Climbing is a growing sport that is entering the Olympics and will become even bigger as the years go on. You may be curious about climbing as a workout or fun activity but there are risks involved that you should be aware of so that you can make the best decision for you.
This list is, in no way, suggesting the rock climbing is bad and to be transparent, I love climbing and hope to do it for the rest of my life (hopefully when I can hardly walk, I’ll still be climbing… cause that’s how that works, right?). However, climbing isn’t for everyone and there are some legitimate concerns to consider before jumping into climbing or becoming a climber.
These are legitimate disadvantages of rock climbing that you need to know before you start climbing. Unlike other common lists that give you stupid reasons not to climb or pretend positive things are reasons not to climb, so I hope you find it helpful. Here are 10 things to consider before rock climbing.
1. Rock Climbing Is Dangerous
Most climbers have gotten some sort of injury during their climbing adventures, whether it is minor or major. For example, climbers die each year from not using the proper equipment, or not having a trustworthy belayer with them. According to this study about climbing-related injuries, less than 1% of climbers die from climbing. Most injuries from climbing are minor such as torn skin, overused tendons, etc. and are recoverable, but like many other sports, if you don’t want to get hurt then don’t do it.
I have personally witnessed my now wife fall 60 feet because of equipment misuse. She was in the ICU for multiple weeks, went to rehab to re-learn how to walk and took years to learn how to run again so I know first-hand how dangerous climbing can be. If you decide to start climbing, take courses on proper belaying, setting up anchors, etc. so you can avoid serious injury.
2. Rough Hands
Rock climbing gives you callused hands so say goodbye to holding hands with your SO if you want to be a climber. Controlled calluses allow climbers to keep climbing and grip the rock handholds without getting skin torn so if you want to perform well in climbing, you will need calluses. My wife and I both climb (yes, even after she fell 60 feet) so we both have callused hands and decided that is ok but it does make holding hands and backrubs less pleasant.
3. Climbers Hunched Back
Climbers often get a hunched back and it isn’t pretty. This is because climbing uses a lot of the front shoulders/chest muscles and neglects the back muscles so imbalances occur and your shoulders hunch over to compensate and protect your rotator cuffs. Many climbers aren’t aware of this when they first start climbing so they usually get the hunched back before they are able to prevent it. However, this is correctable by exercising your back muscles. Once your muscles are balanced, you won’t have a hunched back and you will have great posture. This requires additional exercises that you should keep in mind if you want to start climbing.
4. Climbing Shoes Hurt
Climbing shoes hurt to wear and they never become comfortable. Compared to tennis shoes, climbing shoes don’t have any space for your toes to move and your toes are squished against the end of your shoe. This makes it uncomfortable and sometimes painful to wear. Tight shoes are important in climbing because you need your toes to be as close to the rock as possible if you want to hold your weight on your toes. In addition, if there is any wiggle room for your feet, then you are more likely to slip. If you require comfort while exercising or doing recreational activities, then climbing shoes won’t work for you and climbing is extremely difficult well without them.
5. Climbing Clothes Get Ruined And Expensive
Anything you wear while rock climbing will get ruined or at least so full of chalk that you have to clean them frequently, thus wearing them out faster. When you are outside climbing, it is very likely that you will get your shirt caught on a branch or you will slip and tear your shorts. Hiking or climbing clothes are made to be more durable so you can get those instead and they will last longer but they are usually more expensive and have limited styles.
6. You Can’t Climb Alone
You can’t go climbing without a belay partner so you always have to depend on someone else to be able to go climb. There are many groups that you can join to find a belay partner, but in addition to growing trust with them, you always have to coordinate your schedule with someone else and hope they don’t bail on you.
7. Climbing Can Be Really Frustrating
Climbing can be very difficult and frustrating. It not only takes a lot of strength, climbing also takes a lot of flexibility and mental problem solving so being a beginner climber can feel demeaning. This is especially true when you have been working on a climb for a week that seems impossible and then you watch a child less than half your size cruize up it like it was nothing… That happened to me today…
8. Fear Of Falling Is Real
Falling isn’t just an injury risk, it is also a mental barrier that can be triggering for some people. Your risk of falling far distances is much greater in rock climbing than in most other sports so if you have a fear of falling, then this will be a VERY difficult sport to get into. I have a climbing friend who has a fear of falling and he is trying to work through it but even after years of climbing, it still affects their performance and sometimes they have to climb down and go home to get themselves back together. Obviously, this isn’t a factor for everyone, but it is a common concern for people interested in climbing.
9. Climbing Culture
Rock climbing invites a culture of
tree rock hugging, environmentalists that you may not want to associate with. It is common for climbers to be concerned about the environmental impacts and you may get dragged into the idea of recycling and keeping nature’s beauty untouched by industry (not by hands because climbers love getting their hands all up-in those mountains). This may not seem like a problem, but if you don’t like getting judged, then you should consider it. I sometimes bring disposable bottles to the climbing gym and feel negatively judged for it. If you are concerned about feeling judged, that is something to consider.
10. Climbing Gear Expense/Maintenance
Buying and maintaining climbing gear is a lot of work and money. For indoor climbing, you either have to rent a harness, carabiner and belay device, or you have to buy your own. There are starter kits with all of that at a discounted rate. If you want to climb outdoors, you will need to have additional gear such as rope and quickdraws and I highly recommend a first-aid kit (better safe than sorry).
In addition to purchasing all of the gear, you need to make sure it stays clean and doesn’t get banged around during transportation so that it can maintain its dependability. Unlike many other sports, climbing gear isn’t something you can buy second-hand. Your life depends on the safety gear and there is no way to tell if gear is up-to safety standards unless you buy it brand new.
I hope that after reading this list, you will still consider climbing. The list above is discouraging but the benefits highly outweigh them. I’ve personally experienced each of the items listed above, including my now wife falling 60 feet right in front of me so I know first hand the dangers and disadvantages of climbing. However, there isn’t any other activity that gives me the physical, mental and emotional benefits that climbing provides. Climbing is one of my favorite activities and I get an immense feeling of peace and satisfaction from climbing that I hope you are able to experience as well by trying climbing.