HOW TO CLIMB ON A DIME
by Mark Evans
For many, climbing can be an expensive hobby. Climbing is a gear-intensive activity, requiring shoes, ropes, harnesses, gear, gym memberships, guide books, etc. And if you're anything like me, you probably don't have mountains of cash lying around that you can just spend willy-nilly! So, I'd like to share are a few ideas that might make the transition into the climbing world a little less painful.
If you know me personally, you're probably thinking: "WHAT?! Did he just suggest bouldering?!? I thought he never boulders?!" Well, never is a strong word, although I do personally find my passion in other aspects of climbing. But when it comes down to cost, simplicity, and lack of equipment, bouldering reigns supreme. All you need is a pair shoes, some chalk, and a crash pad (or a friend with one...). Bouldering is a great solo sport where you can easily get a workout on your own time without coordinating schedules with a partner. It can also be social. If you head out bouldering with a group of friends, you'll usually end up with more pads, hands to spot, and encouragement. It’s easier to actually enjoy being with a group when bouldering than in most other forms of climbing.
SEARCH FOR A GOOD DEAL
Each form of climbing (bouldering, gym climbing, sport, trad, alpine, and so forth) has different gear needs. The newest high-end gear is not always the best, especially if you're just testing the waters. Spend some time researching what gear you might need for the aspect you're interested in. I find that you usually get better advice/information from the local climbing shop than you might at one of those big box stores. But that is just me. Do your research, ask more than one person. Once you have an idea of what gear you need, begin the hunt for a great deal! My go-to spots for less than retail priced goods are the local outdoor gear consignment shops. Usually you can find used gear that is still in great condition at a fraction of the original cost. Not only is buying used gear more cost effective it's also utilizing my favorite two points of the recycle triangle: Reduce and Reuse! Most of these stores even carry new equipment, like ropes which I usually won't buy previously used, at a lower retail than most stores. Also, check online. Sometimes Groupon, or similar sites, have deals on climbing equipment or climbing gym memberships. And many online gear sites have an "Outlet" section, where you can find pretty good deals on out of season equipment. Local Classifieds, MountainProject, and Craigslist are some other good sites to check out in your search for the perfect deal. Just remember to look around. Patience is a virtue. Try not to just pull the trigger on the first thing you like, check to see if you can find a better deal.
CONSIDER THE GYM
Inside or outside: which is cheaper? Well, that's a tricky question. Both have pros and cons and their own list of expenses. My personal preference is to climb outside whenever possible. I just love being in nature doing fun things with friends! And with the exception of a few certain climbing areas like state and national parks, climbing outside is completely FREE. You just decide on a place and go have fun. But when climbing outside, you do need to factor in the weather. It's hard to climb outside when it’s raining, windy, snowing, or if it's just too hot or cold. Also, if you want to climb outside, you usually need to have a full setup: rope, draws, gear, pads, etc. This costs money. In a gym, depending on what you do, all you need is shoes to boulder and a harness to top-rope. Of course there is the cost of a day pass, or monthly membership to a climbing gym. In some cases gym climbing can be really hard on the wallet, but here are some things to think about. Do you currently have a regular gym membership? If so, consider dropping it and use that money to get a membership at the climbing gym. Most climbing gyms these days have an area with standard weights and gym equipment, as well as yoga and other classes, all included with the membership cost. Plus you get to climb no matter the weather or season. The gym can also be a good place to meet new friends in the climbing community. My belief is that you can never have too many climbing partners! If you're not ready to buy a full blown membership, consider getting a punch pass. You can usually save a few bucks per day when you buy a ten-punch pass to a gym. That way you can test it out and see if you like it. Another possibility to consider is getting a part time job at the gym. You don't need to be a professional climber to get a job at a gym. There are plenty of jobs that a novice can get, like working the front desk, or cleaning the gym at night. A lot of places will do trade work for a pass. A few hours a week of work might just get you a free membership.
TURN YOUR NEXT CLIMB INTO A ROAD TRIP
If climbing outside is more in line with your personal situation, and you don't live five minutes from your favorite crag, chances are you're going to end up taking a road trip or two. And depending on where you plan to go, camping is usually pretty cheap—or sometimes free! Check to see if there is any BLM land (where dispersed camping is free) in close proximity to where you may want to climb. Some of my favorite camping spots are completely free and ridiculously close to some of my favorite climbing areas. When I'm headed out on a road trip, I usually try to wrangle a few friends to join so we can all split gas, combine gear, and share food. We all end up cooking a huge pot-luck style meals at the beginning and end of each day which is cheap and a lot of fun! Thus bringing me to my next point.
EAT GREAT FOOD
Food = Energy = Fun. Climbing can be a lot of work, and our bodies need good healthy food in order to succeed. I lean toward nutrient dense foods and complete proteins to get the best bang for my buck. Leafy greens, nuts, potatoes, sweet potatoes, onions, garlic, salmon, rice, beans, etc. Usually pretty cheap, and full of a variety of vitamins and minerals necessary for long days hiking and climbing. Although possible, it's not exactly ideal to bring a head of cauliflower up a three pitch route for lunch. But I want to stick to my guns, just in a more compact size. So for my midday, on-route recharge, I grab a couple Chapul bars to shove in my pocket or summit pack. One of my favorite flavors is the Thai Bar. I love the balance of the coconut, ginger, and lime. Weighing in at only 1.9 oz, it’s packed with 210 calories of awesome ingredients: 11g of bioavailable protein, only 9g of sugar, and it has plenty of Iron and Vitamin B-12! Perfect for a mid-route refuel or summit snack. Not only are they delicious and healthy, they are also ecologically sustainable. A "granola" climber like me can really get behind food that’s both healthy and sustainable!
Whatever your direction in climbing or in life, choose wisely, and have a blast!!!
Guest Author: Mark Evans @thereal_markevans