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How To Start Rock Climbing

Over the past decade, the incredibly unique and constantly developing sport of rock climbing has experienced a huge spike in popularity.

According to the Climbing Business Journal, the commercial climbing industry grew at a rate of almost 7 percent in 2016, 10 percent in 2017, and almost 12 percent in 2018.

This impressive growth has led to the opening of hundreds of indoor rock climbing gyms and facilities around the world, where enthusiasts can participate in all of the most prominent styles of climbing, and become a part of a community at the same time.

Rock climbing is not only an awesome sport and activity, but it has also become something that brings people from all walks of life together.

Rock climbing is an intense, strenuous and overall exciting activity. Although it is not considered a team sport, having the support of others and creating a group of like minded individuals is a great way to grow in the sport.

This increasing popularity is proven by the recent decision to include rock climbing as an official sport of upcoming Olympic games events.

Let’s discuss some of the important aspects of how to start rock climbing, and provide guidance for beginners to become better climbers.

Why Get Into Rock Climbing?

physical and mental benefits of rock climbing

Rock climbing is such a versatile and exciting sport that provides a number of awesome benefits both physically and mentally.

Despite the relative intensity and potential danger involved, it is possible to find a climbing style and routine that fits your comfort level. Here are some of our favourite reasons to get into rock climbing.

Everyone Can Do It

When it comes to rock climbing, factors like age, body type, size and relative fitness level are not as significant when it comes to being able to participate.

These limiting factors are not as important as they may be for other sports like football, soccer and hockey. It doesn’t matter how tall you are or how much you can bench press.

Your body will be able to adapt in its own way, and if you put your mind to it, you will find your way to the top of that wall. Unlike many other sports that require early exposure, a specific skill set or advantageous training to accomplish great things.

Rock climbers simply need to learn the basic movements, a few of the important strategies, and they are ready to go. Despite what you may see and read when you take to the internet in search of rock climbing startup advice, this sport does not require extensive skill, experience or natural ability. It truly does offer something for everyone!

Full Body Workout

Rock climbing is a somewhat demanding sport that often calls for a number of muscle groups to be working together in synchrony.

As a result, climbing can definitely be considered a full body workout. We are talking upper body, lower body, core and endurance. Here are some of the significant physical benefits that rock climbing can provide.

Strength Building

body workout with rock climbing

Rock climbing has been proven to work most of the important muscle groups. As a sport that requires significant dynamic movement, it has been shown to be more challenging and therefore more beneficial than simple movements.

Consistent rock climbing activities will build a full-range of noticeable strength and muscle mass. Done properly, this can be an acceptable substitute for traditional weight training.

Balance & Coordination

Rock climbing is an activity that will naturally help improve climber’s balance and coordination skills.

When you are required to navigate a number of different pathways with various hand and foot holds, your brain and body are being trained to maintain balance, while preparing for next steps and properly coordinating each move.

Cardiovascular Endurance

Climbing a wall of any type will engage a large part of the muscle groups in your body, and as a result will quickly get the blood flowing through the cardiovascular system.

Climbers will burn calories at the same rate as other high-intensity workouts, giving their heart an incredibly healthy workout at the same time. Unlike some other cardio workouts, rock climbing combines aerobic exercise and muscle building in one stimulating activity, as opposed to sitting on a spin bike for an hour a day!

Socializing

One of the less obvious and not often considered aspects of rock climbing is the potential for social connections. Rock climbing gyms and facilities are full of like-minded people who obviously share a passion for climbing.

There will be a lot of time spent off the wall, spectating others, preparing gear, planning routes etc.. Whenever you aren’t climbing, it is a great opportunity to make friends, network with others around you, and become part of a positive and supportive community. Climbing will always be a main focus, but the social aspect can be incredibly fulfilling as well.

Rock Climbing Equipment

When it comes to rock climbing equipment, different styles of climbing may require different pieces of gear or extra tools.

There are however a number of essentials that are important to have regardless of what kind of climbing you are doing. Here is a brief list of the essential rock climbing equipment.

Climbing Shoes

Shoes for rock climbing

Rock climbing without proper footwear is not only uncomfortable and inefficient, but can be dangerous as well.

Climbing shoes are defined by a nice tight fit, thin but durable material and high-traction rubber soles and outer edges. All of these characteristics allow climbers to get the best possible foothold grip on their surfaces, as opposed to non-climbing shoes.

Climbing Helmet

One of the most important pieces of rock climbing safety equipment is a proper climbing helmet. Cliffs, mountains or other rock faces often pose the threat of falling rocks or debris.

Climbing helmets are designed specifically to take on the impact of rocks and other projectiles while protecting the climber’s cranium. If you are climbing in a gym or indoor facility, a climbing helmet is still a good idea for protecting your head in the event of a fall or impact with the wall.

Chalk & Chalk Bag

Chalk

Chalk is another very important item on the necessary rock climbing equipment list. It is used by climbers to coat their hands in order to increase friction, which provides better grip on any climbing surface.

The chalk will soak up any sweat or other moisture in order to ensure that the climber’s hands are dry and ready to go. A chalk bag is simply a small canvas or synthetic material bag that holds the chalk and attaches to the climber’s waist for easy access while climbing.

