How to Transition to Outdoor Climbing

With rock climbing gyms popping up around the country, indoor climbing has become more popular than ever. Still, there is nothing like the thrill and challenge of climbing real rock faces in nature. If you are used to climbing indoors, you may be wondering how to get started climbing outdoors. 

There are a few important differences between indoor and outdoor climbing to keep in mind before you make the switch. There are more technical skills and gear requirements, but transitioning to outdoor rock climbing is a worthwhile endeavor. If you are excited to test your indoor climbing abilities on an actual rock face, let’s get started discussing how to climb outdoors.

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Differences between Indoor and Outdoor Rock Climbing

Prepare for No Defined Holds

When transitioning from indoor to outdoor rock climbing, there are a few key differences you will note right away. First, because you will be climbing on actual rock faces, there will be no specific holds for you to grab. Instead of gym walls with color-coded holds, you will have to decide for yourself where to put your hands and feet. While some climbs will have obvious solutions, others will have fewer potential hand holds. 

Before starting an outdoor climb, you should prepare your route, mentally envisioning each move, noting potential hard spots, and planning your approach. You can also refer to climbing guide books which might provide additional information on the climb’s crux, or hardest parts, and beta, which are technique suggestions.

Move Carefully on Rough Rocks

Regarding the holds themselves, depending on the type of rock, outdoor climbing tends to be less comfortable than gym climbing. Rocks can cut up your fingers and wear away at calluses, so be prepared with a first aid kit and move a little more cautiously. Especially if the weather is colder, you will likely want fingerless gloves to protect yourself from the elements.

Anticipate Harder Climb Ratings

While all the climbs use the same rating system (aside from bouldering problems), outdoor climbs will feel a lot harder. Many climbing gyms rate a bit generously, and the lack of structure outdoors is at first challenging.

Start off with beginner routes to figure out your outdoor climbing abilities. If you climb an 11a in your gym, maybe start with an 8 or 9 outdoors, and don’t be hard on yourself if you can’t meet your expectations right away.

How to Pack for an Outdoor Rock Climbing Trip

Now that you know what to expect when switching to outdoor climbing, let’s talk about how to prepare. Aside from where to go, which we will cover soon, you will need extra gear (on top of your harness and climbing shoes) and food for an outdoor rock climbing trip.

As safety is key, the first things on your list are a helmet and a first aid kit. These are two items you wouldn’t need in a climbing gym but are essential when climbing outdoors. In addition to your other essential rock climbing gear, you should add a comfortable and reliable half-dome helmet to your basic climbing kit.

Another difference will be clothes and footwear. If you have a long walk to your climbing area, you’ll want to bring hiking boots with you on the trip. When you learn how to set your own climbs, you will especially need good footwear for the scrambles to the tops of climbs. 

You should also check the weather for the day and bring rain gear and cold-weather gear. It takes a while to set up outdoor climbs. Therefore, you may find an indoor hour-long climbing session is more like a half-day outdoors. On this same note, prepare for your outdoor climbing trip with enough water and snacks for the day. There won’t be water fountains on the trail! If you are looking for other helpful tips, check out how to pack for a day hike

How to Set Up Top-Rope Climbing Routes Outdoors

The last key difference between indoor and outdoor rock climbing is that outdoor climbs are not usually ready for you to just start climbing. Unlike rock climbing gyms, which have fixed anchors and ropes already dropped for you, outdoor rock climbers have to prepare the protection themselves. While it can seem overwhelming at first, the skills needed to set your own top rope climbs are very attainable.

For beginners, top rope is the best introduction to the outdoor climbing world. You would need to set anchors, using nearby trees or rocks, to create a reliable place to attach your top rope. For lead climbers, you would need to learn how to use trad gear, like cams and nuts, in order to create the points along the climb where you can clip in. Both of these options require a lot of additional gear, including static and dynamic ropes and loads of carabiners. 

You should try outdoor climbing a few times with experienced friends before worrying about these pieces. But if you are still interested in learning how to set your own climbs, you’ll need to find a friend or professional guide to help you learn the knots and safety rules.

