Learn to Rock Climb

Learn the ropes of rock climbing with our helpful articles covering the basics of climbing skills and equipment. You'll find in-depth instruction on how to buy your first shoes, harness, belay device, and more. Plus, we'll demystify the unique language of climbing with a helpful glossary. And our Basic Rock Skills video series will help you learn to belay, tie knots correctly, and much more.
  • HPBelay

    25+ Ways To Be A Better Belayer

  • HPAutoBlock

    Essential Skills: Auto-Blocking Belay Devices

    This setup, which is also called “guide mode,” automatically stops the rope from moving through the device—or “catches” the follower—if he falls. It’s a must-have tool and technique for anyone who wants to tackle multi-pitch climbs.

  • Big-Wall-Kit

    Big Wall Kit

    Depending on the type of pulling down you’re doing, climbing can vary from minimalist to “everything but the kitchen sink,” and big wall climbing is very much the latter. We asked Colorado climber Paul Gagner—who has done more than 50 wall routes around the world, including first ascents on Baffin Island and in Utah’s Fisher Towers—to detail his packing list and the experience-driven tricks that go along with it.

  • Opposed-Nuts-Placement

    Nuts 101

    When many people start trad climbing, cams become their new best friend. They’re easy to use and contract to fit a variety of crack sizes. But don’t underestimate the benefits of their counterpart: the nut. With no moving parts (hence, “passive protection”), nuts are inexpensive, lightweight, sturdy, and it’s easy to judge a placement by eyeballing— many will fit a variety of spots because they can be positioned in four different orientations.

  • FPFall

    How to Fall

    Falling is essential for advancing as a rock climber. The saying goes, “If you aren’t falling, you aren’t trying hard enough.” To progress, you need to try moves that are at the edge of your ability—or beyond—and when you try that hard, you will fall. Toprope falls are the safest, but falling also can be quite safe on well-protected lead climbs, as long as you have good technique and a solid belayer.

  • Preferred-Rappelling-Knots-158x150

    Preferred Knots for Rappelling

    The knot I use to tie together two ropes for a rappel—and one we commonly use in guides’ training at the AMGA—is the flat overhand. This knot has been called a number of things (including the Euro death knot) and has at times been unfairly demonized.

  • Steady Yourself

    Steady Yourself

    Along with a good pair of shoes and a positive attitude, balance is crucial for successful rock climbing. Without it, your body won’t move naturally on the rock, thus eliminating efficiency and style. We tapped into trainer and hardman Eric Hörst’s knowledge of climbing performance (How to Climb 5.12, trainingforclimbing.com), and he gave us three fun exercises to improve your balance.

  • HPBelay

    Learn This: Belaying A Heavier Climber

    People whose partners outweigh them by 25 pounds or more routinely get yanked off the ground when catching sport-climbing leader falls. Although this phenomenon is disconcerting at first, it can be perfectly safe with a few simple precautions—and it provides a nice, soft catch for the climber.

  • PreThreadTR

    Learn This: Save Yourself An Ascent With The Pre-Threaded Toprope

    You're climbing outdoors with novice friends, and you want to rig a toprope from a fixed-chain anchor. You're the only one in the group who can safely install and clean a toprope setup, but you loath having to climb each route twice—once to hang the rope, and once to clean the anchor and rap from the chains.

  • Anchors Away

    Traditionally, climbers have anchored to the belay by tying in directly with the rope. Now, many prefer the convenience of personal anchor tethers specifically designed for this purpose for belays, as well as for cleaning the top anchor on a sport climb or anchoring during multi-pitch rappels. When used properly, these systems can be safe and strong, but when used improperly, they can lead to fatal accidents.

  • Friction Facts

    Friction climbing—holdless slab climbing—can be effortless or desperate, or both at the same time. Strength plays no role; there’s nothing to pull on. Technique and mindset are paramount.

  • Speak Up!

    Attitude affects your rock climbing, and the right attitude can be worth two letter grades or more. The solution to a performance plateau may be as simple as rephrasing the things you say—out loud or to yourself—so you apply energy toward your goal, instead of allowing your words to create doubt. Climb harder by “speaking up,” not down.