With more than 100,000 members in America and the democratisation of the bouldering discipline, climbing (formerly called rock climbing) is undoubtedly the activity that is on the rise.
Here are our tips for tackling this intense sport that is rich in sensations and rich in the development of morale and self-confidence (in addition to sculpting a dream body). So before attacking the mythical vertical walls of the Yosemite domain (California) in free solo mode, a little training and warm-up are recommended.
If you suffer from vertigo, choose the bouldering discipline
You now have two types of climbing, cliff climbing and bouldering. And if the classic version scares you because of the height, then the bouldering discipline should suit you because the surface to climb does not exceed 5 meters high for beginners.
And even if this practise doesn’t need the usual equipment (rope, carabiners, harness…), it is almost without risk because big mattresses (crash pads) are in principle put underneath to absorb your fall in case of failure.
Muscle your fingers too
Yes, because you will sometimes find yourself in situations that are not always advantageous for your body and in perilous positions where only your fingers will remain attached to the rock face, so it is better to trust them. You have to be able to count on your fingers (no pun intended) sometimes to save you from a fall.
With simple exercises that consist of short suspensions of 3 to 10 seconds with different finger holds, you will be able to develop the muscles and tendons of your hands. With fingers stretched or slightly bent (arched or pincer style for the connoisseurs), this warm-up technique will allow you to have stronger fingers.
An exercise to be repeated several times and often because this technique is as crucial as it is slow, so you will have to be patient to see concrete results during your climbs. The goal is to have your fingers bent as little as possible when climbing.
Learn to analyse a wall
It seems obvious, but some people attack a route without looking at it first. The goal is to visualise the wall, to learn how to read it with all the points and places where you can slip a hand or a foot and thus reach the summit. Understanding, observing, and analysing the route you are going to face must be systematic.
Project yourself and imagine your ascent and the path you will have to take on the wall before attacking it. This leaves less room for improvisation, but when you are a beginner, it can help. Set estimates between each take and create mental images that will help you start with confidence.
Try climbing with your arms outstretched
When you’re first starting out, a classic mistake is to climb and hold onto holds with your arms bent. It allows you to grip harder and stay more glued to the wall because you use your forearm muscles, but it also makes you tired faster, and then you have no energy to continue.
The best is to try to keep your arms as tense as possible. And transfer the effort to the legs, which have much more muscle and strength. So it’s best to bend your legs and put pressure on your arms only to go for the next hold.
And contrary to what a neophyte might think, most of the work is done in the legs. Balance is all about body positioning, so learn to work on your legs and feet to stabilise your feet.
Failure is your friend
Climbing is one of the sports where you fall. You have to know that. And to fail is to progress because it allows you to visualise your failures so that you don’t repeat them. Taking risks and exceeding your limits only works if you accept failure.
The risk of falling but also of succeeding, and that’s how we progress. Progress is achieved by accepting failure and never by giving up. Get out of your comfort zone and forget about the gaze of others because there is only you on this wall, with your motivation and your determination as to your only allies.
The fear of falling is a real obstacle to progress in climbing, so you must learn to fall without hurting yourself, and then nothing will stop you from moving forward. A reflection and a philosophy that can also be applied in many other areas of life.
Watch your diet and drink a lot
Climbing is an intense and physical sport that requires a lot of energy, so a healthy diet is more than vital. It takes strength and endurance to do this activity, so adapt your meals to that. Eat fresh and vitamin-rich food as much as possible because it provides a better energy level. As a general rule, it is essential to eat well to be healthy, so you must watch your diet even more for this type of sport.
The goal is to stay light and efficient, so don’t eat anything too heavy to digest. And of course, don’t forget to drink as much as possible before the effort to stay hydrated during the effort. Specialists recommend up to two litres of water per day. Your body will thank you afterwards.
Respect recovery periods
When you are a beginner and passionate about this sport, you tend to climb as much as possible. This is normal, and that is how you progress, of course, but it is also advisable to take breaks. Your body needs rest to assimilate all the efforts, and your brain also memorises and stores this information.
