Whatever you do, don't look down!
When I climb, I feel free. There is a sense of independence and accomplishment after completing each route. I strive to feel the fear in struggling to hold myself up and the relief once I complete the move. Big wall climbing magnifies all of these feelings. There is something about being suspended on a rock face - I can't get enough of it.
Before big wall climbing, be prepared. Get comfortable on the rock and learn the basic techniques of climbing. This is usually done on a top rope, where the rope runs through chains at the top of a route, immediately catching a climber in case of a fall. The next step - learn to sport lead. This increases the risk of bigger falls. As the climber goes up the route they periodically clip the rope through bolts in the rock.
After a climber gets comfortable on sport leading, they tend to move onto trad climbing, which is placing protection, like nuts and cams, in the rock to catch them in case of a fall. This increases risk because not only will the climber fall until the last placement catches, there is a chance that the protection could fail to hold, further lengthening the fall. Once a climber is solid on trad climbing, the real fun can begin.
My favorite part of big wall climbing is sleeping on the rock. Laying down to go to sleep just feet from a huge cliff invokes feelings that can be found no other way. I wake up, stretch my arms and look to my side only to see a vast expanse of air and trees far below, feeling totally content. There is nowhere I would rather be.
Whether it's your first big wall or your hundredth, you'll run into issues that wouldn't be found on smaller climb. From hauling up days worth of food and water, or trying to retrieve a stuck rope. It takes determination to push past your struggles and fear, making success so much sweeter.
One thing about big wall climbing is learning new things about yourself. Living on a wall, being totally self reliant and dealing with your struggles is extremely revealing. Big wall climbing allows a person to know more about themselves and is something everyone should try before they die.
Written by Derek Beaumont. See more of Derek's amazing adventures on Instagram: @beau__96