Can I Take Kids Hiking?

Are you hoping to get out this spring and enjoy nature with your little ones? If so, you may be wondering if taking kids hiking around Colorado Springs is safe. The answer is that there are plenty of ways to get your children outdoors and on the trail. With proper planning and packing, you can be sure to have a safe and enjoyable time hiking with kids.

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The Best Trails for Taking Kids Hiking

The first thing to do when planning a hike with kids is to find a suitable trail. First, opt for less strenuous hikes without too much vertical gain as steep hikes can be fall hazards for kids. Next, depending on your preference, you may pick a place that allows dogs and horseback riding. Or you might decide it would be safer to do a pedestrian-only trail, so you don’t have to worry about mountain bikers or e-bikes.

In terms of exact mileage or difficulty rating, you can start easy and work your way up. There are plenty of excellent short hikes near Colorado Springs. When your kids are young and just starting out, you want to make hiking fun and achievable. As an avid hiker, you may have mountains you want to conquer or a mile count you want to meet. But when hiking with children, it is important to let go of these expectations and focus on cultivating an engaging and enjoyable experience.

Setting Alternate Goals and Expectations

Instead, you may choose a hike based on something you know your kids like, such as a waterfall or a popular bird watching spot. You can also make a game of the kids counting mushrooms or picking wildflowers. These alternate goals give the family something to look forward to that is not based on mileage or elevation gain.

Finally, a good rule of thumb for hiking with little kids is that the trip will take at least double what it otherwise would. Your kids may need to rest, want to go off and explore, or even decide to turn around early. Loop trails are a good idea for kids as they have a clear end point and unique views the entire way. You may also find a park that has branching trails from the same starting place. This is a good way to add to your hike on the fly, depending on how the kids are feeling.

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What to Pack when Hiking with Kids

Once you have picked out where to go and when, you will need to pack. Here are some key tips on what to pack for a day hike that will ensure you have a safe and fun time. First, in order to stay safe on the trail, you should always bring a first aid kit, matches, a flashlight, and an emergency shelter like a tarp and rope. Next, keep comfortable on the trail with essentials like sunscreen, rain jackets, and cold-weather gear. If the weather sours, your kids will surely want to turn around and get back to the car, and the right gear will keep them happy on the way.

If you are taking a short hike with little ones, you may not think navigation is necessary. Maybe you know the route, or maybe there are other people around. However, kids like to go off and explore, and your phone might not work deep in the forest. Bringing a physical form of navigation like a map can be a lifesaver when you lose track of your original trail.

Don’t Forget the Snacks 

One of the most important things to pack for hiking with kids is extra food. Parents always know to carry snacks wherever they go, and the trail is no exception. Even though you may not get hungry on the route, snacks are essential for young kids. You can use a treat as a reward for reaching a trail checkpoint or as fuel when the mood and energy start to falter. Be sure to pack plenty of water, enough to last the whole day, and encourage your kids to hydrate on water breaks.

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How to Hike with Kids

In terms of the actual experience of hiking with your children, be sure to check out the guide on how to hike with kids. This has great ideas for how to keep kids engaged on the trail, everything from imaginative games and goals to responsibilities and rewards. One essential tip is to plan a fun stop on the way home. A detour for ice cream is the perfect way to ensure they remember the trip pleasantly, no matter what happens with the weather or the hike. You can narrow down your search for the perfect hiking trail this way by planning to incorporate a nearby toy store or candy shop visit afterwards.

Education and Interaction on the Trail

The most important thing you can do is keep your mind and imagination open. Remembering to view the world as brand new will allow you to experience the wonder and beauty of nature as your kids do. If you or the little ones are interested in birds or trees or mushrooms, you can bring along a guidebook and plan some time for identification. Having educational resources on hand and teaching kids about the world around them will surely improve everyone’s experience.

Another great way to ensure an interactive hike is to check out the Junior Ranger programs offered at most state and national parks. Rocky Mountain National Park, Garden of the Gods, and other popular spots have programming for kids that is often free of charge. You can also visit your local library to get a free Junior Ranger Nature Pack. These booklets for kids ages 7-13 have educational materials to be used at events throughout the year. Participating parks include Garden of the Gods, Stratton Open Space, Red Rock Canyon, and more.

Final Thoughts

Making hiking a family activity is a great way to bond and get everyone exercising. If you are just getting started and looking for extra help, Broadmoor’s three-hour guided hiking tour is available to kids of all ages. You can get tips from a local professional guide and see how they keep the little ones engaged and motivated on the trail. 

Cycling Events Near Colorado Springs – Spring/Summer 2023

As the weather warms up again, you are going to be looking for new and exciting ways to get outside. For avid cyclists and those new to biking, there are plenty of upcoming Colorado cycling events to get you back in the saddle. Check out some of the most interesting bike events in Colorado this spring and summer of 2023, and get started training for a bike tour today.

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Front Range Cycling Classic 

When: Sunday, March 19, 2023

Where: Parking Lot, Pinion Dr, Air Force Academy, CO 80840

More Information Here

Hosted by the US Air Force Academy Falcons Cycling Team, this bike race event is a 13.6 mile hilly ride around the Academy’s training complex in northwest Colorado Springs. In addition to collegiate time trials, the road race is open to everyone, with cash prizes for riders. The field is limited every year to 75 riders, so make sure you stay on top of this event and register as soon as you can.

Groove Fountain Festival

When: Saturday, April 15 & Sunday, April 16, 2023

Where: Kirk Hanna Park, 17050 S Peyton Hwy, Colorado Springs, CO 80928

Register Here

Located in the southeast district of Hanover, this cycling event is now in its third year. The time trial is on Saturday the 15th, and the road race is on Sunday the 16th. The two race options are 39 or 78 miles on a large loop that takes you between the park and Fountain, Colorado. The elevation gain is minimal, around 300 feet, making this a great opportunity for folks looking for a less rigorous ride.

Tour de Victory

When: Saturday, May 20, 2023

Where: YMCA of Northern Colorado, 2800 Dagny Way, Lafayette, CO 80026

Register Here

The Tour de Victory bike event is a bit of a drive from Colorado Springs, but it is a very popular Colorado cycling event and for good reason. This non-competitive race is a fundraising event for Davis Phinney Foundation for Parkinson’s. Riders can choose between four courses, a 20k, a 50k, a 100k, and a Gravel Course that is about 87 kilometers. The routes travel west of Lafayette, with the 100k going all the way up to Longmont. The 20k reaches about 400 feet of elevation, and the 100k over 2,000. These fun cycling events are for a good cause, and riders with Parkinson’s get free registration. 

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Race the Sun

When: Saturday, June 4, 2023

Where: 1375 W Plum Creek Pkwy, Castle Rock, CO 80109

Registration Opens February 1

This 6.5 mile mountain biking course is described as playful and flowy. It offers 90% singletrack and has 647 feet elevation gain. The course travels counterclockwise around Philip S. Miller Park in Castle Rock, which is less than an hour’s drive from downtown Colorado Springs. The race goes from 7 am to 7 pm, and walk-on registration is available the day before and early that morning. Elephant Rock is a popular destination for cyclists, and you will surely enjoy checking it out during this rewarding mountain biking event. 

