Getting Into Climbing: The Basics You Should Know About

Climbing is a recreational activity that can be explored indoors or outdoors. There’s a lot to know about climbing if you are a beginner, giving the needed expertise and tricks to successfully take on obstacles on your way up. For the pro climber, however, climbing couldn’t be more fun and rewarding. It goes without saying that indoor climbing is obviously safer and relatively easier than outdoor climbing. And the good part? Virtually anyone can get in, regardless of age, and have a thrilling experience. So, if you are a beginner looking to finesse your skill in the sport of climbing or a pro looking for additional tips you may not have been aware of, this guide is for you.

Getting Started Climbing

With lots of gyms around in most cities today, finding a perfect gym for your climbing needs shouldn’t be a problem. And starting indoors is what you want as a beginner. If nothing, at least you are sure to get the best help in the face of overpowering obstacles. Your first experience climbing in a gym can be exciting but also likely to be intimidating. But follow gym rules and take courses, if necessary, and you should be all set to quash jitters as they come. Indoor climbing can be in 3 forms. Interestingly, you can even try out two of these right on your first day at the gym. Indoor climbing includes bouldering, top roping, and leading.

  1. Bouldering

Bouldering is a non-exclusive sport and one you can get started with immediately on your first day. Walls used for bouldering are most times short and close to the ground. There are also big mats placed below so you don’t have to worry in the event of a fall.

Read more about bouldering here

  1. Top Roping

Another form of indoor climbing is top roping, where you explore big walls with the aid of a belayer-attached rope that is redirected through an anchor and tied firmly to your harness. Properly worn, top roping gear are more than enough to keep you safe and allow you to learn how rope systems used for climbing work and how to effectively trust your gear. Top roping is also one you can try out when getting started climbing at the gym.

  1. Leading

The third type of indoor climbing is leading. Leading involves climbing using a rope that is tied to you and also connected to a support belayer. Unlike in top roping, the rope doesn’t pass through an anchor above you. So you have to labour your way through obstacles by clipping the rope in quickdraw movements on your way up. Leading requires much more advanced climbing techniques and is therefore not a sport you want to explore if you are a beginner climber.

Your climbing gear

It’s pretty obvious why you need to wear the right gear before going climbing. Clothing is fundamental. Clothes worn for climbing fit well and allow free movement as you find your way up. Wear baggy outfits and you set yourself up for falls in the event that they catch climbing holds. While many brands have climbing outfits you can consider, there’s really no hard and fast rule about your choice. Simply get a comfortable clotting that snugs well and you are all set.  As you’ll be getting started in a gym, you also want to get a harness, convenient fitting shoes and everything else your gym instructor demands. Your needs will largely depend on what type of indoor climbing you want to get started with. For beginners, here are your top indoor climbing near needs.

  1. Locking carabiner

This gear is provided by most gyms, but having your own isn’t a bad idea too. A locking carabiner is used for the attachment of your belay device to your climbing harness – a gear that helps fasten you in position and is vitally important for both indoor and outdoor climbing.

  1. Belay device

A belay device should be what you are comfortable fastening yourself to. Consult with your instructor for help in choosing the right one when getting started.

  1. Chalk

While climbing holds can be particularly effective, chalk increases dryness on your hands and enhances grip, thereby preventing you from falling, especially when climbing slippery terrains.

  1. Climbing shoes

There are a whole bunch of climbing shoes in the market. Your perfect footwear depends on your level of experience and the type of climbing you intend to take on. Pros would go for more durable and versatile climbing shoes. As a beginner, your climbing shoes should fit snug, but not overly tight as to making you develop blisters and sores. The arch design is also fundamental, so consult with your instructor and scout around for reliable reviews before getting a footwear that matches your indoor needs.

Read more about different types of good climbing shoes here

  1. Climbing ropes

Climbing ropes are usually provided by your gym for liability reasons. However, you may be required to bring one along for leading, so if you do decide to go with your own climbing ropes, ensure they are terrifically strong to hold your weight and aid your journey up the wall.

Having gotten your gear handy, you should be all set to get started climbing. If top-roping sounds interesting and is what you want to try out, you need to get acquainted with a few skills before you can climb independently.

For example, you will have to learn the process of tying a figure-eight knot which connects you and the top rope. If you already know how to lower and belay a climber up, then you can go belaying. In any case, you can take a short course that lets you into these skills and more before getting started.

Gym climbing prepares you for outdoor climbing, which is likely your ultimate goal. If that’s the case, you should be up to speed with all techniques and ways to enhance your endurance and stability before going outdoors. Pushing yourself too early can cause untold disasters, so take your time when levelling up your indoor climbing skills.

