Roads Rivers and Trails

Dream. Plan. Live.

Tag Archives: Rock Climbing

Outdoor sport climbing opens up the opportunity to explore beautiful places.

6 Tips for Beginner Outdoor Sport Climbers (5/8)

With warm weather upon us, you’re bound to want to take your climbing from the gym to the crag. Here are 6 tips for the beginner outdoor sport climber as you expand your horizons.


1. Learn to Lead Climb Indoors

Lead climbing involves bringing the rope up with you while climbing instead of climbing with the rope already attached at the top (toprope climbing). Lead climbing can be dangerous; you should learn from experienced climbers before attempting to lead on your own. When you lead climb inside, you clip the rope to preset carabiners as you make your way up the route. Taking a lead clinic in a gym or practicing indoors is a great way to familiarize yourself with the clipping motion and proper technique in a controlled environment.


2. Know What Not to Do

When learning to lead, you need to understand the dangers of back clipping and Z-clipping. When done correctly, the climber’s side of the rope should be on the outside of a quickdraw. Dangerous back clips occur when you clip the climber’s side of the rope on the inside, creating potential for the rope to unclip itself if you fell. Z-clipping happens if you clip rope from under a previously clipped draw, creating a “Z” with the rope which can amplify the length of a fall and increase rope drag.

Kentucky's Red River Gorge has excellent outdoor sport climing.

3. Catch a Fall

An inevitable part of lead climbing is falling. Lead falls can be longer and more dangerous due to factors such as rope stretch, distance above a bolt, amount of slack present, and comparative weight of climber and belayer. With that in mind, catching a lead fall is paramount. As you learn to lead, you’ll also need to learn the ins and outs of lead belaying. Rather than taking in slack, you’ll be feeding out slack, managing the rope, and checking your climber’s clips. Communication and trust with a partner are key. With practice, you’ll soon be comfortable catching a lead fall and learn the quickest ways to take out slack.


4. Understand Safety Protocols

As you learn to lead, you’ll come to understand methods for properly placing quickdraws. You don’t need to worry about placing the anchors when leading inside since draws are pre-placed. Climbing outdoors, however, you’ll need to set up your own anchors that are Opposite and Opposed. Make sure the gates of your quickdraws are facing opposite directions when you set the anchors. Check that both gates face out and away from the route and the gates form an “x” when opened, which ensures the rope can’t come unclipped from the anchors. A final tip is to ensure the draws are Equalized. This means that the bottom of the carabiners should be at the same height so that the two draws bear the weight of your rope equally. You may need to adjust where one draw is placed on the chains to accomplish this.

Clipping is an essential skill in outdoor sport climbing.

5. Clean Routes Effectively

Cleaning after climbing consists of taking all your equipment off the climb and getting back to the ground safely. Cleaning is the most dangerous part of climbing. At the top of the route, you’ll transfer your rope to a new safety system and remove your gear as you descend. To clean properly, you’ll need two slings and two locking carabiners to create a Redundant system. I personally like 120 cm Dyneema slings because they can be used in many variations. I also prefer auto-locking carabiners like Petzl’s Sm’d Twistlock because they’re easier to take off than screwlock ‘biners.  There are a number of methods for safe and effective cleaning, and you’ll need to learn one from an expert and practice extensively before doing it on your own. Regardless of the method, any safety system should be opposite and opposed, equalized, and redundant. Always perform every safety check while cleaning and don’t rush the process.


6. Assemble Your Gear

Now you know all the basics of leading and cleaning a route and you’re prepared to climb sport routes outside! But first, it’s time to buy all your gear. Assuming you already own a harness and shoes, the next steps are to buy quickdraws, rope, and a helmet. You can always split your purchases with a consistent climbing partner to break up the cost. A great rope is the Tommy Caldwell 60-meter by Edelrid. You’ll also need quickdraws. There are endless options to choose from, but I recommend Petzl’s Djinn Axess Quickdraws. Twelve quickdraws is desirable for most routes near Cincinnati. Finally, safety is always a priority, so a climbing helmet is a necessity. This will protect your noggin from a fall when climbing or from loose rock while belaying.


These tips should help you transfer your skills to sandstone, granite, or limestone sport routes outside. The next blog in this series will open your eyes to crack climbing through tips for traditional climbers.


by: Sean Masterson



Opposite: The gates of carabiners face different directions. Even if one gate is unintentionally opened, the rope cannot come unclipped from both carabiners.

Opposed: Carabiners are oriented in the same direction (Top to top, bottom to bottom). In this way, if both gates are open and overlapping they form an “X.” In this manner, even if one carabiner were to rotate so that both gates faced the same direction, the gates would still open differently (up versus down), reducing the chance that the rope comes unclipped from both.

Redundant: Every weight-bearing system- ropes, carabiners, slings- need to be redundant. If one fails, there should be a backup. This means setting anchors with two carabiners, building an anchor from multiple points, and cleaning with two slings. Even if the extra piece of gear isn’t absolutely necessary, it could save your life.

Equalized: In an equalized system, both points of protection should be bearing your weight evenly. If one were to fail, this prevents shock-loading the system and causing system failure. Both slings when cleaning should be taut under your weight, and both carabiners should hang at the same level to cradle the rope.


*Climbing is inherently dangerous, even in a gym. All techniques should be learned from an expert. This blog is not meant to be a how-to guide, but rather a source of clarifying information and advice.


Gear Review: Black Diamond Momentum Shoes

Black Diamond Momentum Shoes in action on Eureka!, Red River Gorge

By: Will Babb 


I started climbing about a year ago now, within my first week of school at Ohio State. I was soon a regular at the campus climbing gym, spending three or four nights a week on a rope. I threw myself into climbing with more passion than any other hobby, and I knew right off that climbing wasn’t just a phase.