719 Ride

When: Saturday, July 15, 2023

Where: Chipeta Elementary School, 2340 Ramsgate Terrace, Colorado Springs, CO 80919

Registration Opens March 12

Now in its eighth year, the 719 Ride is a locally organized road race that is a crowd favorite and one of the best Colorado cycling events. The “Course that Cannot Be Defeated” is a celebration of the elevation around Colorado Springs. You are invited to try to complete five laps of the course, for a total of 71.9 miles and 9,190 feet of elevation gain. For the same registration fee, however, you can do as many (or as few) laps as you wish. The top tier at a punishing 14 laps is called the Himalayan 719 as it covers the 25,700 feet elevation gain that it would take to reach a Himalayan peak. This is a great opportunity to challenge yourself and enjoy some beautiful views around Ute Valley Park and Blodgett Open Space. 

Cycle to the Summit

When: Saturday, August 12, 2023

Where: Pikes Peak Toll Rd, Woodland Park, CO 80863 (Parking lots near the start line and Crystal Creek Reservoir.)

Register Here

This difficult ride is not for the faint of heart. But if you want to join the Summit Society, there is only one way to do it. The race to the summit of Pikes Peak is 12.4 miles and over 4,700 feet of elevation gain. You will have to navigate 156 turns along the windy road as well as an average grade increase of 7%. But it is all worth it for the amazing views. The ride down is a spectacular journey, and there is a shuttle available for those who prefer it. The event was started in 2010, and summiters get exclusive deals and promotions from participating sponsors. Biking Pikes Peak is a rite of passage for cyclists in Colorado Springs, so don’t miss out on your chance to join the fun.

Golden Gran Fondo

When: Sunday, August 27, 2023

Where: Event Parking located at Ford Street and 10th Street, Golden, CO 80401

Registration Not Yet Open

This cycling event is part of the Suarez Gran Fondo National Series and starts in historic Golden, Colorado. There are three course options at 18, 63, and 91 miles. The Piccolo, 18.3 mile race, has an elevation gain of 1,962 feet, and the Gran Route has an intense elevation gain of 10,860 feet. It is a challenging route, with elevation gains lasting more than thirty minutes, but that also means the descents are substantial and rewarding. The Gran Route travels slightly south of Golden and north all the way to Nederland, giving you excellent views of Golden Gate Canyon State Park and Thorodin Mountain along the way.

Final Thoughts

Now that you are excited to get back on your bike and check out these Colorado cycling events, there’s one more thing. Before you get going, make sure your bike is in good condition after being stored for the winter. Get some tips on how to clean your bike, maintain it, and ensure it will last you this cycling season. And if you are looking to warm up before one of the big days, a bike tour around Colorado Springs is a great way to do it. A three-hour bike tour around Garden of the Gods is the perfect start to the new year and a surefire way to get you motivated to ride again.  

Ten Unique and Thrilling Day Trips Near Colorado Springs

If you’re looking for an adventure off the beaten path, there are so many unique day trips from Colorado Springs. Whatever your interest, there are plenty of options around central and eastern Colorado. Within a couple of hours’ drive, you could explore a part of nature like nothing you’ve seen before. Each list is arranged by distance, and there are suggestions for hikers, loungers, learners, and more.

Educational Day Trips from Colorado Springs

Manitou Cliff Dwellings

Location: 10 Cliff Rd, Manitou Springs, CO 80829
Distance from Downtown Colorado Springs: 15 minutes
Activity: Walking Tour
Great for: Families, Young Kids

Just across 24 from Manitou Springs, the Manitou Cliff Dwellings are open to the public for self-guided tours. This experience regularly makes lists of must-see Colorado Springs attractions. Why? This museum and tourist attraction is a replica of ancient cliff dwellings built by Ancestral Puebloans found in the Four Corners region. Built over a hundred years ago, in 1903, to divert tourists from the true, protected sites. It was created using materials from a collapsed archeological site, and the museum has pottery, tools, weapons, and more. This is a great place to take the kids to learn about archeology and history. They can walk through the cliff dwellings and see artifacts and dioramas within a cave museum. 

Paint Mines Interpretive Park

Location: 29950 Paint Mine Rd, Calhan, CO 80808
Distance from Downtown Colorado Springs: 45 minutes
Activity: Hiking
Great for: Families, Couples

At under an hour from downtown Colorado Springs, Paint Mines Interpretive Park just outside Calhan, Colorado is easily accessible. It can be quite busy on the 3.4-mile loop trail, and it is no wonder why.  The beautiful layers of different colored clays, which Natives used to make paint, create stunning scenery. The park has evidence of human life as far back as 9,000 years. The park is open year-round and free, although sadly pets are prohibited.

Photo by Hailey Haar on Unsplash

Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument

Location: 15807 Co Rd 1, Florissant, CO 80816
Distance from Downtown Colorado Springs: 45 minutes
Activity: Walking Tour
Great for: Families, Kids

The Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument is an underrated but great day trip near Colorado Springs. Especially if you have little ones who love dinosaurs and rocks, this park is the place to be. The Florissant Formation is a petrified tree stump, one of many you can see on the mile loop trail. It is estimated to be 34 million years old and has been well-preserved due to volcanic ash. You can see preserved insect and plant fossils in the rock, as well as layers of clay and mud. Just past Divide, Colorado, this is an easy day trip from Colorado Springs and perfect for teaching the kids about geology. The monument is open year-round and has 14 miles of other trails as well.

Rocky Mountain National Park

Location: Beaver Meadows Visitors Center, 1000 US-36, Estes Park, CO 80517
Distance from Downtown Colorado Springs: 2 hours, 15 minutes
Activity: Hiking, Sightseeing
Great for: Everyone!

If you haven’t been to Rocky Mountain yet, it needs to be at the top of your list. This is one of the more famed National Parks in the country and for good reason. This 414-square-mile park is home to some stunning scenery and a variety of exciting wildlife. You could spot moose, elk, bighorn sheep, bears, deer, and more. The park’s many trails are great for hiking, horseback riding, backpacking, and cross-country skiing. You can also rock climb or boulder, fish for trout, and birdwatch. There’s something for everyone here, with plenty of romantic adventures for couples and educational tours for kids. 

Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve

Location: Great Sand Dunes Visitors Center, 11999 CO-150, Mosca, CO 81146
Distance from Downtown Colorado Springs: 2 hours, 30 minutes
Activity: Hiking, Sightseeing
Great for: Everyone!

Great Sand Dunes National Park is not one of the most famous in our parks system, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t interesting. These sand dunes are the tallest in North America, reaching heights up to 750 feet. They cover 30 square miles and contain an estimated 5 billion cubic meters of sand. Hiking the sand dunes is a fun way to explore, but there are better options. Sandboarding and sand-sledding are two unique ways to experience the dunes. You can rent gear in the nearby town of Alamosa and practice your new favorite sport!

