Gear Rundown

So for the summer, you should definitely be trying to do some outdoor climbing. And unless you’re only going bouldering or a seasoned outdoorsman (or outdoorswoman), you’re going to need to get yourself some gear. Here’s a list of climbing essentials that you simply cannot go without if you’re top-roping and/or lead climbing, as well as few things you probably could go without (but maybe shouldn’t).

Essential Gear

Belay Device (ATC/Gri-Gri) – ATCs are your standard belay devices, using simple friction to do the task at hand. A Gri-Gri has a spring-loaded self-locking feature, and thus requires a bit more expertise to handle. They are also much more expensive than ATCs, but they are definitely useful for working with a climber struggling to get past a route’s crux. Average price for an ATC ranges from $15-35. Average price for a Gri-Gri is $80-90.

Carabiners – These are those versatile metal binding links that are most commonly used in the belaying process and carrying gear up a wall on a longer ascent. Not just any carabiner will work for climbing, however. What you need for top-roping or sport climbing is a locking D-ring carabiner. Average price for one ranges from $8-$20.

Quickdraw (sport climbing only) – Cousins of the carabiner, quickdraws are used in sport climbing. They are essentially two carabiners coupled together by sewn webbing. For most climbs, you’ll need a few more than a dozen. For taller crags, you may need two dozen. Average price for one ranges from $10-$25.

Climbing Shoes – Don’t expect to get far climbing barefoot, in sandals, or in your sneakers. You need some real climbing shoes if you’re serious about climbing. Each is made for a different purpose and style, but all do the job of helping your feet find those tiny outcrops on the crag. Average prices usually range anywhere between $60-$120.

Chalk -Not everyone uses chalk, but many do – especially sport climbers. It definitely comes in handy, even if it can get kind of messy. The price of chalk depends on the amount you get, but it’s very rarely more than $15.

Chalk Bag – It’s hard to use chalk if you don’t have something to store it in while you’re climbing. These little bags dangle from your waist and allow easy hand entry while you’re on the wall. Prices commonly range from $15-$30.

Harness – This will secure you to your rope as well as provide you carrying loops from which you can attach various gear for those longer ascents. Average price ranges from $40-$75.

Rope – Make sure it’s UIAA-rated and certified specifically for rock climbing. Try to get either a 10.5mm or 11mm cord, as they last longer than their thinner counterparts. Don’t hesitate to splurge on this particular piece of equipment; rope is quite literally your lifeline in the dangerous sport of rock climbing. Sometimes the prices seem steep, but the investment is well worth it. Prices for climbing rope vary with length and thickness. Almost all rope is upwards of $120.

Recommended Gear

Helmet – I can only think of a few things worse than cracking your head open while you’re trying to enjoy one of life’s greatest, simplest pleasures. Proceed without a helmet at your own discretion. Prices range from $50-$100.

Rope Bag – A carrying case for your rope protects that investment you so conscientiously made. Most range in price from $20-$40, but you probably have bags laying around already that are just waiting to be put to use.

Moving Forward

In the Wake of the Storm

Storms like the one many of us experienced yesterday serve to remind us of the sometimes-volatile disposition of Mother Nature. We do well in times like these, which include the heat wave of last summer, to appreciate the little things in life that we all-too-often take for granted: electricity, water, and a temperate climate.

Natural inconveniences like these serve another purpose as well: reminding secluded central-Eastern-seaboarders like us of those less fortunate who know all too intimately the primal terror of a true natural disaster, whether that be a wildfire in Colorado, tornados in Oklahoma, a tropical storm in Manhattan, an earthquake in Haiti or Chile, or a typhoon in Singapore.

And while we can accept the inevitability of the occasional disaster, we would be failing ourselves, our fellow man, and future generations if we were to idly sit back and allow the rising frequency of nature’s fury.

The Situation We Must Face

The gradual warming of the Earth’s atmosphere is a monumental problem that looms before the whole of mankind. We can submit to it and let it slowly destroy civilization as we know it (a grim thought, I know, but an unfortunately realistic one) or we can do our part to stabilize and, ideally, reverse the harm we’ve done.

While facing the aforementioned monumental problem that lies before us, it is all too easy to get discouraged and overwhelmed. How can one person make a tangible difference? Well, first understand that it wasn’t one person who was responsible for all the damage that’s been done. We worked together to do that. Why can’t we work together to be more responsible?

What You Can Do

For starters, take care to mind your footprints – your carbon, water, and nitrogen footprints, that is. You can lower the impact of your carbon footprint by driving less (or not at all), driving a more fuel-efficient car, carpooling more effectively, and being more conservative with the electricity you use in general. You can lessen your water footprint by buying less clothes (it takes gallons upon gallons of water to produce textiles) and of course being more mindful of your water habits at home – taking shorter showers, not letting the water run excessively when your brushing your teeth or doing dishes, and being efficient and smart when doing laundry. And lastly, you can lower your nitrogen footprint by doing all of the above as well as eating more organically grown fruits, vegetables, and whole foods in general while also eating less pork, poultry, and beef.

