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May 29-June 9


Rock Climbing Guide

Rock Climbing Guide

How to Start Rock Climbing: A short guide

Rock climbing is taking New York City by storm – with the recent opening of two new climbing gyms, coverage by mainstream publications like the Wall Street Journal, and NYCs first guidebook to bouldering – it’s fair to say the sport has made an appearance!

But you’re a hiker (skier, surfer, cyclist…) and you don’t totally get the whole pull-ups on a rock thing because let’s be honest… it’s faster to just hike around it. 

Here's a very quick guide to help you understand the basics.

Types of climbing 

There are two main categories of climbing you’ll see:

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Rock Climbing – generally this refers to climbing with a rope for protection. Within this category there are a ton of subcategories including Trad, Sport, Top Rope – which if you’re really curious you can read more about here.)


Bouldering – no rope, closer to the ground. The climbing style is characterized by shorter sequences of moves that require more strength.





Indoor Climbing v. Outdoor Climbing

This section could be an entire book but the main difference you need to know is that when you’re in a climbing gym the staff (professional route setters) have set up routes for you to simulate climbing outdoors.  They are usually marked with colored tape. This means, if you’re at the climbing gym you look for your level (example: V0) and once you find that on the wall – follow only that color tape! 

In outdoor climbing you can use anything (mostly) you want to get yourself to the top!  


Climbs are all given ratings so you can tell the level. For general rock climbing you’ll see ratings that generally range from 5.5 to 5.14+ with 5.5 being the easiest and 5.14 being a level only accessible to the most elite of climbers.

The bouldering ratings range from V0 to V12+ again with the lower number being the easier.

Beginner climbers should look for V0 and 5.6 level climbs to start off on!  


As a beginner there are two main pieces of gear you’ll need: 

1)    Harness – this is for use with the ropes

2)    Shoes – climbing shoes are made with special rubber that gives your feet better friction when in contact with the rock. Highly recommended. 

Tips for starting


  • When you go to the gym, you can being bouldering right away but if you want to use the ropes you will have to take a special class that teaches you how to belay safely. 
  • Warm up! Like any other sport you need to ease your body into climbing so you don’t pull a muscle 
  • Watch out for your fingers. One of the major issues that new climbers face is pulling muscles in your fingers. Remember that it takes time to build up this new muscle group so don’t go crazy at the beginning and make sure to take a lot of rest. 
  • Use your feet. You can only do so many pull-ups and your thighs will always be stronger than your triceps. Think about using your arms to balance on the wall and letting the legs actually be the power behind pushing you up the wall. 

Feel free to reach out to @outdoorfest or contact@outdoorfest.org with any questions. Additionally, our favorite “how to” website for beginners is climbingtechniques.org! 

Header photo taken at the Outward Bound Wall in Queens - which we covered here.

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