By: Jake Mansfield
The arrival of spring brings the start of another climbing season. Cool temperatures and longer hours of sunlight mean that the long months of training in the climbing gym finally get to pay off. It’s time to dust of your guidebooks and rope bags and head out to the crag! It is important that you are well informed with all of the trip beta and gear that you are going to need to make your spring break climbing trip a success.
The first decision that needs to be made is a destination. Everything else in your planning process is going to depend on that. This could be a simple day trip to Whipps Ledges or Logtown, or it could be a multi-night trip to New River Gorge, Red River Gorge, the cliffs of New York, or out even way out west. Choosing a destination can depend on driving distance, difficulty that you can climb, and the style of rock climbing that you prefer. If you are venturing into unfamiliar territory, make sure you seek qualified instruction and talk to someone who has climbed in this area before. This information can be very valuable. They can give you inside knowledge on the best routes, approaches, camping spots, and more.
Once you select your climbing location, you can start to plan logistical parts of the trip. Look in guidebooks or on mountainproject.com to find crags, routes, and plan out approach trails. Start to plan out the timing of your climbing days: where and when you will leave, arrive, and eat. It’s always a good idea to find out what time the sun sets so your group doesn’t get stuck cleaning a route in the dark (or know when to break out the headlamps).
Now that your group has agreed on what days you will be there, you can start to look at the weather forecast. This part is extremely important. Weather will affect what gear you have to bring, which crags you go to, and even if you get to climb that day at all. Some areas do not stay dry during rain, and others even are soaked for days after. Some rock types become especially fragile after getting saturated with water. Depending on temperatures, you may want to chase the sun to stay in the warmth or run from it and find shady crags hidden in the trees. Proper research into individual areas should be able to tell you all of this.
Once you have all of this information locked in, you are ready to start gathering gear. However, there are still questions we need to answer to pick what gear we need to bring. Will you be doing sport or trad climbing? How tall will the climbs be? What items do the other members in your group already have (that you don’t need to duplicate)?
I have compiled a list of common items for sport climbing. Some of these become more specific depending on the area, but this general list will get you by most of the time.
- Climbing Shoes
- Quickdraws – minimum of 12, never hurts to have a few more
- Locking carabiners
- Nonlocking carabiners
- Rope – 60 meters minimum in most areas, but 70 meters becoming more common
- Belay/rappel device
- Slings/runners-singles and doubles
- Chalk and chalk bag
Optional (but useful)
- Rope bag
- Belay Gloves
- First Aid Kit
- Stick clip-highly suggested for high first bolts
- Approach and Belay shoes
- Proper climbing clothing (changes on weather and preference)
All climbing gear should be properly suited for what you are using it for and inspected to be in good condition before use. Ask other experienced climbers if you are ever unsure on a piece of gear or take it in to your local climbing gym or outfitter to get it checked out.
Proper planning and communication are always going to make a trip better. Make sure you gather as much info on an area as you can before heading out there. This will increase time on the rock, success on your projects, and most important of all, safety.