How To Plan Rock Climbing Trips

Knowing how to prepare for a rock climbing trip will allow your adventure to proceed with minimum hassle so you can focus instead on challenging yourself and having fun. More importantly, it can save your life, as the basis of every successful trip is the ability to anticipate every possible situation. While rock climbing is thrilling, it is often dangerous, fraught with many unpredictable variables that can threaten your safety. So ignore the freewheeling outdoorsman ideal and remember that there is no such thing as being overly prepared for this risky but exhilarating sport.

  1. Know what you’re doing. Just because you thought you were Spiderman in fourth grade doesn’t mean you’ll be able to scurry up a skyscraping sheet of rock face with the same ease and finesse. Nor is rock climbing a sport you go and “figure out by yourself” because you’ve purchased a few guidebooks and carabiners. If you’ve never climbed before, take lessons in the safety of an indoor climbing facility before advancing your experience in the wilderness. If you’ve never climbed prior to your rock climbing trip, make sure you are under the supervision of a qualified instructor.
  2. Be physically prepared. While you don’t need to be an Olympic athlete, you do need to have a good amount of aerobic and strength endurance. A challenge the climber often faces is performing when muscles are fatigued. Don Mellor, author of "Trailside Guides: Rock Climbing" recommends personalizing a training program by rock climbing until you’re winded and then taking into account which muscles feel tired and where you feel pain. Then you’ll know what muscles to work on.
  3. Find a climbing partner you trust. No matter how superb of a climber you are, you need a vigilant partner you can depend on with your life (and someone who trusts you equally). Both of you should be well-versed in safety skills such as knot-tying, proper usage of climbing equipment and belaying techniques.
  4. Do your research. Get acquainted with the terrain by studying maps and guidebooks. Raid Internet articles and forums for information on weather, topography, road and trail conditions and experiences of other climbers. The more you know, the more prepared you’ll be and the less you’ll have to worry about something going wrong.
  5. Pack accordingly and more. Don’t be worried about bringing too much. If you pack an excessive amount of clothing, food, water and gear, you may be mildly annoyed about having to lug it around. Aside from that, it’s a lot better than facing instances of freezing, starvation and dehydration. This isn’t a wilderness survival test, so stock up well and thrive.
  6. Bring at least basic rock climbing equipment. The minimal list includes a helmet, a rope, a belay and rappelling device, a harness, gloves or chalk, carabiners, quickdraws and climbing shoes. 
  7. Bring essential camping gear. Aside from a tent, bring a warm-enough sleeping bag and a sleeping pad for added heat and comfort. A portable stove for making nourishing meals will be a bonus for weary climbers who tire of trail mix and beef jerky.
  8. Bring food and water. The easiest and cheapest way to do this is to buy healthy groceries in bulk and prepare what you can beforehand. Subsisting on portable “snack” foods won’t cut it after a long day on the rocks. Bring water as if you were going on a trek in the Sahara—better to have too much than too little. Seriously.
  9. Bring clothing for fickle weather. No matter what the weather forecast tells you or what season it is, pack comfortable clothing for all climate types. For maximum efficiency, consider layering your apparel so you'll be able to add or peel them off accordingly. Thermals, fleeces, pullovers and lightweight jackets are great "layering" attire. Don't forego the extra pairs of socks, a hat and sunglasses. 
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