Thrill-Seeker Day Trips Near Colorado Springs

Royal Gorge Bridge and Park

Location: 4218 Co Rd 3A, Cañon City, CO 81212
Distance from Downtown Colorado Springs: 1 hour, 15 minutes
Activity: Theme Park
Great for: Families, Kids

Built for tourism in 1929, the Royal Gorge Bridge is suspended 956 feet over the Arkansas River. It is one of the highest suspension bridges in the world as well as the highest in the United States. The views from the bridge are absolutely breathtaking. But that’s not even it. The park also has activities for adventurers of all ages. You can ride the sky coaster or gondola, rock climb up the gorge on the Via Ferrata, or take a heart-pounding zip line 1,200 feet above the river. 

Bishop Castle

Location: 12705 CO-165, Rye, CO 81069
Distance from Downtown Colorado Springs: 1 hour, 30 minutes
Activity: Sightseeing, Walking Tour
Great for: Families

Bishop Castle is an odd but unique stop to add to your Colorado bucket list. Due south of Colorado Springs, this is mainly a tourist attraction, but it is free and always open. There are no official tours, but visitors are welcome to explore the entirety of the castle on their own. The castle is built by one man, Jim Bishop, who has been working on it for sixty years. You can see beautiful stained glass windows and a fire-breathing dragon. What puts Bishop Castle on this list, however, are the views. At three stories tall with towers and iron bridges, the castle soars over the tree line. You can see for a hundred miles on a clear day, and it is breathtaking. If you aren’t afraid of heights or odd architecture, you will be rewarded with outstanding views.

Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park

Location: 51000 Two Rivers Plaza Road, Glenwood Springs, CO 81601
Distance from Downtown Colorado Springs: 3 hours, 30 minutes
Activity: Walking Tour, Theme Park
Great for: Families, Kids

There are closer caves and caverns (namely Cave of the Winds Mountain Park in Manitou Springs). But Glenwood Caverns has so much to offer that it is certainly worth the drive. You and your kids can learn about geology with a 40-minute guided walking tour of the cave system. Then, check out the gondola, roller coasters, movie theater, laser tag arena, and more. This is a great weekend getaway with activities the whole family can enjoy. 

Relaxing Day Trips Near Colorado Springs

Pikes Peak Cog Railway

Location: 515 Ruxton Ave, Manitou Springs, CO 80829
Distance from Downtown Colorado Springs: 20 minutes
Activity: Sightseeing
Great for: Families, Couples

One way to sightsee from the comfort of indoors is the cog railway. Enjoy a scenic tour of the mountain as the train takes you nine miles to the summit. This 3.5-hour round-trip route offers non-stop sightseeing, and it’s ideal for a fall day trip. Pikes Peak is one of the best places to see fall colors in Colorado Springs, so this is a great day trip when the trees start to turn. At the 14,115-foot summit, there are beautiful panoramic views of the surrounding Front Range of the Rockies. The newly built Summit Visitors Center has a restaurant where you can enjoy a meal and shops so you can grab a souvenir. If you are looking for a more adventurous way to experience Pikes Peak, the Cog Up, Bike Down Tour is an adrenaline junkie’s dream. 

Indian Hot Springs

Location: 302 Soda Creek Rd, Idaho Springs, CO 80452
Distance from Downtown Colorado Springs: 1 hour, 30 minutes
Activity: Relaxation
Great for: Couples

Colorado is full of geothermal hot springs, but not all of them are equally amazing. Just west of Denver, Indian Hot Springs is one of the best places near Colorado Springs to get your soak on. This gorgeous getaway has a mineral water swimming pool geothermally heated around 90-100 degrees. There are also thermal caves, mud baths with mineral-rich clay, and outdoor jacuzzis. They even have eleven private baths for rental, a spa, and rooms and suites for a weekend retreat. If you are looking for a relaxing day trip from Colorado Springs, this one is unbeatable.

Final Thoughts

There are so many ways to get outdoors and enjoy nature in Colorado. No matter what activities you enjoy, there is sure to be something for you. And if driving isn’t your thing, that’s fine, too. If you’re looking for something closer to home, Colorado Springs has plenty of local adventures within easy reach. You can enjoy a bike tour, zip line, or scavenger hunt right here in town. Check out the Broadmoor Outfitters’ guided tours to enjoy Colorado Springs’ natural environment and learn a new skill.

How to Train for a Bike Tour

Are you wishing you could go on an epic bike tour of Colorado Springs’ best attractions? Or maybe you want to prepare for one of Colorado’s annual cycling events. It doesn’t take much to train for a bike tour. With just a little preparation, you can feel confident in your riding abilities and enjoy your time in the saddle exploring the sites.

Training for a bike tour consists mainly of cardio workouts and strengthening for the legs, back, and core. You should also include flexibility training to ensure your muscles do not tighten in response to the strength training. We’ll go over what a typical week of bike training looks like so you can get riding in no time.

Strength Training for a Bike Tour

If you’re not used to riding a bicycle, your legs will struggle to keep up on a bike tour. Strengthening your leg muscles, back, and core will keep you comfortable as you sit and work your leg muscles for hours on end on a bike tour. 

Leg Workouts for Biking

To prepare for a bike tour, you will need to build strength in the quadriceps, hamstring, and gluteus muscles. You can do goblet squats and lunges (or split squats which are static). Start with no weight and progress to doing them with a dumbbell. These will help strengthen the leg muscles that interact with the knee and keep your knees happy and healthy during your bike tour. 

Glute bridges are a great way to work out the butt muscles and the hip flexors making sure that you will be able to tolerate so much leg exercise in the sitting position. If you are not used to biking, you will notice your quads and hips getting tired first. That is why exercises like these are key for improving bicycle endurance.

Other leg exercises for biking include calf raises for the lower legs and side kicks for the outer quad muscles. Finally, you can use a stationary bike to practice one-leg pedaling. This is a strenuous but effective exercise because it forces your hips to work harder. When you pedal with both legs, it is common to push down more than pull up, so one-leg pedaling strengthens those pulling-up muscles. 

Back and Core Strength Training for a Bike Tour

Moving up the body, back and core workouts are also crucial to get you in bike-tour shape. Legs are not the only muscles that you will use when spending a day or more in the saddle. You also need to strengthen the muscles that keep you sitting upright on the bike. Romanian deadlifts are one of the best exercises to train the lower back. These exercises will help prevent discomfort when sitting for long periods of time. Unlike traditional deadlifts, Romanian deadlifts work the core more than the legs because you do not lower the weight to the ground and squat. When doing these, be sure to have the proper form and avoid rounding your back.

