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Gearing for the Outdoors: A Beginner’s Guide to Getting Outside

Gearing for the Outdoors: A Beginner’s Guide to Getting Outside

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Words and Images by Brianne Schaer
Instagram: @brianneschaer

Taking the leap from indoor to outdoor climbing is no small feat.  The gym offers a controlled environment to hone your skills and keep your body in shape.  Brightly colored holds guide you to the top of each route and cushioned floor pads protect you when you fall.  The one thing the gym cannot offer is the sense of adventure and freedom that being outside provides.

There isn't a quick and easy way to explain the transition from indoor to outdoor climbing.  The best way to start is to head to your local crag and climb!  It is important to always keep in mind that climbing, whether indoors or outdoors, is an extremely dangerous activity.  The following tips will hopefully help you as you start climbing outdoors.  Climbing, as with most things in life, is a constant learning process, and we are all learning new techniques and skills every day.

Note: I am not a professional guide for outdoor climbing.  These are tips to help transition climbers from inside a gym to the outdoors.  Please climb responsibly.

Hire a Guide

Hiring a guide is the best way to ensure that you are safe when you first start venturing outdoors.  Nothing can replace the knowledge and experience of a hired guide.  A good instructor can show you the best places to learn to climb, any specific rules or conditions of the crag, and most importantly, how to stay safe.  There are a number of well-qualified guides in Southern California.  Spend time researching a guide that will meet your needs and ensure you have a good experience on the rock.

Find Experienced Climbers

Can't afford a professional guide?  Mentorship is another great way to start climbing outside, but tread lightly when choosing a mentor.  You want to make sure they know what they are doing and are willing to help you on your journey.  Since they are dedicating their time to helping you, you should try to return the favor in other ways.  Simply offering to use your gear, or buy gas or food can go a long way.

Take Classes

Professional instruction is a great way to learn necessary climbing skills.  Sender One offers a number of great classes (at both SNA and LAX) that will teach you the basics for lead climbing and belaying, as well as various techniques useful in the outdoors, such as crack climbing.  The more you practice lead climbing and belaying in the gym, the more confident you will be to transition those skills to the outdoor world.  Other important skills to learn include rappelling, knot tying, and building anchors.

Be Aware of Dangers

There are a lot of dangers outside with the potential to kill you.  It is important to keep that in mind and always be aware of your surroundings and potential dangers.  This includes rockslides, loose holds, people above you dropping gear, and you dropping your gear on others.  Also be on the lookout for ledges or bulges that you may potentially fall on if you should take a lead fall.

Always Perform Safety Checks

Make sure that your rope and gear are in good condition before climbing, every time you climb.  Always check your partner, whether you're the climber or the belayer.

Check the Weather

The weather can make or break your outdoor climbing experience.  Of course, climbing during the rain is not advisable.  It's also not a good idea to climb a day or two after rain, and in some crags, it's not allowed because the rock is more likely to break off when it is damp or moist.  It's also important to check the wind conditions, because it is much harder to clip quickdraws, or grab small holds in the wind.

Purchase Gear

Since you climb in the gym, you probably already have your own shoes, harness, and chalk bag. If you don't, it is time to buy them. Once you start climbing outside you'll realize there is never really an end to your list of gear you need to buy. Here is a short list of the necessities for outdoor climbing: shoes, harness, chalk bag, belay device, rappel device, rope, quickdraws, locking carabiners, personal anchor, and helmet.

Do Your Research

Before heading out to the crag, make sure you have a good idea of where the crag is, how to get there, how long the approach is, what gear you need, and how harsh the grading system is.  Always keep in mind that grades outside are harder than inside, so that outdoor 5.7 may feel more like a 5.10 in the gym.

In addition to researching the crag, you can also read up on the basics of climbing in what is often referred to as the Climbing Bible.  Mountaineering: The Freedom of the Hills provides information on almost everything climbing-related, from tying knots and building anchors to belaying and rappelling.

Leave No Trace

This is a huge one.  No matter how much fun we have climbing, we must remember that we are using public land and should treat it as if we are guests.  Be mindful of others at the crag, whether that means asking to play your music, keeping your gear in one area, or picking up your trash.  As with hiking or any other outdoor activity, you should pack out all trash, park and camp only in designated areas, minimize noise, and stay on established trails.



Climbing outside offers exciting new variables and challenges. The above points can serve as a good starting point for anyone who wants to start climbing outdoors.

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LAX Spring 2018 Bouldering League Finals Video

LAX Spring 2018 Bouldering League Finals Video

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The highlight reel from Sender One LAX's first Bouldering League Finals! Spring Bouldering League had a phenomenal turnout with
amazing climbers, boulder routes, and vendors. Congratulations to our first ever champions of the LAX Bouldering League!

🎥: @kidbotic

How to Clean Your Climbing Rope

How to Clean Your Climbing Rope

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Words & Photos by Melody Yuan

I’ve had my trusted rope for two years. It’s dynamic, durable and my life depends on it.

It only seems right then, to make sure the rope’s well taken care of. While I’ve taken precaution to keep my rope on the tarp and not step on it when climbing outdoors, rinse it every few months, use a proper rope bag, and make sure it stays flaked when it’s not in use, I really only washed it for the first time two weeks ago.

