I took my parents’ advice and decided to go play outside!
I’ll never forget my first trip to Boven. If unpreparedness had a poster boy, it was me. Green around the ears, callus free, and gearing up for the walk into the crag, I had my trusty Tosca laptop bag that was bursting at the seams with all the gear stuffed into it, a rope that was shoved very untidily into a small red Puma backpack that carried me through high school, a pair of steel toe-cap safety boots that I used for my everyday job, and a trademark pair of blood red joggers. Of course, I remembered to pack the harness, the chalk bag, and the shoes – which, I might add, were bought second hand and were 2 sizes too small. But the rest of me? The rest of me screamed noob from top to steel-capped toe!
Imagine trying to hammer a nail in with a screwdriver. For your next gravity-defying adventure, you’ll need the right tools for the job. Check out the list of gear you need to make sure you get to the top AND look good doing it.
Outdoor sport climbing involves a dance of elegant (or a bunch of awkward, grunt-filled) karate moves to get to the top. If the karate doesn’t work out, and you fall, you’ll definitely want something catching you – naturally your belayer does that for you, but you’ll need something to help them out in doing this.
Let’s take a look at the system that does this:
When it comes to rope, size really does matter. This intricately woven bundle of nylon is meant to hold massive falls and carry on doing so for as long as possible. Starting out, I would recommend something with some good girth. Anywhere between 9.5mm and 10mm is great for a first rope. A diameter in the high 9’s is the perfect workhorse rope for projects and can take a bunch of falls before chopping or retiring it becomes an issue.
Another consideration is length. The classic question of “How long is a piece of string?” springs to mind. The length of the rope is all determined by what you’re climbing. Just remember, your rope should be just longer than double the length of your climb. Most route guides will also tell you what length of rope is recommended for the area you’re climbing in. Longer is always better, but 60m will get you up almost everything in the country. Barefoot Ben Bru has more advice on your next, or first rope purchase.
Now, a responsible climber always climbs with protection. Sport climbing routes are protected by hangers that are permanently bolted or glued into the rock. Couple these with some quickdraws and you have yourself some bomb-proof protection.
The crux of the matter comes in when trying to decide how many draws you’ll need. Trust me when I say, you DO NOT want to be downclimbing to retrieve more draws that have already been placed and then undertaking monumental lead-outs to the next bolt. ALWAYS check the route guide. They’re usually quite informative about the number of draws that you’ll need for the send. A good rack usually has about 10 to 14 quickdraws and will cover you for most climbing areas in the country.
If you’re on the unsure about how to get your rack started, Gear Guru Richard has a blog all about it!
I’ve found that choosing a belay device all comes down to personal preference. You might want one for different applications. Me personally, I have 2 devices: the tried and tested Petzl Gri-Gri for sport and the innovative DMM Pivot for trad and abseiling. Pair one of these will a good belay `biner and you’re sorted. You’ll want something like this to prevent cross-loading while belaying – not absolutely necessary but definitely a quality-of-life improvement.
Young Chris has a breakdown on some of the cream-of-the-crop belay devices. All of which can be found at your favourite online gear store!
When I first heard that climbing with a helmet was necessary, I was disgusted. I look like a tool with a helmet. Most of climbing is about looking good, but to keep on looking good, you have to stay alive by protecting your pip. Even the smallest pebble dropped from a dizzying height is enough to do some permanent damage. Luckily for me, helmet manufacturers are making some of the slickest looking brain buckets around! I won’t lie to you, climbing in a helmet is cumbersome, so the best helmet is one that feels like it isn’t even there. Some of the more lightweight options will make sure this effect is achieved. Your head is heavy enough, you don’t need a helmet adding to that, so check out the Black Diamond Vision or even the Petzl Sirocco to save on some weight.
And no, I don’t mean a broom. To make sure you’re not leaving your beloved draws in Boven, you’ll need to somehow remove yourself from your climbing system, put yourself back in and lower off the route while you collect your gear, all while being as safe as possible. To do this you need at least 2 slings and 2 carabiners to safely connect yourself to the anchors up top. I would recommend 60cm nylon slings for their durability and stretch and the 2 smallest (but rated) locking carabiners you can find.
And there you have it, playing outside is the best thing since sliced cheese and my parents were right! I’ve got all the gear I need, and I no longer look like a gumby. The last thing I need is somewhere other than my red high school Puma pack, which has nowhere near enough space for all this! You head over to MMO or down to your favourite gear shop to get kitted. In the meantime, I’m going to seek some sage advice from Harry to find out what pack I need.
Stay safe, stay strong, and see you guys in the crag!