Opting Outside

Opting Outside

February 05, 2018

How to Transition from Gym to Crag

Among the best reasons to live in Las Vegas is its proximity to some of the world’s best outdoor climbing. Just 30 minutes from the strip lies one of the largest and most heavily developed sandstone climbing areas in America. Thousands of world-class sport and trad routes, as well as hundreds of boulder problems all within a few square miles of wilderness.

red rock canyon climbing

With the weather in Red Rock so beautiful in the spring, it's no surprise that more and more indoor climbers are looking to opt outside. Check out the 10 critical skills and knowledge points you'll need to make the transition to outdoor climbing, then sign up for ORIGIN’s Gym to Crag Clinic on Feb. 17th for in-depth instruction from the experts at the American Alpine Institute.

  • 1. Objective Hazard & Risk Management

    While climbing and climbing related activities always involve some inherent risk, climbing outside includes an extra laundry list of potential hazards. Whether it’s bitey flora and fauna, low quality rock, dubious fixed gear, or a bad landing zone, our professional local guides can show you how to identify and manage your risk to ensure your climbing experience is as fun and safe as possible.

    2. Safety Protocols & Communication

    Before venturing outside, make sure that you understand common climbing terminology and phrases, and how to respond appropriately. It’s critical that you and your partner agree on which terms and phrases you will use before you start climbing, because waiting until you’re 100’ apart and the wind is tearing your words away is not the best time to decide what “Off Belay” means.

  • gym to crag clinic in red rock
    3. Using Guidebooks & Online Resources

    While most climbing gyms are Google Map-able, and their routes and boulder problems are easily identified and marked with start tags, grades, and important beta...outdoor climbing is not so convenient. Guidebooks and online resources are essential tools to help you find your crag, identify routes, get critical beta like the number of bolts and the anchor situation, and may even include other helpful tips like where to find local gear shops and important information about local land management policies and rules. 

    4. Build/Cleaning Anchors & Rappelling

    Most climbing gyms feature pre-anchored top ropes, auto-belays, and fixed draws. Outdoors you'll be responsible for leading your route and establishing an anchor for top roping. You'll also need to know how to clean (remove) the anchor afterwards. Because cleaning the anchors is one of the most dangerous tasks in outdoor climbing, it's critical that you receive on-the-ground instruction from an experienced and/or professional climbing instructor and practice it several times (on the ground) before attempting this on your own.

    5. Basic Self Rescue/ First Aid

    While there are many systems and protocols you can practice to help reduce risks associated with climbing, accidents can and do still occur. Learning the basics of self rescue and wilderness first aid can prevent a difficult situation from becoming tragic.

    6. Essential Outdoor Equipment

    When you venture outdoors, you'll need several more pieces of gear than are required in most gyms. While you can easily find a List of Essential Outdoor Climbing Gear, learning it’s function and proper use requires instruction. Never attempt to use a piece of gear you are unfamiliar with. Professional climbing guides like those at the American Alpine Institute can help you learn to use any gear you’ve already purchased, or how to pick out the items you still need.

    7. Other Gear

    In addition to your climbing equipment there are a variety of items you may want to consider carrying to help make your adventure more fun and comfortable including food/water, sun protection, layers, and specialty items like finger tape and belay glasses. Consulting with climbers who spend a lot of time outdoors will help you determine what items you need and what you can live without.

  • climbing after it rains in red rock
    8. Etiquette & Ethics

    Many outdoor climbing areas lie on public lands that may include, or be adjacent to, protected natural resources or cultural/heritage sites. Land managers like the BLM can, and do, restrict access to climbing areas if climbers become detrimental to the protection and preservation of these areas. Before you venture into a new climbing area, it is essential that you know and observe the rules governing your access to the area and your behavior once there or you may inadvertently cause damage and/or force officials to restrict or close access to climbing.

    9. Respect Conditions

    Chances are pretty good that your local climbing gym has some form of climate control that allows you to climb year round, day or night, regardless of weather. In the outdoors, that’s not a thing. The temperature, humidity, sun/shade factor, facing direction of the wall you’re on, and wind speed may all contribute to the comfort and safety of climbing.

    10. Find a Mentor: Because What You Don’t Know Can Kill You

    No matter how strong you are, what you don't know might kill you. Finding an experienced climbing mentor is important because, until you have enough experience to know what you don’t know, having someone around with significantly more experience will help prevent you from getting in over your head and provide a resource for identifying and filling gaps in your knowledge. The best option for brand new outdoor climbers is a professional guide. These expert climbers not only understand what skills you will need to learn, but are the best and most experienced teachers, and are able to ensure that you walk away with a firm understanding and ability to implement the skills and knowledge they impart.

    Ready to start climbing outside? Register for ORIGIN’s Gym to Crag Clinic with the American Alpine Institute on February 17th and start your adventure in beautiful Red Rock Canyon. Save $10 when you book online before Feb. 10th with Promo Code: CLIMBVEGAS

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