June 24, 2022

Rock climbing is an exciting and unique sport. With its combination of mental, physical and technical challenges, it satisfies all the criteria of a sport you’ll love. Plus, there’s no better way to get your heart rate up than climbing nearby cliffs or boulders each weekend.

With the right gear and a little practice, anyone can get started. This guide teaches you everything you need to know for a safe and fun time on the rock.

Rock Climbing

TYPES OF CLIMBING

If you're looking to get into the sport of rock climbing, you might be wondering what it's all about.

Rock climbing is a great way to get outside and make new friends, but it can also help you stay in shape. The first thing to decide is what kind of rock climbing you're interested in?

There are three main types of rock climbing: sport, trad, and bouldering.

Sport climbing involves using pre-placed protection bolts (a "fixed" anchor) along the route as you ascend the route—similar to how indoor walls work.

Sport Climbing

Trad climbing involves placing your own protection every 10 meters or so (or whenever needed) as you ascend the route—kind of like mountaineering.

Trad Climbing

Bouldering is a type of climbing where climbers only use crash pads for safety, so they can focus on problem solving without having to worry about falling.

Bouldering

WHERE DO I BEGIN?

If you're interested in taking up rock climbing, you'll need to invest in a few things before you get started.

First, of course, there's the gear: each discipline of climbing necessitates a different set of gear. For all types of climbing, however, a beginner will need a pair of climbing shoes. For just starting out in the sport, we recommend finding a comfortable pair of climbing shoes. Delicate footwork will come later in your climbing career; for now you will just be developing an ability to stand on your feet and trust the rubber of your new shoes. All climbers will generally want to carry a chalk bag as well, which they will either wear around their waist or keep on the ground (sometimes the case while bouldering).

Rock Climbing Equipment

Beyond that? You'll need a harness and some carabiners (as well as other pieces of equipment), but those aren't really necessary until you start learning how to lead climb or boulder. The rest is up to you!

You'll also want to find a local climbing centre to work on your form. These places usually offer climbing courses, to help build up your confidence before you head to the outside and start climbing on your local rocks!

CLIMBING TECHNIQUES

Rock climbing is a great way to get outside and enjoy the natural world. The only thing you need is your mind, body, and some climbing gear. Here's what you need to know about rock climbing techniques:

CLIMB WITH YOUR FEET.

This sounds like a no-brainer, but it's surprising how many people think they're all about their hands when they're actually better off putting their weight on their feet. Not only does this help you stay safe, but it also makes it easier to climb higher without getting tired!

KEEP YOUR WEIGHT ON YOUR SKELETON.

When you're hanging from holds, your muscles don't have a chance to rest—they're constantly engaged as you try to pull yourself up. If you can keep your arms straight and your shoulders relaxed, you'll be able to let your muscles have a chance to rest rather than being constantly engaged

MAINTAIN QUIET FEET.

When you're climbing, you want to be as quiet as possible with your feet. It's not only good for your concentration, but it also helps you conserve energy for the next move. Here are a few tips to keep in mind:

1) Pick a foothold and place your foot on it. Don't try to find the next foothold while you're standing on one foot!

2) Step up with intention and calm. You can do this by imagining yourself as a tree—root your foot down into the ground, then step up slowly and steadily, just like trees do!

REST WHEN POSSIBLE.

If you've been climbing for some time, you know that it's important to take rests and shake out your arms from time to time. But when you're on a long route, you may not have much time to stop and rest. A good rule of thumb is to rest every 20 minutes or so—that way you can stay focused on the climb without getting fatigued too quickly.

Climbing Rest

ENGAGE YOUR CORE.

Your core is the center of your body—it's what holds you up and keeps you balanced. So if you want to be able to balance on the wall, you're going to need a strong core!

The way we'll get there is by doing exercises that strengthen and engage our cores. These exercises will make it easier for us to keep our bodies straight as we get into different positions on the wall.

But there's something else important about engaging our cores: it gives us more control over our bodies. At times, as much as we want it to be involuntary, engaging the core will need to be a very intentional decision.

BREATHE.