While deadlifts work the lower back and core muscles, you will also need to strengthen the erector spinae muscles, which travel the length of your back from the neck to the pelvis on either side of the spine. These muscles are important for posture and keeping upright on the bicycle. One great exercise for these back muscles is a quadruped, or bird dog, exercise. Start with your hands and knees on the ground and raise one arm and the opposite leg while keeping your core tight. This is a great way to strengthen your core for bicycling.

One final muscle group not to forget is the arm muscles. It is easy to overlook upper body workouts when thinking about bike riding, but you would be surprised at how tired your arms can get. When you think about the proper positioning on a bicycle, you actually use your arms a lot. Typically, bicyclists push against the handlebars for leverage, especially when biking uphill. And boy, are there a lot of hills involved in a Colorado Springs bike tour. Training your arms for a bike tour might consist of push-ups, planks, and side planks.

Cardio Training for Endurance Biking

You do not need to bike every day to train for biking. In fact, your cardio workouts can be anything. You can cross-train on a treadmill, with a HIIT (high-intensity interval training) workout, in a pool, or on a rowing machine. You can go jogging or hiking, or play a cardio-heavy sport like soccer or boxing. Cross-training is a great way to keep your schedule exciting and work out different muscle groups at the same time.

An ideal schedule for training for a bike tour is five or six days a week, alternating cardio and strength training days. You can plan to include one or two cross-training days per week, and make sure you are getting on the bike twice a week. Due to time constraints, you may plan a shorter ride of an hour during the week and a longer endurance ride for the weekend. You can plan for a two or three-hour weekend ride to start, and one great option is a guided bike tour. The distance you plan to achieve will determine the endurance rides. You can build up to it gradually over a few months or longer.

Pack Training for a Bike Tour

One essential step of training for a bike tour is pack training. Do not forget that a multi-day bike tour will necessarily include you carrying a backpack on your back or at least on the bike. This added weight will be quite a shock when you start if you have not introduced it during training. You can build up to it by starting with no weight and adding five pounds at a time. Once you have completed a month of training, including core and back exercises, you will find this added weight is no problem.

Best Stretches for Bicycling

Anytime you work out, either strength training or cardio, you need to stretch, too. Bicycling can easily cause joint pain and sore muscles if you are tight. Flexibility is essential for comfort and muscle endurance. That is why you should stretch every day, even on off days. 

Focusing on leg stretches, you will want to include hamstring (touch your toes), IT band and hip (figure 4), groin (butterfly), and quad (bring your foot to your butt). Key hip flexor and core stretches include reaching for the ceiling and the yoga cobra pose. Finally, keep your spine muscles flexible with neck and back stretches.

Final Thoughts

Training for a bike tour is a fantastic goal to keep you motivated to work out every day. You can also see some beautiful places in Colorado Springs as you train for the big event. Choose one of these six best mountain biking spots for an endurance ride, and you will surely come to love your biking training. Please always wear a helmet, follow bike safety guidelines, and have fun. Happy riding!

12 Terms Rock Climbers Love: An Intro to Climbing Lingo

If you are getting into rock climbing, one important thing to learn is the vocabulary. When you are hanging around other climbers and working on similar bouldering problems, you are likely to strike up a conversation that includes some odd rock climbing terms. We’ll go over some of the most popular lingo so you can fit right in as you start your climbing journey.

Beta

Getting beta on a climb means receiving advice. It could be a hint about the route, the starting position, the quality of a handhold, or anything. It could even be watching another climber complete the route so you can see what works. There is no shame in getting beta on a hard climb that you are projecting.

Before you ask someone for beta, make sure you know the names of climbing holds. That way, when someone tries to point out the route to you, you will be able to follow which holds they are talking about.

Crux

The crux of a climb is the hardest move or section. When you look at the rating of a climb, it is most likely based on the crux. This is especially true for bouldering routes. For more help figuring out how climbing route ratings work, be sure to check out our beginner’s guide to climbing techniques.

The difficulty of the crux can be hard to pinpoint. It can be due to a mixture of things including the type of hold, the distance between them, and the wall. For example, many overhung climbs have a crux at the overhang since transitioning from below the overhang to the wall above it is a particularly strenuous and difficult move. Another crux might be due to a particularly tough handhold and the next handhold being far away.

Projecting

Working on a climb as a project is known as projecting. This can be a climb above your skill level that takes many days and many tries until you can successfully climb it in one try without falling. It is always good to have a project when you climb so you can keep pushing yourself to improve. Typically climbers may have a couple projects going at the same time.

Sending

Sending a route means getting to the top in one go without falling. This can be done with or without practice, with or without beta. It is meant to be a catch-all term to describe getting to the top of a climb. Other terms used are more specific, like on-sighting, which is successfully climbing a route the first term you try it with no beta, no prior knowledge, no watching someone else do it. 

Slack and Take

These are two important terms and the most common ways for climbers to direct their belayer. Slack means that you want more slack in the rope. Take means that you want the belayer to take slack and make the rope tighter. As a belayer, you may hear a climber yell ‘take’ if they think they will fall or when they need a rest so they do not lose height on the route. To learn more belay terms, you can check out a guided climbing tour. In addition to enjoying a unique outdoor climbing experience, you will learn climbing safety, belay techniques, and more. 

Spotter

Spotting someone on a climb is very important. This is common at the beginning of lead climbs before the climber gets to the first anchor and on outdoor bouldering routes. The goal of a spotter is to make sure that if the climber falls, they do not hit their head. You are not standing directly under the climber trying to catch them if they fall. In this case, you will end up getting hurt yourself. Instead, a spotter stands back with their arms outstretched, elbows slightly bent, and thumbs in. If your climber falls, your main goal is to keep them upright, protect the head and neck, and make sure they fall safely onto the crash pads.

In outdoor bouldering, the role of a spotter or multiple spotters is essential. You may reposition crash pads as the climber moves, so they can land safely on it if they fall. You also may direct the climber as they fall to make sure they get on the crash pad and do not bounce off. If your climber is smaller than you, you can catch them around the waist and ease their fall. If the climber is bigger than you, you will more likely direct them with your hands on their butt to ensure they fall onto the crash pad. 

Types of Walls

Face and Slab

While a perfectly vertical wall, sometimes called a face, is the easiest to climb, many walls are not so simple. Especially if you are climbing outdoors, you are likely to encounter walls at different angles, even ones that change angle throughout the climb. A wall that tilts back away from you, and is thus less steep than vertical, is called a slab. 

Climbing a slab requires balance and confidence in your footholds. It can be scary for beginners to climb slabs because you may feel like if you fall, you’ll fall into the wall. To avoid scraping yourself on the wall, be sure to hop backward when you feel like you are going to fall. 

Overhangs, Roofs, and Caves

The opposite of a slab is an overhang. An overhang is any section of a wall that is more than vertical. Overhung walls tend to be a little more challenging because they require more strength to stay on the wall. 

If an overhung route is so angled that it juts out over your head and forces you to climb nearly horizontally, it is called a roof. A large section of this might be called a cave, and these are generally found in bouldering or lead climbing areas. With gravity working directly against you, climbing a roof requires a lot of strength and endurance. 

