Tips for Taking a Beginner Rock Climbing (AKA Getting Your Friends Hooked on Climbing)
It’s fun to share your favorite activities with friends and family, and as climbers, we want to introduce everyone in our life to the vertical playground. Climbing is a lifelong sport that welcomes people of all abilities, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to do or easy to get started. You want to be a good friend, so follow these steps to help get your non-climbing buddies in the harness and off the ground. Most importantly, help them get hooked on climbing so they want to come back for more!
1. Focus on fun, not just getting to the top
There is a lot to take in on your first trip to the climbing gym. As a great friend, your goal is to make their first trip fun and enjoyable. If they get to the top of a route? Great! If not, that’s cool as long as they had fun. Let your first timer know that all climbers fall off routes, and that it’s just a part of the sport. Falling doesn’t mean failure; it means you’re pushing yourself.
2. Start them on easy routes
Again, the goal for anyone’s first trip is fun. Find the easiest route you can to get them started and ease them into climbing. It’s also ok if they rainbow climb and don’t follow a single route. Most of us haven’t been on a jungle gym in many years, and the vertical movement of climbing will feel foreign.
3. Choose a gym with auto belays
New climbers would often rather climb on auto belay than with a belayer. They are able to control the experience rather than trusting you to tie a knot and properly belay. They are unfamiliar with the technicalities of belaying, so they may feel more comfortable with an auto belay to start. An auto belay also allows them to get the feel for climbing on their own; it can be intimidating to have someone watching you climb, which a belayer must do. Maybe find another auto belay next to them or nearby so you can climb at the same time, giving them encouragement without them feeling like you are watching their every move.
4. Give them good, simple advice but not a ton of it
No one is great their first time on the climbing wall, and that’s ok. It’s natural to want to help your friend out, but too much advice can bog a beginner down. Sure, maybe they could benefit from straight arms, remembering to breath, or focusing on using their legs instead of their arms. Give them a few helpful tips, but know that there is a lot of new information to take in as a beginner. Make sure they have fun so that they’ll want to come back again, and maybe they’ll be ready for more advice then.
5. Plan a time to climb again
You finish climbing, head out for dinner together, and your friend is now gushing about how much fun they had climbing. You’ve set the hook, and now it’s time to reel them in. Plan a date to go climbing again to maintain the motivation and momentum. Or see if they want to take a belay lesson. Get them started so they can become a climber and join the enthusiastic hordes of plastic pullers. Maybe they’ll like it so much you’ll eventually have a new crag buddy!