New to climbing nedd advice

My wife and I are wanting to get into rock climbing. But really aren't sure where to start. We have checked around for some local climbing gyms that offer various classes and we are thinking about taking them. What advice would you offer to some one looking to get into the sport?


Find a climbing mentor .

The usual progression is you boulder, then top-rope, then lead sport climb , then traditional lead climbing (placing your own gear) ...that's not set in stone (couldn't help it) , but that progression helps you understand basic movement on rock , your own strength and limitations, and basic safety like knots and rope management.

I'll repeat , find a mentor...

Where are you BTW?
I am in Iowa. My cousin used to climb not sure if he intend on climbing anymore but I will have to check with him. My wife and I have plans once we have learned to travel all over and work on climbs.

Recommended books for Overlanding


practice and condition

I've only really bouldered and top-roped... by far I prefer bouldering

Christophe Noel

Expedition Leader
Find a climbing mentor .

The usual progression is you boulder, then top-rope, then lead sport climb , then traditional lead climbing (placing your own gear) ...that's not set in stone (couldn't help it) , but that progression helps you understand basic movement on rock , your own strength and limitations, and basic safety like knots and rope management.

I'll repeat , find a mentor...

Where are you BTW?
This is as sound as any advice you will ever get.

It's important to note that there are two distinctly unique components to rock climbing. There is the actual movement over stone. That is the use technique and the specific fitness you develop by bouldering, climbing in a gym, top roping, etc. Then there is the rope-craft that keeps you from...become a little dead. That's the very heady understanding of anchors, belay techniques, and everything that goes into tying into a rope.

As stated above, the old way of learning all of this was to pal up with someone who knows everything, then you follow them around like a little duck for a few years. Eventually, they tie you into the sharp end of the rope and under EXTREME supervision, you take the lead. I spent many seasons as a student of my ONE and only mentor before I went it alone. It is astounding how much there is to learn from those with all the know-how. These days, like with many disciplines, people short cut the process, try to learn through books and Youtube vids and then head to the crags. These people are easy to spot because they're usually in wheelchairs or pine boxes. :)

Take classes. Respect all that you don't know. Most of all, respect the fact that what YOU don't know will likely not just harm you, but that partner you invited to come along for the fun.

And, buy the book: Freedom of the Hills by The Mountaineers. It's the bible.


New member
That's awesome! Climbing is one of the most enjoyable and rewarding activities, as well as one of the best workouts imaginable. (I have wanted to quit while lifting weights, I have never wanted to quit while on a wall).

The best place to start is just going to your local climbing gym, renting some shoes, and climbing.

Rock climbing, in the beginning, is not the complex thing that people imagine. Sure, when you get to harder routes, technique, body positioning, use of gear, etc. will need to be mastered, but at the beginning, nothing is more important than just showing up and having fun.

I have had the pleasure of teaching a dozen, or so, of my friends how to climb and every single one initially viewed rock climbing as something “difficult.” Naturally they tried to pull themselves up easy routes with brute arm strength, when they would never climb a ladder this way. Relax, let your legs do most of the work, and don't over-extend yourself unless you need to.

If you enjoy climbing at its most basic form, than you will get to a point where you want to progress beyond scrambling up easy rock walls. When you get to that point, take a class at the gym in top rope climbing. When you crave more than that, take a class in lead climbing. When you have been stuck at a certain level of difficulty and you know that you need better technique to improve as a climber, take a class on technique or (as I try and do with people both more and less skilled than me) get tips from other people in the gym. Climbers usually just enjoy climbing, and making friends means making potential climbing partners, so people are typically friendly and helpful.

The only piece of gear that is required are climbing shoes (all gear is rentable, but $5 for shoes every day?). I HIGHLY recommend intentionally avoiding “better” and “more expensive” shoes. Climbing shoes tend to balance comfort with grip. Entry level shoes will allow you to climb all day in comfort, while still giving you a good foothold on 90% of the routes in a gym (100% at a beginner's level). More expensive, technical, shoes will sacrifice comfort, and contour your feet in unnatural ways (extreme downturn) in order to find grip in places that you won't encounter for years. Budget around $100 for shoes.

When you're ready to start top rope climbing, you'll need a harness ($50), a locking carabiner ($10), and a belay device ($20). But I would invest in those when it's time to top rope. You may find that you love bouldering and never get the urge to rope up.

So, to sum up: Go for it! It's a great sport. Just show up, do it, and you won't regret it.

