How to go from indoor to outdoor climbing?

How to go from indoor to outdoor climbing?


Indoor climbing is different from outdoor climbing in a few ways:

– there’s no padded floor

– there’s no staff on site to check your belay, improperly tied knots, harness, etc.

– you need to supply your own equipment and know how to use them properly


Indoor climbing has 3 varieties:

– bouldering

– top roping

– lead climbing


Outdoor climbing has all 3 varieties plus a few more such as:

– ice climbing

– alpine climbing (i.e. big mountain climbing)

Outdoor climbing is like Indoor climbing where there are routes for all levels from beginners to experts. You don’t have to train and wait until you are this and that good enough before starting climbing outdoor. It’s a myth.

The first step and easiest transition to outdoor climbing is Outdoor Top Roping which is similar to indoor top roping and involves the least amount of gear and skills.


Gear you need:

– rope $100+

– carabiners $30+

– some webbing $5+

– a climbing guidebook or internet sources (to show you where the outdoor routes are)

– helmet $40+


Skills you need:

– take a Top-Rope Anchor Course (usually 1-2 days) to learn how to use the above equipment, set up the top rope and the related safety skills. Once you take this course, you should be able to do outdoor top roping independently. Obviously exceptions can occur. It’s like after you go through driving school and pass the driving test, you should be able to drive independently. You can take this course at:

– Climb the Peaks (Vancouver)

– Canada West Mountain School (Vancouver) 

– Squamish Rock Guide (Squamish) 

– West Coast Mountain Guides (Squamish)

Or alternatively you can learn it through the club at our Rockstar training.

– Take a Lead Belay Course at your local climbing gym. Depending on the wall, you might or might not be able to walk around to the top to set up the top rope. If you can’t, someone will have to lead it and you will have to lead belay them.


Climbing partners?

Once you have the gear and the skills, you can set up the top rope and climb with your climbing friends. Your friends don’t necessarily need to take the top-rope anchor course (it’s recommended to take sooner or later!) but they would need to know how to belay. Tips on how to find more climbing partners.


Where to try it out?

An inexpensive way to try out outdoor top roping before making any purchase on gear and courses would be to join some local community climbing clubs who usually offer beginners-friendly outdoor sessions at a discounted/non-profit rate where the club will provide gear and experienced climbers (usually volunteers out of good will) to assist.

– Our club

– UBC Varsity Outdoor Club

– BC Mountaineering Club

– Alpine Club of Canada