If you’ve been climbing regularly at an indoor rock climbing gym but feel ready to take it to the next level, there are several things you should know. Signing up for classes offered at your local gym is a great way to boost things such as your strength and skill but outdoor climbing differs vastly from plastic holds. The transition from indoor climbing to the great outdoors often requires an experienced and trusted guru.

A basic knowledge of gym climbing is a good prerequisite but not necessary. Many of the skills you can learn in an indoor gym are certainly transferable to the outdoor world (such as how to properly tie a figure eight knot, do safety checks, and learn climbing commands such as “on-belay” and “climb on”). But as you head outdoors, you will soon learn that there are more challenges to master.

A few tips!

– Whether toproping or leading outdoors, the experience will resemble your gym experience in certain ways, and differ in others. One huge difference is that climbing indoor routes that consist of plastic holds marked with tape do not translate the same way to outdoor rock climbing. Often, I have heard from climbers, “Is that foot on?” which gets a good chuckle out of me. It’s all on, baby! Climbing a route outdoors is not like following colored pieces of tape or holds in a gym. The entire wall is considered “on” unless otherwise noted in a guidebook.

– Many gym climbers who are successful in toproping or leading at a consistent 5.10 level in the gym are under a misconception that the same applies to outdoors. It does not. Gyms typically will not replicate outdoor climbs as far as level of difficulty go, and for good reason. If you walked into a gym for the first time and were not able to complete a beginner boulder problem, such as a V0, you would become frustrated and probably not be interested in buying a membership.

The truth is, there is a dramatic increase in difficulty when you climb outdoors. While it is fun and important to be pushing yourself physically, it’s just as important to remember to let go of your ego. When you drop a grade or two, it becomes easier to focus on learning the skills. Because you will be using unmarked, natural holds to get to the top, it is often recommended starting on lower difficulty level routes.

Climbing grades are also subjective.

– Read and follow The Climber’s Pact, a pledge developed by the Access Fund.

– And always, Leave No Trace. With the number of new gym climbers moving to outdoor climbing areas, it’s become more important than ever before to follow a code of conduct.

So, I’ve got the basics. Why hire a guide?

– A good instructor will help you to transition to outdoor climbing. Rock climbing outdoors can feel intimidating if it’s your first time and you might not know where to start. A highly trained guide will likely have the best knowledge of the climbing area and where to bring you to ensure that you have a safe and fun trip. Guides are usually familiar with the area as well as the terrain you will be climbing in, so as far as gear and location go, they will have you covered.

– When traveling to new climbing areas, sometimes hiring a guide can be a true time saver. Hiring a guide who is familiar with the climbing as well as the terrain means you will get the most out of your vacation time!

– Guiding companies should only be hiring competent and professional guides who are certified. Rock climbing is inherently dangerous and although the risk can never be completely eliminated, hiring a properly trained guide will certainly aid in minimizing it. It takes some of the pressure off of you when you know you will be in safe hands, but remember the following:

When researching a guiding company to hire, look for professional certification and accreditation. The Professional Climbing Guides Institute (PCGI), Professional Climbing Instructors Association (PCIA), and the American Mountain Guide Association (AMGA) are the major certifying bodies in the US.

Consider things such as years of experience, guiding credentials, and medical training requirements as well.

– Even if you are an experienced climber, systems and gear can change and memory fades over time. Hiring a guide for a day trip or taking a course with a professional instructor will refresh your memory as well as help build foundational skills.

– Guides love what they do. They choose this profession because they share the same passion for climbing and the outdoors that you have. Often, when a guide is not working, you can find them on their own adventures, climbing and perfecting their skill. Passion is not a thing you can teach but share with the world around you.

57hours’ vision is to get people into the outdoors that might not have considered what’s possible and to help those who are more experienced reach their climbing potential with some guided assistance. They are first and foremost members of the local climbing community, and their love of climbing is what drove them to create 57hours.

Visit the 57hours website and use discount code “fortheloveofclimbing” to receive 10% off of each booked class.

Disclosure: This article is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of 57hours, a group of climbers and outdoor adventurers based out of Brooklyn, NY. The opinions you have read are honest and my own.


*This website and its owner are not responsible in any way, shape, or form for anything that happens to you. This article was compiled by both opinions and information/research. Do not use this review on this website or any information contained herein unless you are a skilled and experienced climber who understands and accepts the risks of climbing. Rock climbing is inherently dangerous and you should always climb within your ability, after carefully judging the safety of the route and personal gear. Failure to follow these conditions may result in injury or death. If you choose to use any information on this website to plan, attempt, or climb a particular route, you do so at your own risk.
You are responsible for knowing and respecting your gear’s capabilities and limitations. Your safety is your own responsibility and no article or video can replace proper instruction and experience. If you choose to use any information on this website to plan, attempt, or climb a particular route, you do so at your own risk. If you choose to refer to a climbing guide based on the recommendations on this website, you do so at your own risk.

3 thoughts

  1. This is a very important article for any new climber to read. I wish I stumbled upon something like this a few years ago. It would have saved me a lot of time and grief.

    Thanks for sharing!

  2. Oh wow this is a very informative article thanks. Nice read! I developing interest in rock climbing and thinking of taking classes. I didn’t know how hard it was until I tried it too. Check out mine too. It was my first time ever! Commenting from Kenya. Happy holidays! 🎉

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