You alone can do a world of a difference in the long run by practicing more sustainable habits now. Imagine that multiplied a few times over, by getting your friends and family to do the same. Then, imagine that a hundred, or a thousand, or a million, or even a billion times over. It’s a ripple effect, and it’s already started. Your job is to simply keep it going.

The Importance of Venturing Out

So we’re well into June, and I’m sure you all are itching to go on vacations or at least get outside (once it stops raining). I’m getting ready to leave on a vacation of my own, and the preparation has got me reminiscing about a once-in-a-lifetime experience I had two years ago.

Acadia National Park, Maine

I say “once-in-a-lifetime” not because the trip itself was one I’ll never be able to take again, but because the experience was one that cannot ever be repeated. That is, the wonder and inspiration I felt on that fateful outing in the Summer of 2011 touched me so deeply that I think it changed who I was as a person. I believe that this trip was the distinct experience that sparked my passion for the outdoors. There’s something about the place that made me feel more in-tune with nature than I had ever felt before. Perhaps it was the powerful yet serene ever-presence of the island’s massive forest. Or maybe it was the liveliness of the frigid coastal waters. It could very well have been the giant granite boulders that completely comprised the coast of the park’s popular Otter Point. Ultimately, I’m certain that something about the nature of Acadia triggered a dormant passion that had always lied deep within, waiting to be ignited.

The suburbs of Southern California, wherefrom I hail, could only every stifle that passion – and the same can be said of a city like Roanoke. Even the local escapes of Smith Mountain Lake, McAffee’s Knob, or the Cascades couldn’t instill the same sense of awe in me that Acadia did. For someone from New York, perhaps an outing to McAffee’s or Dragonstooth could provide that life-changing experience – but not for someone who is already so familiar with the area. I think it takes a truly uprooting experience of venturing out into a completely unknown and natural territory to really open an individual up and give them a new perspective on life. The simplest way I can describe is getting totally aimlessly lost… just so you can find yourself along the way.

New Outlooks

I’m of the mindset that we’re only here for a little while before we’re gone for good, and yet we tend to waste too much time waiting for tomorrow. It’s a truly stifling pattern that I think too many of us are guilty of – I, regretfully, certainly am. This grim reality makes these adventures that much more beautiful, though. A trip to an exotic island paradise is only special if you’re not originally from another exotic island paradise, right? My point is, transcendental experiences like the one I took to Maine are so greatly appreciated because they lift you up. Your only jobs are to seize the opportunities to enjoy your life while you still can, and keep yourself from crashing back down once you return home. Because if you can find something in nature that inspires you… and you can maintain the gravity of this inspiration, then great things are bound to continually happen – and you alone will be the agent responsible for this greatness.

Learn the Lingo

Happy Friday! Today, I’ll be talking about some of those weird words you may hear while you’re on a rocktastic adventure.


Common Climbing Jargon:

Aid Climbing: climbing while adding devices to a rock face in order to assist a climber in her ascent

Anchor: a natural or artificial structure that holds the rope used for belaying in position

Belay: a rope setup worked by a climber’s partner to catch the climber when he falls or lower him down after he finishes his ascent

Beta: advice (not always freely given or accepted) on how to complete a route or section of a route

Bolt: a permanent form of protection that is drilled into a rock, to which carabiners can attach

Bump: the act of quickly moving a hand or foot from one temporarily useful hold to another

Cam: a temporary, spring-loaded form of protection that contracts to fit into a crevice and then expands once inside to stay securely in position

Carabiner (Biner): a metal coupling link with a safety closure that can open and close, used to hold gear or as anchors for belaying

Campus: climbing without using your legs or feet

Chock: a mechanical device to be wedged into crevices as an anchor

Crimp: a technique in which a climber presses her fingertips flat on the small surface of a hold and raises her knuckles, often also placing her thumb over the top of her index finger and partially over her middle finger.

Dyno: the act of jumping from one hold to the next, losing all contact with the rock while in mid-jump

Figure 8: a knot used to secure a climber’s harness to the belay rope

Flag: the act of holding the leg out to the side in order to maintain balance in a certain position on the wall

Flash: to successfully send a route on the first attempt after having received some kind of beta

Hook: the act of hooking the heel or toes around another hold in order to provide greater balance or support

Jug: a large, easy-to-grab hold

Match: the act of using both hands or feet on a single hold

On-Sight: to successfully send a route on the first attempt without having received any prior advice (beta)

Pitch: the portion of a climb between two belay points

Red-Point: to complete while placing protection a route after many unsuccessful attempts

Send: to cleanly complete a route

Sit-Start: to begin a climb while sitting on the ground

Spot: the act of waiting in preparedness beneath a boulderer to ease his fall

Top-Out: the act of completing a route by ascending over the top of the structure being climber

Traverse: to climb in a horizontal direction


That’s all for now! Can you think of anything important I’ve missed? If so, post below to let me know!

