climbing ropes


When taking your first steps into the world of outdoor rock climbing, there are some extra factors that need to be taken into consideration. Artificial routes give way to nuanced problems with more diverse ways to the top, while the weather and technical clothing become important in the great outdoors. Rab-sponsored athlete Tom Randall, who has extensive experience climbing indoors and outdoors, gives us some essential pointers on how to best make the transition and train efficiently.

How did you Transition from Indoor to Outdoor Climbing?

I started indoor and outdoor climbing at the same time, so my transition was smoother than a lot of people’s. Outside, fear is a much bigger factor and objectively the danger is greater if you’re doing trad or alpine climbing. Indoor climbing, however, is more effective for training. Now, I train indoors and perform outdoors.


Don’t expect to transfer your indoor climbing skills to exactly the same difficulty outside – be realistic.


When you go outside, it’s important to go with someone who already has that climbing experience. They can quickly teach you all of the tricks so you can save years of heartbreak!


How can you Train Indoor for Outdoors?

Break your training down into physical, technical and mental. If you’ve built a base of technical ability and now you want to work on some physical training, I recommend that 70% of your climbing indoors should be endurance where it doesn’t feel too hard, 20% climbing on a rope that’s really hard and pushing your limit and 10% indoor bouldering for strength.


For physical training, you can do exercises and hard bouldering problems for endurance. For technical training, you can learn moves and tricks more efficiently. For mental, it’s about climbing to your limit and not being fearful of expectation and pressure. Depending on your skillset, address one area more than another if you’re not evenly balanced.

climbing wall
climbing shoe

What are your Top Tips for First-Time Outdoor Climbers?

When you climb indoors, you’re using artificial routes where the movements and footholds are quite big. Outside, there is almost an infinite number of hand and foot moves. The first thing I teach people outdoors is to make much smaller moves so that they feel less strenuous. You can’t really do it indoors because the routes are set a certain way. On rock there are lots of options. That’s where people find it hard to transition to outside. They almost get confused because there is so much choice.


People also forget that when you approach an outside route, the ground is covered in mud, dirt and dust. They often start routes with muddy shoes and fall off early because of it. Check the bottom of your feet, clean them for 10 seconds and then go! It’s not obvious because indoor climbers are always on clean mats.

What Climbing Gear Would you Recommend?

Get a good pair of comfortable climbing shoes to start out with and then after about a year of climbing you can change around. Using a traditional belay device is best because it teaches good practise. You can move onto assisted-braking belay devices (like GriGris) once you’ve learnt those basic skills. It’s all about mastering good technical skills in the outdoor environment as climbing can be so dangerous if mistakes are made.

climbing gear
carabiner + rope

Where Can I Start Rock Climbing in the UK?

Stanage Edge in the Peak District for trad climbing and bouldering, Harrison’s Rocks in Southern Sandstone for top roping in a safe setting and the Swanage coastline for sport climbing. These are all highly accessible areas too.

What's your Favourite Rock Type to Climb?

Gneiss. I go to Northern Italy for most of my climbing – it’s amazing rock. It’s solid with really strong, natural features and it covers all terrains. It’s quite rare for most rock types to have every angle and feature.

How did you get into Crack Climbing?

I recently got into it because I injured my finger and couldn’t do regular climbing. Out of frustration, I came up with a plan that I wanted to become one of the best crack climbers. I was left with one type of climbing and I went for it 100%!

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