Final Thoughts

There are unlimited slang terms that different people use in different types of climbing. What is most important is that you are able to pick up enough to communicate effectively with other climbers when sharing route information. When climbing outdoors, another important safety tip is to establish non-verbal communication solutions with your group members. Over time, you will surely pick up more and more terms, so be patient and happy climbing!

woman and dog cross country skiing in snow and trees

Best Activities by Season Near Colorado Springs

There is so much to do in Colorado Springs that it can be hard to pick your next adventure. That’s why we’ve compiled some suggestions of unique outdoor activities to fit the season. If you need a new idea to get you excited to head out, here are some of the best outdoor activities available around Colorado Springs.

Best Winter Activities near Colorado Springs

Snowshoeing and Cross-Country Skiing in Mueller State Park

Snowshoeing and cross-country skiing are classic Colorado winter activities with plenty of trails to choose from. In Mueller State Park, all trails are open for both, and if you are looking for an easier go of it, two routes are groomed depending on snow conditions. Mueller State Park is less than an hour’s drive from downtown Colorado Springs, just south of Divide, Colorado. This is a great way to enjoy the fresh air and the fresh powder. Mueller has a variety of trails offering different difficulty levels and lengths so you can enjoy a full day on the trail or a shorter trip with the kids.

Ice Skating in the Park

Take the kids ice skating in Acacia Park anytime from November 11 through January 31. This fun pastime is a great seasonal activity for people of all ages. You can go with friends, take a date, or schedule a birthday party around it. The park offers special events and skating times all throughout the day. Acacia Park is conveniently located in downtown Colorado Springs, offering plenty of places to enjoy a cup of something warm after your ice rink adventure. And if you don’t want to wait until the winter, you can always head to one of Colorado Springs’ local ice rinks all year-round.

Ways to Enjoy the Spring in Colorado Springs

Wildflower Spotting in Red Rock Canyon

Spring in Colorado is a colorful time. When the wildflowers bloom, you can see a vibrant rainbow across the valleys and up the mountainside. There are Colorado Columbines, Bluebells, Indian Paintbrushes, and more. That’s why heading out to find wildflowers is one of the best activities for the spring season in Colorado. Red Rock Canyon Open Space is a tucked-away preserve just northwest of Old Colorado City. This 1,474-acre park has miles of hiking trails with plenty of places to enjoy views of the spring blooms. 

Elk Sighting in Rocky Mountain National Park

When the sun comes out in the spring, so do the animals, and there is no place better to see wildlife than in Rocky Mountain National Park. With more than 265,000 acres, the park is chock full of opportunities to spot elk, bighorn sheep, and bison. At less than three hours from Colorado Springs, Rocky Mountain is a perfect weekend getaway for someone looking to shake off the winter cold.

Outdoor Activities to Enjoy the Colorado Summer

Stand-Up Paddle Boarding in Colorado Springs

Summers in Colorado are beautiful, and with so many bodies of water around, it would be a shame to not take advantage. There are plenty of ways to do so, from canoeing or kayaking to swimming or boating. One unique and increasingly popular summer sport is stand-up paddle boarding (SUP). It is easy to learn and offers the flexibility to explore the water in a new way. Try it out with a guided SUP tour available on a local Colorado Springs lake. Don’t forget the sunscreen, and this will be a seasonal activity sure to please.

two stand up paddleboarders on lake
Photo by Matt Zhou on Unsplash

Manitou Springs Natural Mineral Springs Walking Tour

If you are looking for a unique and interesting way to spend a day outdoors in the summer, Manitou Springs is the place to be. The town has eight naturally-carbonated mineral springs you can find via a free, self-guided walking tour. These gorgeous and mystical springs have potable water with varying tastes, from sweet to citrus. This is a popular seasonal activity for locals and tourists alike, and it’s a fun way to stay cool and hydrated on a beautiful summer day.

Best Fall Adventures near Colorado Springs

Hiking in Garden of the Gods

There is nothing like the fall in Colorado. You can enjoy perfect weather and stunning scenery in a multitude of ways, from hiking to biking. Enjoy a guided hiking tour of one of Colorado Springs’ most recognized wonders. Garden of the Gods has exceptional hikes that provide amazing views and opportunities to see a variety of wildlife. With a tour guide, you can learn about the geology, ecology, and history of the National Natural Landmark. There are plenty of ways to keep the little ones happy, too, from horseback riding to segway tours to the Junior Rangers Program.

Fall Colors from the Pikes Peak Cog Railway

One of the best places to enjoy the colors of fall is Pikes Peak. With thousands of acres of national forest, fall brings out rich golden and red hues that make for a gorgeous vista. If you want to sit back and enjoy a tour of the landscape, the Pikes Peak Cog Railway is the perfect way to do it. The Cog Railway is a 9-mile trek that takes you to the 14,115-foot summit of Pikes Peak. From here, you can enjoy jaw-dropping panoramic views from the Summit Visitors Center, have a meal on the outdoor dining terrace, and buy souvenirs in the retail center. The 3.5-hour round-trip journey offers non-stop sightseeing and is a great way to spend a Saturday or Sunday. 

Final Thoughts

Colorado Springs is beautiful year-round and full of outdoor adventures waiting to be had. This short list of some of the best activities by season shows that there are an endless number of ways to enjoy nature whenever you want. No matter what season, as long as you prepare with the right gear, you can spend time outdoors in any weather. Check out the trail conditions at a park near you, and explore all that Colorful Colorado has to offer. 

How to Train to Hike a Colorado Fourteener

Are you hoping to summit one of Colorado’s famed 14ers but don’t know if you’ve got what it takes? It is actually a lot easier than you think to get in shape for a hike, and you can train to go from couch to 14er in a matter of months. Following a consistent and well-rounded exercise plan will prepare you to hike your first 14er and make sure you have a great time doing it. 

There are a few important elements to remember when training for a big hike. They are cardio, strength, and flexibility. In this article, we will go over how to train for all three and what a typical week should look like as you prepare for a hike in Colorado.

Cardio Training for Elevation Hikes

Cardio is important not just for long-distance hiking, but in this case, also for hiking at elevation. As you climb up a mountain, the amount of oxygen in the air decreases. At sea level, the air is about 21% oxygen. At 8,000 feet, it is 15%, and by 14,000 feet, it is 12.3%. This means that you will fatigue faster and get muscle cramps more easily. If you are not prepared physically for the elevation, you will be more susceptible to symptoms of altitude sickness.

Doing cardio training helps combat these symptoms by conditioning your body to use oxygen more efficiently and adapt better to vigorous exercise. When training to hike a 14er, it is best to do cardio every other day. You can strength train in between and of course, have an active rest day (or weekend). Your cardio exercise should last at least an hour and focus on consistent exercise, often called steady-state cardio. This means working hard with minimal rests, to the point where you are breaking a sweat but not risking injury. 

