5 rock climbing essentials to get your new hobby started

Dec 13 2016, 10:10 pm

Rock climbing is the perfect hobby for Calgarians all year round. With the mountains to the west, indoor facilities in the city and in our neighbouring mountain towns, you’ll never miss out on the fun.

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Rock climbing is a physically and mentally demanding sport.  It will test your strength, endurance, agility, and balance along with your mental control. What often looks like an easy task can take some dangling and quick feet to get around.

For those that think rock climbing is a “man’s” sport, you’d be wrong. In November 2016 at the Banff Centre climbing gym, Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC) hosted a ladies only climbing workshop that was sold out.

Image: Courtesy Andrew Sutherland

Image: Courtesy Andrew Sutherland

Image: Courtesy Andrew Sutherland

Image: Courtesy Andrew Sutherland

Climbing expert and MEC ambassador Sarah Hart lead the session with world renowned climber Lynn Hill also making an appearance. Hill has been described as both one of the best female climbers in the world and one of the best climbers of all time.

Image: Courtesy Andrew Sutherland

Image: Courtesy Andrew Sutherland

If you’re thinking you’re just not tall enough, strong enough, or any other excuse – just stop. If Hill can climb difficult sheer rock face of The Nose on El Capitan in Yosemite Valley at only 5’2” and 110 pounds soaking wet, you have no excuse.

To get you started on a new and exciting hobby and work out experience, MEC climbing expert Yonah Obadia gave her advice on a few essential pieces of climbing gear you’ll need.

Five Essential Pieces of Climbing Gear


Shoes need to be well fitted and appropriate for the style of climbing you wish to pursue.  Velcro shoes are convenient while laces allow for more adjustment.  Shoe fit is important so take your time finding your first pair and try on a few different brands.


Your harness should be an appropriate size and be very comfortable to not only sit in but also to climb in, should feel supportive but not restrictive.  Harnesses come in different designs and for different purposes. Let the store expert know what you’ll be using it for.

Chalk bag 

Chalk bags come in lots of different shapes, sizes and designs. From sleek and minimalist to chalk bags that look like plush little monsters. Dip your hand into a couple and see which you like the best.

Belay device

There are many different types of belay devices on the market. You need to think about what kind of climbing you’d like to do and select an appropriate one for the style.  Grigri’s are pricey up front but great for gym climbing and cragging.  ATC’s on the other hand are a versatile, inexpensive, friction based device, but not all gyms will accept them.


Climbing ropes are dynamic meaning they’re designed to stretch to absorb the shock load of a falling climber.  Ropes come in an array of different diameters and treatments to best suit the style of climbing you wish to do.

Addition climbing gear to get when you’ve mastered it a bit include a crash pad to give you a safe and cushy landing, and a helmet to protect your noggin.

As for what to wear, Obadia says climbing usually involves some gymnastic movement. Wear clothes that can comfortably move with you and that don’t cause any restriction reaching up or bending your legs. Avoid 100% cotton because you can build up quite a sweat on the wall – poly blends and breathable wicking material is best.