Know Your Style

How well do you know the many types of rock climbing? Today, I’ll be briefly touching on some of the most popular styles, although I encourage you to research them further – preferably by trying them out yourself!



In a nutshell, top-roping is exactly what it sounds like: climbing while your rope is anchored above you. Perfect for beginners, top-roping offers the best blend of climbing, safety, and fun. Falls are never serious because the rope always does its job of catching you, minimizing risk of injury. Traditional top-roping requires that another person assists you as you climb, the art of belaying.  This extra man is responsible for feeding you rope and lowering you as you descend your route, using a friction device such as an ATC or Gri-Gri to do so.  You’ll also observe in a number of recreational facilities (such as The River Rock) something called an auto-belay: a device that acts as an anchor at the top of the route and serves to catch you if you fall. In the end, top-roping is a great way for beginners to get used to rock-climbing, but it can also be a preferred way for veterans to learn and practice a new route.


Lead and Sport Climbing:

This style of climbing is rapidly growing because it is challenging and highly accessible. It is also extremely versatile, offering a range of difficulties as well as a range of route-lengths. Overall, though, lead and sport climbers predominantly focus on the moves and techniques they use to get to their destination rather than the destination itself. In lead and sport climbing, falling is expected and planned for accordingly. A climber working on a difficult route may fall dozens of times before he finally accomplishes it. The use of rope in lead and sport climbing differs slightly from top-roping, though, in that there are a number of pre-fixed anchors bolted into a wall or crag. These anchors follow the path of the pre-planned route from the beginning all the way to the end. It is the responsibility of the climber to loop her rope through carabiner systems called quickdraws attached to each of the bolted anchors as she sends the rock. Don’t forget – if you go lead or sport climbing, you’ll need a partner belay you; meaning feed you rope, catch your fall, and lower you down.


Traditional Climbing:

Also known as trad climbing, traditional climbing is sport climbing’s older counterpart. There are fundamental similarities as well as irreconcilable differences between the two. Where sport climbing focuses on the physical intensity of the journey itself, traditional climbing is all about the holistic experience and the mental game that accompanies these climbs. Routes sent traditionally are longer, usually not planned, and do not have fixed anchors permanently bolted into the wall/crag. Instead, the climber is responsible for inserting protection into cracks in the rock. Attached to each protection piece is a sling and carabiner used to keep a climber secured to the wall. As you can probably imagine, traditional climbing also involves the added challenge of carrying all of this essential gear along with you as you climb. Just as with top-roping and sport climbing, though, traditional climbers need a belay partner to feed them rope and lower them back down.


Big Wall Climbing:

Ah, big walls – where legends are made. While not the most common form of climbing, big wall climbing is arguably the most notorious. Think… traditional climbing multiplied exponentially. Requiring ascents of at least 1500 feet, these routes often take several days to send, forcing daring climbers to spend nights on portaledges hanging hundreds, if not thousands, of feet above the ground. California’s Yosemite Valley is an international mecca for this style of climbing, heralding intrepid climbers from all around the globe. Big wall climbs are not for the faint of heart – any kind of climbing, because of gravity, is dangerous in its very nature, but big wall climbs are certainly the most perilous. Of course, proper precautions can always be made to keep climbers safe – to a certain extent. In order to make all the proper precautions, however, climbers will be required to invest in proper gear (and a lot of it), making big wall climbing far more expensive than its less-intensive counterparts.



There are two forms of climbing that involve no rope at all, and bouldering is by far the safer and, consequentially, more popular of the two (the other is free-soloing). With routes rarely more than fifteen feet high, bouldering is essentially a scaled-down version of sport climbing. That is, repeated falling is expected, and the climb is all about the moves and technique. Bouldering, aside from being relatively safe, is popular for another reason: it’s far less expensive than other forms of climbing because it involves minimal gear. If you’re bouldering indoors, then all need is proper athletic clothes, climbing shoes, and a chalk bag. Outdoors, you’ll also need some crash pads as well. In the end, though, it’s ultimately just you and the rock – no rope to help or hinder. Also like sport climbing, bouldering can be very competitive. Boulder problems are graded according to difficulty. Around here, you’ll most commonly see bouldering routes graded according to the V system. The grading system is subjective and usually differs from person to person, but (generally) beginners’ routes range from VB to V2, intermediate problems most often fall in the V3-V4 range, and advanced problems are V5 and above. But to give you some further perspective, the world’s best boulderers climb in the V14 and above range, problems that are each exponentially more difficult than a V5. Ultimately, each progressive grade is significantly more difficult than its predecessor, and the more difficult the grade, the longer it takes before a climber can progress to the next one. Additionally, climbing on rugged terrain outside can make a difficult route even more difficult because of the physical wear and tear it induces on your fingers.


I would love to hear any exciting stories any of you have had while climbing outside (or inside). Comment below or come in and tell us about them in person!