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Climber Mark Synnott

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Big-Wall Warrior Mark Synnott
Answers Your Climbing Queries

Q: After your best advice on getting into rock climbing for me and my two sons aged 8 & 11. Ta mate.

—Mark Wilgar
Perth, Australia


If you guys are totally new to this sport I see two potential avenues. One would be to go straight into climbing outdoors, in which case you'll need to hire a guide. This can be expensive, but it wouldn't take too long to learn enough so that you guys could start setting up your own top-ropes. Top-roping, if you don't already know, is a climb where you set the rope up overhead beforehand. On smaller crags it's usually possible to scramble up the backside and rig a rope from a sturdy tree or perhaps some bolts which have been placed for this purpose.

Your other option would be to learn in a climbing gym where you can also get some instruction. A gym is often the preferred route if you have children because it's a controlled environment where you don't have to worry about hazards such as falling rocks. You certainly couldn't go wrong by spending a few weeks learning the ropes in a gym.

I should warn you, however, that there's a fair amount of equipment you'll need to purchase if you're serious about getting into this. At the very least, you'll need shoes, harnesses, helmets, and chalk bags. If you want to set up top-ropes you will need some slings, carabiners, and, of course, a rope. Climbing equipment is not cheap so you should be fairly sure that you're truly committed before heading to the local shop to slap down the plastic. Usually, you can rent gear at a climbing gym to get a taste before making any significant investment.

One other thing: If you guys get serious about this, you can pretty much forget about your other hobbies. Climbing, more than other sports, demands a tremendous amount of time, energy, and money. But yes, it is totally worth it. Just be sure to remember that this is an inherently dangerous activity. The risks can be minimized, but never eliminated entirely. The risk is what makes this sport so rewarding and powerful, but the stakes can sometimes be high. Good luck, and be safe!

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Photograph by Gordon Wiltsie

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