It all depends on your shape and build, but it is preferable to observe recovery periods after several cycles or sessions. Muscle fibres can be torn during violent efforts, and you need to give them some time to rebuild. In addition to stretching after a workout, take it easy for at least one day every two or three sessions, depending on your health.
Don't climb alone
Even if, in theory, you are alone on this wall and facing your limits, you can be helped by a friend or a partner. Even though this is supposed to be an individual sport, the mind is very important, so it’s essential to get help if you’re struggling. Whether it is a physical or psychological doubt, the person who accompanies you will have a role to play. To motivate you or to help you gain confidence with encouragement, the buddy will not be too much.
The best would be to have a partner who is better than you at climbing because he will be able to give you the right advice and thus make you progress. Choose someone you trust completely, and don’t neglect the safety rules. Create a routine of checking your equipment at each hold, and this should be done systematically, whatever your level.
Make sure you have the right equipment
From carabiners (quickdraws) to ropes to harnesses, the choice of equipment is crucial. Wouldn’t it be a shame to screw up a wall because of faulty equipment? There are also the items that are used for anchoring devices (jammers, friends…), and there too, you must not compromise on quality.
As for your little person, it is advisable to wear good adapted and well-tightened shoes. Gloves and helmets can also help, even if it is more psychological help. A small chalk bag on your belt if you are bare-handed can be useful too. And don’t forget to check everything before you start a vertical ascent.
Knowing the grading system
Climbing grading is an evaluation of a route according to its type, its commitment and especially its difficulty. The climber who succeeds in the first ascent of a route is generally the one who gives the first rating of the route.
The grading system can vary from one country to another. In America, the rating is indicated by a number (3 – 9), but it can be different in other countries. This evaluation is a bit subjective because of the differences that climbers may feel according to their abilities and specialities; however, it remains the best way to have an estimation of the general difficulty of the route.
Choose a Climb
In the gym, a climb is usually marked with difficulty ratings. Outside climbers typically use guidebooks, and many use an app that detects the difficulty of climbs. Assumptions are determined using the Yosemite descriptor. As a beginner, you’re most likely going to select routes 5.7 and below and sometimes routes that can be high roped. Top-roping is used to determine if a rider places an anchor from high up in a mountain rather than merely walking down a narrow hill. Many workout tracks in the gym are designed with top rope and often to the top; climbers will often go to the top.
Outdoor climbing vs Sport climbing
Outdoor climbing has many similarities with sport climbing. Both disciplines use similar techniques such as footwork, holds, anchors, etc., but they differ from each other in terms of difficulty. Outdoor climbers usually go higher and faster, while sport climbers focus on speed and precision. It’s like comparing apples and oranges!
In outdoor climbing, the objective is to reach the top without falling down. If you fall, then you try again until you succeed. You may find yourself stuck between rocks or trees, but you just keep going upwards. On the contrary, when you fail in sport climbing, you stop immediately and come back down. This is why we say that outdoor climbing is more challenging than sport climbing.
In general, outdoor climbing requires less technical skills than sport climbing does. However, it takes longer to master these essential skills. So, if you want to become a real rock climber, you’ll probably need to practice sport climbing first and then slowly graduate into the outdoors.
Sport versus trad versus bouldering
Bouldering is a form of indoor climbing practised mainly indoors. Boulderers often use artificial walls made out of foam boards covered with sandbags. They do not require any special equipment except maybe some chalk bags. In fact, they only need one piece of equipment: a pair of shoes. These shoes are specially designed for bouldering and allow them to grip almost anything. For example, they can quickly grab onto cracks in concrete or wood, whereas Trad ists would struggle to get a foothold in those situations. The main difference between traditional climbing and bouldering lies in the size of the problem. Traditional climbing problems are generally bigger than bouldering ones.
Traditionals are routes requiring long sequences of moves that take place over several pitches. Most trad routes are bolted, meaning that metal pieces called “bolts” were placed in strategic positions so that the route could be climbed using the rock’s natural features. Bolted routes tend to be much steeper than non-bolted routes because the latter rely mostly on friction rather than strength.
