Climb outside: how to start climbing outdoors

Posted by Jane Thompson on 06/01/2016
Climbing outside: a world of adventure. Photo: BMC.

Climbing outdoors can be one of the most thrilling and satisfying forms of climbing, combining the gymnastic styles of indoor climbing with being outside in the great outdoors, close to nature and sometimes in adventurous environments.

There are many different facets of climbing that take place in the outdoors.  These include bouldering, scrambling, sport climbing, trad climbing, and so on.  These different facets are explained in plain English here.
 
Climbing outdoors can offer a more natural and in some ways a more challenging environment than climbing indoors at a climbing or bouldering wall. This can sometimes make it seem quite daunting to someone who has not done it before. However, this page provides you with lots of information and support to ease that transition from climbing indoors to climbing outside on real natural rock.

Rock climbing courses

The BMC currently runs two types of indoor to outdoor rock climbing courses that are heavily subsidised to help people who want to take their first steps climbing outdoors. They are called Rock Out and Ready to Rock.

Which one is the best choice for you?

Rock Out is a programme of courses run through local climbing walls to give you a taster of climbing on rock and the basics of independent climbing.  These courses are delivered by qualified instructors from the climbing wall and are subsidised by the BMC from a grant received from Sport England.

Even if your local climbing wall isn’t delivering Rock Out they may still be able to offer you an outdoor course, so ask at reception.

Ready to Rock are the courses taking place at Plas y Brenin (the National Mountain Sports Centre in North Wales).  Again subsidised by the BMC with a grant received from Sport England, there are 2-day options (for adults) and 5-day options (for 14-18yrs and families) with full board and self-catering accommodation available.

Outdoor sport climbing courses for young people are a series of outdoor sport climbing courses for 11-17 year olds, teaching the skills needed to safely climb on bolt protected routes.  These courses are aimed at young people who are already lead climbing indoors and want to make the transition to climbing outdoors.  These courses take place across England and Wales, meaning that there will be one near you, and at £30 for a full day's instruction they are a bargain.

More BMC subsidised courses here
 

Instructor support

Alternatively, for a great one-to-one introduction, you could hire a qualified instructor and discuss the sorts of things you'd like to do and where.  With their specialist knowledge of local areas you will certainly get the most out of your time and have great day out climbing.


Useful resources

The BMC Climbing Outside booklet has lots of information for new outdoor climbers.
Download a free PDF: Climbing Outside

Get Into Climbing contains essential information for indoor and outdoor climbing.  Order through the BMC online shop for the best price

The BMC's Young People: A Parent’s Guide is an essential read for all those parents with children who climb. 

Download a free PDF: Young People - a parent's guide

Check out the Rock Climbing Essentials DVD

Lots of other information is available from the BMC online shop including training books, guidebooks and DVDs.  You also get a discount on most shop products if you are a BMC member!


Clubs

Have you thought about joining a club?

If you want to further your climbing then joining a club is a great way to start.  You will meet a whole host of like-minded people with a range of experiences of climbing outdoors.  So whether you aspire to be a trad climber, sport climber or boulderer (or not yet decided), you want to climb in the evening at a local crag or want a full-on adventure in the Alps then you’ll find people to climb with.

There are around 300 climbing, hill walking and mountaineering clubs in England and Wales affiliated to the BMC.

Clubs have ‘Meet Programmes’ happening throughout the year ranging from an evening at a local venue to a month in the Himalayas so there’ll always be something to suit you.

A number of clubs own ‘huts’ in one, or more, of the mountainous regions of the UK.  These huts are often converted barns, cottages, farmhouses, or even schools that provide a further social and outdoor focus for the club and its members, and provide cheap but quality accommodation while exploring the mountains.  BMC affiliated clubs also have access to huts owned by other clubs to increase the range of places you can visit.

More about joining a club

Find a BMC affiliated club

Find a BMC affiliated student club


Additional information

There’s lots of other really useful information on the BMC website. Check out the following links:


Hill walking courses

Once you leave your car / bus / train how will you get to the crag?  All crags involve a degree of walking and maybe some navigation skills to reach the base with some requiring more than others!  Particularly if you wish to climb on more remote mountainous crags it is recommended that you know one end of a compass needle from the other. 

How about trying one of our Head for the Hills walking courses to learn the skills you will need before heading out in the mountains?

Find out more about our support for walkers and the BMC On Foot campaign.


BMC membership

Becoming a member of the BMC offers many benefits.  In addition to knowing that you are supporting vital work including access rights for climbers you also get a range of insurance benefits (including Combined Liability and Personal Accident insurance), discounts at over 700 outdoor retailers, and many other discounts.  If you join a BMC affiliated club you will also become a member of the BMC and enjoy the benefits listed above.

For more details see our membership options, which start at only £15.72.

BMC member benefits


Video
Watch top British climber Katy Whittaker talking about taking her first steps climbing outdoors:

 

Watch the GB Junior Bouldering Team on a training session at Stanage - for many of them is was their first taste of bouldering outside.

 

Watch these and more climbing films on BMC TV.


JOIN THE BMC: Save 50% on your first year's membership

The BMC works for indoor climbers like you. Benefits include:

  • Retail discounts
  • Access to BMC Travel Insurance
  • Register for Mountain Training award schemes
  • £10m worldwide Combined Liability insurance
  • £10,000 Personal Accident insurance
  • Discounted entry to many competitions

Find out more about BMC membership benefits

WATCH: Molly Thompson-Smith: Portrait of a Champion on BMC TV

Follow the BMC's competition climbing Twitter feed: @BMC_Comps

Find all upcoming competitions here.


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