HERE'S A LIST of some of the equipment climbers use. Climbing schools will furnish everything you need. When you're just starting out, no one will expect you to have any specialized equipment, but if you stick with it, you'll eventually want the following:
HARNESS -- For attaching yourself to the rope and to spread the shock if you fall. Can be made from nylon webbing for a few dollars or bought for $17 to $40.
SHOES -- Start with sneakers, the tighter the better. Add extra socks if needed. If you want to continue, your first major expense will be a pair of specialized climbing shoes that fit so tight they can hurt. But do they stick to the rock. From about $45 to $92.50.
HELMET -- A necessity if there are climbers above you to knock off loose rocks. From $28 to $55, with the Joe Brown brand among the bst.
ROPE -- The first item to buy if you decide to do more than just tag along with someone else. Only one type, of "kernmantle" construction -- a braided or twisted core covered by a smooth protective braided sheath -- will do. The usual size is 11 mm in diameter and either 150 or 165 feet long. Edelrid, Mammut, Maxim, Cousin, Elite and Beal are well-known brands. From $80 to $140.
CARABINERS -- These all-purpose devices have hinged gates for clipping to ropes, slings and yourself. Some have screw-type fasteners to keep them from opening at an inopportune moment. You'll find you need more and more, and some stores offer discounts if several are bought at once. From about $3.50 to $7.50, with a standard one running $4.25 to $5.
CHOCKS -- Removable devices that have replaced the steel and iron pitons of yesteryear, which had to be hammered into and removed from the rock. Variously called stoppers, nuts, hexentrics and rocks, they come in a variety of sizes. (Avoid a type called sliders, which some expert climbers say do not hold as they should.) From about $2.75 to $8.
FRIENDS -- Great devices that will fit in cracks of different sizes, using eccentric cams to lock against the rock. But they are expensive, in six sizes, from about $25 to $45.
TRI-CAMS -- Less complicated and less expensive devices that will handle cracks of different sizes. From about $8 to $20.
SLINGS -- Either sewn in loops or tied from 3/4-inch or 1-inch nylon webbing. Sewn from $2.50 to $4.50. Webbing is sold for about 20 to 30 cents a foot.
MISCELLANEOUS -- Figure-of-eight descenders for rappelling down a face, about $11. Nut key, a must for getting stubborn chocks out again, about $5.
BOOKS -- You can learn a lot about climbing by reading. Some good books:
"Learning to Rock Climb," a Sierra Club book by Michael Loughman.
"Climbing in North America," a University of California book by Chris Jones. A fascinating read about the history of mountaineering as well as technical rock climbing.
"Climbers' Guide to the Great Falls of the Potomac," by the Mountaineering Section of the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club, available for $6 at Great Falls Park or from the PATC office, 1718 N St. N.W.
WHERE TO BUY IT -- In this area, Appalachian Outfitters and Hudson Trail Outfitters, each with more than one store, sell climbing equipment, though the selection may be limited. There is a much more completely stocked store, The Gendarme, at Seneca Rocks, W. Va.
But if you know what you want and you don't need to try it on, consider buying by mail. All of the following outfitters have free catalogues:
RECREATIONAL EQUIPMENT INC. -- P.O. Box C-88125, Seattle, WA 98188, or call 800/426-4840. A large cooperative with a one-time $5 membership fee, if you wish to pay it and get a rebate at the end of the year.
INTERNATIONAL MOUNTAIN EQUIPMENT -- P.O. Box 494, North Conway, NH 03860, or call 603/356-6316. A very well-stocked store owned and operated by climbers.
CAMPMOR -- P.O. Box 999, Paramus, N.J. 07653, or call 201/445-5000. Many products at discount prices.
GREAT PACIFIC CATALOG CO. -- P.O. Box 90, Ventura, CA 93002, or call 805/653-5781. This is the retail sales arm of Chouinard Equipment Ltd., the company of Yvon Chouinard, a climbing great and pioneer in development of very high quality climbing equipment.
COTSWOLD CAMPING -- Broadway Lane, South Cerney, Gloucestershire GL7 5UQ, ENGLAND. A well-stocked outlet with extraordinary prices on some items. A Joe Brown climbing helmet is available for about half what it costs in Washington. It ships postage-free on orders of more than $75 and accepts Visa and MasterCard. Orders typically are received in the eastern United States in less than two weeks.