6 Avoidable Mistakes By New Rock Climbers

6 Avoidable Mistakes By New Rock Climbers

Do you remember the very first time you stepped into the climbing gym?

Maybe you made it to the top of the wall a time or two...but if you're like me, you got so pumped on a 5.FUN! that your forearms were sore for a week!

While reminiscing in our own climbing nostalgia, we asked the Dynamite Starfish community, "What would you re-do as a new rock climber?"

Not only were their responses great pieces of advice for climbing newbies, but also excellent reminders for even the most seasoned rock warriors.

Keep scrolling to see what our DS community members had to say.

Practice techniques and good form

Walk into any commercial gym these days and you're bound to see climbers in the training area hanging with ridiculous amounts of weight and doing pull-ups until their arms fall off. It's tempting to think you need do to the same, right?

Errr...time for a reality check. 

If you enjoy lifting weights, then by all means have at it. But don't forget that climbing is a skill-based sport. The only way to learn techniques like heel hooking, toe hooking, and standing on small feet is to spend time on the climbing wall.

The general rule of thumb is to spend 80% of your time in the gym climbing and 20% training. However, newer climbers will see the fastest improvements by spending all of their time on the wall and slowly upping the difficulty level of the climbs. Solid technique will triumph over raw strength 95% of the time!


Don't focus on grade chasing

As much as I wish I didn't have to say it, I'm (horribly) guilty as charged on this one...

When I first started climbing, I quickly became obsessed with projecting and looking to accomplish the next hardest thing. I was working V3-V4s within a few months, and by the end of the year I was doing 'some' V6s at the gym. Sound relatable?

But the big mistake came when I moved abroad to Spain at the start of my second year of climbing. At this point, I had pretty much convinced myself that I was a 7A (V6) climber because I had done a few at the gym.

Outdoor sessions became only about trying max red-point projects while ignoring anything easier. I'd later justify flailing all over V-Easy warm-ups by telling myself they were obscure or, more simply put, crappy climbs.

Can you guess what happened when I finally broke out of this vicious cycle? Yup, my climbing drastically improved! The lesson learned:

"I missed out on SO many cool climbs and it ultimately took longer to learn the technique that only comes by building out a pyramid!" @alexandertighe

Pro Tip:Use a grade pyramid like this one as a visual way to boost motivation! 

Buy good climbing shoes

If we had to choose the top three things for new climbers to purchase, they would be a monthly pass, chalk (if your gym doesn't include it), and climbing shoes — in that order!

We totally get it when folks talk about the high start-up costs in rock climbing. With so much gear to choose from, it can be overwhelming.

Some climbing gyms will include free rental shoes for members. We always recommend taking advantage of during your first few months until you're 110% sure that climbing is something you want to continue.

(Photo courtesy of @kelllleh)

Over the long term, think of rental shoes as using the same basketball as all the other kids in P.E. class. They're great for learning the basics, but having your own will help you level up your game.

"I was climbing in hiking shoes!!! Didn’t think it mattered much, I did send some routes, climbing became a lot easier with climbing shoes." @808ragnar

Pro TipDon't be that climber waddling around the gym like a duck in downcurved shoes 5 sizes too small. Comfortable shoes are almost always the better choice!

Not sure where to start? Check out this blog post about The Best Climbing Shoes For Beginners...And Beyond!

Learn how to warm up and rest

OK...90's Backstreet Boys humor aside, please please please don't go trying to skip warm-ups and rest periods. It might work today, but it'll catch up when you least expect it!

"I'd be more careful with my fingers. I wouldn't test the limit of my tendons to avoid pulley injuries!" @veroolivero

At a minimum, spend 10-15 minutes doing easier climbs before gradually progressing towards smaller holds and more dynamic moves at your limit. When working at your limit, rest periods can range from 3-15 minutes for boulder problems and 15-60 minutes for sport routes. Doing a few light hangs or easy moves helps your body 'reactivate' after long rest periods or when outdoor temps are brisk. Finally, take at least two full rest days per week and additional rest days if you're feeling extra tired!

(Photo courtesy of @marshmoullow)

Pro TipUse the search term 'how to warm up for rock climbing' on YouTube if you are still wondering where to start. There are some excellent resources from Hooper's Beta, Lattice Climbing, Dave MacLeod, Louis Parkinson, and more! 

Find the right people to climb with 

Meeting people as an adult is hard...like really hard.

Luckily, rock climbing is an inherently social sport that requires communication, gear sharing, and teamwork to solve a problem.

However, that doesn't mean every person at the rock gym will (or should) be a candidate for the world's best climbing partner...

"The people that got me into climbing were not very kind, very ego-driven, and not very supportive. Looking back I’m surprised that I kept going but it did take me a long time to undo for myself and what I wanted my climbing experience to be." @fraubaumstern

"I wish I had found inclusive climbing groups earlier!" @justrught

Be true to yourself and what you are looking to get out of rock climbing! We promise that the perfect climbing partner for you is out there. 

If you haven't already, check out this blog post we did about How To Find a Climbing Partner.

(Photo courtesy of Clara and @sam_galligan)

Discover climbing at a younger age

If you're reading this post and still on the fence about giving rock climbing a try...go for it!  There's a world of places to explore, a community full of people to meet, and heights that aren't as terrifying as you might think. 

(Photo courtesy of @jenjennyo13)

Oh, and that cliché "you can't teach an old dog new tricks"? It's totally wrong!

The Dynamite Starfish community is full of climbers from toddlers to 70+ years young who are brought together by their common passion — a love for rock climbing.

What about you? Do you have any avoidable mistakes as a new rock climber?

Share your thoughts in the comments below. We'd love to hear from you!

Psst…Our tees are a great conversation starter!

With so many styles, we know you’ll be the climber having the most fun at the crag.


Alex Tighe
Alex Tighe

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