Gym to Crag

We’re well into summer and hopefully most of you have made it out to your favorite local crag to run laps on classics and pick out a few fall projects. But for those of you thinking of transitioning from the gym to climbing outside here’s a couple tips to keep things smooth and safe out there.

As climbers it’s important that we understand and practice “leave No Trace” etiquette.  Most of you will spend a large portion of your free time in these wild places and it’s important to leave the crag in better condition than when you found it. Pack out all trash and belongings. I like to leave a trash sack with my climbing gear that way I can not only take care of my belongings/trash, but help others. On your hike in and out if you see trash help out the developers and pack it out to properly dispose of it. Proper LNT also includes knowing your local crag. If the management team has adopted rules to protect the land it’s important to follow those. For example if they’ve posted “no dogs” or “no hammocks” we should all respect their wishes. As a fellow climber/dog owner I love bringing my best friend out to the crag, but ignoring this could get access restricted and or taken away. To learn more about classes and LNT practices visit

Communication is key when it comes to climbing outdoors. Hopefully we have all taken climbing 101 at our local gym to learn the basics. When you start climbing outside communication can be harder due to crowds, weather, or long routes. Develop a plan with your belayer before you leave the ground. Use the universal terms and call each other out by name. For example, if you reach the top of a route and your going to belay your partner up, shout down “off belay Sarah”. With crags getting busier, this keeps things clear for your group and those around you. To learn more read through this great article by the American Alpine Club

Above all else make sure all your systems are dialed in. Seek qualified instruction from local professionals Make sure you build a good foundation of skills before going out with a group of friends. This will make the experience more enjoyable for the whole team. Most guide services offer “ Gym to Crag Classes” to help you transition from the gym to the exciting world of outdoor climbing.

With some interesting reading and world class instruction, we at the OCC hope this puts you well on your way to the next adventure. Always remember, climbing can be dangerous, but risk can be managed with a little preparation and planning. Have fun out there, check your partner, and climb on!!

By Scott Hillman
AMGA Single Pitch Instructor
Ohio Climbers Coalition Education Director