How to Rock Climb




Introduction: How to Rock Climb

About: I make things occasionally.

Rock climbing is a sport not for the feint of heart, a sport that will test both your mind and your body. This is a short and incomplete tutorial I decided to make because I noticed that there aren't any Instructables on the subject. I will take you through the basic gear, preparation, safety and proper technique needed in order to have a successful time sport climbing. 

I have explained most of the terminology that I have used in this tutorial but if you find something that I have not explained or if you just want to learn more about climbing jargon take a look here:

P.S. This is most lightly a horrible Instructable as it is my first and I am a disgusting writer/"explainer". Please let me know what you think and what you think I could change.

**None of the photos or videos are mine, I take no credit for them**

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Step 1: Gear

There is a lot of gear needed in order to climb safely. I will run you though a very basic "rack" of gear.

Belay Devices:
There are many types and variations of belay devices, all having their pros and cons. The three main devices used in sport climbing today, Black Diamond ATC's or variations, Figure of 8's and the Petzl GriGri. 


The ATC (Air Traffic Controller) is a propriety belay device manufactured by Black Diamond which has now become the staple for basic belay devices. Almost every climbing brand has their own variation. This device consists of a top plate or aperture that shifts up and down the rope in order to lock or release. The advantage of an ATC is that two ropes can be controlled at one time. Two ropes are often used when climbing Trad (Traditional), where all protection is removable and is placed as the climber ascends the face. It is also used when rappelling. I would recommend this device, or any of its variants, to anyone who is not willing to spend the extra cash on a GriGri, these devices are very safe as long as the belayer does NOT let go of the slack end of the rope!


The Petzl GriGri is an "assisted braking" belay device which means that when loaded the device locks preventing rope from being released. It does this using a cam that rotates and pinches the rope upon loading. The advantages of this device are that it allows the belayer to catch bigger falls by helping you in stopping the rope, it is extremely robust and it accepts many different rope sizes varying from 8.9mm to 11mm diameter (GriGri2). Statistically this is the most popular assisted braking device. I would recommend the use of this device to everyone, it is much safer than any other device and is easy to use. A quick lesson in managing the rope and use of the device is needed before hand.
The picture is of the smaller, lighter and safer new Petzl Grigri 2 which was released in early 2011.

Figure of 8:

The figure of eight is a primitive belay device that was very popular before the release of the ATC. This device is still used by some older climbers who feel comfortable using it. This device is not recommended and even "outlawed" in some climbing gyms due to the fact that it is very easy to drop some one! The eight as it is sometimes referred to, is mostly used as a descender for rappelling now because it allows a very fast decent. I do not recommend the use of a figure of eight to anyone who is a beginner as it has been proven that a human can only hold approximately 150Kg with it!


The harness is a device used to secure a person to the rope when climbing or the belay device when belaying a climber or rappelling. Things to consider then buying a harness it how long you feel you could hang in it comfortably, the weight and the price of course. Unfortunately there are as many harnesses available  to buy as there are stars in the sky, which can make choosing for a beginner rather daunting! My advice would be to try it on, hang in it for a while and consider the cost compared to other options. I personally would recommend the Petzl Corax to anyone, it is very comfortable as well as light and cheap. 


There are thousands of different shoes that all boast their own amazing features. Unlike street shoes, climbing shoes need to be tight, sorry mom's, the user needs to have his/her toes touching the tips as well as their heels touching the heel cup. One very important thing when buying shoes is the rubber, every shoe company has their own rubber that they claim will be the best but that isn't the case. When looking at the rubber of shoes you need to consider the thickness, generally as you progress in climbing you will favour thinner rubber as placing very precisely is easier when you can feel the rock through the shoe. While thicker rubber makes standing on credit card edges less work. The softer the rubbers are much stickier which means that your feet can be placed where others cannot. Where as harder rubbers last longer but do not facilitate much stickiness. The trick is finding the perfect balance between life span and the stickiness of the rubber for you. Another important factor is the shape of the shoe, when climbing at high grades the shoes tend to be more "aggressive" in their shape, with down turned toes and very thin rubber this allows superior foot work as the gradient increases but means that the shoe is extremely uncomfortable. 


