Climbing is a sport in which participants climb or across natural rock formations or artificial rock faces. It is physically and mentally demanding and tests the strength, endurance, agility, and balance of a climber. However, anyone can start climbing, regardless of your experience.
Beginning to Climb
1. Head to a rock or boulder room to safely learn basic skills and safety. You can boulder outdoors as well, but you will need to find out about the safe and well-established bouldering sites before you get on a rock. Additionally, the outdoor sites are generally more difficult and require guides and more in-depth knowledge of the rock formations. Rock Gyms are safe, well-designed spaces for a variety of skill levels, and they often have classes and staff to help you learn. In general, you have two starting options:
- Bouldering routes are short climbing problems that don’t require harnesses or ropes and are a fantastic way to develop your climbing skills safely, without a complex introduction to belaying or equipment. Since these problems do not require ropes, some constraints associated with rope climbing are avoided. Bouldering routes are great for learning to climb and are a fun way to climb even if you don’t have the security you would have with a rope.
- Top-roping is what most people think of when they think of rock climbing. You are tied up and climb a large wall. To tightrope, you will need a partner. If you are new to the sport, ask the staff about “belay partners” or the rock until you feel comfortable asking for a partner.
- Lead climbing is another common type of rock climbing widely used outdoors to climb routes of different lengths. In lead climbing, two climbers, or the “leader” and the “follower”, are attached to opposite ends of a dynamic rope. The “leader” goes up first, snaps into bolts, or periodically places its own protection. When they reach the top of this section of the climb, or the “terrain”, the leader sets up his personal anchoring system and secures the “follower”. Lead climbing is a more advanced form of rock climbing and requires detailed training and practice.
2. Rent a pair of cozy shoes and a chalk bag. Climbing shoes should fit snugly so that you can feel the precise edges of the rock. They may feel uncomfortable at first, as the toes are often pointy in order to help you stay on small chips and edges, but you will quickly get used to it. Just make sure they don’t cut off traffic. It is common to wear a size smaller than your standard size. Chalk bags, while not necessary, are used to keep your hands dry – essential for holding the rock when you are tired. Simply dip your fingers lightly in the chalk and apply them together to get a light coating of chalk on your hands.
3. Climb to the top of the wall or problem in any way you can to get used to the sport. Most of the walls are marked with routes – specific sets of rocks that you need to use to get to the top. While these are more challenging and fun for experts, you need to familiarize yourself with the height, holds, and overall feel of climbing first. Ignore the tape marks and just head over to the wall, working through the basics of your form. Once you are comfortable with climbing you are ready to start tackling some basic routes.
- To get started, look for routes labeled 5.4 or 5.5 for top-roping or V0 or V1 for bouldering, which is a good grade for beginners. (In Europe, Fontainebleau notes are commonly used. These notes start at 2a and increase each number after each “c” note.)
- The fear of falling and the fear of heights are perfectly normal human instincts. Remember, however, that you have a plethora of safety gear, padded floors, and a competent person to support you. After your first few pages, you will get used to it.
- Starting with an expert, even just a friend who climbs a lot is a great way to slowly get started in the sport.
4. Push with your legs instead of pulling with your arms. This is the number one rule of good climbing and the hardest thing to get used to. It feels natural to pull your body against the wall because your fingers feel like they’re more firmly attached to the sockets. But your legs are much, much stronger muscles, and you’ll tire halfway up the wall if you try to do ten straight pull-ups. There are a few foolproof tips for getting used to using your legs:
- Keep your arms straight. Let your weight hang low, gripping the handles only for balance and bending the knees for power.
- Adjust your feet before moving your hands. Get a good, solid foundation on which you can gain weight.
- Keep your weight on your toes, not your hands, by dropping your heels lower than your toes
5. Plan your movements in advance, putting your limbs in position for each movement. If you have trouble reaching for a grip with your left hand, you don’t have to become Mr. Fantastic to grab it. You need to move your left foot higher – lengthen your left side and make the reach easier. Rock climbing is a deliberate and thoughtful sport, and building the wall won’t get you far. Stop to think about the best way to climb a route, or seek advice from experienced climbers.
- Learning to read a route from the ground, visualizing in advance where your hands and feet will go is an essential skill that you can never start practicing too early.
- The more time you spend hanging on to the wall, not knowing where to go, the more tired you will be.
- The set of moves you use to climb a wall is called your “beta”.