Within that first month of climbing I invested in all the gear I needed- harness, chalk bag, and shoes. My first pair of shoes were the La Sportiva Tarantulas, a great beginner or intermediate climbing shoe. They didn’t take long to break in and were comfortable enough to climb in for a few hours. After a few months of climbing in my Tarantulas, I realized it was time for a new pair. My shoes were starting to show that they had seen quite a few climbs, and the unpleasant odor of well used shoes just wouldn’t go away. Additionally, as I started to climb more difficult routes I saw the need for a more aggressive shoe.Thus, my second pair of climbing shoes- the La Sportiva Muiras.

Uncomfortable is probably the first word that comes to mind when I think of my Muiras. They are two sizes too small, aggressively shaped, and so tight I can only spend short periods of time in them before my feet are screaming for a break. Surprisingly enough, that is why I love my Muiras. They might be painful and have a long break in period, but they perform far better than the Tarantula. I can stick my foot on the smallest edges and stick. These shoes are perfectly designed for climbing long slab routes at Red River Gorge or the most difficult, crimpiest routes in the gym.

Momentums at work, Red River Gorge

I manage to make it down to the Red a few times a year, something I hope to change in the next year. But as it stands, I’m still primarily a gym climber. The Tommy Caldwells of the world probably spend more days at the crag than in a stuffy gym, but most of us aren’t fully sponsored climbers. Most of us spend the bulk of our time training in the local climbing gym to get ready for the occasional trip to the Red or New. That is where I saw the need for the Black Diamond Momentum shoes.

Black Diamond is new to the climbing shoe market, but as with any other piece of equipment I’ve bought from them their shoes have surpassed my hopes. I bought the Momentums as a relatively inexpensive shoe to use day in and day out at the gym and on easier sport routes. If I test myself on a particularly blank wall, I’ll still strap on those uncomfortable Muiras, but for the most part in the coming months you’ll find me crushing routes in the Momentums. They fulfill everything I wanted out of them- comfortable enough to wear all day, budget friendly, and technical enough to give me confidence on tough routes.

Full trust in the BD Momentums

The Momentums will be my new go-to climbing shoe. I can put them on and leave them on the entire time I’m at the gym without feeling as if I’m causing permanent damage to my toes.  That seems like it should be a given, but that’s a level of comfort I’ve been missing the past few months. I had mediocre confidence in the performance of the Momentums when I bought them- after all they were a brand new shoe with no reputation for just $90. I’ve been pleasantly surprised to find them performing well above their price point. Several times I’ve found myself perched on a poor foothold and expecting my feet to peel off at any second, only for them to stick long enough for me to clip the next bolt and climb on. Black Diamond advertises the shoes as breathable, comfortable, neutral shoes built for moderate routes, and thus far the shoes have met each of those expectations.

My only complaint is that I should have bought the velcro rather than lace up shoes, as I like to be able to slip my shoes on and off easily at the gym. Outside of that, I am thrilled with my shoes thus far. They’re lightweight, fairly breathable, and seem durable enough to withstand climbing three nights a week. For now I’m the only person at the gym climbing in the little-known Momentums, but I expect that to change soon as more people try them and see how great they are. You trust Black Diamond to make the highest quality cams, draws, and biners on the market, so why not trust them with your climbing shoes? It’s not often that a brand gets a product right on their first try, but Black Diamond seems to have done just that.

Climb On!!

Climb On!!
Climbing in the Tri-State
Written by: James Mobley

My wife will tell you that I’m obsessed with climbing.  I say I’m passionate about climbing.  Either way it is a key part of my life!  I’ve been climbing for over 13 years and continue to get more involved in the climbing community.  It challenges me to grow my mind, body, and spirit every time I climb, all year long.  I fail more times than I succeed but when I do achieve a particular goal it is very gratifying and I grow as a person.  I enjoy going to climbing areas and meeting new people in the climbing community.  I meet people from all over the world and we all have a common bond, our passion for climbing.Amarillo Sunset 5.11b

Bouldering At Springfield OhioSo where do I go to fulfill my passion to climb?  I moved to Cincinnati mainly to be closer to The Red River Gorge in Slade Kentucky.  The Red is a worldwide destination for climbers.  Gritty sandstone, pocketed lines, and steep roof routes make it the mecca of Midwest climbing.  Climbing guides for the Red River Gorge are available at Roads Rivers and Trails, located in downtown Milford.  The guide will give you ideas for climbing, camping, and restaurants.  My favorite place to find all three is Miguel’s PizzaMiguel’s Pizza is an icon around the world for supporting the climbing community.  Their dedication to climbers is evident through their business; gear shop, food, climber camping, and their ongoing support in all the yearly climbing events that take place in the area.  On top of all of that, they make the best pizza on the planet, no joke!

But wait, there’s more!  Living in Cincinnati gives me access to a number of other great climbing destinations.  You can urban climb right in Cincinnati, at Eden Park.  The New River Gorge in West Virginia offers features, such as, splinter cracks, ledges, horizontal cracks, and clean lines.  On a hot summer day the New also offers great places to jump into the water to cool off after a day of climbing!  All this is available within a short drive. Just north of Cincinnati, in Springfield Park, you can boulder limestone rock.  Just west of Cincinnati, in Muscatatuck, Indiana, you can boulder along a creek bed.   A southeast day trip offers bouldering in Athens, Ohio. In summary, amazing climbing surrounds the Cincinnati area.

Funkadelic 5.10bIf you’re looking for a new way to get fit and meet great people I encourage you to try climbing; be it in one of the local gyms or one of these outside locations! I feel lucky to live in a place with so many great options!