Bouldering is a style of climbing that involves traverses up sloping surfaces, typically involving very few handholds. Climbers move quickly along steep faces, sometimes jumping off ledges to gain momentum. Because of this, bouldering tends to involve fewer rests than traditional climbing. As a result, bouldering is considered more accessible than traditional climbing.
Find Your Comfort Zone
Bouldering and Top roping is a great way to start climbing, and you’ll learn the fundamentals of rock climbing. However, these techniques can be dangerous if not done correctly. It’s just like riding a bike: once you get it right, then it becomes second nature. A good climber knows their limits. Some people are very good at bouldering, while others prefer top rope climbs.
Bouldering requires more diligence than other techniques because there isn’t anyone to bail you out if anything goes wrong! Here are some tips for your boulder sessions:
Know your level – Bouldering involves several free solo moves that should be attempted only by advanced climbers and beginners under expert supervision. Even experts need to know their limits! Be sure that the climb is within your comfort zone. If you’re not sure whether it is or not, ask for advice from someone who’s been there before.
Keep an eye on your surroundings because a misstep can land you in the hospital! Make sure that there are no boulders around you that may fall down should you miss a handhold. These rocks could also hit other people below if they have loose rock protection. Climbing without proper gear increases risks considerably, so be careful about this too. Last but not least, check the weather conditions and tide tables – you don’t want to end up trapped in wet shoes!
Master Indoor Climbing Techniques
As mentioned earlier, indoor climbing involves different techniques from outdoor climbing and even from sport climbing. The most common technique used in indoor climbing is called top roping. This method of climbing involves an anchor point at the top of the wall that’s fixed to a rope. The climber is then connected to this rope via a harness and belay device. Unlike bouldering, where the climbers do not use anchors, top roping techniques involve clipping your harness to pre-set bolts – known as quickdraws – on either side of the climb so that you don’t fall from great heights should you miss a step.
To begin with, try top roping with someone experienced until you gain enough confidence or knowledge! Your partner will need both hands free for setting up the system and belaying (holding) you while you climb. If there are other climbers in the area, then it’s a good idea to wait until they’re all done with their climbs so that you don’t cause problems.
The first thing that you’ll have to do is make sure that your partner has firmly fixed the ropes on both sides of your climb. You may need an extra pair of hands for this process! Once that’s done, clip yourself into the rope using carabiners and harness. The guide will allow you to fall a safe distance before belaying you back up again by holding onto the rope (or by applying pressure) as needed.
Once you’ve learned top roping techniques from an expert, then buddy climbing can help you improve even further! This is one of the best techniques for learning how to climb because you’ll learn to improve your footwork while climbing as well as perfecting your upper body strength. If there are a lot of climbers around, then it’s probably best not to use this method since it involves too much waiting around!
A nice way to practice buddy climbing is by taking turns leading each other up the most accessible routes in an indoor wall. Some of these routes have pre-set protection so that you can hold onto them even when they’re wet or coated with chalk! When it’s your turn to follow, make sure that you remove all protection from the previous climber – their life depends on it!
To keep things fair for both parties, alternate between leading and following. If you’re leading, then your partner should tell you if the route is too hard so that you can modify it to suit your skill level. If he’s stuck on a move, then give him advice as well while belaying him up at the same time. Afterwards, switch roles!
Sport climbing is ideal for those already familiar with bouldering since they’re often done on similar routes in most indoor walls. The main difference lies in the fact that sport climbs are protected by pre-set bolts – which makes them safe even without harnesses or other protection! This also means less waiting around! However, this type of climb uses more advanced moves due to its length, so it’s often left to the experts.
Sport climbing can be done in various ways: individually setting routes on the wall to designating fixed routes for all climbers to attempt. The latter option is often adopted by partners since they don’t have to wait around so much! In this case, you’ll need permission from a climbing staff member if you want to set up your own routes – they may charge you depending on how long it takes, so check before getting started. You can also try unsetting routes if there aren’t any other climbers waiting around for them – just make sure that another climb isn’t scheduled right after yours.