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Where to Get Started Rock Climbing Outdoors

There are multiple ways to find good outdoor rock climbing spots. Guidebooks are an excellent resource for identifying available climbs at different skill levels, and there are so many great rock climbing spots near Colorado Springs. Garden of the Gods and Cheyenne Cañon Park are two locations that offer a variety of challenges. Both of these locations also include beginner-friendly climbing routes. Once you have identified somewhere to check out, be sure to get the proper rock climbing permits for Colorado Springs parks

Outdoor rock climbing is an invigorating experience that brings you closer to nature and rewards you with stunning views once you finish the climb. Transitioning from indoor to outdoor climbing requires planning, learning to create anchors, and buying additional climbing gear. Before committing, you can experience outdoor rock climbing with a skilled professional guide. Get started and enjoy some of Colorado Springs’ best climbing spots on a guided rock climbing day trip.

image of rock climbing gear

Rock Climbing Gear – A Beginner’s Guide

Rock climbing has had an explosion of growth over the last couple of decades. The unique sport offers excitement, a challenge for all abilities, and different ways to explore and play in both indoor and outdoor spaces. Sometimes a new sport can be intimidating: the gear, systems, and language can be a lot to learn. If you are uncertain about what comes first, it can be helpful to research and learn more about how to get into rock climbing

As a beginner rock climber, consider familiarizing yourself with the sport through a guided rock climbing tour. Guided excursions come with all the gear you will need and allow you to get comfortable with proper climbing gear use. If you have never climbed before or want to upgrade from rental gear, this rock climbing gear list has all the beginner climbing essentials you need to start your journey into the vertical world.

Rock Climbing Shoes

Rock climbing shoes are an important part of climbing. The special rubber sole and snug shape allow you to grip the rock, offer protection for your feet, and give you the ability to place your feet on small holds. There are various shoes for all styles of climbing, and climbing shoes can be organized into the following categories: neutral “flat” sole, moderate “slightly downturned” sole, aggressive “very downturned” sole. Many shoes also offer options of “slip-on,” laced, or velcro closures.

As a beginner, you should go with more neutral shoes as they tend to be the most comfortable and least expensive. Downturned, aggressive shoes are tight, uncomfortable, and typically reserved for more technical terrain. When you are just getting started, comfort is key as you get used to wearing these new shoes. Climbing shoes should be snug, but not so tight that they cause pain. Due to the fit, you should not walk in the shoes or wear them if you are not climbing.

Some examples of beginner rock climbing shoes include:

Black Diamond Momentum, La Sportiva Tarantulace, Mad Rock Drifter

Rock Climbing Harness

Just like climbing shoes, a harness is an essential piece of protective rock climbing gear for any rock climbing with ropes. All harnesses come with basic features of holes for your waist and legs, gear loops, and a belay loop. There are many differences between harnesses such as adjustable leg loops, weight, material, and fit. These features become more important if you choose to specialize in a style of climbing down the road.

For a beginner rock climbing harness, look for an “all-around” harness that is comfortable and affordable. Fit will be one of the most important factors when buying your first harness. Make sure it has a snug fit around your upper legs and waist. Some people prefer the ease of non-adjustable leg loops but if you are looking to get used to the fit and feel of a harness, the ability to adjust your leg loops can be helpful.

Some examples of all-around rock climbing harnesses include:

Black Diamond Momentum, CAMP Energy, Petzl LUNA 

Chalk & Chalk Bag

Whether bouldering or top-rope climbing, chalk can be a game changer while climbing, especially if it is hot or humid. Chalk comes in a variety of forms: block, loose, and liquid. An easy way to start is by purchasing a “chalk ball,” which is a small cloth pouch filled with loose chalk. You chalk up simply by grabbing the chalk ball and easily refill the ball when it gets low with separately purchased loose chalk. 

It’s not a great idea to just dump loose chalk into your bag without a ball, and in fact prohibited at some gyms, as it is messy, wasteful, and annoying for your belayer to have chalk dropped on them when you use it mid-climb. Liquid chalk is preferred by some but not as common for top-rope climbing. Also, “eco” chalks, most often reserved for outdoor climbing, vary in color to match the rock.

Most chalk bags are pretty small with a closure mechanism and a waist loop. A bouldering-specific chalk bag or “buckets” will be larger, without a waist strap, and often come with a brush. If you are new to climbing, an affordable waist belt chalk bag with a chalk ball inside should be all you need. Chalk bags come in all sorts of colors, designs, patterns, and shapes so have fun. You can’t go wrong with this piece of rock climbing gear!

Belay Device

If you want to rope climb, belaying will be necessary. You will need a locking carabiner and a belay device. Again, there is a multitude of devices to choose from. Belay devices often come in the following broad categories: tube style, semi-assisted braking, auto-locking, and figure 8 (not commonly used). The most traditional and entry-level option is a “tube style” device such as an ATC. Most climbers learn to belay with an ATC and then switch to an assisted or auto-braking device. No matter which device you choose, be sure to seek instruction on how to use the device safely and appropriately.

