Initiation to climbing: Climbing material

Like the majority of physical activities, climbing also requires specific material to practise it. There are different climbing modes and each one has its own peculiarities regarding materials. But as a general recommendation, we suggest not buying all the equipment from day one, specifically in climbing, due to its multiple variants, material options are so unequal and specific, which means as we gain experience and knowledge we become much more aware of what is really needed, as well as the climbing community is very open and generous which is why there is always someone who will offer us material for any problem or for a way out.

Be careful with marketing, climbing material is very desirable and attractive, obviously this makes us to want to buy everything, you can end up buying a double rope of 80m for only climbing on your climbing wall, where a simple 50 m rope is more than enough, therefore take it easy, do not fall into useless consumerism…

Regarding modes, start with the simplest, the indoor Boulder.

Normally we start in boulder rooms where there are different panels with a multitude of holds and mats at the foot of the panel to cushion the falls, therefore we do not need anything else than comfortable rope, a pair of climbing shoes and a bag of magnesium to start out on this type of climbing. As we explained in a previous article, when choosing our first climbing shoes, we must prioritise comfort, they must not be too loose, but above all they must not hurt. The price must be an average price (between 55 / 80 Euro). Nevertheless, the majority of commercial rooms rent this type of footwear, therefore we recommend this option for your first sessions and later if you wish to continue you can buy your own “shoes”.

Other important material (although some climbers do without it these days) is magnesium, that white dust we use on our hands, so they sweat less. Normally it is carried in a bag attached to the waist and is placed at the rear so that during the climb, either hand can be put into it and covered with white dust. Lastly and due to Covid-19, liquid magnesium is becoming very popular, because thanks to its alcohol solution it also is a disinfectant for the hands, therefore the majority (if not all) climbing rooms oblige the use of this type of magnesium.

What is more important than brushing the holds of a climbing wall, is brushing rock holds, above all on boulders, because being used by hundreds or thousands of climbers, the magnesium creates layers that once they are mineralised are impossible to eliminate…

As an accessory, we can use a brush, to clean the holds of the magnesium we use. Cleaning the holds with the brush after a session, is a good habit, because if we do not have this habit of this action, the magnesium will accumulate on the holds, creating a compact and slippery surface which is very hard to remove.

When we consider indoor climbing, normally we refer to the boulder (walls no higher the 4 meters, with a mat to cushion falls), but if we want to climb routes, we will much more equipment. To start you need your own harness, the harness if the piece through which you pass your legs, you attach to your waist and tie the rope that will support you when you fall or descend from a wall. Harnesses must be replaced every few years due to safety reasons, therefore once again we recommend buying an accessible harness and replace it when you understand better your needs. There are all types of harnesses, from very technical ones, lightweight ones, and minimalist ones, to the most multioption, padded and adjusted ones… Together with a climbing harness, we must have a safety device and a locking carabiner.

Dispositivos de seguridad y mosquetón de bloqueo

This equipment will allow you to assure your companion both in the gymnasium and on rocks and rappelling if necessary. Regarding the safety device we do recommend a self-locking one (for example Gri-Gri by Petzl), in the case of any fall, this means we must have another device for rappels, etc. … but considering their level of reliability and the lack of zero times when rappelling in sports climbing, we see the use of this type of device as more adequate and safer. If we climb outside, a helmet is extremely important in the case of falling on rocks. The previously mentioned elements will be the basic personal equipment necessary for one day of sports climbing on rocks, always when your team has a rope, if this is not the case, it will also be necessary to buy a rope, if this is mainly for use indoors we recommend a rope no longer than 5 meters and from 9 to 10 mm thickness, if it is mainly for use on rocks, we recommend a rope from 70 to 80 meters and equally 9 to 10 mm thickness. In addition, and like in the case of the rope, if our team does not have any quickdraws, we will also have to have some if we want to climb rock routes. A quickdraw is the piece that links our rope to the holds (expansive or chemical) that we will find on the wall. This is a belt that at each end has a carabiner, one of those is anchored to the safety point on the wall and we pass the rope to which we are tied through the carabiner at the other end. As we continue to advance, we repeat this action each time we come across a safety point. Knowing exactly how we must pass the rope through the carabiner is vitally important, because if we do not how to do it correctly, in the case of falling, the same rope can open the carabiner and come out of the same. If we do not know how to do it, or we either must go with someone else who has experience and knows the basic safety points, or we ask someone who is in the same climbing area as we are. The number of quickdraws we need can vary according to the length of the routes we will climb, but with a dozen of quickdraws we will have enough to climb routes between 25 and 30 m. Ideally, we must have 15 quickdraws and that we can climb practically any route. In any case, before entering any route it is very important to know exactly its height and how many safety points it has more or less, so that later we are not surprised neither with the length of the rope or with the number of quickdraws we must have to climb it.

Equipamienton para la escalada tradicional o de montaña
Equipamienton para la escalada tradicional o de montaña

In conventional climbing or mountain (mountaineering, etc…), we must have more equipment, above all of self-protection elements (friends, nuts, etc…), and devices for rappels, weightlifting, etc…, in this article we will not enter into describing this type of equipment, because we understand that this type of climbing is for very advanced users, even experts.

And to finish we would like to insist on the extreme importance of buying new equipment of knowing the history and antiquity if you buy used equipment. Both soft materials and metals tend to degrade with time and with use and must be carefully evaluated before being used. It is also important to choose an adequate storage place for this type of material, storing them in places exposed to weather factors, and much less close to corrosive materials, the best is clean and dry places.