Rock climbing is a career for those looking for fitness, fun and a generous dose of adrenalin. This is not a path that the average Joe would follow because it has to be embedded from deep within so that you find the joy of growing and reaching the professional levels.
If you have been always interested in rock climbing, or you have been inspired by the profiles of rock climbers with millions of followers on Instagram, and you feel motivated to give it a shot, here is a brief on how you can get started with your rock climbing career.
Find a good guide
There is more that goes into having a successful career than having the courage and passion to scale rocks and buildings. Just like any other career, it has its guidelines and it is imperative that you find a professional guide that will give you all the guidance and instill the confidence you need to become successful.
You can start by checking out the rock climbers on Instagram with legions of followers because most of them do offer detailed guides to their followers who might be interested in becoming pros. You can also check out YouTube and the search engines for free, detailed guides on professional rock climbing.
Decide on the type of climbing
There are various types or rock climbing, and though you can master most of them, it is highly recommended that you master just one if you want to become good at it. The most common ones include the following:
- Indoor climbing – indoor climbing is one of the most common types of climbing, and where the majority start at. You will find this form of climbing in gyms, public recreational centers, and a few REI stores. With this, artificial foot and handholds with varying difficulty are placed on walls to create rock climbing routes. Since it is indoors, they are readily accessible, relatively safe, and they are a great choice for practicing before you venture outdoors.
- Bouldering – with bouldering, you will need some time and gear to get going. Bouldering will take you outdoors where you can traverse rocks and boulders while secured to a rope so that you don’t risk fall accidents. Some of the things you will need to get started with this include climbing shoes, a crash pad, a chalk bag, and a spotter.
- Outdoor top rope climbing – with this, a rope is anchored on top of the rock then you start climbing towards the anchor. This is not for the beginners, and it is always the goal for every rock climbing enthusiast before they can consider themselves as pros.
Get the right gear
If you are starting your rock climbing career in the gym or the public recreational sites, the necessary gear will always be provided. But once you start venturing outdoors and using experienced spotters, it will be necessary for you to invest in the right kind of gear.
A look at the professional climbers on Instagram will reveal to you the kind of gears required, and if you are following some of the pros on IG, you will get very nice recommendations on the kinds of gear you need and where to get them. But most importantly, the gears you must have will include-: climbing clothes, climbing shoes, climbing helmet, climbing harness, chalk, carabiners, climbing ropes, belay device, climbing protection and crash pads.
Climbing routes vary based on the level of difficulty. In the United States, the Yosemite Decimal Rating System is used to rate climbing difficulties on the routes. There are easy climbing routes, intermediate climbing routes and hard routes. When you are just starting out and once you are comfortable with indoor rock climbing and you think it is time to venture outdoors, you will most probably start with the easy routes.
These will help you build the strength and the resilience you need to venture onto the subsequent routes. It is highly advisable that you get a professional instructor at this point. They can be your friends who are already advanced in rock climbing or you can hire a professional coach to help you from this point. You could do it on your own, but it will take time, lower your chances of success and expose you to lots of risks.
Get Instagram followers
There is a legion of rock climbing enthusiasts out there, and you should try and connect with them as soon as possible. The best to do this is to start following professional rock climbers on Instagram, and also create your profile so that you can start growing your following. This is necessary because you will not just connect with equally passionate rock climbers like you, but also you will get lots of motivation from your followers who will be intent on seeing you succeed. This will give you the drive to keep on going even if you feel like giving up.
Many of the same places but always a new experience… The past month we were settled into an awesome little apartment in Cornudella de Montsant. For those that don’t know, this is a rad little town just a ten minute drive from Siurana, ten minutes from Montsant and forty minutes from Margalef. With a legit gear shop, several cool cafes and restaurants, countless traveling climbers, this is unquestionably one of the major hubs for sport climbing in Catalunya. You won’t necessarily be greeted in English here but the shop owners and bartenders are known for being accommodating and stoked on the climbing community.
For me this past trip was not as singularly focused as some of my trips in the past. I mostly prepared by climbing outside and supplemented with a little strength training just about a week before departure. My aim was to have a crack at a few Siurana classics I had skipped over before, and if time allowed to jump around to a few other cliffs. Furthermore my aim was to support my girlfriend Shaina on her mission to climb 5.13. She had been preparing for this trip for months, born from a lofty goal to climb 5.13 this year after having just done her first 5.12 in February (!!!).
