Climbing Apps for Smartphones
Smartphones, whether you like them or not, have made it possible to get instant access to information on just about everything with a few pokes of your finger. Climbing may be a very analog activity but your iphone, android or whatever comes next can still add to the experience. Below is a partial list of apps that will help you get to the crag, find routes, figure out beta, avoid bad weather and learn to be a better informed climber.
NOT the correct way to use your climbing app!
If you need to find your way around a particular climbing area, there are now a few options for smart phone apps instead of the old fashioned guidebook. The apps listed here cover just the US but there are scores of others for climbing overseas.
AlpineWerx Guides. The good folks at AlpineWerx have brought some of the nation’s best climbing areas to your phone with their apps. Their latest, a digital version of Ward Smith’s Rumney Guide book went straight to your iPhone with all the things you love about the book but with a few enhancements like GPS, more pics and tick lists. All that and it actually costs less than the book! Even the experienced Rumney climber will find the guide useful for navigating around the lesser visited area and finding good routes for everyone in their group. Best of all, the app doesn’t need to be connected to the net to function. Once downloaded, most of the data is available for viewing offline so when you’re out of range, it still works. Other guides by AlpineWerx include Red River Gorge, J-Tree, the New River Gorge and a handful of others.
Mountain Project. This app was released only recently and wow, it has an incredible range of data. It's basically an app version of the MP website and gives you beta on more than 75000 (!) routes all over the world along with user comments and photos. The app is free but to get the full range of areas, you need to subscribe for $5 a year. Once you pay, you can download info on crags to your phone and add more as you need them. Once in your phone, you don’t need an internet connection to view the data, which is very helpful in remote areas. Updates happen every few weeks, keeping things current.
The above apps offer different takes on guides. AlpineWerx treats each area independently, giving you a thorough and in-depth look at it. They are informed by local guides and area experts so the information can be trusted and the maps, topos and details are amazing. The Mountain Project app relies on crowdsourcing to provide the information. This makes it less consistent and prone to error but with constant updates and viewable comments on each route, it is constantly evolving. Another downside is that there aren’t many maps or topos and smaller areas don’t have much beyond directions to the parking lot. The upside is that as more people use it, the gaps can get filled in, meaning it will only get better as time goes on.
Climbing Knowledge and News
Access Fund. The Access Fund is a vital ally in the world of climbing. Through their efforts, climbing areas as kept open, facilities are maintained and relations with governments and landowners are kept friendly. Updates on AF events and action alerts hit the front page of the app, keeping you up to date on what’s doing and what needs to be done. The app also serves as an aggregator of information from the most popular climbing media: you can browse headlines from Climbing Magazine, Rock and Ice, Alpinist, Deadpoint and a handful of others. The app is free, making it a great way to get your fill of climbing dirt during downtime.
Climb Weather/Generic Weather App. You want to get outside but you’re not sure what conditions are like at your favorite crag? The typical weather app will give you hourly conditions but you need to know the nearest town to the rock and even then, conditions may be different in town than out in the wilderness. The Climbing Weather app gives you a quick rundown on daily conditions for the next 7 days at crags either nearby, by geographic area or from your list of favorites. The regular weather apps are more detailed but the Climbing Weather app is a great quick reference. Oh, and it’s free.
Knot Guide. Chances are, you’re halfway up a multi-pitch route when you suddenly need to learn a new knot but on the off chance your phone is handy, this app will help you get your ropes in order. A better use would be to learn a few new things while killing time so you’re better prepared for that occasion.
Army Mountaineering Manual. This is basically an e-book version of the US Army guide to climbing and mountaineering. Probably too much for the weekend warrior but if you like being prepared for long periods in the wilderness, rigging emergency rappel and belay setups or you're expecting the apocalypse to come soon, this is your bedtime reader.
Grade Converter. Heading abroad on a climbing trip? The Grade Converter app helps you understand and be understood in places where “American dirtbagger” isn’t the native language.
Peak ID. Ever been on top of a mountain, with dozens of other peaks visible but you have no idea what’s what? This app uses your phones camera to recognize and identify mountains using augmented reality. Pretty frickin’ cool.
GPS. Even if it isn't augmented by climbing information, regular GPS can help you find trailheads, cliffs, trails and the best place to eat after climbing.
Compass. On the off chance you have a map and you actually know how to use it, a compass can help you get from where you are to where you want to be. Some crags aren't well documented but if you're looking at a mountain and you know the cliffs face west, a compass will at least tell you which side to head towards, even on a cloudy day.
Flashlight. Ok, it’s not a climbing specific app but remember that time you forgot your headlamp? The flashlight app will give you some illumination if you get stuck in the dark. Handy at times but a real battery drainer.
Camera. Some of us don’t have an eye for photography but you still find yourself witnessing something that really should be on film. Luckily, most smartphones have built in cameras that even a photo-noob can take a decent shot with. Perfect for capturing future profile pictures, using your Facebook app!