Weather has a significant impact on a climbing trip, regardless of skill level. Experience plays a part, of course, but preparation is far more important when you’re scaling a cliffside.
With that in mind, you’ll want to set aside a little time to get things in order. Only then can you feel safe in snow, rain, intense heat and other conditions. Here are a few ways to ready yourself.
Temperatures drop in the deep of winter, and the chance of ice and snow is high. That said, these colder days are some of the best for grip. As we know, there’s a distinction between snowy mountains and a cliff that only gets snow in the winter. You’ll have to prepare differently for the first then you would for the second.
When you climb in this kind of weather, your body feels rigid and brittle, especially while belaying. As you stand at the bottom with your hands on the rope, you’ll want to have multiple layers. A base layer, mid-layer and warm jacket is your go-to outfit in this kind of weather. Chemical warmers and heated chalk bags are also great. Above all else, always try to keep your blood flowing.
In wet conditions, take extra precautions so you don’t hurt yourself or damage the route. Assess your climb beforehand by looking for moisture and wetness along the base and staging areas. Granite and metamorphic rock dry far more quickly than other types, so when in doubt, opt for those. After a summer thunderstorm, wait a few days so water in the area has time to evaporate completely.
Outdoor enthusiasts have devised many ways to protect their gear, so you may want to invest in waterproof bags and dry-treated ropes. Doing so will keep all your items dry so they won’t hinder your experience.
As always, double-check the weather before you head out. Climbing in intense temperatures and humidity is never fun and often results in a more strenuous excursion than usual.
Look up the cliffs you want to climb to get a better view and determine shaded areas. Apply a generous amount of sport sunscreen and wear light clothing. Keep your shoes in your pack until you need them, so they don’t sit in the sun and absorb heat.
Pack even more water than usual and sip it throughout the day to remain hydrated, and make sure you bring hats to shield your eyes and provide a bit of shade. These tips will help keep you cool and focused.
Windy conditions can have a major effect on how you climb, depending on speeds. The wind may knock you off balance, hinder your visibility and often create a much colder environment. Don’t go out in levels of wind that exceed 40 mph, as anything higher starts to become dangerous. Belays in these conditions are even harder. Goggles and face masks are useful when the wind is prevalent in a specific area.
You should never discount how the wind may affect you. It tends to weaken the body and put you at risk for hypothermia in the winter. Make sure to check the radar prior so you can adjust your route if necessary.
Climbing when there’s a risk of lightning brings a whole new set of potential problems. Many injuries and even deaths have occurred due to lightning strikes on cliffs and mountains. These are the most dangerous spots to be during a storm. To protect yourself, learn the correct protocol for dealing with this type of situation.
There are a few common myths you’ll want to educate yourself on, too. As usual, bring along a first-aid kit, and if you haven’t already, get certified in CPR. Accidents often happen when we least expect them, which is why it’s vital to exercise caution.
Remember to Think Ahead
No matter what, climbers of all experience levels should check the forecast and radar beforehand. If you don’t, you may put yourself at unnecessary risk.
Even when you want to head out on a spontaneous excursion, make sure you have all the gear and protection you need so you can climb safely.