So you've decided to start rock climbing, huh? Good idea. It's great exercise, fun to do with friends and can give you a sense of accomplishment when you tap the top. But instead of paying approximately one million dollars for all that new equipment, try buying it used from KSL Classifieds. Lots of Utah's pro-climbing community started out on secondhand gear so you can too, right? Yes, as long as you know what you're buying.
Obligatory disclaimer: Climbing is inherently risky. It's up to you to educate yourself on the proper gear and climbing techniques to keep you and other climbers safe.
Climbing 101: the beta
First things first, decide what kind of climbing you want to do. Most beginners start out with bouldering or top-roping. Bouldering is climbing short sections, usually a boulder, without a rope. It requires less gear (no ropes or harnesses) and is great if you're afraid of heights. Top-roping is climbing with a rope tied to a climber then threaded through a bolt at the top of a route, then down to a person holding the rope, or belayer. Top-roping involves rappelling, or descending with the rope, which is possibly the most fun part of climbing.
Wondering where to begin? Make it easy on yourself and start with indoor rock climbing at a gym. Take a class and learn the basics like figure-eight knots and belaying your partner. You won't have to worry about environmental concerns like weather or falling rocks and the padded ground makes landing softer on the joints. Outdoor climbing is great too, but there are more things to worry about. But hey. You do you.
You'll need the gear essentials: a helmet, harness, climbing shoes, crash pad (for bouldering), rope, belay device, carabiners. And some buddies that you trust with your life.
Yep, you should wear one. Rocks fall down, rocks fall sideways, you fall into a rock, a rock falls into you (just ask Gavin), or somebody drops a piece of equipment on your head. Wear a climbing helmet! When buying used, look for an expiration date. Ask the previous owner if it has had any falls or hits. If yes, you might want to keep looking. Once the foam in a helmet has been compressed or cracked, it won't protect your head like it should. A helmet that has had a serious impact should be tossed out.
The type of harness you want will depend on the type of climbing you are doing, but for the beginner comfort is key. You'll be hanging in that harness all day so find one with padding in the legs and waistband. Buying a secondhand harness can be risky. Buckles should be in perfect shape with no notches or warping. Harness webbing is usually made of nylon which will degrade in the sun. Look for any fading, frays or tears, and check the manufacture date. Most soft climbing goods have a 10-year lifespan and anything older should be retired. Once you have a harness, store it according to the manufacturer recommendations to keep it safe and strong.
Like the harness, the type of climbing you do will determine the rope length and thickness that you need. Be very careful when buying a used rope. Any fading, fraying, inconsistencies or embedded dirt are cause for concern. The seller should divulge if the rope has had any severe falls or other trauma. Buy a rope bag as well to protect this expensive item from water, dirt and sunlight.
Shoes are a great secondhand purchase. Be sure you try them on as fit is very important. Shoes with a more downturned toe or curved sole will generally be for aggressive (read: advanced) climbing. A "neutral" shoe is better for beginners as they are more comfortable to wear all day. You want the fit to be snug, but not painful. Any pinching around the heel should be avoided. Just say no to scrunched toe knuckles. Look for a flat sole or one that looks the most like a regular shoe and not a torture device.
Carabiners and belay devices
Carabiners are those metal loops that have hinged gates on them. They are connectors, like a link in a chain. Their versatility means you should grab a few because they're nice to have on hand. You will need at least one locking carabiner in order to belay. You can buy carabiners used, but inspect them first to make sure the gates are working smoothly and there are no visible grooves or cracks. Check with the manufacturer to make sure they have not been recalled. Same with belay devices.
Do your hands ever get sweaty and you can't grab onto anything? Get a used chalk bag. Chalk is magnesium carbonate that climbers use to absorb sweat on their hands so they can grip a handhold. Chalk bags can be clipped to a gear loop on your harness for easy access on the wall. Note that some outdoor routes require you to have rock-colored chalk for rock preservation and to follow "leave no trace" principles.
A crash pad is a foam mat that is placed under a boulderer to cushion their fall. Buying a used mat is great as long as the foam still compresses and springs back. Try folding it up and testing out the backpack straps to determine if you will be able to carry it comfortably. Sweaty climbers have rolled around on it, but that's just one of the perks of buying used.
Climb on, friend. This was your first baby step to free soloing Mount Timpanogos. Once you get the hang of it you can try sport climbing, aid climbing and ice climbing. Find all your climbing gear, outdoor gear and more on KSL Classifieds.