Some examples of common belay devices:

Black Diamond ATC- XP, Edelrid Mega Jul, Petzl GRIGRI

Helmets for Outdoor Rock Climbing

While helmets are not commonly used inside, they are a must-have piece of rock climbing gear for any outdoor climbing. This important piece of gear protects you from anything that may fall from above – or protect you from the ground in the event that you fall. You will want to look for a designated rock climbing helmet as they are designed to protect your head from specific injuries that could be encountered in the sport.

There are generally two types: hard shell and shell-foamed helmets. Hardshell helmets are generally more affordable and more durable, making them great for beginners. Shelled foam helmets tend to be more expensive and have less longevity but are more breathable and lightweight. As with most types of gear, fit and comfort are top priorities when selecting your gear. 

Some examples of rock climbing helmets include:

Black Diamond Half Dome, CAMP Armor, Petzel BOREO

Final Thoughts

There is so much more to know about the sport of climbing aside from the rock climbing gear, but it is all worth it to take the time and learn. Rock climbing is one of the most invigorating and satisfying challenges. For an introductory experience, try a guided rock climbing tour. Once you have your own rock climbing gear, the technique and knowledge, and some confidence, be sure to check out the best beginner rock climbing in Colorado Springs and enjoy the views from new heights!

Rock Climbing in Colorado Springs – Where to Go

Situated against the foothills of the Rocky Mountains lies the City of Colorado Springs. Just south of Denver, this city is a premier gateway to adventure, offering access to various activities and awe-inspiring landscapes. Of these activities, rock climbing in Colorado Springs is one of our favorites.

Colorado Springs has it all, from unique sandstone rock formations to glistening glaciated peaks. Rock climbing in Colorado Springs is an activity you do not want to miss! But with so many options, it can be hard to know where to go. To save you time, we have laid out a quick guide to Colorado Springs rock climbing locations to suit climbers of all skill levels.

Before heading to the crag, remember to review the rules and regulations for rock climbing in Colorado Springs. These include very important safety information and general rules for each park to make sure all climbers have a fun and safe adventure.

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A Quick Note

Climbing is inherently dangerous. However, it can be a safe, enjoyable, and memorable activity with the proper equipment and skills. If you have never climbed before, first try climbing in an indoor space or seek a guided tour. To learn more about rock climbing safety for outdoor climbing, check our rock climbing safety guide.

If you’re ready to try climbing outdoors and don’t have the necessary skill and equipment, try going with a guide! Broadmoor Outfitters offers several guided rock climbing tours in Colorado Springs to phenomenal climbing locations in the area. This is also an excellent option for those looking to transition from indoor climbing to outdoor climbing. Or for those who have never climbed before but would like to immerse themselves into new landscapes and exciting rock climbing experiences in Colorado Springs.

Beginner Rock Climbing in Colorado Springs

City Rock (Indoor Climbing Gym)

Location: 21 N Nevada Ave., Colorado Springs

Parking: There is metered parking on downtown streets and many parking garages nearby. See parking information here. 

Approach: Easy walk in town from street or garage parking.

City Rock offers fantastic indoor rock climbing in Colorado Springs. This gym includes bouldering, auto-belays, sport climbing, and top-roping for all ages and ability levels. In addition to the climbing, City Rock also features a yoga studio, fitness training, a kids’ area, and more. This is a great option for first-time climbers or those seeking an alternative activity due to inclement outdoor weather.

Intermediate Rock Climbing in Colorado Springs

Ute Valley Park – Excellent Bouldering Opportunity

Location: 1705 Vindicator Dr, Colorado Springs

Parking: A parking lot is available at the Ute Valley Park Entrance at the address listed above.

Approach: Per Mountain Project, it is best to access the boulders by following Mule Deer Drive past Pinon Valley Park and turning left onto Pinon Park Drive. Pinon Park deadends at a gate; park along the street and walk up the dirt road. After about 100m, you will be at the boulders.

Ute Valley Park is primarily comprised of bouldering – short climbs with hard movements. No ropes or belays for this style of climbing. However, having enough crash pads, a confident partner to spot you, and some practice falling will make this more enjoyable.

While this climbing style is safe and accessible to most, we rank this location as intermediate due to the difficulty of the “problems” (routes). These problems typically range from V1-V12, which can be challenging for beginners. In this scale, V0 is the easiest (or VB for ‘beginner’), and the routes get harder as the number increases towards V12. Therefore, this is an excellent place to improve your climbing strength or challenge yourself on a tricky problem.