My rope has journeyed up many routes and picked up dirt across different crags. My climbing friends can attest that I probably had the dirtiest rope among our regular climbing group. I used to pride myself on the fact that my rope was well used, but after belaying one day and noticing that my hands were black as night after only one climb, I decided it was time to wash it.

But how?

After talking to a few fellow climbers, reading threads and making a trip to REI, I was equipped and ready to take on the challenge.

What you need:

Tub, bucket or a sink that you don’t mind getting dirty

Rope soap (Editor's Note: Recommended. Other detergents are potentially damaging to ropes.)

Warm water

Gloves (optional)

While cleaning the rope using just warm water may be a good enough solution, I decided to use the Edelweiss Rope Wash because my rope was too dirty for just water to clean. I have also heard of climbers throwing their rope into the washing machine*, but I would encourage washing the rope by hand. Who wants all that rope dirt in the washer where your clothes go anyway?

Step 1:

I used the bathtub at home and placed my filthy rope inside. Then, I filled the tub half way with lukewarm water. Editor's note: Washing your rope may stain your bathtub! Wash at your discretion.

Step 2:

Let the water soak. I left the rope in the tub for about 5 minutes. During this time, I cleaned the inside of my rope bag.

Step 3:

Swish it around. I pulled and squeezed the rope to make sure all the sediments were coming off, and that every inch of the rope had been in the water.

Step 4:

Add rope wash. If you’re intending to use a wash, a small amount will usually suffice in getting the grittier dirt out.

Step 5:

Scrub and Swish. Pull the entire length of your rope through your hands and scrub with your fingers.

Step 6:

Drain the water, rinse the rope and then refill the tub with clean water to rinse and/or scrub the rope again. I drained and refilled the tub four times before the water started getting clear again.

Step 7:

Dry thoroughly. Flake the rope out of the tub and lay it across a water-friendly area like a towel, balcony or shower-curtain rod. In my case, I laid it across the bike rack in my garage and away from direct sunlight.

Once it’s completely dry and looking brand new again, flake the rope one more time to make sure the rope is clean, tie the ends, and put it back into your rope bag. And voila! Guaranteed that the next time you go climbing, you’ll feel great pulling out some clean rope to set up on a new route.

To ensure that your rope stays in its optimum conditions, I would suggest doing the following:

  •         Store your rope in a dry place, away from heat and direct sunlight. Exposing the rope to too much direct sun can damage the fibers and fade the colors. This includes keeping the rope in your car on a hot day.
  •         Make sure that your rope is on a tarp or something similar when you climb outdoors, since dirt and sediment can easily get onto your rope. Also, you don’t want anyone to accidentally step onto your rope.
  •         Inspect your rope as you flake it to make sure there aren’t any fuzzy areas, cuts, flat spots or weird misshapes in your rope. It’s normal for a rope to get weaker over time, especially in the event that you’ve taken a huge fall or have owned the rope for more than a year, so this inspection is important**.

* Please research and wash your rope in a washing machine at your own discretion.

**This post is a general guide to maintaining your rope. If you are uncertain about the integrity of a rope, have it inspected by a professional. Sender One is not responsible for any rope failures via use of this guide.

Why You should NEVER Climb in the Morning

Why You should NEVER Climb in the Morning

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words by Iris Ma

Note: This piece is meant to be humorous.

Climbing in the morning is such a chore. You have to wake up before the sun rises and it makes you feel more productive than you should be. The drive is forgettable without the usual vexation of traffic. Then, you get to the gym and nobody's there, except for the bright and cheery-eyed front desk crew. Your voice echoes through the empty space when you ask for tension and no one is there to watch you send your project except for your belayer. You can do laps on your favorite routes and you don’t have to wait for any to free up. If you encounter a spinner, you get to be the hero and report it to the front desk, who probably knows why you’re there to talk to them anyway. Finally, when you’re climbing outdoors, you’ve developed a habit of an early start and waking up early is no longer such a pain when you want to beat the heat and the crowds to the crag. If these aren’t enough to convince you not to climb before work, here are four more reasons why exercise in the morning sucks:

Burn more calories

Boost your EPOC (Excess Post-exercise Oxygen Consumption) - otherwise known as oxygen debt or the “afterburn”. EPOC explains how your body can continue to burn calories long after you’ve finished your workout. So, the intensity of your workout directly correlates with the amount of EPOC benefit you receive.

Win win win, no matter what 

Don’t get derailed by last minute errands, to-dos, or a late night at the office. Getting your workout done first thing in the morning ensures that nothing else gets in your way and you can stick with your training program.  

Feel rad all day long

If you’re feeling fatigued, the best antidote is more exercise. Some research suggests that morning exercise improves mental focus and abilities all day long, and has the ability reduce symptoms of depression.

Rest & digest better

Morning exercise can not only improve the length of sleep you enjoy, but also your quality of sleep by promoting deeper sleep cycles. Exercise releases a healthy dose of adrenaline which is great for waking up, but not so great in the evenings before bed. The hormones released during exercise also improve your internal digestion and system on a more consistent and regular basis.

Editor's note: Iris climbs EVERYDAY at 7AM.

With all of this being said, I hope you take my advice and never climb in the morning.

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