After a blazing hot summer, the cool mornings of fall might feel like a welcome relief for most climbers. Pretty soon the rock will feel cold under hand instead of radiating heat, and sweaty belays will be crisp and cool. But in many climbing areas, this magical, mild fall season is fleeting. Before long, fingertips will be feeling numb and morale will struggle when icy winds blast those belay ledges. If you still want to climb outside, there are many ways you can keep yourself more comfortable, and have more fun. Here are five.
Invest in climbing-friendly gloves
Keeping your digits toasty while you’re sorting gear or belaying your partner will help keep your psych high for when it’s your turn to take the sharp end. But not just any pair of gloves will perform, and a sub-par pair will leave you frustrated with holes and tears or bumbling fingers. A tough leather pair that grips gear and the rope and fits closely around your fingers will keep you safe and warm.
Seek out south faces
Maybe over the summer you didn’t notice which direction the crag faced, or maybe you usually pick routes by how many stars they’ve been given on MountainProject. But even a four-star route can feel miserable if it’s on a shady north-facing cliff that’s exposed to a down-canyon breeze. Many guidebooks and MountainProject entries share details about what direction different crags face. By seeking out the south-facing routes, you’re more likely to spend more time in the sun, and less time shivering.
Pack those hot drinks
Staying hydrated will help keep you feeling warm, and sipping hot tea or hot chocolate does wonders for morale halfway through a chilly day of climbing. A good insulated mug or bottle will keep your beverages warm, just make sure it seals properly before tossing it in your climbing pack with your belay jacket.
Layer, layer, layer
Speaking of belay jacket, you do have one, right? The key to staying comfortable when the temps start dipping is to start with a wicking non-cotton base layer that will keep you dry underneath, and then adding on layers from there. A fleece or light, breathable jacket and also a down or synthetic insulated jacket should be a part of your cold-weather climbing kit—as well as a beanie that fits underneath a helmet. If you feel yourself starting to get sweaty, shed a layer before you get too clammy. If you’re going to be sitting still for a while, put on your puffy.
Give ice climbing a whirl
While you’re all layered up, why not give ice climbing a try? Instead of shoving your feet into undersized rubber climbing shoes, you can slide them into insulated mountaineering boots—not that that means they’ll actually stay warm—and instead of trying to feel the rock for handholds, you can keep your fingers inside your gloves and swing a pair of ice tools into a frozen waterfall. Not that that means your fingers will stay warm. In fact, if you take an intro to ice climbing course, you’ll probably learn that there’s no to ways around it: You’re going to get cold at some point. But, if you’re going to get cold, you might as well be doing something exciting, challenging and beautiful, right?
Hilary Oliver is contributing editor at Adventure Journal, outdoor adventure writer & doer and has her own blog, The Gription, where you can find more articles about backpacking, climbing, mountain biking and more.