The first week we arrived was quite hot and crowds were something of an issue, but as the days passed the temps gradually lowered until we exchanged tank tops for down jackets and even found ourselves suffering from cold in the shade. Altogether the weather cooperated damn near as well as one could ask for. I skipped one day of climbing because of crippling arctic wind, but otherwise our 2 days on, one day off schedule persisted throughout.
In addition to delicious olives, countless Estrellas, brilliant sunsets and even a beach day, we both finished the trip contempt with our climbing. Shaina proudly climbed her first 5.13, ‘L’escarmala’ – a Siurana classic requiring huge dynamic movement, finger power and technical footwork alike. She did a second 13a just a week after.
I completed a major objective for 2017, to climb 10 routes 14d or harder, with sends of the resistance test piece ‘La Reina Mora’ and the ultra bouldery ’20 Anos Despues’. I remember a few years ago reading an interview with the incredible Japanese climber Sachi Amma, when he mentioned that it was a goal of his to climb 10 grade 9 (14d or harder) routes in a year and distinctly remembering that seeming so beyond possible (for me – I believe Sachi eventually succeeded). Early this year I did the first repeat of ‘Bachelor Party’ 9a and shortly after had the best climbing of my life, finishing ‘Pachamama’ 9a+/b, ‘Joe Mama’ 9a+ and ‘Chaxi’ 9a+ in a couple weeks. From here I reflected on that interview with Sachi and planned to just go to the death climbing outside and pursuing 9a for the rest of 2017. I was never quite sure it would come together (both logistically and also physically) but it did a few weeks ago. After climbing ’20 anos’ I was pretty blown out. A long year of grinding, projecting, traveling, living in my truck and flying across the globe. In between the 9a’s I also climbed 50 5.14s. I was pretty smoked. I took the level down in Spain after that, doing some utterly amazing pitches like ‘Pal Este’ 14b, ‘Toni Kaneloni’ 13c and ‘Los Ultimos Vampiros Hippies’ 14b among others – like some not nearly as amazing, but hard non-the-less routes like ‘Directa Jabali’ 14b, ‘Leche Caliente’ 14a and ‘Afrodita’ 14b/c.
At this point I’ve got one more nemesis route in the Boulder area to hopefully finish off and then I will be taking some time to rest, chill and prepare for 2018’s goals during December. I’m so proud of my climbing this year – especially because I took a giant step back from training and focused on being outside and with my friends and dog – and it worked (to my surprise to be honest). Now I want to try and get a fresh start, diving back into systematic training as I pursue the next objective. But first, some Pumpkin Pie.
Well here I am again. EL portal. My preferred neighborhood cafe as the staff is friendly and the wi-fi is okay. The coffee is acceptable but nothing outstanding. We came here almost daily during the winter. We would wear our down jackets inside and fight for the seat next to the dull heater. Last time I sat at this restaurant I was freezing and mostly heart broken. I feel quite differently now.
Today, a spring breeze whips through the narrow streets and gives life to the colorful drying laundry of this charming little village. The warmth in the air is so calming and pleasant. It’s Easter – a huge holiday in Spain – and the town is bustling. Traffic clogs the main street as vacationers sprint to Andorra and search for picnics necessities at the Sunday market. The sun’s rays are intense and white and come from high in the sky.
I feel grateful, I feel accomplished, my heart is full, the sun is shining. Life ebbs and flows doesn’t it?
My process with Pachamama has ended. I did the route within a week of my return to Spain. It felt surreal to sit at the anchors, to realize something that for weeks and weeks I was obsessed and overwhelmed with desire to have. The moment I sent was calm. I yelled mostly to tell my belayer, 50 meters below, that I had clipped the anchor but I didn’t so much feel the need to yell from relief or excitement. It was a strangely tranquil experience. Almost like, ‘ huh, well, here I am. This is the moment.’ Not to say that I was not or am not excited. It was biggest, most powerful battle of my climbing life – without question. But I guess the finish, while hugely important to me, was also just a small piece of the experience. I imagine I will look back on this for my whole life. Silly… rock climbing.. huh.