One other thing, I'm sure there are videos on youtube. I learned technique from a DVD before I ever started climbing in a gym. While this may be helpful, all gyms have their own standard of safety. Ask. By all means, learn from every possible source, but don't assume that because you saw a guy say that a certain knot is safe, that you can use that knot in a gym. Gyms often require extra precautions and for very good reasons.
I really appreciate the advice. I have spent some time in my youth free climbing rock walls in Colorado that were maybe 100ft but that was just being a wreck-less kid. I plan to learn all I can from class offered at the gym and take time to learn and enjoy what I know before adventure into more difficult terrain. Here are the classes I can take just to give you guys an idea.

Learning The Ropes
In this one-hour class, you will learn the knots, hardware, and proper technique to belay using a top rope. Upon successful completion of this class, you will be prepared to pass a Tope Rope Check and earn your Top Rope Belay Tag on your next visit.

Learning To Boulder
In this one-hour class, you will learn the basics of bouldering safety, including proper spotting and falling technique, topping out, and down-climbing. You will also learn basic climbing technique to help you jump-start your bouldering progress.

Intro to Climbing
Looking for an in-depth introduction to climbing? The Intro to Climbing class provides you with the fundamentals for an exceptional climbing experience at First Ascent. This 3-week course is designed to teach you the tools every climber needs to enjoy sport climbing and bouldering – all in a relaxed, small-group environment. You will learn the rope skills necessary to climb and secure the rope for your partner. You will also discover key techniques like footwork, balance, route reading, and more.

Intermediate Movement & Technique
So you know how to tie a follow-through figure 8 and you've got the basics of climbing down. What's next? Join us for Intermediate Movement and Technique, where we'll take those basic skills and build on them by working problems and routes to learn advanced footwork, route-reading, and training for climbing. Led by one of our expert instructors, Intermediate Movement and Technique meets for 2 hours per week over 3 weeks and features a small-group setting perfect for skill development and retention. All ability levels are welcome. We recommend this class for those who have completed Intro to Climbing or for anyone who wants to push their climbing to the next level.

Learning To Lead
Get ready for the sharp end. In this class, you will learn proper lead belay technique as well as best practices for clipping, rope management, and falling. Upon successful completion of this class, you will be prepared with the knowledge and skills needed to earn your Lead Belay tag and gain access to open lead climbing at First Ascent.

Technique Of The Week
If you're looking to sharpen specific tools in your climbing toolbelt, then our Technique of the Week drop-in classes are perfect for you. Technique of the Week classes cover a broad range of essential climbing techniques that will help you climb stronger and smarter.


New member
It sounds like you have enough of a background for the basics and enough support from a gym for everything else.

All that's left is just to show up!


SAR guy
I would start out at the climbing gym. Take their class, and then check the message board and find out if there is a club that meets regularly. Go out with them a few times before you purchase any gear. Get good at tying in, belaying and falling and then ask if you can help with rigging the top rope anchors. Understanding the "rope craft" part is something you have to get hands-on to do. Books will help, but it's also subjective.




Are you drawn to climbing as another physical activity to keep you and your wife fit and entertained? If that's the case then the gym route can work well.

If you're drawn to climbing because you love mountains and crave knowing them better, some of the habits you might pick up in a gym environment could actually isolate you from the joy. I'd be happy to elaborate if you're interested but I fear starting an unnecessary confrontational discussion here. Send me a PM if you'd like.

Howard Snell
We have alot of areas that we can climb in Iowa and Illinois. To the point that you have to bring you own cams and lead climb. Plus we plan to go North to Minnesota and South to Missouri as well. Also plan to head west eventually. But if I can learn and train here why not get the best info I can.


I would take the Intro class and get a membership also. Gyms are a great, controlled environment to learn all the basics before venturing out for greater adventures. Get in there regularly and you'll start meeting other climbers. Most will be friendly and offer advise. You might end up finding a mentor.

Recommended books for Overlanding


"Find a climbing mentor"

This little hint is worth its weight in gold. Your learning curve will be way better if you have someone with a "few" years experience guiding you ;) I learned the hard way by picking up a book or three (Climbing Ice by Duane Raleigh as well as John Long's climbing anchors and the second edition of Rock Climb) and teaching myself anchor theory etc. and started with ice climbing before the rock and gym stuff started. 2 years later I was lucky enough to meet a great group of climbers at a climbing gym and the trad started with a proper mentor or three at arms reach! Lol. Mountaineering is a whole other game that is great as well and a more experienced mentor would be worth every moments fun. I will always be a ice climber at heart! Make sure your belay is 100% at all times and the rest is fun to learn! That climbing hobby will take you to some very interesting areas! Good Luck!



Hit the gym and talk to people. Most climbers are super cool and if they see trying they'll be more than happy to share beta. A mentor is the most important. I hated bouldering and don't feel it transitions well to actual climbing. Also see if you can find a climbing club at the gym or online. Great resource. Most importantly, climb ice!