How Long Does It Take to Learn Rock Climbing?

Climbing has recently grown tremendously, with nearly 1,500 people trying rock climbing for the first time each day! Not to mention all of the new climbing gyms which are opening nationwide due to the phenomena, and participation in the sport increasing by a fifth! People are loving it, and perhaps it’s time you get in on the fun too.

How long does it take to learn rock climbing? This will vary for climbers, depending on what shape they are in.  Many climbers say they’ve been doing it their entire lives and still have bad days. You will see some improvement within a month, and undoubtedly begin to feel confident after six months of continued practice.

You get in what you get out – this applies to more than just rock climbing. If you’re serious about it and want to see what your body can do, this guide will take you step by step through the process of learning rock climbing. You may be an expert in a month, maybe a year, but you’ll never know how long it will take you until you simply start.

How Long Does It Take to Learn Rock Climbing?

Starting is the hardest part. When you don’t know what you’re doing, you don’t want to look like a fool.  However, no one is going to judge you or care how skilled you are.  They care about you being safe.  So, don’t worry about looking silly.  I’ll repeat – no one cares!

Everyone is just focused on themselves and their own climbing journey, so first, I want you to get out of your head and realize we’re all beginners at some point. The cool thing about climbing that you’ll quickly learn is that it’s more of a community.  As Katie Civgin writes in, “Climbing helped me feel like I belonged to a community.”

Your gym is full of supportive members that will cheer you on and help you to succeed. It is so easy to make friends in a climbing gym or on the mountain trails with like-minded individuals. You’re all here to do something to better yourselves, and there’s a lot of comradery in that kind of positivity.

If you read the forums and what other climbers have to say about the duration at which one excels, you’ll see that everyone is different. Some say to climb outdoors may take 3-5 years, and climbing inside may take at least a year to see results. Others say they felt quite skilled within a month.

It will depend on these factors:

  • Any past climbing experience/related muscle memory to the sport
  • How much you’re practicing/ the time you’re putting into the sport is what you’ll get out
  • The difficulty at which you’re attempting
  • How serious you are about improving
  • If you’re learning indoor or outdoor climbing (outdoor will take longer, so I recommend beginning with indoor until you learn the ropes (har har)).

You’re going to be hooked in no time (pun intended), but let’s talk about what you can do to succeed even faster and not feel like it’s taking you light-years to advance. Stick with me to get a leg-up on the competition (okay, I’ll stop with the puns now, I’m done!)

Understanding Route Grades

Climbing routes, regardless of indoor and outdoor in gyms, will be scales with a rating from 5.0-5.15.

5.0 is the easiest path, 5.15 is the most difficult. ,  is called the Yosemite Decimal System. If you’re putting in the time, you may find yourself at a 5.05 to a 5.10 within 6 months.

You’ll also want to understand the V scale for bouldering, which is rated from a Vo to a V17. Even the top climbers in the world are usually at a V15-16, so don’t expect yourself to be a V17 any time soon, if ever. Many gyms will call is a VB for beginner if you’re starting out.

Here is a chart from that you should familiarize yourself with to understand where you’re at. Tracking your progress will be astronomically important to your success, and if you don’t want to know this metric, you don’t want to be a real climber.

Tips to Get You Improving Faster

Some tricks and tips to help you learn as fast as possible will be:

  • Start small – this means starting with indoor courses and not trying to learn how to scale mountains overnight. You need to begin in a cushioned a padded arena where there aren’t consequences to missteps. Don’t convince yourself you need to start with outdoor climbing because there are so many more unpredictable elements to this that make it considerably more dangerous, even to the expert climbers
  • Consider buying gear – my advice here would be to start off with rentals. You may give up on the sport 6 months in and be bummed you spent all your money on climbing gear. But if you’re serious about it and don’t want all your money going to the rentals, you’ll need to invest in the basic gear of:
    • Climbing shoes
    • Chalk
    • Chalk bag
    • Belay device
    • Locking carabiner
    • Helmet
    • Harness
    • Climbing brush (optional)

If this seems overwhelming, then go to a local outdoor gear shop. They will often have kits that you can purchase.  These are just the starter materials, so more may be required down the line. Again, don’t spend money where you don’t have to and confirm your commitment level before adding expenses.

  • Start exercising – you’ll need to be very physically fit to endeavor into climbing. I recommend planking, deadlifts, dead hangs, burpees, squats, and finding your own rep cycle that works for you.
  • Get your mind in check – it’s not simply a psychical sport. There’s a lot of mental training that goes into it as well. I recommend understanding the mentality behind climbing that succeeds, conquering fears, and dealing with your ego. A great book to read is Rock Warriors Way Training.
  • Learn how to belay – this is practiced with a partner, so find someone who can put in the time with you.
  • Know climber jargon – study up! Here is a link to the Climbing Dictionary. You’re welcome.
  • Watch the experts – this is one of the fastest ways to learn. You’ll connect with others and get to observe how the best approach climbing and their personal techniques.
  • Join a class – this is a great way to open the door and begin something on a regular basis.
  • Respect the calluses – as you get more serious about climbing, your hands will start to callus some. Just like playing guitar, it will make it easier for you in the long run, and your hands will take less of a beating. Here’s a resource on caring for them properly so they don’t harm you in the long run, How to care for calluses.

And lastly, remember a quote from Alex Lowe, “The best climber in the world is the one who’s having the most fun.”

Now Start Climbing!

You’ve got the will and determination to do it. Now get out there and become the expert climber you were born to be!

You are always responsible for your own safety, so don’t push yourself beyond necessary means. I know you want to be amazing overnight, but nothing worthwhile works that way. It takes persistence and practice.

A great climbing reference to get you started will be from the Mountain Project, which will help you find the best climbing routes in your area and connect with an online community. Many climbers would agree; the best part is the family you’ll find in the climbing community.

You know the rule about 10,000 hours to get truly good at something, so you better get started!

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