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If that looks like fun ... here is where and how to get started with rock climbing.

To most people, rock climbing goes against common sense: the rewards seem too enigmatic to be worth the perceived risk. Yet-if the climber is well trained and sensible-rock climbing need not be any more dangerous than other challenging sports, such as whitewater rafting or downhill skiing. And it provides participants with much the same thrills.

The goal is to reach the top with grace, elan, and a smile on your face (even if you have to fake it). What's the motivation? One climber offered this observation: "A climber doesn't just muscle his way up a mountain. Like a chess player, a climber must plan every move and compensate for each mistake."

The basic training

Most beginning climbing courses start with on-the-ground instruction. There, you learn about proper use and care of equipment, how to tie basic knots, ancts other important background information. For example, you'll learn why you should never step on your rope: since the rope's primary purpose is to brake a fall in an emergency, you don't want to damage it. (Ropes play different roles at more advanced stages.) Then you rehearse the whole climbing procedure putting on gear, practicing moves and climbing cues-so that you will be familiar with it when you are on the rock.

First climbs are usually made on large boulders, where you learn to "belay" another climber: secured to the boulder by an anchor, you take in the slack of a rope attached to your partner as he ascends. This way he won't fall more than a few inches if he loses his grip on the rock.

Then it's your turn to climb. You will probably be asked to fall at least once so you understand that the rope and your climbing partner will check your fall. It's scary at first, but there is little actual risk.

Choosing a climbing course

Safety should be your instructor's primary concern-and yours. When choosing a course, ask about the instructor's experience and credentials, the organization's safety record, and the number of students assigned to each instructor.

Rock-climbing techniques vary depending on where and how you climb; here, we focus on courses in climbing that do not intentionally involve snow or ice.

The organizations listed here provide beginning instruction in northern California, Colorado, Nevada, and Utah. All provide climbing gear; you bring your own food and camping gear if necessary. Write or call for details.


Alpine Skills International, Box 8, Norden 95724; (916) 426-9108. From June to October, two-day beginning and intermediate classes are held two weekends a month. Classes cost $114 and $124, including Saturday dinner. A five-day intensive outing is $398, including lodging and meals.

California Adventures, UC Berkeley, 2301 Bancroft Way, Berkeley 94720; (415) 642-4000. Rock Climbing I and 11 are $55 each or can be taken in the same weekend for $98. Call ahead; class times may change without notice.

Marin Discoveries, 11 First St., Corte Madera 94925; (415) 927-0410. Rock Climbing for Beginners ($45) is offered at least one Saturday a month. Graduates may take guided one-day or weekend climbs for $49 to $110.

Palisades School of Mountaineering, Box 694, Bishop 93514; (619) 873-5037. Twoday course (maximum of four students) is held weekends May through October. Cost is $95.

Shasta Mountain Guides, 1938 Hill Rd., Mount Shasta 96067; (916) 926-3117. From April through October, Basic Rock is offered at least one Saturday a month. All-day class costs $55.

Summit Adventure, Box 498, Bass Lake 93604; (209) 642-3899, Two- and threeday seminars ($120 and $150) are held twice yearly; next one starts July 21.

Yosemite Mountaineering School, Yosemite 95389; (209) 372-1244; from June through August, call 372-1335. Basic Rock Climbing ($30) runs daily from April to October. Intermediate 1 ($40) and II ($45) are also available.


Unless noted, area code is 303.

Colorado Mountain School, Box 2062, Estes Park 80517; 586-5758 or (800) 4440730. Rock I ($48) and Rock 11 ($63) are offered daily May through October. Week-long introduction costs $370.

Great Herizons, 2637 Pine St., Boulder 80302; 447-2234. Two-day beginning and intermediate courses meet each weekend April to September; cost is $110.

International Alpine School, Box 3037, Eldorado Springs 80025; 494-4904. Twoday introductory classes run every other weekend from May through September; cost is $125. Five-day course costs $475.

Rocky Mountain Ventures, Box 5046, Steamboat Springs 80477; 879-4857. Half- and full-day courses ($35 and $65) are held daily June through September.


Truckee Meadows Community College, Community Services Division, 7000 Dandini Blvd., Reno 89512; (702) 673-7103. Course ($35) includes 2 hours in the classroom, three Saturdays in the field. Register at the college by June 7 for intermediate course offered in June. Next beginning course starts September 9.


Area code is 801.

Gaideworks, Box 8635, Salt Lake City 94108; 363-5640. April to November, Basic Rockcraft ($50) runs two Saturdays a month. One-day intermediate course ($70) and five-day intensive course ($375) are also available.

Hansen Mountaineering, 757 North State St., Orem 94057; 226-7498. Rock Climbing 1 and 2 run at least two Saturdays a month and cost $35 each, including lunch.

Division of Continuing Education, University of Utah, Salt Lake City 84112; 581-7519. Beginning and intermediate courses will be held June 3 and 4 and over a five-week period beginning in September. Classes cost $60 each.
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Date:May 1, 1989
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