To get started, you need little equipment, and if your early outings are in a gym or as part of a class, you can probably rent the equipment. Bouldering (climbing rocks under 20 feet high) requires only rock shoes and a chalk bag. For sport climbing, you will need a climbing harness, rope, a "belay" device (such as a figure eight or tube), and at least one "carabineer" (spring loaded clip). For outdoor rock climbing you should always wear a helmet to protect yourself from falling rock chips.
The clothes will vary with they type of climbing. For indoor climbing, comfortable shorts and t-shirt will suffice, though not too loose. Outdoors, you must be prepared for a range of temperatures and conditions (regardless of the forecast). Dressing in lightweight thin layers, in breathable fabrics, is recommended.
When you are climbing on a regular basis, you should invest in your own gear. As you get better, you may want to try lead climbing, where you fix you own protective ropes, rather than using a pre-set rope to the top). You need to have your own "rack", a selection of climbing aids including "runners" (flat nylon ropes), "carabineer" and "chocks" (wedges and cams).
Beginners should take a class or hire a guide to teach you "the ropes". Classes are available at most man-made climbing facilities. In Calgary, the best indoor climbing and bouldering facilities are the Calgary Climbing Centre (6 7130 Fisher Road SE), the Stronghold Climbing Centre (140 15 Ave NW), and the University of Calgary (2500 University Drive NW). For courses and guides for outdoor climbing, call the University of Calgary's Outdoor Program Centre (220-5038), or Yamnuska in Canmore (403-678-4164).
Rock climbing in Alberta's Bow Valley began with Lawrence Grassis' ascent of the First Sister near Canmore in 1925. Yamnuska was first ascended by two Austrian guides in 1952. Since the 1970s, numerous new routes have been found and developed.
The most beautiful climbing areas in the mountains (bring your camera) requires some hiking:
- "The Back of the Lake" (on the west side of Lake Louise) offers some rare granite cliffs and a lake view
- Grotto Canyon (east of Exshaw on the 1A highway) presents canyon climbing and takes you past Native pictographs
- Mount Yamnuska, (off the 1A highway, 40 minutes west of Calgary)provides several multi-pitch routes with views of both foothills and prairies.
WARNING! Climbing can be dangerous if proper precautions are not taken. If you have little or no experience, you should take a professional guide, or take a climbing course in order to learn the basic safety techniques.