First climb? Think Twice

Posted by Alex Messenger on 24/03/2021
First Climb? Think Twice. Photo: Alex Messenger.

After lockdown, the first outdoor climb of the year is going to feel extra special. Remember, however, take time to buff the shine back into those unused skills and think about everything twice.

To help outdoor climbers make their long-awaited return to rock, we went to Stanage with climbing instructor Katherine Schirrmacher and BMC ambassador Steve McClure for a quick run through of what you need to remember if you’re rusty on rock.

Nothing feels quite as good as your first outdoor climb of the year. And this year it’ll feel extra special as we’ve all been locked down for so long. But, on your first days out, think about everything twice.

Take your time. Start on really easy routes, and make your first few visits all about safety, your systems and getting used to the environment again. Now’s not the time to push your grades, no matter how well you’ve been fingerboarding.

A few seconds spent on a Partner Check could save your life

It’s so easy to get distracted and forget to finish tying in, or forget to tie a knot in the end of the rope.  Our advice? Make a habit of doing a partner check every time you climb.

Start by checking your harnesses. They should sit above the hips, be properly tightened on all straps, and check the buckles are correctly fastened. After tying in, check your knot. It must be properly tied and threaded correctly through the harness.

Now, look at your belay system. Check the rope and device are threaded in the right direction and that the carabiner is connected to the belay loop. Check that it’s locked and perform a functional test of the device.

The last step is to make sure that you’ve properly tied a knot in the end of the rope. There are still very bad accidents caused by ropes that are too short.

BMC ambassador Steve McClure says: “Even having climbed all my life, I still always take it easy on my first few lead climb sessions of the season. It may feel like riding a bike, but just like the chain of my trusty machine, it gets a little rusty when it hasn't been used in a while. Check and double check all the safety stuff; harness, knots, belay device.. buddy check! Then start gentle, enjoy the flow and beauty of moving over rock.”

WATCH: First Climb? Think Twice:

Choose an easy route to start with

Check the guidebook so that there are no surprises. Before setting off, clean your feet – it’ll reduce wear on the rock and help stop your feet from slipping around. As you climb, double check all your gear placements and watch out for loose rock.

Keep your brake hand low

When belaying, make sure to keep your brake hand low, whatever device you use. And don’t let go. With a wide variety of devices on the market, always read the manufacturer’s guidance and watch their user films online.

There are plenty of distractions when climbing outdoors, but when belaying your only responsibility is to the climber. Pay attention and focus on them as their life is in your hands. Save chatting to friends for later.

Respect the Rock

Our crags are very special places so do your bit to keep them that way. Have fun and leave no trace: don’t use too much chalk, never use tick marks and check that you’ve taken any litter home.

Some crags have restrictions on when you can climb or how you can access them. Check them BMC’s Regional Access Database before heading out.

Remember that rock is delicate. Avoid sandstone and gritstone when it’s wet and more fragile.

And finally, a word about parking. Bad parking is one of the main causes of access issues and climbing bans. Don’t be part of the problem. Park responsibly using identified parking areas and never block entrances or obstruct traffic. If it’s too busy, then head elsewhere.

Think Covid

Don't forget to check the latest BMC advice for England and Wales

Thanks to Petzl for supporting this film and our partners Montane


We want to say a big thanks to every BMC member who continues to support us through the Coronavirus crisis.

From weekly Facebook Lives and GB Climbing home training videos, to our access team working to re-open the crags and fight for your mountain access, we couldn’t do it without you.

Did you know that we've just launched a new U27 membership offer for just £1 / month? And with full membership from £1.66 / month, it's never been easier to join and support our work: 

https://www.thebmc.co.uk/join-the-bmc-for-1-month-U27-membership


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