6. Find good resting spots to plan your route and relax your arms. Most routers have 1 or 2 points where you can catch your breath and relax your muscles. A good resting point is where you can stand comfortably with most of your weight on your feet. You should be able to comfortably pull an arm out of the wall to get some chalk and stretch. At rest:
- Plan your next moves. Memorize what you have to come and think about which member you want to go to where. If necessary, seek advice from someone downstairs.
- Glue your hands together. The chalk runs over the rocks, so take more.
- Shake your arms. Let them hang down and shake them well to dislodge some of the lactic acids that have built up.
7. Purposefully climb up the wall. There are some advanced moves that require speed, quick precision, and even small jumps (called “dynos”), but these are for later in your career. For now, you want to focus on fluid movement. The best way to do this is to focus on each limb first and then move your body. Also known as the “static climbing technique,” you move each limb, fix yourself, then move your body into the new position. Think of yourself as a slinky, rolled up and down the wall.
- Adjust your feet with your knees bent.
- Shift your body weight in the direction you are heading.
- Step up with one foot while simultaneously grabbing a new grip with the corresponding hand.
- Reinstall your feet and the opposite hand.
Be aware that climbing muscles take time to develop. One of the biggest obstacles for new climbers is that they feel weak after just 1-2 runs. Your fingers will be sore and your forearms will burn, so much so that you won’t feel able to hang on the wall. It’s natural, however – your forearms aren’t frequently used at this intensity in everyday life. However, if you climb a few routes 2-3 times a week, you will quickly overcome this bump and can focus on the climbing technique, not the pain in your arms.
- Take breaks between climbs. Don’t come back to the wall until you feel rested again.
- Stretch your forearms by bringing your palms together in front of your chest and elbows as if you were praying. Slowly turn your hands down until they point in front of you to stretch out
Tying In and Climbing Safely
1. Learn how to tie up and belay with a trained supervisor. Securing is not a difficult process, but it is essential if you are serious about rock climbing. Most climbing gyms will require you to take a supervised test before you are allowed to belay someone. They usually offer free and quick lessons or lessons. You should always practice belaying with a qualified expert. Although the belay must be trained in person, you should know how to tie your rope regardless of your skill level.
- Ensuring is when someone is standing under the climber with the rope. They grab them if they fall, give them more rope when they climb, and slowly lower them when they’re done
2. Fasten your harness as well as possible. Whether it’s climbing or belaying, your harness should fit snugly around your waist and thighs. Don’t skimp on this – tighten each loop as much as you can comfortably. This includes leg loops, which cannot be skipped
3. Create a figure eight at the bottom of the string, leaving about an arm’s length at the bottom. This is often done for you at rock climbing gyms, but you need to understand the process if it isn’t. There will be two identical strands of rope coming down from the top of the wall. Take the one closest to the wall and measure roughly an arm’s length. Of the:
- Grasping the rope at your “arm’s length,” drop the bottom of the rope. While holding it, you should have an upside-down “U” shape in your hands.
- Pinch both sides of the U to create a “bite” or small 1 to 2-inch loop.
- Wrap the bottom of your rope around the bite. You will cross your hand so that the end of the rope is back on your side of the bite.
- Thread the end of the rope through your bite hole.
- Pull the end of the role to make your number eight
4. Thread the end of the rope through your harness. This is how you attach yourself. Although all harnesses are different, in general, you will thread the rope through two loops on the front of your harness, also called “hard points”. Later, you’ll tie the end of the rope to your figure eight, effectively tying yourself to the rope.
- Make sure the rope goes through both loops – the one on your legs and waist before you tie it.
5. Take the end of the string and trace your number eight to follow in eight. Once your eight is done and you are tied to the rope, complete the tie by doubling your knot. You can do this by taking the end of the string in your hand and following the shape of your eight, threading the end through, under, and over the string to create a tight and secure double eight:
- Note the path of the rope back to you from your eight.
- Slide the end of your rope in exactly the same way it works so that you have parallel ropes.
- Trace the rope from top to bottom, then come back through the number eight. Again, you’re just trying to follow that string line, create two parallel strings for a double-digit eight.
- When you are finished, the end of the rope should point forward, following the rope along the wall.
6. Pull-on the rope and remember to tie a safety knot. Grab both sides of the rope, two ropes at a time, and tighten the knot. Use your fingers to push or mold the double eight so that you have parallel lines all over without crossing, twisting, or braiding. Most gyms also require a simple safety knot, tying the free end. Do this:
- Place your thumb on the string, approximately 2-3 “above the number 8. Grasp the free end in your other hand.
