What You Need to Know When Transitioning From Amateur to More Experienced Climbs

All new climbers get the rock climbing bug. Your whole life becomes finding your next project, working through beta, and sending the route. After some time either in the gym or on smaller walls outdoors, it is inevitable that all climbers move from amateur routes to experienced climbs.

Whether the walls simply get taller, you take on a new form of climbing (like trad), or you decide you’re ready for a multi-pitch climb, you need to be prepared with the gear, skills, and knowledge required. The below considerations will help you prepare for transition, so you can safely send you to the next project.

Transitioning From Indoors To Outdoors

For those who start their climbing journey in a gym, they will eventually want to get outside. Before heading to the world’s most sought after climbing walls, an indoor climber needs to acquire a new set of skills and gear.

First and foremost, you must purchase a belay device. Some of the most common ones are the GriGri, ATC Pilot, and ATC. The first two are assisted braking devices, while the ATC itself does not have that feature.

Transitioning From Indoors To Outdoors

Once you know the device you will be using, you can determine the type of rope you want to buy. The width of the rope will be based on what can fit in your device. For the length, you need to consider the height of the route.

Typically, a 60 meter rope is good for those who are just getting into outdoor climbing. However, those who will be climbing 100 foot or more routes, a 70 meter rope will be required.

After getting the rope and device, you need to purchase quick draws. Most indoor climbers begin their outdoor climbing journey with sport climbing. You only need to put the quick draws on the bolts.

This is the basic gear required to transition outdoors. Once the gear is in hand, you need to learn how to use it all. Many gyms offer outdoor classes, which average about four hours long.

To confidently climb outdoors, you must know how to clip the quickdraws into the bolt, set up an anchor at the top, and clean the route.

Transitioning From Sport To Trad Climbing

Confident sport climbers will inevitably be allured by trad climbing. The perfect cracks in the wall cannot be clipped with sport gear. Any climber who wants to improve their climbing abilities and challenge themselves will transition to trad climbing at some point.

Many of the basics from sport climbing are part of trad climbing. You still have to use quick draws, set up anchors, and clean the route. However, an entire different rack of gear is required.

Transitioning From Sport To Trad Climbing

Cams, hexes, and nuts are the basic trad gear required to place protection devices into the cracks. They can fit in cracks as thin as a dime to as wide as your forearm. Once the protection is placed, a quickdraw is attached and you connect your rope to the quickdraw.

The anchors that are built for trad are entirely different from sport. You will need slings, which is another new piece of gear you must acquire before heading out to the crag. You must also learn how to check your anchor for SERENE-A:

  • Solid
  • Equalized
  • Redundant
  • Efficient
  • No Extension
  • Angles

Trad climbing also requires knowing a variety of knots. In addition to the typical figure 8 knot used to tie in, expect to become an expert in the clove hitch, bowline, butterfly, barrel, and many more.

Transitioning From Single Pitch To Multi-Pitch Climbing

After a few years of climbing a route and coming back down, climbers are ready to take on the next challenge: multi-pitch climbing. A single pitch climb involves two or more areas on the wall that start another section of the climb. The belyer will have either a solid spot to stand on or build an anchor into the wall.

Multi-pitch climbing can take anywhere from a few hours to a few days to complete, depending on the height. With multi-pitch climbing, the goal is to read the top of the mountain. Some mountains have three pitches while others can have 20 or more.

Single Pitch To Multi-Pitch Climbing

Both sport and trad routes are available for multi-pitch climbing. Typically, climbing partners will alternate who leads and who climbs up. Climber A leads the first pitch, climber B leads the second pitch, then climber A leads again and so on until they reach the top.

In addition to the sport or trad gear required to climb the route, many climbers bring headlamps, bivies, extra food rations, and jackets with them on the multi-pitch. For climbs that will last more than a day, many climbers bring a portaledge in order to sleep on the wall.

Transitioning From Bouldering To High Balling

For those who only prefer bouldering, there is still a major transition that can occur. A high ball boulder refers to a boulder that is over 15 feet high. Bouldering itself is already mentally taxing on some climbers.

With no protection, you have to trust you are going to land on your bouldering pad. It is always safest to boulder with at least one other climbing partner. They can direct your fall onto the pad, which decreases your chance of injury if you slip

Bouldering To High Balling

At 15 feet, the fall can feel much higher than it actually is. It takes a lot of metal concentration to climb a high ball.

Just because a high ball boulder starts at 15 feet doesn’t mean that they can’t be higher. Some highballs are nearly 40 feet!

With high ball bouldering, the last thing you want to do is fall. Even with a crash pad (or several), you are at risk of serious injury. You must be confident in your skills and stay mentally sharp as you send the problem.

Transitioning To Free Solo Climbing

Disclaimer: Free soloing is not a safe form of climbing! 

Now that we have the disclaimer out of the way, let’s discuss free solo climbing. This method of climbing is inherently dangerous because climbers must send an entire route. They cannot make a mistake.

Free solo climbing

Essentially, free solo is an incredibly long, pumpy (exhausting) boulder problem. Those who are confident with high ball bouldering often enjoy the adrenaline rush that comes with free solo climbing.

Free solo climbs are mostly attempted on multi-pitch routes. After all, you can’t be lowered because there is no harness or rope attached to you. In order to complete a free solo climb, you must top out at the end of the route.

If you haven’t already seen the movie Free Solo with Alex Honnold, you need to check it out the next time you have a few hours to spare. It follows his four hour climb up the nearly 30,000 foot face of El Cap in Yosemite National Park.

Ultimately, the choice to transition into free solo climbing is yours to make. Remember, any mistake can be costly. Many have been severely injured and even died attempting to free solo.

Takeaways

It’s normal for new climbers to want to transition to new types of climbing. Before doing so, consider the gear, skills, and knowledge that are required to do it yourself. The safest way to transition from any amateur climbs to more experienced ones is to speak with other climbers, watch YouTube videos, and take in-person training classes.

Calvin Rivers

Hey, I’m Calvin Rivers, a climbing veteran with 10+ years on crags and walls around the world. I can’t wait for you to explore our site and fall in love with the outdoors just like I have.

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