Momentum has been a powerful ally to me for years. It’s rare that I let a send, no matter how big, completely derail my stoke. I know that I’ve usually only got five weeks or so to perform at my very best and I don’t want to waste it. I immediately moved to the right onto ‘Jo Mama’ 15a, a power endurance masterpiece with few resting positions and resistant cruxes throughout. Just some days later I had already sent. I never would dream that I could climb this grade so quickly, ever. The conditions suited me perfectly – warmer with wind – and my power endurance is likely at an all time high after the month at Potosi and some hard days on Pachamama. Still it seems unreal. For me there is at least 1 grade of difference between these two routes. Perhaps it just worked out?
As with before I’ve moved right along. This time to a much different style. ‘Chaxi’ 15a is bouldery and savage. Some great resting positions but also some very serious boulder problems high on the wall. I have a feeling this one will not let itself go as easily… time to get snappy. Onward!
This week expect a full account of my process on ‘Pachamama’ that I wrote for the Arcteryx Blog and also look out for the release of my Pachamama film that I made with the awesome Tara Kerzhner to be released on EpicTV.
It’s been a busy summer, a freaking rad summer, but damn I can’t tell you how happy I am to say that it’s over. As I’m sure most of you in the Northern Hemisphere would agree (especially in the American West) I am ready for the fall… ready for cold nights and down jackets and bringing thermos to the crag. I’m ready for a cool breeze and bright red leaves. It seems October is more or less the new September but whatever it is, I am stoked it’s here and it seems it brought at least a little autumn with it.
I added a slew of photographs below to take you through my summer, with a little explanation here and there. I hope everyone is enjoying this change in weather, finally!
Shaina and I stopped through Ten Sleep for a few days on our way to the Lander ICF. Just enough time to belay my Dad on his hardest send to date, at age 67. I wrote about his climbing life and the experience of his send on the Arcteryx Blog here: http://blog.arcteryx.com/optimist-jonathan-siegrists-dad/
It was incredible to be a part of this send, and to see him push his own limits, after over 40 years of climbing. Shaina totally fell in love with the climbing here as I expected she might. I’m sure we will be back over the years. It’s grown immensely in popularity since I first visited in 2008, but for good reason. Reminds me so much of Siurana at times. It was great to revisit, even though I kind of got my ass kicked.
After some Ten Sleep action we went up to join the ICF in Lander. This is one of my absolute favorite climbing events, and the longest running event of its kind in the US. I climbed BJ Tilden’s epic link up on the Rodeo Wave called ‘Mutation’ 14d. This hybrid route (two ropes required and actually some brief bouldering in the middle) rides various cruxes for over 80 moves to make a seemingly enormous route out of the ultra short wall. It combines ‘Genetic Drifter’ 14c with the boulder problem ‘Ground from Upside Down’ V7 and then a nasty hard section of V8 to eventually finish with ‘Single Cell’ 13b. In some ways this route was conceived out of BJ’s boredom but it was actually quite meaningful to me as I know it was to him. Lander and the Iris will always hold a special place in my heart, from my years of climbing and enjoying the area. I can’t wait to go back.. there are still a couple random things I need to polish off!