Good cardio exercises for preparing to hike a 14er can be anything from rowing to running or biking to swimming. It is helpful to focus on low-impact exercises so you do not injure or over-stress joints when training.

Strength Workouts for Hiking Training 

Strength training may not be top of mind when you consider hiking a 14er, but it is just as important as training for cardio. Mountain climbing requires endurance from many muscles in your legs, back, and core. Between hiking at an incline (or decline on the way down) and some large steps in a scramble, you will certainly find your legs tested on a Colorado 14er.

Your strength workouts should take at least half an hour. I like to complete three sets of eight to ten exercises on strength training days. A good strength training routine will include full-body and core exercises. You want to focus on building stability and endurance in the ankles, knees, and hips. There is a multitude of different movements you can choose from to work on these areas. For legs, you’ve got squats, lunges, step-ups, step-downs, and heel raises. Hip flexor and lower core strengthening exercises include deadlifts, hip thrusts, and various sit-up workouts. If you have had problems with your feet in the past, be sure to include towel curls (or towel scrunches) to help strengthen your arch and prevent injury.

Pack and Elevation Training

One more important part of strength and cardio training is hiking with weight. When you are hiking a 14er, you will need to bring a day pack with water, food, extra layers, and first aid gear. No matter how light you keep it, your body and your back will notice this extra weight. That is why it is essential to build pack training days into your cardio routines.

My preferred schedule is to work out every day of the week, with cardio Tuesdays and Thursdays. Then, plan Saturdays for practice hikes with pack and elevation training and Sundays as your rest day. When you organize your schedule like this, you will find it takes only a few months to go from couch to 14er.

You should start your training hikes with two or three-hour hikes that have a minimal elevation gain of a couple of thousand feet. There are plenty of great moderate hikes near Colorado Springs to choose from, including the Columbine Trail. Once you build up to six to eight-hour hikes with at least 4,000 feet of elevation gain, you will surely be ready for your first 14er. 

Flexibility Training for Hiking 14ers

The final part of hiking training, one certainly not to be overlooked, is stretching. When training to hike a 14er, you should stretch every single day, even on your rest days. If you do not stretch daily, you will find your muscles tighter, more injury-prone, and sorer. 

It is best to stretch during and after workouts. It is a myth that you should stretch before you start exercising. Stretching when your body is cold can cause microtears in your muscles. Instead, take five minutes to warm up or start light exercises before you get into a deep stretch. 

You should, at the very minimum, stretch your calves, hamstrings, quads, IT bands, hip flexors, and back (by touching your toes). I also like to stretch my feet by extending my toes and my ankles by kneeling and sitting (gently) on my heels. You should hold each stretch for twenty seconds and repeat any that feel tight. While these stretches do take time, your body will thank you, and you will feel more relaxed and able to endure longer workouts. 

Hiking Your First 14er

Don’t feel defeated at the prospect of training for a 14er. You do not actually need to hike 14,000 feet in elevation gain to summit one of Colorado’s peaks. There are many hikes to peaks that are only a few thousand feet of elevation gain, depending on the parking lot and trail you choose. With a few months of hard work and training, you can begin using 14ers to train for other, more strenuous 14ers.

So where should you start? Many people consider Pikes Peak to be the easiest 14er near Colorado Springs. If you are hoping for a little professional guidance before you tackle your first 14er, be sure to check out a guided hiking tour. With 58 peaks over 14,000 feet, Colorado has no shortage of inspiring hikes to add to your bucket list. Be safe, and happy hiking!

History of Famous Colorado Springs Sites

Built around the base of Pikes Peak, Colorado Springs has a long and diverse history in the development of railroad routes, the excitement of the gold rush, and the installation of military facilities. The history of this area takes you to some of the best sites in and around Colorado Springs. These stories will surely inspire you to visit these attractions and enjoy them in a deeper way. 

Garden of the Gods

What is Colorado Springs most famous for? The most popular Colorado Springs site has to be the Garden of the Gods. This 480-acre park surrounds stunning the geological feature which is a National Natural Landmark. The park was conveyed to the city in 1909 after owner Charles Perkins passed away in 1907. He had purchased the land to build a property on it, but he never did. He decided instead to leave the gorgeous natural environment alone so that the public and future generations could enjoy it. Although he never made arrangements for it to become a park, his children knew his wishes and it remains pristine today. 

There are so many fun activities to do in the Garden of the Gods park, which is part of the reason it is such a popular Colorado Springs attraction. It has some of the best trad climbing in Colorado Springs, horseback riding, hiking, and guided e-bike tours. Seeing the Garden of the Gods via bicycle is one of the best ways to explore these rock formations from different angles. The tour is a ride of about five miles and three hours.

Manitou and Pikes Peak Cog Railway

Image of stream and tunnel in forest in manitou springs colorado springs site
Photo by Mikey Frost on Unsplash

This storied railway is the highest in North America, climbing almost 9 miles to the summit of Pikes Peak at 14,110 feet above sea level. It was built as a tourist attraction by the founder of the Simmons Beautyrest Mattress Company after he spent two grueling days on a mule to get to the peak. Zalmon Simmons funded the railway in 1889, and the project finished just two years later and opened in 1891. After the project proved unsuccessful financially, Simmons sold the railroad to the Broadmoor Hotel in 1925. The hotel still owns and manages it today, nearly 100 years later. 

One of the best ways to experience Pikes Peak and the Railway is with the Cog Up, Bike Down Guided Tour, which lets you enjoy views from the summit before biking down the 19.5-mile winding road. The trip is five and a half hours and provides amazing views of the Front Range of the Rockies. This is a popular tourist destination, and it’s no wonder why: these panoramic views make this one of the best sites in Colorado Springs. If you are not able to complete this exhilarating intermediate biking adventure, you can enjoy the newly created Summit Complex, including world-famous donuts and a well-stocked gift shop, before taking the cog railway back down. 

Rocky Mountain National Park

One of Colorado’s greatest outdoor wonders is a short drive from Colorado Springs just past the town of Estes Park. Rocky Mountain National Park is a 415-square-mile park boasting stunning views, exhilarating hikes, and great opportunities to see wildlife like elk and bighorn sheep. Early recordings of park exploration date back to the mid-1800s. Around this time, the area became popular due to the Pikes Peak gold rush. Federal law established Rocky Mountain as a National Park in 1915. Private homes scattered the landscape, but the government removed and replaced them with campsites and facilities.

Today, Rocky Mountain National Park is a gorgeous expanse of wilderness, with five visitors centers and over 100 backcountry campsites. There are opportunities for fishing, rock climbing (one of the most popular spots in Colorado for bouldering), and trail hiking. Serious hikers should check out the 45-mile loop of the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail. You should visit in the summer, as the park closes in the winter due to weather hazards. Most trails in the park also allow horseback riding, so there is no shortage of exciting ways to experience this park.

Rocky Mountain National Park was also one of the first World Biosphere Reserves, designated by UNESCO in 1976. This awards dedication to sustainable development and efforts to encourage human exploration in tandem with conserving the area’s biological diversity. With such a rich history and so much to explore and learn, the park truly is an essential Colorado experience.