A Quick draw is used to connect the rope and the bolt in the rock. These are clipped as the climber ascends, kind of like checkpoints. The choice with quickdraws comes down to preference. But things to consider are the weight, ease of clipping, length and the price. The weight is arguably the most important factor, it tends to get a bit heavy when you have to carry 10 - 20 of them up a route with you! The ease of clipping is very important too, always check how easily the gates open and close when buying quickdraws, you want to to be able to clip it as quickly as possible. The speed of clipping becomes very important as the grades increase. The length is something that most people over look when purchasing quickdraws. When a route is bolted it will often be bolted with short quickdraws in mind, but in my mind the longer the better! You will always end up extending your short quick draws. Having longer quickdraws, around 20cm, can prove a lot nicer as it will decrease rope drag in all cases. The down side of course then is the weight. 


The defining factors when buying a helmet is the fit, weight and price. Simply how the helmet fits on you head and how comfortable it is can determine if you buy it or not. Remember you will be wearing it for hours on end while at the crag and while climbing. The weight also affects the choice, climbing gear can get quite heavy when all of it is lumped together.


Rope choice is very important, the first thing to consider is how many falls it has been rated to handle. As with most things in life rope has an expiry date which depends on how many falls you take on it. Ropes can usually take around 10 falls, not you might look at that and say what a waste I will probably have to throw that rope away after one day! But you'd be wrong the falls that they talk about are rated by the UIAA (The International Mountaineering and Climbing Federation) the falls that they talk about are HUGE! Like falling half the length of your rope. Unless you are planning on never falling, I would recommend nothing smaller than a 10.2mm rope. It will last a long time and take a lot of abuse. Normally a 60m rope will be sufficient but always check the area you will be climbing at mostly.

Step 2: Preparation

Making sure that you have all the gear you will need for the day like the correct shoes or rope is imperative! For instance, if you know that you are going to be climbing huge walls for a full day, you would not bring your most aggressive shoes and your shortest rope!  Checking that all you gear is in working order the night before is very important. You don't want to be climbing on damaged gear un knowingly. Food and water are also essential for a day at the crag. I can't tell you how nice it is to have good food while climbing, if you have the time make sure that you will be the envy of everyone climbing around you with a meal that makes your mouth water, do it! Preferably one that can be eaten cold.

Step 3: Safety

Safety at the crag is very important, and there are many things that need you attention in order to have a safe day. 


Your safety checks are very important! The first thing you must do before running up a route is check yourself and your partner.

Yourself (Belayer):

Check that your harness is tight and the waist band is as high as you can pull it.
Check that all of your straps are doubled back and are secure.
Check that your helmet is on and tight enough.
Check that your locking carabiner on your belay device is tight and locked. 
Check that the slack side of your rope is coming out of the correct end.

Partner (Climber):

Check that his/her harness is tight and the waist band is as high as it can be pulled.
Check that all of the straps are doubled back and are secure.
Check that his/her helmet is on and tight enough.
Check that the knot is correct and the safety knot is also correct.
See this Instructable for the correct way to tie a Figure of Eight Knot:

While he/she is climbing check that he/she clip the quickdraws correctly ie not Back clipping or Z clipping.

Back clipping is where the rope has been clipped in the wrong direction ie the rope going to the climber is coming out of the back of the carabiner instead of the front (This can result in the rope unclipping itself during a fall). Z clipping is where the climber has clipped the rope from below their last quickdraw into the next one (The rope goes from the ground to the next quickdraw down to the last one and then to the climber meaning that it does not protect them in any way)
See images.

Step 4: Technique

Many people believe that all you need to become a successful climber is strength, but in reality technique is just as important. Technique is something that will normally only come with years of experience but starting with the correct technique will make a huge difference. 



Keeping your hands chalked up is not just a climbing stereotype, it has important functions. The Chalk (Magnesium Carbonate) absorbs the sweat and oils on your hands which helps you to grip the rock. The other very important function is to preserve the Rock/plastic you are climbing on. The oils and sweat from your unchalked hands build up on the popular holds which makes climbing harder. The holds become oily and need cleaning in order to restore the hold to its previous glory. Chalking your hands it kind of like a conservation act, keeping routes in climbing condition for longer.


Feet are just as important as your hands while climbing, making sure that your feet are placed well in order to keep you balanced and in the correct position to reach for the next hold is very important. Your feet are also used to keep the weight off your arms.


Resting is very important on long and sustained routes. Resting must always be done on a straight arm while hanging on your shoulder to prevent getting more tired. Learning to rest a very important skill that needs to be mastered in order to become a successful climber.


Clipping is another important skill that cannot be looked over. A fast clip is imperative when climbing hard grades as you do not want to be hanging around getting pumped (A build up of lactic acid in your forearms causing your grip strength to drastically decrease temporarily). 

