Gym Climbing to Real Rock, or, Why You Need to Go Outside Now

The transition from the padded, temperate, climbing gym to the great outdoors can be a difficult process. I should know; it took me three years before I ever ventured beyond my favorite gym, and even then my motivations were largely (entirely) social. This first outing, however, got me so hooked that I have made fairly major life choices to create opportunities to climb outside.

It looks a little different outside. Photo: Rainbow Weinstock

Climbing on real rock is challenging, physically and logistically, and you may find yourself confronted with a few questions that never have to be asked in a gym. You need to find your own sequence (where’s all the tape?), you need to have a better understanding of the gear that you are using (how do we get the rope up there?), and you need to be confident in your ability to protect yourself (what are all these jangly things for?). These are all hurdles that can be easily overcome, and, once you do, you will have access to a lifetime of adventures. Here are a few common mistakes that you can avoid to become a competent outdoor climber.

The 3 Worst Excuses to Not Climb Outdoors

Just another day at Lumpy Ridge.

1. I’ll try climbing outside once I’m a better climber inside.
This is like saying, “I’ll try building a wall once I get better at Tetris.” I’m always surprised at how many intelligent people I hear use this one.  Furthermore, the best moderate climbs are all outside.

2. I don’t have the time.
Eldorado Canyon is only 20 minutes away from downtown Boulder. The Flatirons, if you haven’t already noticed, are in Boulder. There are tons of nearby crags in breathtaking settings that offer high quality classic routes. People travel from all over the world to experience these places, and we are lucky enough to have them in our backyard. Take advantage of it.

3. Climbing outside is more dangerous.
Only if you don’t know what you’re doing. Pushing yourself in a relatively uncontrolled environment can feel scary! But anytime that I get scared, I can tell myself that I’ve learned from some of the best in the business. If and when I fall, I will have already protected myself, and I will have done it well.

oopsie. Photo: Stephen Freas
Unscathed and ready to fall again. Photo: Stephen Freas

This leads me to what I see as the one legitimate reason to avoid climbing on real rock:

 I don’t have the skills to climb outside safely.

Climbing outside requires a lot of knowledge that you won’t get if you stay in the gym. Before you attempt new technical climbing skills, it’s imperative that you know how to perform them safely.  Learning from seasoned climbers and good teachers has given me the necessary confidence to have fun and keep myself safe.  Whether you’re looking to get outside for the first time or are looking to expand your rock skills, you will benefit from taking CMS courses like I did.

Working with an experienced teacher who  not only knows what they’re doing, but why they’re doing it, has been invaluable to me.  Our guides can turn their voodoo-magic rock tricks into something I can understand and repeat. It’s empowering to know that you are a competent, independent climber.  This knowledge will open up previously inaccessible experiences to you, and set you up for success in all your climbing adventures.


Related Courses:

Intro to Rock Climbing

Learn to Lead Sport

Learn to Lead Trad

Anchor Clinic

Rock Climbing Development Series: Beginner

Rock Climbing Development Series: Intermediate