Mining and Gold Camp Road

As you now know, Colorado Springs grew out of the Pikes Peak gold rush and subsequent mining. This famous Colorado Springs site was officially founded in 1871 and just celebrated its 150th year. The tunnels throughout Gold Camp Road were constructed in the late 1800s. A railroad called the “Short Line” opened in 1901 to help facilitate mining. The 200-car freight train transported miners, supplies, and minerals from mines near Cripple Creek back to Colorado Springs. 

The best way to explore Gold Camp Road is to hike or bike it. The hike is moderate difficulty, 14 miles and 2,200 feet of elevation gain. Mountain biking is a popular way to explore the trail, too, and it appears on cycling event routes often. It is possible to drive through the first two tunnels, but eventually the road becomes too rocky.

Final Thoughts

Colorado Springs’ unique history is just one more exciting thing to explore. With stunning views, diverse wildlife, and beautiful wildflowers, there are so many ways to enjoy an outdoor adventure and learn something new about Colorful Colorado. No matter what you like to do, there will surely be something awe-inspiring and memorable in your travels. If you are looking for your next adventure, Broadmoor’s guided tours teach new skills and explore new parts of town. 

How to Wear a Hiking Backpack

Are you looking forward to your first backpacking trip? Or maybe you’ve been on the trail and are wondering why your back hurts so much. A poorly fitting backpack can be a real hazard, causing back and hip pain, setting you off balance, and turning a beautiful hike into a miserable slog. 

In this article, we will set you up for success with three important steps: backpack fitting tips, how to properly pack a hiking backpack, and the right way to wear a heavy hiking backpack. Once you have these pieces sorted out, you will be ready to check out some of the best hikes near Colorado Springs with confidence and comfort.

Hiking Backpack Fitting Tips

The easiest way to get a backpack that fits well is to go to an outdoor equipment store where you can try some on with expert guidance. If you are buying a pack online or getting one from a friend, you might not have access to a professional opinion. But don’t worry: you can easily confirm on your own if a pack is a good fit for you.

The first thing you will do is measure your torso and hipbelt (not the same as your pants size!) and choose a pack that fits these dimensions. Whatever site you buy from will offer tips for taking these measurements, and be sure to look at the pack’s sizing guide, as different brands will vary. 

The Many Straps of a Pack, or How to Properly Wear a Hiking Backpack

Once you have your backpack in hand, you will see that there are plenty of adjustments to make. The torso size is key because too short a pack will strain your muscles and too big a pack will destabilize you. When you have that proper torso size, you can move to the hipbelt, which is the most important part of the backpack to adjust. 

Photo by lucas Favre on Unsplash

The Hipbelt

The pads of the hipbelt should sit high on your hips, around where your ‘love handles’ would be. Shrug your shoulders and tighten the hipbelt here. Your hips do a lot of the work in carrying the weight of a backpack, so if you find your shoulders hurting during a hike, you probably need to readjust the hipbelt. 

You do not want this to be too tight that it hurts or too loose that it slips down. It should be snug in order to stay affixed in place while you hike. If you find yourself with bruises (called hip rot) or a rash on the hip, it is probably because there is too much movement of the hipbelt.

The Shoulder Straps

Once the hipbelt is in place, you can use the shoulder straps to make adjustments to get the pack to sit snugly against your body. It is a good idea to do this initial adjustment with a bit of weight, say ten pounds, in the pack. If it is totally empty, you may not get a good feel for how the weight will feel on your shoulders and hip.

Load Lifters and Sternum Strap

There are still a few more straps on the pack, namely the load lifters and the sternum strap. The load lifters are small straps that go from the top of the pack frame to the shoulder straps. When properly tightened to about a 45-degree angle from the pack, these straps bring the load closer to your body, which makes it easier to carry with the pack’s center of gravity closer to your own. The sternum strap should sit about an inch below your collarbones and be just tight enough to keep the shoulder straps off your armpits.

Make sure you do not overtighten any of these straps. If you do, you will feel tension, in your neck as the load lifters pull your head back or in your chest as the sternum strap pulls your body inward. You want the shoulder straps to be snug, but they should not pinch your armpits or restrict your arm movements at all.

Photo by Ali Kazal on Unsplash

How to Properly Pack a Hiking Backpack

You might not realize it matters, but there are actually ergonomic reasons that you should pack in a specific way. This mostly concerns where the backpack’s center of gravity is and how you can bring it closest to your sturdiest parts.

The best place to put heavy gear is in the middle of a hiking backpack. The bottom of the pack is great for bulky items like sleeping bags and pads and maybe your pajamas. Heavy items down here, though, will make the pack sag, and for back safety, you should avoid letting it hang lower than four inches below your waist. Throw these bulky light items in first, especially ones you won’t need to access until camp, and then pack the heavier items like cooking gear and food next. Weighting the core middle area of the pack will help you feel stable on the trail.

Finally, the top of the pack is for trail essentials like your rain jacket, first aid kit, and supplies for water filtration and toilet usage. You don’t want to put anything too heavy up here, as it will throw off your balance and cause unnecessary tension. Hiking backpacks also have plenty of strap pockets and loops for storing headlamps, bug spray, navigation tools, high-calorie snacks, and other small essentials that you might want to access on the move.

How to Adjust a Hiking Backpack on the Trail

Lean Forward

Because the backpack’s weight is mostly behind you, leaning forward slightly will help you feel more balanced. Especially while going up or downhill, be aware of how the backpack’s position can change how heavy it feels. Try making slight adjustments to the straps and backpack’s positioning as you walk so you can learn to identify these stressors and improve your comfort on the trail. If you are wondering if trekking poles are worth it, they can certainly help in this situation to disperse weight better. 

Photo by A.Z on Unsplash

Avoid Load Fatigue

One helpful way to give yourself a rest as you continue hiking is to alternate between backpack positions. It is common to take a few minutes with a hip-heavy load, where you loosen the shoulder straps slightly and give your upper body a rest. Then you can switch, tightening the shoulder straps back up and loosening the hipbelt a little. You don’t want the pack to be in danger of falling off or affecting your ability to walk, but a few moments of small adjustments can help you recover mid-hike and avoid muscle fatigue.

Rest

It is so important to take breaks along your hike. Not only for water and snacks but also to give your body a rest. Even if you are only taking a short water break, you should take the pack off and shake out your shoulders. Take a moment to assess how you are feeling and if there are any sore places on your body that you need to address. If you ignore pain, it will likely only get worse, so pay attention to what your body needs and make changes.

With these backpack fitting tips, you should be ready to hit the trail and conquer Colorado’s beautiful peaks. Make sure you listen to your body, pack smart, and stay safe. If you are looking for a little extra guidance as you begin your hiking journey, check out one of these scenic guided hiking tours around Colorado Springs. Happy hiking!

