/ advice for someone new to real rock
My question is. If I can't take the course (dates not looking good) will I be able to top-rope at somewhere like Portland without getting in the way and upsetting other people there? I don't plan on simply staying in the same spot all day, but don't want to get moaned at simple because I'm using a top-rope.
I'm not sure about good places for top-roping in Portland, but have a think about this:
learning to lead on sport routes requires virtually no knowledge or skill, and is loads more fun and exciting than top-roping. You just need someone to show you some very basic ropework (how to get down) - it'll take about 5 minutes to learn. You honestly don't need a course for this (you might need a course for learning trad, but that's very different).
You will of course need some quickdraws, but it's worth the money.
Rather than trying to work it out yourself, which will probably get in the way and be a little dangerous. (maybe not the climbing but if you're scrambling around trying to ab in to set up a tope rope etc)
Much better to hook up with a climbing club or just some more experienced climbers. It'll give you a great insight into climbing plus you'll learn much much more about both climbing itself and ropework/safety
Agree with the idea of joining a club.
I would encourage you to get involved with trad climbing as soon as possible, as most of the climbing in the UK is trad. If you second a climb, then there is not a lot more involved than top-roping, apart from removing the gear. Plus, you will be able to share lifts - quite useful from London!
Getting to know other climbers is key in climbing - to have people to actually climb with and to learn all sorts of extra bits of information that a course won't give you.
As to leading sports climbs - probably easier than trying to top-rope them, as often the lower offs may not be easily accessible from the top of the crag.
If you can lead indoors you can lead at Portland. There are two hurdles to overcome:
Figuring out how to climb rock - Start easy and learn as you go.
Getting down safely - Read, ask, practice then do it carefully. It's easy but vital you get it right. You just need to understand what you want to achieve and why then you can adapt to whatever lower-off you come across.
Top-roping sport routes (without having led them to put the rope up) is generally not feasible, the lower-off is usually inaccessible on the face some way below the bad rock at the cliff top.
As tlm says, it wouldn't be toproping, it would either be leading or seconding.
Bear in mind that, depending on which wall you climb at and how stiff their grades are, you will probably find outdoor grades to be much harder. So start on the low grades. But avoid the low grade climbs at the Cuttings as they are polished horrors.
As mentioned above the best way to do things is learn to lead then you can go at lots of routes slowly building up your confidence and strength.
Do not however overlook the importance of learning how to fall above bolts. Whilst relatively quick to learn if you don't do it instinctively in the first place, rigid falls plus leg around rope etc is to be heartily avoided.
> Agree with the idea of joining a club.
They have been putting up a lot of new routes lately aimed at the lower grade climbers and also have a lot of local knowledge so can easily point you in the right direction for places to start.
tbh, if someone has a go at you for top-roping politely tell them to sod off. If they ask nicely on the other hand then pull your rope and they will most likely put it back up for you.
The only London club I know is the Rockhoppers, who are generally active and friendly.
Sorry, that's "know" as in "know personally" rather than "am aware of".
> Sorry, that's "know" as in "know personally" rather than "am aware of".
and the photo at the top of this article:
If you do top rope directly through the staples someone might well have a moan, considering the effort that goes into bolting the routes they would not be being unreasonable.
you could always get out and do some bouldering (southern sandstone/peak district) until you can get a course date that suits you, if you're dead set on a course, or like everyone else says get along with a club.
Ignore any tutters or people moaning about top-roping - just don't spend 2 hours on the same route.
If you get psyched out leading, you might find a friendly local to lead it for and rig it for you.
Personally, I'd say that learning to climb on real rock is an eye-opener in itself, and learning to lead is also a new skill - so I'd try and tackle them one at a time if possible.
My first outing to Portland was a real eye-opener: leading 6a's indoors, failing to lead 4+ routes outdoors. Getting better now though...
Safety comes first and whatever you are doing in a club there will be somebody that you can (and should) ask that will be happy to help.
I got slightly phased by the rams horns in staples at the top of my first lead climb as in my mind they didn't look safe enough not being fully closed like a Karibiner. When you lead climb you are responsible for safely lowering yourself off but also if somebody is to second/top rope using the rope after you come down there cannot be any mistakes. A more experienced climber could/would no doubt climb up to help if you really needed assistance or reassurance at the top. As others have mentioned it's a shock to the system after climbing 6's indoors and then finding that you can struggle on 4's outdoors - be safe join a club. Once you've learned the safety aspects you can be confident to enjoy the whole experience.
The other big advantage of joining a club is that you'll have the opportunity to second trad and learn about gear placement etc from much more experienced climbers until you're ready to start leading trad yourself. (And if / when you do start leading trad you'll continue to learn from more experienced climbers.)
You'll also get out to a wide range of trad crags, which in the UK tend to be much nicer and more varied than sports venues.
Of course, being keen will eventually result in being asked to be on the committee, and all the organising comes back tenfold, but by then you'll know how it works, and it becomes "I fancy climbing at x next, who's coming with me?"
They will really help your skills.
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