Climbing Tips


Gym to Crag Transitioning For Newbies

DONT BE THE NEGLIGENT NEW'B! Educate yourself on the necessary skills and ethics that will make your transition from gym climber to outdoor climber a breeze.  

Knowledge is Cool
Climbing has risks! You are dangling from the edge of a cliff and you should know what you are doing up there. Climbing gyms create a safe and accessible atmosphere that is not what it's like on the real rocks. Don't believe everything your buddy at the gym taught you, or what you saw on You Tube. Bad habits spread like wild fire and increase the risks for everyone. Hire a trained guide for a day with some friends, read informative books/articles written by outdoor professionals and practice everything in a controlled setting. Many skills such as "cleaning an anchor" on a sport route, must be practiced thoroughly on the ground. Trying to figure it out while 60ft up on a cliff face is a recipe for disaster. Learning from a trained professional will give you the confidence to safely push your limits outside.

Learn the Area
Learn about the area you are planning to climb at. Find a guide book, research online and ask local climbers/gear shops/guides. Check in with local access coalitions about potential access considerations or issues. Find out about the style of climbing and protection that the area offers. PLAN, this is the great outdoors. Come prepared with appropriate clothing and footwear, a back pack, water, food, lighter, headlamp, FA kit. Have an emergency plan, not everywhere has a cell signal. Don't expect all bolts/anchors to be safe and learn how to recognize unsafe bolts. The more prepared you are, the less trouble you'll run into.

Be Respectful
We are so fortunate to have these amazing places to climb and most of them are open because of the hard work of local climbers, generous private land owners, government organizations and access coalitions. They are also home to many sensitive species, and are commonly shared with other recreational user groups. Treat these crags with the respect they deserve.
·         Clean up and pack out garbage.
·         Don't pee under overhangs/roofs/established climbs, it doesn't always wash away.
·         Take a nature walk and dig a hole to poo or use provided facilities. Pack out your TP.
·         Brush off your tick marks.
·         Stay on established trails.
·         Share the cliff. Don't climb in a huge group/use a climb for hours.
·         Keep noise to a minimum. Not everyone is a fan of Notorious BIG.
·         Be courteous to other user groups
  • Stay on main trails. These areas are incredibly fragile.

Rock Fall
As incredible as it is to climb on real rock, it unfortunately comes with the inherent risk of rock fall. When you are climbing, knock on the rock if it looks suspect. If it sounds hollow, look for a more solid sounding place to grab or stand on. Warn your belayer, climb smart and light or come down if it is too dangerous. Try not to pull outward on loose rock and if a rock does fall, yell "ROCK!" as loud as you can twice. As a belayer, try not to stand directly beneath the climber and adjust your positioning as they advance up the route. Wear a helmet. Keep in mind that springtime can be much worse for rock fall as the freeze thaw effect can shift the rock.

Triple Checks
Develop good habits that will save your life. Triple check everything before you leave the ground. Accidents are often caused by complacent small mistakes, bad habits or negligence, and it can be catastrophic and preventable. Even experienced/professional climbers have made mistakes as simple as not properly tying a figure 8 knot. During a long, thrilling day outside, it is important to always triple check the system, it will keep you and your friends alive. Climbing is dangerous if you miss a step, pay attention. Always have a knot in the end of your rope while lowering or rappelling! If you don't know fundamental skills, communication and safety checks like this, learn them!

Take Care of Your Gear
Your climbing gear is your lifeline! Treat it that way and replace when it becomes worn, damaged and thus unsafe. Inspect your carabiners for sharp grooves, and make sure the gate functions properly. Inspect ropes for flat spots/core shots and switch up the end you're climbing on regularly. Inspect slings/draws for wear and tear. Protect your rope/cord/webbing from sharp edges and untie all knots after each climbing day. Buy a rope bag to keep your rope clean. Don't store your gear near strong acids/chemicals such as a car battery/swimming pool acid/c; find a protected spot like a storage bin in a controlled environment.  Replace anything that you are starting to question, how much is your life worth?

Get Involved
These crags exist because someone put in the time, money and hard work (ie. route devlopers, access coalitions, volunteers). Do your part to help keep these areas safe and open for everyone to enjoy. Support local access coalitions and get involved in the community. Stay up to date on access issues, help out at local clean ups and report unsafe or concerning issues at the cliff to local guides/climbing organizations.
Long Lasting Skin Technique

With gritty granite, sandpaper sandstone and razor sharp limestone, our skin is always an issue. Unless you were blessed with rock hard indestructible skin, you may find climbing days are cut short due to flappers, raw tips or jug rash. Over the years I have picked up tricks and advice from climbers all over North America and I have come up with a perfect skin saving routine. Some may call it a little obsessive, but I am perfectly okay with being OCD over my skin. Nothing sucks more than your hands being completely raw, but you still want to climb. Try it out, and hopefully it will allow everyone that extra burn on their project or at least more enjoyable climbing days. 

Step 1: Wash hands with soap and water and let dry

Step 2: File down callouses and tips. This step is an art that you will perfect over time. The idea is that by filing down your tips it will enhance new skin growth and by filing down your callouses it will prevent them from catching and ripping. Flapper prevention. Just purchase any file and focus on filing down hands until they are smooth, with no big bumps or flaps. If your tips are super raw, then file them down smooth too.

Step 3: Rubbing alcohol. This stuff is awesome. It cleans all the little micro cuts, stops sweaty palms (when you are obsessing over your proj) and it also hardens the skin. There is actually a warning on the bottle that says, "Excessive use will harden the skin".

Step 4: Joshua Tree Climb Salve or your healing salve of choice. This step needs to be done before bed. You lather on a super generous layer of healing salve all over your hands, and pack it into any holes or flaps. Let the "magic sauce" soak on your hands all night while you sleep. 

Step 5: Wake up with happy skin and crush your project! Although if you have a deep cut/flapper then it may take a couple days to fully heal. Taping works well to cover up cuts for your next climbing day. Best finger tape on the market is hands down from Flashed, you can buy it a MEC or at It lasts/sticks longer and has good stretch.

Why Hire a Certified Guide?

I always say that rock climbing is safer than driving a car if you are properly trained. Although inherent risks are obvious, climbing can be very safe so long as you follow the basic safety principles and steps. When learning how to rock climb outdoors, one should take the time to make sure that they are learning necessary safety skills from qualified individuals and thus preventing oneself from learning bad habits and poor techniques. It is highly recommended to learn from a certified professional that has acquired these skills from regularly updated climbing industry standards. Currently there are several  nationally recognized certification companies like PCGI (Professional Climbing Guides Institute), AMGA (American Mountain Guide Association), or the ACMG (Accredited Canadian Mountain Guides) Look for these stamps of approval before hiring a climbing guide or taking outdoor rock climbing courses in Ontario. Learning these skills from a professional and taking this simple safety step will make you a more safe and efficient rock climber for years to come.

Safe climbing!

Leslie Timms, Owner and Head Guide of On the Rocks Climbing Guides
PCGI Certified Lead Guide and approved PCGI Mentor