Experienced climbers will need to invest in specialised sport climbing gear to do their best on these types of routes. For example, they should invest in sport climbing shoes, which fit perfectly on the holds and have rubber soles that provide them with extra grip. You may also need chalk since it can help keep your hands from sweating or slipping. Just make sure not to get too aggressive with the chalk!
However, whatever you do – do not use belaying techniques while attempting a sport climb unless someone is explicitly supervising you. Sport climbs require greater strength and coordination than what you’ll learn when following routes set up by other climbers – if you fall, then it will be your own fault! And will probably hurt quite a lot as well…
Pre-bolt Heading vs On-sight Leading
If you’re not using bolts for protection, then it’s vital that you know how to find protection on the rock by yourself. You could do this simply by imagining where you would place bolt anchors if you were to set up a route for others!
Never try climbing without any experience (belaying included) – it’s very important that your first time is with someone who knows what they’re doing and has the right gear as well. If not, then you could get seriously injured! It’s best if you understand precisely what kind of lead climbing experience you need before trying it out – otherwise, it will be too late once things start going wrong…
There are all kinds of routes in outdoor walls, some explicitly designed for experts and others which beginners can attempt safely while being belayed from above. Try to pick routes that work with your level as a beginner – don’t go up against routes that are well beyond your skillset, or you will never get started in the first place!
Sometimes it can be tough to find climbing partners if you’re new to the sport – this is why bouldering is so valuable – you can try out all of the techniques listed above without having to worry about the safety aspects. The best part about bouldering is that you can do it by yourself, and within a short amount of time too. However, you should remember that each move should still be made carefully since falling could hurt quite a lot…
On the other hand, there’s no need for belaying when trying out top roping routes because they’re pretty safe. It’s best to find someone experienced in this type of climbing since it requires a different set of skills – you should also bring your own ropes before starting out with top roping!
Becoming an expert climber will take quite some time, but if you’re willing to put in the effort, then there’s no limit on how much further you can go! You’ll need to get used to climbing without any harnesses or other safety gear at all and also learn how to set up challenging routes for yourself. It won’t be easy, but if you do it right, then the sense of satisfaction could make it worth every bit of effort that goes into your training!
The key lies in finding a balance between exercise and relaxation – it is vital that you don’t work out too hard, or else it will be challenging to continue climbing the next day. And if you’re not careful enough, then all of your efforts could end up being for nothing…
There are also many different types of protection that can help make climbing much more safe and enjoyable. It’s a good idea to buy a few carabineers as well as several quickdraws – they should give you extra peace of mind when doing climbs in areas with medium traffic. However, there’s no need to go overboard on the gear since it won’t necessarily make your experience any better…
The most important thing is that you find a suitable location where you can attempt your training – if possible, choose an outdoor wall with a slightly overhanging surface that you won’t be able to fall very far if the rope should fail on you. It’s also a good idea to use a bouldering mat so that you are able to train regardless of the weather and temperature…
Once you have everything ready, then it’s time to begin! Try doing routes that other climbers have set up for practice – they should be marked in some way (normally with coloured tapes), which will make it much easier for others to try out. Remember that there’s no need to worry about protection when you are leading routes by yourself since bolts have been used instead. Simply follow the route without getting too tired…
Another thing worth considering is how high you arrange sections so that other climbers won’t get hurt if you fall. It’s a good idea to keep around 2 or 3 feet in between each level and be sure that the connection points are strong enough to support your weight. Always think things through ahead of time, or else you might end up causing trouble for others instead…
If there’s any place beginners can go to learn more about climbing, it has got to be outdoor walls. Although gym climbing in indoor gyms also has its respective advantages, it will never be quite as good as what the natural world has to offer. Outdoor training is a great way to meet new people while improving your own skills – just remember that there are all kinds of intro routes out there!
Essential Climbing Gear
Irrespective of whether you are into sport climbing, working hard in a climbing gym or into trad climbing, you will need a lot of climbing experience and your own gear to traverse through a rocky climbing career (excuse the pun!).
