Updated: Nov 22, 2022
When you first start climbing outside, finding places to go can be quite daunting and certainty when began climbing, I found myself limited to a few local crags. This was partly because I was a skint trainee outdoor instructor taking public transport everywhere but also because I had limited access to information about where to go climbing. Traditionally when people started they would often be taken along by friends, would join a local club or perhaps go on a course. This does still happen to some extent, however with boom in popularity of indoor climbing and the ease of access to information on the internet, considerable numbers of people are wanting to head outdoors for the first time (especially currently with all the climbing walls closed due to the pandemic!).
Hopefully in this blog I'll give you a few ideas about how to get our on real rock!
Where can I find information?
A good starting place is to go to the UK Climbing "find crags" page. This tool is really useful for getting an idea of what crags there are around you, by using the search information. Often well known crags will have information on climbs, crag access information and which guidebook covers the area. https://www.ukclimbing.com/logbook/map/
Now you have an idea of what is around, you might want to find some more detailed information, especially if you are unused to visiting unfamiliar crags. The best source of complete information can be found in climbing guidebooks, which are usually broken down into geographic areas. The are also broken down into definitive (they contain every climb at that crag/in that area) and selective (a "best of" for that area).
A few examples of guidebook producers;
Climbers Club (usually definitive)
Guidebooks can be purchased easily online, however I would recommend purchasing them from an independent climbing shop, like V12, Joe Browns, the Climbers Shop, Epicenter, Needlesports or Outside, rather than from places like Amazon (who take a much larger cut of the profits from book sales).
Another option that has become more recently available are app based guidebooks, the best of which is currently the Rockfax app, which is subscription based but gives you access to all their digital guidebooks for only £36 a year (about the price of one paper based guidebook).
I find the best solution for me is to use a combination of paper based and app based, they both have their own pros and cons but its nice to be able to choose (guidebooks are heavy, but they don't run out of battery!).
I've decided the crag I want to visit, what next?
Equipment - Have I got the right equipment to visit this crag? (Is my rope long enough? Do I have enough quick draws for that sport climb? etc...)
Weather - Is the forecast suitable for where I am visiting (wet rock isn't much fun and some rock like sandstone and gritstone can be caused considerable damage can by climbing it when wet). Wind direction and speed is also important to check, remember to compare wind direction to the direction your crag faces (will it be sheltered or directly in the wind?).
Access - Is there access to this crag currently? Where do I park? How do I get to the crag from the car? Some crags are also affected by seasonal restrictions, like nesting or shooting. There also might be temporary restrictions like woodland management. You can check crags against the BMC's RAD to see if there are any restrictions.
Etiquette - Climbing outdoors is a fantastic way to enjoy wild spaces, however it can be quite a different world to urban climbing walls. For climbers heading outside for the first time, there are lots of new things to consider (like where are the loos?), two really good things to read about this are;
The Countryside Code
Respect the Rock
Parking Top Tips
These are really just a few pointers to get you started in the right direction, if you have any questions ask away!