- Wrap the free end twice over your thumb, making an X above your thumb.
- Wrap the end one last time, then thread it through the hole where your thumb is.
- Pull-on the free end to tighten the knot
7. Check your knot for security. There will be five pairs of parallel strings – one before the knot, one after the knot, and three small segments in your double number eight. Your double figure eight should be the same on top and bottom, and the safety knot should be tight. There shouldn’t be any crossed strings. If there is, loosen the number eight slightly and bend or move the strings so that they are all parallel, then tighten it.
- Always have an experienced climber check your ropes when you are starting out.
8. Contact your insurer before climbing. There is an almost universal code for climbers, and it is used to make sure everyone is tuned in and safety measures are in place. Before climbing, you should always follow this protocol. However, some places use different escalation calls.
- You ask: “On insurer?”
- They respond, “Make sure.”
- You stand on the wall and say, “Climb?”
- The answer, “climbs on
Improving Your Climbing Technique
1. Keep your hips close to the wall. To do this, point your knees to the side. The more you lean back, the more you rely on your fingers to stand close to the wall. This drains your energy quickly and will almost certainly hurt your fingers over time. Instead, move your knees away from the wall, almost like a frog, to keep your hips close to the wall. Anytime you need to step away to watch the route or take another take, make the move quickly, then tighten the path again to save power.
2. Release your grip. Often, during more difficult movements or when you are tired, you will tend to tighten the grip firmly. However, your grip is usually just there for balance. Remember, you want your feet to do most of the work, so let go of your fingers. Trust them, almost clinging to them for balance, not to keep your weight off the wall. Your fingers are basically balanced hooks.
As you improve, you will come across some overhangs and movements that require strong finger strength. However, you will build this naturally as you progress to more difficult climbs.
3. Find your “neutral point” when making large movements on the wall. Neutral is where you go from uphill to fall. Basically your swing goes from a ‘jump’ to a fall and as such you are not moving at all, making it easier to take the hold. Not all of the movements are close enough that you can slowly switch from one to the other. Sometimes you will need to push off with your foot and grab the grip when moving. Learning to grab it as soon as you reach your peak will dramatically increase your fluency on the wall.
To practice, find a course with several holds just out of range, or practice on the boulder wall. Practice gripping the grip with your arm straight so you don’t feel a drop when you grip it.
4. Climb in rhythm. While this may change for some crucial routes or movements, developing a rhythm is often the best way to conscientiously develop good climbing habits. Consider moving with your feet first, walking foot, foot, hand, hand or foot, hand, foot, hand, all over the wall. Start with a few easy routes to get used to. Because you move quickly, with your feet first, you will naturally come to rely on your leg muscles and stop overusing and tiring your hands. 
Fast, targeted climbing saves energy as it avoids hanging on to the wall and getting tired.
Focus on your breathing when you move. A lot of people hold their breath when they try difficult movements, but that just robs your muscles of the oxygen they need so much. As you develop a rhythm, breathe in also to have regular and rhythmic breathing.
5. Go down a few routes. This is a great training exercise for your balance and route planning. Most importantly, it focuses on the very precise landing of your feet, which exponentially improves your footwork. If you can effectively use your feet on the way down, you will develop the skills to place your feet anywhere on the way up quickly.
6. Increase your climbing pace while remaining deliberate in your movements. Skilled climbers move quickly, as it saves energy by holding onto a rock while deciding what to do. While you don’t want to try to climb the rock by rushing wildly, you do want to make your moves quickly. Once you’ve decided what to do, do it. Don’t wait and keep changing, as you will only waste energy and make the rest of the climb even more difficult
7. Watch other climbers learn new moves and possible betas. Beta, or movement sequence used, becomes more and more important as the road gets tough. While beginners can usually choose between 4 and 5 lanes on a route, difficult routes (5.10 and above) sometimes only have 1 to 2 sets of movements that can be used. Often, they are not always so obvious. There are hundreds of movements, techniques, and little tricks that can be used for specific problems, but the climbing community is thankfully very inclusive. Watch the other climbers, pantomiming the movements of the ground to get used to the positioning of the hand.
If you are having difficulty on a route, seek the advice of another climber. Your belayer partner may have a great view from the ground, for example of a movement or a grip that you are missing.
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