Rock Climbing Holds: A Beginner’s Guide

When you are just getting started rock climbing, it can be hard to get on the wall and stay there. Some aspects of rock climbing are not intuitive, and if your only previous climbing exposure is with ladders, there are sure to be types of rock climbing holds you haven’t encountered before.

In this article, we will go over the various indoor climbing holds, how to approach and hold on to them, and what you should know about your center of gravity while rock climbing. Once you learn how to grip different rock climbing holds, you will be much more comfortable on the wall and easily move past beginner rock climbs into early intermediate routes.

Although this article will focus on indoor rock climbing holds, these skills are transferable to outdoor climbing as well. Once you know how to recognize and respond to different holds, you will be prepared for many different types of climbing, including sport climbing, bouldering, and top rock climbing, indoors and out.

The Five Main Types of Rock Climbing Holds

Jugs

The easiest rock climbing hold for beginners to use is the jug. These holds have large, ergonomic shapes that you can grip with your whole hand. They will typically look like a large pocket at the top, big enough to put all four fingers in. For extra stability, I hold these with my thumb out to the side, as pictured below, although you can also keep it flush against your forefinger.

With jugs, as well as the rest of the basic climbing holds in this first list, it is easiest to hold on when your center of gravity is below the hold. Pulling yourself up to the hold employs the bicep and tricep, and you can continue to use the hold once your center of mass changes. Pulling on the hold will keep your weight close to the wall and help you stand up, and pushing off the hold from above (in a move called a “mantle”) provides extra height for reaching the next hold.

Photo by Bastien Plu on Unsplash

Crimps (and Edges and Chips)

The next most common rock climbing hold is the crimp. Crimps are small holds that have a thin ledge only big enough for the pads of your fingers. Edges are similar holds with less-defined lips to keep your fingers in place. Chips are even tinier holds that you see used mostly as foot holds and in advanced climbing routes. These are also easily the most common holds you will find outdoors on a guided rock climbing tour.

These tiny holds are hard for beginner climbers because they require a lot of finger and hand muscles that, prior to climbing, I hadn’t developed. Sometimes you will only be able to fit a couple of fingers on these holds, and this will stress your tendons. Crimps are the reason it is important to stretch your fingers and wrists before climbing. With these holds, they are almost exclusively usable from below. When reaching for a crimp, remember to move your hips and adjust your body weight accordingly. Keep your wrist straight to avoid injury and use your shoulder and elbow to maneuver into the necessary position.

There are three different ways to grip a crimp. An open hand position, in which the tips of your fingers stay above the other knuckles is the safest to avoid injury. It is also often weaker until you develop these muscles. This is primarily useful for the sloper, another rock climbing hold we’ll get to soon. A closed crimp (shown below) tends to be the strongest position, but it is also the most stressful for the joints. Imagine making a fist, but uncurling the last knuckle. In this hand position, your fingertips are almost touching the top of your palm, and this can cause tendonitis if you are not careful. The most common hand position is the half-open hand, where your fingers wrap around an imaginary circular ladder rung.

Photo by Bastien Plu on Unsplash

Pinches

With a similar hand position as the crimp, pinches require you to keep your fingers mostly straight. Pinches can be horizontal, vertical, or somewhere in between. These are hard for beginner rock climbers, as they require hand and thumb strength that take time to develop.

Photo by Bastien Plu on Unsplash

Slopers (and Guppies)

Slopers are large rounded holds that, at first encounter, appear impossible to grab. These tricky rock climbing holds rely on friction more than strength. They also tend to make beginner climbers nervous because it is impossible to feel secure on a sloper. You grab a sloper with an open-hand grip similar to crimps, though you can spread your fingers and thumb out for better coverage. 

Slopers are one of the most important holds to consider body position and center of gravity. They are simply impossible to hold onto if you are in the wrong place. Read more about managing your center of gravity in our beginner’s rock climbing technique guide. Consider where your fingers are as a horizontal line, and keep your wrist and elbow perpendicular to that line. This will protect your tendons and joints from injury and provide the best opposite force to keep you on the climbing hold.

A guppy is similar to a sloper, except it works best when you grip it on the side. Whereas slopers have your palm facing the wall, guppies require you to turn your hand ninety degrees. It is easy to grab wrong at first, but you’ll find a sideways grip necessary to get the best friction.

Photo by Bastien Plu on Unsplash

Pockets

Pocket holds are sort of like jugs, but with the pocket facing forward. They also tend to be smaller, only big enough for a couple of fingers. Both of these factors make them a lot tougher for beginner climbers to manage.

Be sure to have a slow approach to a pocket. This is not a rock climbing hold you should grab from a dyno, as that is likely to cause jammed fingers. It is also important not to push yourself too much on a pocket. If you feel like you are injuring yourself trying to hold weight on two fingers, you probably are.

Photo by Bastien Plu on Unsplash

Top Three Secondary Climbing Movements

The Sidepull

There are three more basic climbing holds that you will likely encounter. These are distinguished by the movements required to use them. The first, the sidepull, is any hold out to the side of the route that is turned vertically. To hold a sidepull, put your arm parallel to the ground and employ core and tricep muscles to pull the arm toward you.

If you try to hold a sidepull from below, you will slip off the wall. Instead, rotate your hips and feet in order to turn toward the sidepull and create more opposite action. It is this tension that keeps you on the wall. You’ll see this is true for the last two holds as well. Because it is more about the movement, sidepulls can technically be any hold, but they are most likely either edges or pinches.

Photo by Bastien Plu on Unsplash

The Gaston

Now that you can visualize a sidepull, the gaston is this in reverse. It is again most likely to be a crimp, pinch, or sloper-type hold. You will have the same sideways-facing hold but positioned closer to the center of the route, where your body is. As a result, the gaston requires climbers to push down or outward away from the body with a fully bent elbow. Similar to the sidepull, it is essential to manage your center of gravity and align your arm perpendicular to the climbing hold.

This is one of the hardest rock climbing holds because it is one of the few that relies on pushing away rather than pulling toward. Depending on the angle, this mechanism can stress the shoulder. The gaston is the most common cause of a shoulder injury, specifically rotor cuff injury, among climbers.

Photo by Bastien Plu on Unsplash

The Undercling

The final rock climbing hold you need to know is the undercling. This will look like a jug but upside down. Underclings are most often found as starting holds and at the base of overhangs. Underclings are another not-particularly intuitive hold for beginner rock climbers. To use one, you need to balance on your foot holds and use the undercling to pull up and keep yourself close to the wall. If you find an undercling in the middle of a route, you will need to lean away from the wall (as shown below) in order to get a good grip on it and not slip off.

Photo by Bastien Plu on Unsplash

Now that you know the different types of indoor rock climbing holds, you can head to the gym and get some hands-on experience. Before you jump on the wall, stretch your arms and look at the route. Examining the holds and envisioning how you will approach them will help you spend less time on the wall getting tired. Be sure to check out our overview of the beginner rock climbing gear you will need, and you will be all set. Happy climbing!