Tips from a Pro for Getting Started Rock Climbing in the Inland Northwest | External number | Spokane | Interior of the Pacific Northwest
Kelty Godby says people will often tell him that they are dizzy and could never climb.
Her favorite answer? “All climbers are afraid of heights; that’s why we’re alive.”
Godby is the lead guide and owner of Inland Northwest Climbing Outfitters, which he founded in 2019. In recent years, Golby says interest in the sport has grown rapidly locally and nationally.
If you’re looking to hit the rocks for the first time, you’ll need some gear. Godby says NW Outfitters and REI in Spokane are both good places to look. There are four main things you’ll need to get started:
1) Climbing shoes. These should be tight, but not painfully. They can be rented or purchased at most outdoor stores. You can also save money by buying a used pair.
2) A harness. Golby strongly advises against buying used harnesses.
3) A chalk bag. (Pro tip: If you’re climbing in the winter, put some hand warmers in your chalk bag, your fingers will thank you later.)
4) A helmet. Some climbers don’t see helmets as necessary, but Godby says they’ve saved his skull many times.
Outdoor climbing also requires ropes, belay devices, and anchor materials, but if you’re climbing with someone experienced, they should already have them, and you’ll only have the four basics.
For beginners, having someone show you the ropes (pun intended) can be helpful. Godby says a dedicated person with a high tolerance for risk can hypothetically piece together the basics from books and YouTube, but some things are best learned from in-person instruction.
The Spokane Mountaineers offer regular outdoor rock climbing lessons. Godby also teaches beginner classes on his property outside of Tumtum. Godby says one of the most important things a beginner climber can do is find a mentor who can push them and keep them motivated throughout their climbing journey.
Some new climbers learn the basics in indoor climbing gyms before heading outdoors. Godby, who learned to climb at the US Army’s Northern Warfare Training Center in Alaska, says indoor training can be helpful, but isn’t necessarily necessary.
“I tell people that gyms are a great place to train, but if you’re going to be climbing outside you should get out early and not just stay in the gym because it’s going to get tough. more and more intimidating,” says Godby.
Once outside, there are two main types of climbing to choose from. Sport climbing involves climbing routes with permanently attached anchors that provide fall protection. Traditional (traditional) rock climbing involves placing your own anchors on the rock as you climb. Trad climbing usually requires more knowledge and experience, so beginners usually start with sport climbing.
Godby generally recommends beginners visit Sharon and Q’emiln rocks, both of which have a number of good sport and traditional climbs. If you’re looking for something closer to Spokane, Cliff Drive and Minnehaha are popular spots.
Spokane’s climbing community is growing rapidly. Godby says local climbers were more careful with their routes, but in recent years the sport has seen an increase in popularity and accessibility. There are still many unexplored rocks. Godby says he thinks there are more first ascents to climb in the Interior Northwest than anywhere else in the country.
One of the biggest lessons Godby tries to impart to new climbers is the need to stay humble and aware of potential dangers. About six months later, many new climbers reach a point where they start to feel invincible and overconfident in their abilities, he says.
“When you start to lose the fear, that’s when it’s time to do some self-reflection and take a step back. Because you’re about to get hurt when you start lose that fear,” says Godby.
The world of climbing is full of terminology and jargon. It is a good idea to study it. Once you get started, you might find that some of them apply to you:
“Gumby” (adj.) Slang term for a beginner climber who is enthusiastic and really excited but doesn’t really know what he’s doing. ♦