A video on methods of clipping quickdraws (It is too hard to explain with words) 

Rope Management:

Always remember to watch where your rope is while leading. What you want to do is imagine a line joining all of your quickdraws up the route. When you are on this line the rope should be in between your legs. When you are on the left of the line the rope should be over your right leg and when you are on the right of the line the rope should be over your left leg. This will prevent you from flipping upside down during a fall. The rope won't catch your leg if it is placed correctly. 

Cleaning a route:

After a route is climbed the climber must get all of his/her gear back. The only way this is possible is to untie the rope while on a safety and to retie once the rope is threaded through the anchors. The process is dangerous and so I do not recommend anyone who is not experienced and very vigilant. This process can best be described by me showing you this video:

Belaying (I will not put anything about the figure of eight, I do not recommend its use):

When belaying you literally have your partners life in your hands. The most important thing to remember when belaying is to NEVER let go of the slack end of the rope! Even when using an assisted braking device like the GriGri, even they rely on some friction on the slack end of the rope to lock off. 


When taking in slack on the climbers side, you must pull on the slack end and pull down on the climbers end at the same time. Always pull the slack end down afterwards to lock off the device. Once you have taken in slack you need to work your hands up the slack end of the rope by placing each above the other. This means that you will always have a hand on the rope.

When giving slack you want to pull rope out of the device on the climber end and push rope in on the slack end. Always try to estimate how much rope the climber will need in order to clip the quickdraw. If done correctly the climber will have enough to clip the quickdraw but not much more slack, which would be dangerous.


When lowering on GriGri pull the release handle and use the friction of your hand on the slack end to control the speed of decent.
When lowering on an ATC all that needs be done is to lift your hands upward until you can feel the rope wanting to release, then slowly allow the rope to slide through your hands, using the friction on your hands control the speed.

Videos on belay technique:


I do not recommend the method he uses when taking slack, the rope should always be below the device. If a fall occurs during he taking slack there is potential for the device not locking.

ATC or equivalent:

A very good video on how to use an ATC or its equivalent, this technique must also be used when using an assisted braking device. This is for Top Rope climbing (Where the rope is already going through the anchor). 

Step 5: End of the Day

Remember to check you have all of your gear and rubbish before you leave the crag. Once home check that none of your gear is damaged and is ready for your next day of climbing. You may want to coil your rope for easier storage here is a video showing you how to coil a rope using the "Butterfly" method. 

Step 6: Conclusion

Congratulations you have managed to endure my Instructable and hopefully come out with some knowledge on climbing. Please let me know what you think about my first Instructable.

Now a little Disclaimer:

Rock climbing is a dangerous sport and if not practised correctly can result in injury or death. I do not condone climbing without proper instruction from an experienced climber.

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    9 Discussions


    6 years ago

    always seek professional on site (pun intended) instructive lessons


    7 years ago on Introduction

    This is wonderful! Your instructable is very clear and descriptive. I love rock climbing but I haven't been able t do it for awhile.


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Thank you very much, You must start climbing again. It is very good for you :)


    7 years ago on Introduction

    i am curious for what reason do you not recommend the use of figure eights i was trained on their use and have always preferred them as compared to ATCs ect. due to their simplicity and lack of moving parts

    thank you,


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    The reason I do not recommend them is that they can be very dangerous if the user is not trained correctly. I do not want to try to explain something like that without being with the person and being 100% sure that they have perfect technique. Unlike other devices an eight will only lock if the slack end of the rope is being pulled downward. Other devices give you a little leeway, if you know what I mean. The other reason as I stated in the I'able is that Wild Country, I believe, recently did a test and found that a person can hold a much lower force fall than with any other device, which again can prove dangerous.

    I am not saying that they should never be used, I use mine almost daily when rappelling. I am merely saying that I would not recommend it to someone who is just getting into climbing due to the possibility of risk.

    Hope that answers your question

    Thanks for reading :)


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Great! I never thought an instructable could be about a sport, less the dangerous sport of rock climbing! But you have it well written. That first video is essentially teaching someone to practice good manual dexterity. Let's hope future climbers are attentive readers... or readers could be climbers.


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Thank you very much :). Good to know that my writing is not as bad as I think it is!


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    If you're concerned about your writing, it might help to use a spell checker. Personally I don't worry much about typo's as long as the concept is clear. Some readers, however, will just stop reading. It won't stop others from skim-reading though. :-)


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Haha, thanks for the heads up. I don't really proof read, that is one of the problems and when I do I get bored and start skimming! The problem is that the Google Chrome Spell check is horrible! Maybe I should write in Word and transfer it to my editing page.