Active SWV Rock Climbing Trip Safety

Active SWV in partnership with Get Active in the Park provides free physical activity opportunities within the New River Gorge National River. Rock climbing is one exciting activity southern West Virginians can sample under the guidance of Active SWV Community Captain volunteers, who are all certified guides through the Professional Climbing Guides Institute or the American Mountain Guides Association. It’s very important beginners always seek qualified instruction when setting out to learn to climb. In addition to providing knowledgeable and certified guides, we have several tips for beginners to experience a safe and enjoyable climbing trip with Active SWV.

Come Prepared. Our Community Captains provide you with all the gear you need to climb, but you should come dressed for success. Choose pants or shorts that are temperature appropriate and protect your skin from the rock and flora you may encounter on the hike. Consider stretchy clothing and also moisture wicking. Synthetic is typically a better option than cotton, and it’s always warmer when wet. You may choose to wear the climbing shoes provided, but only for when you are climbing. Wear sturdy athletic or hiking shoes for the approach, and avoid sandals and open toed shoes. Pack a backpack with a water bottle and a layer like a rain coat. Also remember to bring any medications or snacks you may need.

Edge Awareness. You will receive safety instructions from our Community Captains before ever approaching any rock edge, and you will never be put into a compromising situation. You will always be on a top rope system while climbing. Sometimes approaches to climbing areas involve hikes that are near significant cliff lines. Please stay on trails and near your Community Captain. Never throw rocks or debris over cliffs or while you are climbing. There may be climbers below you or other people belaying/observing.

Treat all gear with respect. Always wear your helmet!  It protects you while you’re climbing as well as from any possible debris falling while you are at the base of the cliff. Wear your climbing shoes only while climbing. Mud and dirt wear out shoes more quickly and decrease your traction on the rock. Never stand on or walk across the ropes. Debris can work its way into ropes and decrease their lifespan.

Leave No Trace. Pack it in, pack it out. Treat our park with respect and leave it better than you found it. Implementing low impact and Leave No Trace practices helps preserve the recreation areas for future adventurers. Remain on established trails to help prevent erosion. This is also a good idea because it minimizes your contact with irritating flora (such as poison ivy) and will keep you clear from venomous snakes (like copperheads). If you do come across a snake (or any animal) please give it space and alert your guide.

Learn and Implement Safety Commands. Your guides will teach you safety and communication protocol before you begin to climb. It is important to listen to these commands and learn them. Never begin climbing before your harness, rope, knot, and helmet have been checked and your belayer has verbally confirmed they are ready. Active SWV Climbing Community Captains will provide all the instruction and equipment to keep you safe. As with any activity, it is important to also take personal responsibility for the safety of yourself and the group. Respect for your guides, the park, fellow programmers and yourself will ensure a safe, fun, and memorable experience for all.

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