Getting Started


To get into rock climbing there are basically two ways. Either hire an instructor to give you a basic course, or have a friend who will show you the basics. You will need to borrow some basic equipment or buy some. If in the case of using an instructor, the basic gear will most probably be included in the course. The list below is a starter kit for either sport or trad climbing.
Getting started in rock climbing can be difficult, as one needs to get the skill and experience. You also need to meet other climbers and get invited to go climbing. In order to get invited out on climbs, it is of great help to know certain skills, so that you are useful in a climbing party.

Learn the following skills:

a) Learn to belay on a Single rope if sport-climbing or on double-ropes if trad climbing. Being able to belay properly and safely is the first step to finding a climbing partner. If you cannot be trusted to operate the belay one hundred percent, you will not find many people willing to climb with you.

b) Learn to abseil safely and without the use of a safely rope.

c) Learn to tie a figure 8 knot on-the-bite and by the re-threaded method into you harness.

d) Learn to tie a clove hitch and to join ropes with a double fisherman’s knot.

e) Know your climbing calls: e.g. “on belay”, “off belay” etc.

f) Learn to prussic and carry 2 prussic loops on you at all times (mainly a trad skill).

Starter equipment:

1) Climbers harness – choose one that is fits easily and snuggly with at least 3 gear loops and auto buckles. Having lots of padding in the harness is also good. For example: Black Diamond Momentum or Ladies Beal Aero-Cliff.

2) Chalk bag and chalk

3) Climbing shoes – these should be bought from a shop and not a mail order system. You want to be able to try them on and get a feel for them. Buy rock shoes about 1 or 2 sizes smaller than your usual shoe size. They must fit tightly, almost to the point of being painful. They will stretch a little with use. E.g. Saltic Bongo or Spirit

4) Screw-gate karabiners (x2) – It is best to buy one ordinary screw-gate, such as the Black Diamond Positron or Quick Silver. This would be used for generally clipping into belay chains etc. Then also buy a Black Diamond Gridlock and use it mainly for belaying with. This karabiner’s design prevents it from being cross-loaded.

5) Belay plate – There are many different types of devices, but the Black Diamond ATC or ATC Guide works very well. (Don’t bother to get a traditional figure 8. These devices have been superceded by belay plate designs.)

6) Helmet – Yes they are in fashion these days. Forget about seeing pictures of climbers in the 80s without their heads being protected and looking cool. Everyone who has a brain capable of seeing the benefits of a helmet is wearing one these days, including Sport climbers. Black Diamond Half Dome is recommended.

7) Sling 120cm – A very useful item on any climb.

Gavin Raubenheimer

Gavin is the owner & operator of Peak High Mountaineering. He is a certified Mountaineering Instructor (M.I.A.) endorsed by the Mountain Development Trust of SA. He is a NQF National Mountaineering (level 7), Cultural and Nature Guide (level 4). Gavin is a past President of the KwaZulu-Natal Section of the Mountain Club of SA. He has been involved in mountain rescue since 1992 and since 2005 has been the Convener of Mountain Rescue in the province. Want Gavin and his team at Peak High to guide you on a hike? Put yourself in the hands of the certified and experienced experts in mountain hiking, guiding and climbing. See Gavin's Google + profile