Red Rock Canyon Open Space – Sport Climbing

Location: 3550 W High St., Colorado Springs

Parking: Designated parking areas on the right side of W. High St. – Exact directions on Mountain Project

Approach: Find the trailhead by turning south from US 24 at the only turnoff between 30th Street and the first Manitou Springs exit.

Red Rock Canyon Open Space offers accessible and friendly climbing to novice and expert alike. With 80+ routes from 4th class to 5.13, there is a route for everyone. This area is primarily sandstone climbing with face holds, offering holds and movement very similar to gym climbing. Most climbs are bolted sport routes with lowering and rappelling anchors. 

NOTE: A free permit is required before climbing and is obtainable online. Be sure to watch the video on the climbing permit page, as this includes very important rules and regulations for the area.

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Advanced Colorado Springs Rock Climbing

Cheyenne Cañon Park – Primarily Sport with Crack and Trad Options

Location: 4682 Gold Camp Rd, Colorado Springs

Parking: Enter near the Starmore Discovery Center, drive along the road, and park at various pullouts. There is also parking at the Powell parking lot on Gold Camp Road – See Mountain Project for more directions.

Approach: Most approaches are short and accessible from the parking lot or pullouts.

Situated in a narrow canyon with beautiful views, this fantastic granite crag contains a mixture of climbing styles. The options include bouldering, trad, and sport routes of varying difficulties. Although primarily a sport climbing location, there are a handful of crack climbs and trad routes offering a place to learn crack climbing techniques and trad climbing skills. 

This rock is also known to be of varying quality, so be sure to assess your routes. Cheyenne Cañon is an excellent option for hot days as it tends to stay cooler in the canyon shade. If you happen to be around in the winter months, this area is also known for its Ice Climbing.

NOTE: A free permit is required before climbing and is obtainable online. Be sure to watch the video on the climbing permit page, as this includes very important rules and regulations for the area.

Garden of the Gods – Great Trad Climbing

Location:  180 N. 30th St., Colorado Springs

Parking: Parking is available in the Visitor Center lots

Approach: From the parking lot along well-marked and traveled paths. See Mountain Project for specific route information.

Garden of the Gods is the most well-known rock climbing area in Colorado Springs. This area comprises beautiful towering sandstone formations with picturesque snowy peaks in the background. This area is well protected, so obtaining a park permit and learning about rules and regulations is mandatory before entering. 

While there are some beginner routes, this area is best known for traditional “trad” climbing – often reserved for advanced climbers only. Trad climbing grades range from 5.3 to 5.12. Climbing in this area requires advanced rope system knowledge, gear placement techniques, crack climbing skills, and more. Many famous and historical “test pieces” are available to measure your skill. While mostly known for traditional climbing, this area also offers bouldering up to V8 and sport climbing up to 5.13.

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Final Thoughts

No matter where you go or what style you choose, rock climbing in Colorado Springs will be an unforgettable experience. Whether you are testing your abilities, trying out a new sport, going on a guided climbing tour, or searching for the perfect view, Colorado Springs will meet your needs. Grab a friend or guide, be safe, and climb on!

How To Get In To Rock Climbing

As a fun and challenging all-body workout, it is no surprise that rock climbing is such a popular sport. With indoor gyms popping up in cities all over the country, you might be wondering how to get into rock climbing.

We will explore the different types of rock climbing that you can try as a beginner, whether you plan to climb indoors or outdoors, as well as the gear you will need to get started. With some of the best beginner rock climbing routes right here in Colorado Springs, outdoor climbing is a fun way to explore nature, get access to some beautiful views, and learn a new athletic skill.

Also, don’t forget that a Guided Rock Climbing Trip with Broadmoor can also be an excellent introduction to this exciting sport.

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Types of Rock Climbing

Top-Rope Climbing

There are two types of climbing that are suitable for beginners, top-rope climbing and bouldering. In top-rope, as the name suggests, a rope hangs down from above, and as you climb, a belayer takes in the excess slack to keep the rope taut in case you fall. In an indoor gym, ropes hang from anchors like large pulleys. If you climb outdoors, a guide or qualified friend will create an anchor system using ropes and trees or rocks. 

Top-rope climbing routes range in difficulty from 5.0 to 5.15d, with 5.10s and above using a, b, c, and d to further distinguish difficulty. Where a 5.10a is easier than a 5.10d. Based on strength and athleticism, beginner climbers can generally climb up to a 5.4 or 5.6 on their first go. Climbers who are tall or strong might get away with these higher routes upfront, but as you move into intermediate climbs, technique and precision become more important than brute force.