When we are stressed or nervous, our breath becomes shallow and quick. This can cause us to become lightheaded, dizzy, and even faint. Deep breathing helps us bring more oxygen into our bodies and regulate our heart rate, which will help keep us feeling calm and focused on what we are doing.

Try to focus on taking deep breaths while climbing and resting on each route. When you are at the bottom of a climb take a moment to breathe in through your nose, hold it for three seconds while squeezing your chest muscles together, then exhale slowly through pursed lips making a “hmmmmm” sound (like humming). This will help your body relax and prepare for another attempt at climbing up that route!

ENGAGE IN POSITIVE SELF TALK.

Look, I know it sounds cheesy, but positive self-talk is a huge part of what makes you a successful climber.

As the saying goes, “If you think you can, you can. If you think you can’t, you can’t.” There is an enormous mental component to climbing that is essential to acknowledge and grow. Recognize what you’re telling yourself as you climb. If fear is a huge issue for you, learn to identify the facts of your safety. Climbing has an incredible amount of life lessons to teach us if we are willing.

CLIMBING ETIQUETTE AND TIPS

Climbing has an etiquette, like most sports, however climbing etiquette seems to be unique to the sport. Whether you do it indoors or outside, you'll quickly notice that there are unspoken rules that you have to follow; if you don't have knowledge of these rules, you should take a look at this:

  • Kindness goes a long way. Be friendly, smile, ask how their day is going, and be open to helping others out when they need it. Being kind will make other climbers want to be your friend and will make them more likely to help you out when you have questions or need advice.
  • Take care to adhere to the principles of Leave No Trace. You will often be climbing in a fragile wilderness area - please leave it as you found it. Respect closures, pack out trash, erase tick marks, stay on trails, and park and camp in established areas.
  • When climbing in a popular area, do not monopolize a route. If others want to climb the route that you are on, cycle your group through and move on, or give others an opportunity to use your rope.

 Climbing Group

  • In the same vein, try to travel in small groups of 2-4 people. Large groups can be unruly and unfairly dominate a crag.
  • When climbing up high on a cliff or peak, be aware of climbers below. Do not drop rocks or gear, and take care when climbing in loose terrain not to dislodge anything.
  • When behind a slower party on a multi-pitch climb, pass with care and consideration. Have a conversation with the other party, and only pass if safe.
  • Safety is number one. If an experienced climber at a crag or on a climb seeks to give you advice, be open to hearing it. It takes years to learn the ropes (literally) of climbing, and there is much we can learn from others if willing.

This is all basic etiquette, but is useful to know if you are just starting off your climbing journey.

FINAL TIPS

Rock climbing has a steep learning curve, but it's worth trying to learn. It's a unique sport that will engage your body and mind in a powerful way, and the sense of accomplishment and joy you get once you get the basics down is huge. If you're up for the challenge, we leave you with our three top tips as you embark on your climbing journey:

  • Take it easy. Climbing is tough, and initially you will use muscles that are dormant in your body. Don’t push yourself too much, or you can risk injury, and nobody wants that. Enjoy the process and be patient with yourself - it won’t be long before you feel stronger within yourself and competent enough to take on tougher routes, but the journey is as important as the destination.
  • Find reliable climbing partners. Your partners will make or break your climbing experience. Make sure you trust your partners to keep you safe, but also find partners who you enjoy spending time with, this could be your best friend, or someone you've only recently met through climbing. The experiences that you will have with your climbing partners will be bonding and life-changing, and can lead to deep and lasting friendships.

 Climbing Partner

  • Learn from your lessons. Climbing can be a teacher; of patience, of mental strength, of problem solving, of dealing with emotions and communication and much more. As you learn lessons out on the rocks, think about how they might apply to your daily life.

When starting out rock climbing, it is hard to know where to start and what to expect from rock climbing as a whole. There is so much to learn that it can be easy for beginners to get lost along the way. Hopefully, this article will have cleared up some of the confusion for you, and help you on your way to become a seasoned climber. Rock climbing is a great sport that offers endless opportunities to get outside and enjoy fresh air and exercise with friends or family. Tempted yet?


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