Differences between Indoor climbing and Outdoor climbing

Indoor climbing is your first step to becoming an expert outdoor climber. But you need to be aware of the dynamic changes and challenges in the offing when you go climbing outdoors. For one, mountains are not particularly similar to your indoor walls and you have to acquaint yourself with rock features and shapes.

Most climbing gyms make sure routes are easily visible with colourful holds, belay devices are connected to top ropes and anchors are pretty much easy to clip. All these make for climbing without worrying about serious falls and catastrophic injuries. It’s a different ball game outdoors, however, as you have to factor in possible hazards; weather conditions and other sceneries that could cause distraction and leave you in danger. A few differences between indoor and outdoor climbing include:

  • Use of a Helmet

Indoor climbing might not require you to wear a helmet, but it is an incredible asset when going outdoors. However short the distance, not wearing a helmet when roping up is a risk you don’t want to take. Apart from being a protective gear in the unlikely event that you fall, rock particles and adventuring animals could also direct hazards at you, and a helmet can be life-saving in such cases.

  • Landings

The luxury of comfy flat floors and foam mats are unlikely when climbing rocks. No gym facility would risk letting you break your bones and bear financial consequences, so you get every bit of protection when climbing indoors. When outdoors, however, rocky terrains and hard landings are what you get. Bouldering landings don’t come flat and require some expertise to protect, making it all the more important to wear a helmet when mountaineering outdoors. There are more than a handful of scenarios that can occur climbing outdoors: you could flip upside down, get swung sideways into a wall, or even hit a ledge. Top roping falls can also be excruciating. So start small when it comes to falls. If bouldering is what you are out for, flat landings, pads and a good spotter are important before getting started.

  • Weather

Good lighting, efficient heat-controlled rooms and air conditioning mean your comfort is supreme in indoor climbing. But you know the reverse holds true when outdoors. So prepare for unexpected weather changes with snow, rain, and extreme heat all likely. Some of these conditions may also affect visibility, and it is therefore important to know what risks are likely before heading out for outdoor climbing.

  • Group Size

It’s pretty easy to hangdog or switch out for other members of your group when indoor climbing. Outdoors, this arrangement might not work, but large groups can also exceed the carrying capacity of areas with limited lead routes. While setting up a top rope to make it easy for everyone to run laps, easier grade routes may quickly become stressed due to pressure on the climbs. So, if you are pumped up and ready to see what’s in stock outdoors, you want to go with only one partner, or a sizeable group. But don’t forget to include an experienced climber in your team too.

  • Belaying

Your moves can be monitored and you get the best tips on where to stand when getting started with climbing at the gym.  No one has you in close view outdoors, so concentration is key for a safe outdoor adventure. Chirpings of birds and sights of strange animals shouldn’t distract you. If you are not close to the base and your climber falls, you can be in for some real trouble. And if you are close to the base and this happens, it’s another ball game. So look up and take the right steps at the right time.

Before choosing your climbing shoe

Unlike your usual footwear, rock climbing shoes are not sized similarly. This has caused a huge dilemma for beginner climbers when choosing the right climbing shoe. While they should fit snug, climbing shoes shouldn’t ruin your adventure too. You may decide to go with a shoe ½ longer or shorter than your size, depending on the brand. For an effective and overall convenient climbing experience, here are your top tips when cashing in on a climbing shoe.

  1. Know your fit

Bunions, blisters and calluses are all likely to develop when you put on the wrong climbing shoes.  Shoes that are designed to slightly bend your toes at the knuckles are popularly known to be more convenient and provide better performance when going outdoor climbing. As the foot is pushed forward in the shoe due to tight slingshot heel rands, your toes become powerfully stationed to explore paths in a rather curved-to-crimped position. Ultimately, you want to avoid shoes with dead spaces between the inside and your toe since they won’t hold firm when placed on a foothold. Your toe knuckles should also not be bunched painfully against the shoe tip. Good climbing shoes are better flat or slightly curved and comfortable, welcoming any outdoor climbing terrain without causing problems on your Achilles.

  1. Climbing style

Will you be bouldering, steep sports climbing or gym climbing? Climbing environment is another factor to consider before buying a piece of footwear. Micro footholds are unlikely when climbing at the gym, so performance may not be really important. However, when you become experienced enough for advanced bouldering or steep sports climbing, striking the balance between comfort and performance is critical to choosing the right climbing shoe.

  1. Durability

Buying new shoes every other month can be a pain on your budget, so you want to get shoes that are not only convenient but also durable for long-term use. As a beginner, you likely won’t have perfected your footwork, making wear and tear on the shoe rubber a possibility. So, slightly thin-soled shoes with decent toe feel make your ideal climbing footwear. Apart from the longevity of the shoe rubber, the durability of the lace system is also something you should know before buying a climbing shoe.