I found my summer home in Estes Park for a good chunk of August. The number of tourists has gotten somewhat out of hand over the last several summers but still the beauty of Chaos and the incredible quality of the problems there lures me in. My power was a little slow to come back but I did do a few hard ones like ‘Memoirs of an Invisible Climber’ V11/12, ‘Steve Zissou’ V11 (a horrendously hard one for a short climber I thought!), ‘The Wheel Direct’ V13/14, ‘Daytripper’ V13, ‘Storm Shadow Sit’ V12 and ‘Whispers of Wisdom’ V10 (for me this may have been the hardest of all) among others. It was kind of an ass kicking as Bouldering seems to be always for me, but I’m proud I finished a few things off and as always I absolutely loved my time in the alpine. I left a few things undone, but thankfully I am always looking for a great summer hang and Estes just keeps providing. I wrote about my experience out there and my recommendation to route climbers to switch it up and go bouldering on the La Sportiva Blog here: https://www.sportiva.com/blog/jonathan-siegrist-bouldering-in-rmnp/
I tried my luck on a mega project in the Fins, but the late summer heat was too much for me to handle. Tara Kehrzner was there shooting some video, and I did do all of the moves with some promising links, but this route is so incredibly hard that I really need everything to line up for me and I could tell that with temps in the upper 70s at the cliff it would not be this year. I moved on to Rifle to climb on bigger holds. I climbed ‘Lungfish’ 14b after several days of kind of intense effort. In total it was the most I’ve tried any route in Rifle, ever. Something about the slick rock, the nature of the climbing and the conditions (plus it’s just hard as hell!) combined to put up quite the fight. It’s always hard to release the ego in times like this but I feel so strongly that we have to follow through even if it hurts (inside). Clipping the chains was memorable, especially after I punted above the crux from a foot slip. I also did ‘Skull Fuck’ 13c after a pretty humbling fight. The most I have tried a 13c in recent memory. It’s neighbor ‘Cracked Open Sky’ 13d felt wildly easier, as did several of the new ones like ‘Never Enough’ 14a and ‘Uncertainty Principle’ 14a. I got some much needed beta from my good friend Pawel on ‘Gropius’ 13d/14a for my hardest flash in Rifle, which I was particularly stoked on. I also climbing ‘Colinator’ 14a and ‘Kuru’ 14c among some others. It was rad to be back in the Canyon and with such a great crew. Thanks to Sam and Matt, Dan and Colette and everyone out there for such good time both climbing and otherwise.
After a super fun weekend in Smith Rock for the AAC Craggin Classic, full of some soloing, some sport routes, a great clinic and some multi pitching with my good buddy Sam Elias, I was ready for the main objective. I planned to finally have a look at the Pop Tire Crag in Western Utah, just on the Border of Nevada. Silver Island, or Wendover Cave as it is also referred to, is an exceptional little zone. Far away from the world, on a remote island of rock in an otherwise desolate and flat landscape, just on the edge of the awe inspiring Bonneville Salt Flats. The camping and the hang there is as good (or perhaps better) that the actual climbing.
I climbed a lot of great pitches out here. The climbed is mostly stamina based, and the routes are middle height for the most part, between 60 and 100 feet. I’m proud of my time and effort there. I did ‘Apex Predator’ 14c, ‘Drakken’ 14b, ’40 feet of Grease’ 14b and ‘Sodom and Gomorrah’ 14c all in two tries, although the bizarre and awesome King Line (S and G) was a absolute battle. Thankfully Alton Richardson got that somewhat hilarious fight, and some others, on video for an upcoming Maxim Ropes / Climbing Magazine release. I also did the one-mover ‘Old Man High Pants’ 14c and grabbed a last day flash on ‘Terrordome’ 14a which I had been saving. In the middle there I spent two days trying James’ Litz ‘Peruvian Necktie’ 14d/15a. It did not entirely capture my stoke, with uncomfortable holds and awkward movement, but I must say a huge congrats to James on the send – it is certainly one of the hardest routes in the country. Maybe I will find the time to revisit it in the future, but for this first trip I was pretty fired up to sample and get pumped – the joy of exploring a good new-to-me cliff with this much difficulty is something that I rarely get to do in the US anymore. With a trip back to Catalunya on the horizon I saw this as an awesome opportunity to get prepared. I also climbed ‘AWOL’ 13c, ‘Crosstown Traffic’ 13c/d, ‘Hey Joe’ 13b and a few more onsight. In the end I think I at least touched nearly every square foot of climbing in the cave. My overall favorite was probably ‘Smoother’ 12c. I can’t say enough about how rad it was to have Leif there to show me the place, and huge thanks to Alton also for hanging out and grabbing these rad shots. Apparently this cliff used to be popular but I barely saw anyone the whole time I was there.
One last thing! I did a very lengthy and in-depth interview with Ignacio Sandoval Buron, on the WUGU climbing website: http://woguclimbing.com/entrevista-escalador-jonathan-siegrist/
it is in Spanish but I think a translation site should do you the favor if needed. Big thank you to those guys and Ignacio, it was fun to dive in a little deeper than usual.