1) Shoes designed for bouldering and/or climbing
2) Chalk bags,
4) Climbing gear,
5) A climbing mat or crash pad,
6) Rock climbing shoes (Sport climbers – you’ll need these),
7) The Rock Climber’s Training Manual by Eric Horst (great for beginners),
8) Books like “Step by Step to Better Rock Climbing” by Michael Reids (for the more experienced climber),
9) A Belay device like the ATC or GriGri. These allow you to use your body weight to control a belayed person, and they’re great for beginners.
10) Slings and quickdraws,
11) A chalk ball or chalk bag.
How can a beginner get better at climbing?
To get better at climbing for beginners, it is essential to set a routine. It will teach you the techniques that are useful and necessary and prepare your body and mind. As far as possible, try to climb 2 – 3 times per week if you want to progress fast enough. You can begin outdoors in a supervised place or anywhere that is not ridiculously dangerous. To help your progression, you could consult with an instructor who will be able to guide you and explain the techniques that are suitable for your level.
How can a beginner climb well?
In addition to having enough time to practice as much as possible, it is important to improve on the basics. This means climbing from top to bottom without stops. Once you know how to properly hold the rope and use your feet to support your body, you can enjoy climbs with more difficult angles or sequences. To reach a higher level of climbing, it is necessary to find exercises that will help improve your technique. You can even consult with an instructor who will be able to give you precise instructions.
Is it hard to get into climbing?
This depends on the climber. If your goal is to reach a very high level, then you might need a lot of time and dedication. But if you are interested in just having fun, it shouldn’t be so hard to get into climbing. All that matters is your motivation and your interest in it.
How often should a beginner climber climb?
It is obvious that the more you climb, the better your level will evolve. To have a good progression and improve your physical abilities and get used to technical sequences, most climbers suggest it is necessary to climb regularly: 2 – 3 times per week for beginners should be about right!
Can I start climbing alone?
Yes, of course, you can! Just ensure you respect the heights, start in a climbing gym and slowly ease yourself into the wonderful climbing community. Many climbers, including myself, started climbing in their local gym, took climbing sessions, attacked a bouldering wall before aiming for multi pitch climbs.
Remember, climbing gyms and climbing outdoors is entirely different in terms of preparedness, ropes and even the quality of a climbing harness.
How do beginners train for rock climbing?
If you are a beginner and your goal is to climb outdoors, it is very important that you visit a climbing area, preferably a sport climbing one where an instructor or at least other climbers can help you. It’s always interesting to learn the techniques in a nice safe climbing centre instead of risking something dangerous on the rocks! Training for rock climbing as a beginner should be done in a rock gym. It is the best place to practice without risking your life, and it’s also cheaper if you don’t have very much money. If you want to climb outdoors, then it is essential that your level of training is good enough. You should already know how to hold on well with one hand as well as maintain your core body in a good position without putting too much pressure on your arms. With the help of some other climbers, you can learn more efficient ways to move when climbing as well as techniques like hooking or foot grips that will make you able to climb even better.
What should beginners do about rock climbing shoes?
If you are beginning rock climbing, getting a pair of good rock climbing shoes is very important. These will be your most precious ally, and without them, you might find that it is pretty challenging to climb safely. It is better if you choose them yourself, so pay attention to the size and the type of shoe (slippers, lace-up etc.).
What is Rappelling?
Rappelling is a technique used mostly in trad climbs for the descent. The person going down the rock face will use friction to descend, and it’s also known as controlled descent or abseiling. Using the rope, one goes down slowly without risking anything dangerous. When you start rappelling, your knots must be well prepared as well as the belay techniques.
What is bouldering?
Bouldering is considered by many climbers as the best way to improve your level quickly. The first thing that needs to be done is to build a bouldering wall where it will not pose any.
Are there any benefits of rock climbing that you can take into everyday life?
Problem Solving, Confidence & Positive Self talk are some of the key benefits I have experienced that get transitioned into your personality and real life.
Just remember you will learn and get better at climbing with practice. You’ll find yourself in front of many walls and routes in order to improve. Just like any activity, you do not necessarily choose to become an expert in rock climbing; instead, it’s something that happens gradually as you continue to work hard and develop skills. So keep working!