equipped partner. If you are looking to buy gear so that you can be fully self-sufficient ( and not need a partner or a group with shared gear ) you’ll want to also purchase a climbing-specific rope ( 60-70 meters, 9-10mm in diameter, dynamic ), a personal anchor ( PAC ) or daisy chain, extra locking carabiners, cams, nuts, quickdraws, and slings. It is extremely important to buy new gear or to know the history and age of the gear if acquiring used. Both soft materials and metals degrade over time and with wear and should be carefully assessed before using.

We wholeheartedly recommend taking a course taught by professionals before attempting to climb or belay on your own. Climbing is inherently dangerous, though when done correctly can be very safe. After all of the proper skills have been learned, it is still incredibly important to stay on top of safety at every moment. Before leaving the ground, or transitioning from climbing to lowering/rappelling, there are a number of safety checks that must be completed.

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