Rock Climbing Part 1 - Basic

These notes are intended to assist the beginner who has already gained some knowledge of climbing and is fully aware of its risks. They are brief and not designed to be comprehensive in any way.

Ultimately climbing is a dangerous sport and claims many casualties each year. One of the guiding principals of British climbing and mountaineering is that it is the individual climber is responsible for his or her own safety. If you can not accept this then this site and probably climbing in general is unlikely to suit you. May we refer you to this very interesting site instead!

If you are still determined to climb, the the BMC do a useful PDF called Climbing Outside (climbing_outside_booklet) which is free to download, and they also have have useful advice for younger climbers and Parents/Clubs in their Youth section.

Climbing Wall Kit

The advent of good quality climbing walls has meant it is possible to climb to a high technical standard with the minimum of gear. These notes are aimed at the beginner who intends progressing onto outside crags. You will need :

Climber at Penrith Climbing Wall where the quickdraws are in situ and all you need is a rope, harness,belay plate, rock shoes and chalk bag. (Photo: Ron Kenyon).
Harness 1
Rockshoes Pair
Belay Device – this can be a semi-locking single rope device if you only intend climbing on walls and bolted crags. 1
Screwgate Belay Karabiner for use with the belay device. 1
Chalkbag and a chalk ball to and waist cord to go with it. 1
Quickdraws Sufficient to get to the top of the wall. Typically this is four or five for a 10 - 12 metre wall, many walls are bigger and require more. Some have them already fixed in place and require none. It is worth carrying one extra in case you drop one
Rope 'Single' rope, double the height of the wall is the minimum but some walls have them fixed in place

Beginner's Seconding Kit

Beginners are well advised not to invest in leading gear initially until they have learnt to place gear by borrowing other people's and receiving instruction (either from friends or professionals). A rackful of nuts and camming devices can give a dangerous illusion of safety if it is not combined with sufficient knowhow on safe placements. In addition to the following :

Sally Baxendale seconding Needle Ridge, a classic Very Difficult on the the Napes, Great Gable
Harness 1
Rockshoes Pair
Belay Device – best to invest in a double rope device as even if you use single ropes to start with you will almost certainly move on to double ropes later. 1
Screwgate Belay Karabiner for use with the belay device 1
Chalkbag and chalk ball and a waist cord to go with it 1
The beginner seconding climbs will need …
Helmet 1
Gear Proddler and possibly a karabiner to hang it on 1 of each
Prussik Loops Set of 2
Screwgate Karabiners for belays and prusiking 2
Sling (120 cm long) for belays and prusiking 1

Beginner’s Leading Rack

As a basic leading rack for leading short pitches/routes* up to VS level, in addition to:

Kate Forrester on the Borrowdale ultra classic Troutdale Pinnacle (S). Martin Attwood and Martin Armitage on Appian Way (HS), Pillar Rock.
Belay Device
Screwgate Belay Karabiner for use with the belay device
Chalkbag and a chalk ball to and waist cord to go with it
Gear Proddler and possibly a karabiner to hang it on
Prussik Loops
Rope - a 50m single to start with, you can always pair it up with a half rope later
We would suggest the following as a suitable starting rack …
Wires - Set of Wild Country Rocks 1 - 10
Nuts - Sizes 5 - 8 Wild Country Rockcentrics on Dyneema tape or set of 4 DMM Torque Nuts
Quickdraws - Long (15 - 20cm) are better than short (10cm) as they do not tend to lift the gear out so easily. Short quick draws are more suited to bolt protected routes and climbing walls
Slings - For spikes, threads, extensions and tree belays. It is worth making sure all your slings are different colours as it makes untangling them much easier
Karabiners - For equipping slings and nuts etc. 'Krabs' come with straight, bent or wire gates. If you're not sure, straight are a safe choice
Screwgate Karabiners - For setting up belays with

Whilst we would recommend adding further wires and quickdraws first, there is always the possibility of buying some Camming Devices (Friends), as and when you can afford them.

*NB Most climbers operating regularly at this level would carry more gear than this. Please see Advanced Climbing Gear for further advice.

At Needle Sports we are always happy to advise - please bring in your rack and we will look through it and discuss your needs with you. Also check out what Andy Kirkpatrick has to say on the subject on his Website.

“Climb if you will, but remember that courage and strength are nought without prudence, and that a momentary negligence may destroy the happiness of a lifetime. Do nothing in haste; look well to each step; and from the beginning think what may be the end.”
- Edward Whymper

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