How To Look Like A Pro At The Crag, And In The Mountains.
Climbing can put you into some less than fashionable outfits and in some less than dignified positions but with some simple tricks can help make you at least fit the aesthetic of climbers who know what they are doing. Thus I have compiled a list of some things that you can do to make yourself fit the demographic of experienced climbers and can make you a better climber along the way.
1. Pack Your Backpack "Correctly".
The easiest way to look like you don't know what you are doing is to strap things on the outside of your backpack. Modern synthetic main pocket backpacks, are designed for all of your things to fit into your pack without needing to strap things on the outside of the backpack. The biggest tip that I have is to simply put your rope, shoes, and tarp into your pack. When you keep your things inside your bag has several advantages: your stuff will be kept dry, and it wont swing around making less noise and not getting caught on things. The one exception for putting things on the outside of the backpack is your helmet which can be strapped in the helmet pouches on the outside of the bag.
2. Know Your Gear.
There are so many different ways to go about choosing gear, there are entier blogs about choosing the correct type of shoe, or belay device. Yet the most important part is not which one you get but the way that you use it. Most of the new fancy gear can be used faster than its predecessors, yet it wont do this by its self, to look like you know what you are doing you have to actually know what you are doing (shocker right?). Taking the time to get to know your equipment as well as how to use it in a variety of situations is the only way to safely climb in the mountains as well as look cool while doing it.
3. Do Your Homework.
This is always my least favorite advice to give because it is by far the most boring part of a climb, yet knowing what you are getting your self into is imperative for successful days in the mountains. This is because if you do not know what you are going to try to do it becomes very hard to do so. "Your Homework" can be anything from the simple stuff like looking at the weather before going somewhere that you know, to talking to someone who has done this climb to find out what they did to get up it and learn about the potential dangers of the day. This especially applies to sport climbing as nothing is worse than going to a place that is not at your leave and getting your butt whooped. For sport routes the minimum is to look at the days weather, the climbs that you want to do, the approach to these climbs, the drive to the trail head, and telling someone who is not in your group where you are going incase you get hurt out of cell range. One last important note: Don't rely on your phone to solve these problems, phones die and cell service is spotty.
4. Spend Money.
Having the correct gear is critical to climb in the mountains as well as looking like you know what your doing. Simply having equipment is the start, going out and buying the essentials is well essential, get a decent helmet, harness, and climbing shoes. Once you have the basics you can start to blow money on cams, quickdraw's, ropes, and many other expensive details that you can't afford. Once you have equipment making sure that it is not worn out, out dated, or looking sketchy is key as all of these could lead to failures and bad days. (Note equipment that is made out of nylon thread degrades naturally over time, and it is recommended that you replace ropes every three years). However there is a caveat to looking cool with money, if you are not a great climber or can't use the stuff that you bring there is risk that you will get to the wall and get laughed at for being the guy who has the stuff and can't use it.
5. Get Good.
Perhaps the most effective way of looking like you know what you are doing is to actually know what you are doing. You can read about climbing tips and tricks all day long, but that does not mean that you can actually do them. My suggestion is to get more time climbing, if you are trying to learn hiring a guide means that people who are very good at climbing can take, coach, and encourage you to do better. So take the time to learn from someone who knows what they are doing and get out there and climb.
6. Pick The Right Tools For The Task.
I am a serial over-packer, I see the potential need for tools during my day out climbing making it hard to limit the things that I bring with me. Despite that lets go over how I pack, start by picking a bag that is the right size for what you need. My mother always points out that you fill up the bag that you bring, so don't pick the 70 liter haul bag for the day at the crag. Now for the hard part, having done your research you will know how much stuff and what kind of stuff that you will need for a day of climbing. Once you have got the stuff to get you up the wall it is time to pick the less necessary stuff, ie your lunch coats med kit and so on. Finally the fun stuff, this is when you pack the rope tarp as well as the less necessary stuff that could be used but might not be needed. Or if you feel like having fun go be that guy that hauls a ice tool up a 14 teener in late July.
7. Wear a Helmet!
This is one of the few rules that I will list that high profile pro's will break. Wear a helmet. While they can be hot, and heavier than another locking carabiner helmets have lots of great uses namely, protecting your head from falling rocks, protecting your head when you look down and step up slamming your helmet into the overhang above you, and conveniently hold headlamps. Personally I think that most experienced climbers know enough to wear a helmet and one of the easiest steps that you can take to look like a seasoned veteran climber is to have a helmet that looks like it has been used.