Bouldering

Bouldering is a rope-free experience, with climbs typically up to fifteen feet maximum. If you are at a gym, the bouldering area will be padded to keep you safe when you jump down or fall. Learning how to fall correctly (stay loose and bend your knees!) will keep you safe from injuries. I generally downclimb to protect my knees, but it’s still important to know how to fall safely. If you are climbing outdoors, crash pads are essential for rock climbing safety.

The bouldering rating system is different from top-rope. Bouldering routes go from V0 to V17, with V2 being the hardest I’ve seen first-timers accomplish. Not only are these ratings different from top-rope, but they also don’t translate easily. Some people are much better at the big, power moves that many bouldering problems have. Others are more skilled with finesse and balance – challenges that are also more common to top-rope. Top-rope climbs at indoor gyms also range from 30 to 60 feet, making them a lot more of a cardio workout than bouldering climbs.

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Advanced Climbing Options

For more advanced climbers, lead climbing, sport climbing, and trad climbing are fun options that you can look forward to after learning to climb. Once you know what type of climbing you are looking to start with, you can get out there and take the first step.

Getting Started with Rock Climbing

The Gear

Whether you decide to top-rope or boulder, you’ll need rock climbing shoes and a chalk bag. The shoes are crucial for proper technique and movement while the chalk keeps your hands dry and grip secure. Rock climbing shoes are meant to be snug; generally one size below the sneakers you wear. Keep in mind that climbing shoes should not be worn anywhere but for climbing. Their extra snug fit emphasizes this point and generally makes them uncomfortable to walk around in. Also, you will stretch out the shoes and ruin the grippy soles if you wear them for non-climbing activities. 

If you are top-rope climbing, you will also need a belaying harness to be properly tied in and secured to the rope. You can take a belay class to learn how to belay a partner, and then you can switch climbs with a friend. To belay, you’ll need a carabiner and a belay device. Many climbing companies sell beginner-friendly packages with harnesses and belay equipment together.

If you are climbing outdoors, you should always wear a helmet to protect your head in the event of a fall or a rock tumbling down from above you. It’s also common to be so focused on your climbing that you forget to look up and climb right into a rock sticking out of the wall. It has certainly happened to me! Other outdoor equipment involves crash pads for bouldering, as mentioned above, a first aid kit, sunscreen, and maybe fingerless gloves if it’s a cold day.

Indoor Rock Climbing

If you want to get started at a gym, most have classes on rock climbing basics. Most also have rental gear available, so you don’t need to buy everything up front before trying rock climbing. You can also head to the gym and start bouldering right away; no help needed. Watch other people do the routes and even ask for “beta” if you need advice on how to get up.

If you’re interested in trying top rope climbing but don’t yet have a belay partner – no need to worry! Many gyms have several auto-belays. These devices clip into your harness and function just like a human belayer, allowing you to test out top-rope climbing as a beginner.

You can easily search for local climbing gyms in your area online, or take a look at this gym directory on Mountain Project to find a place to visit.

Outdoor Rock Climbing

In order to get started with climbing outdoors, you need a guide or, as mentioned above, a qualified friend. The most surefire way to have a fun and safe adventure is with a guided rock climbing tour, which will take you rock climbing in Colorado Springs at a popular local spot. On a guided trip, you’ll learn climbing techniques and safety and have a chance to try different climbs. 

If you want to get into rock climbing via a more DIY style, you’ll need to find a friend who has the necessary gear and know-how to set up climbs. You’ll also want to research the different climbs available in your area to find the best sites for outdoor bouldering or top rope spots with anchor points.

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Rock Climbing Basics

The best way to learn how to rock climb is to get on a route and give it a try. It’s easier to learn rock climbing techniques once you experience the grips and movements. Rock climbing also involves using your forearms, wrists, and hands in ways that most people haven’t developed through other athletics, so it takes time to build these muscles.

My favorite advice for beginner rock climbers is to remember to use their legs and hips. Beginners often overuse their arms and tire quickly. Using all limbs available will help your endurance and give you a good leg workout. My general rule is to make sure I move my legs just as much as I move my arms. There are enough holds on a beginner indoor climbing route to climb a route almost like a ladder.

Similarly, if you find yourself in a tough spot, pivot your feet and move your hips. These small adjustments can get you more reach and flexibility to find that next hold. Keeping your hips closer to the wall also brings your center of gravity closer to minimize the strain on your arms.

Now that you know how to get into rock climbing, I hope you’ll give it a try! Even people who are nervous of heights can overcome this fear by learning belay safety or bouldering. Outdoor rock climbing is a truly unique way to experience nature, and the views from the top of a climb are like nothing else. Enjoy!