Climbing Tape

The tears on the pads of a climber’s fingers that occur after excessive abrasion are referred to as “flappers”, in reference to the hanging flaps of skin. These can be avoided by preemptively applying climbing tape to the finger pads before starting.

Climbing tape typically contains zinc-oxide which is known to help heal any tears that occur, as well as decreasing the chances of infection from open wounds. The tape will also help to strengthen and support the small tendons and muscles found in the fingers.

Climbing Ropes

rope is most important part of equipment

Climbing ropes can be considered the single most important piece of rock climbing equipment on our list. The only time they would not be necessary would be in bouldering climbs of less than 15 feet with a crash pad, or the incredibly risky free climbing pursuits.

For all other types of rock climbing, your climbing ropes are what will save you from serious injury or death when you make a misstep and slip off of the rock face. Finding the right type, size, length and other important rope features for your climbing style is very important.

Harness

A safety harness goes hand in hand with those life-saving climbing ropes we just talked about. Your harness will attach to your climbing ropes and therefore keep you from plummeting to the ground in the event of a slip and fall.

Depending on the type of climbing you plan to do and your budget, find a harness that works for you.

Types Of Rock Climbing

different styles rock climbing

Rock climbing has been in a constant state of change and evolution, with new styles and strategies emerging every year. Here are the major types of rock climbing that are practiced today.

Mountaineering

Also known as alpine climbing or mountain climbing, mountaineering is the oldest and one of the most demanding types of climbing. It is considered the sport of attempting to attain or achieve the summiting of high points or areas in mountainous regions.

Trad Climbing

Trad or “traditional” climbing is a type of rock climbing in which a climber or group of climbers implement all anti-fall safety gear for a given passage, and then remove it and move on to the next passage. This can involve short pitches the length of one rope, or multi-rope longer pitches.

Sport Climbing

sport climbing

Sport climbing involves a set of permanent anchors and bolts that are fixed to the rock face or climbing surface. This is in contrast to traditional climbing where climbers must place their own anchors on empty rock faces in order to climb a rock face. Sport climbing focuses on strength, endurance, ability and speed.

Bouldering

Bouldering is another type of rock climbing that involves very short, low altitude climbs with no climbing ropes. This is done with a crash pad to avoid serious injury when falling, and is often practiced on large natural boulders, or at indoor gyms and facilities.

Top Rope Climbing

Top-rope climbing, also known as top-roping, is a climbing style that involves a rope that runs from a belayer at the foot of the climber’s route through one or more carabiners and connects to an anchor system at the top of the route. This usually attaches the climber by a harness and is an important safety practice. Top rope climbing is a useful way to teach beginner and intermediate level climbers.

Free Solo Climbing

Free solo climbing, also known as free soloing, is a style of climbing that involves no ropes, no harnesses and no other assistance or safety gear of any kind. Climbers must rely solely on their physical strength, skill and psychological fortitude. Obviously, this is by far the most dangerous style of climbing, and is practiced only by seasoned veterans and thrill seekers.

Rock Climbing Training

training on indoor rock

Training is crucial for getting better at anything, especially high intensity sports that are physically demanding. The following points will give you some guidance in regards to rock climbing training.

Endurance Training

Endurance is a crucial aspect of becoming a great climber. Training local endurance, which is the ability to maintain your position on a wall, is very important. This will help to allow you to climb easier terrain and set up for the more difficult parts without getting exhausted.

Finger Strength Training

Rock climbing requires the fingers to remain relatively still or static after gripping a hold. It is very important to specifically train your finger strength in the most common climbing positions including full-crimp, half-crimp and open-hand.

Power Training

Power is generally defined as the speed at which one can generate force. Power is incredibly important for rock climbing as it requires short and explosive movements. Work on your power by doing dyno training, heavy throws and other short but explosive exercises.

Technique Training

Technique is another crucial aspect of becoming a good rock climber. This involves how you strategically move your body and limbs as efficiently as possible to achieve your goal. Technique training involves working on things like footwork, body positioning, grip sequencing and specific maneuvers like kneebars and flags.

Understanding Difficulties And Your Own Skill

skill levels

Understanding the system of climbing grades or difficulties is an important part of choosing the right climbs for your skill level.

There are some specific aspects that will have an effect on relative difficulty like location, type of climbing surface, weather conditions etc.. Here are some of the general guidelines for climbing difficulties or “grades”.
Typically, climbing grades will fall somewhere inside a numerical difficulty scale:

  • 5.0 – 5.7: Easy
  • 5.8 – 5.10: Intermediate
  • 5.11 to 5.12: Hard
  • 5.13 to 5.15: Expert

Rock Climbing Safety

Here are some of the most important pieces of rock climbing safety advice to always consider when embarking on a climbing expedition of any kind.

  1. Always Check Your Knots, Ropes & Clips
  2. Always Check Your Harnesses
  3. Always Wear A Climbing Helmet
  4. Always Be Alert
  5. Always Pack Extra Gear
  6. Always Use Extra Anchors

Well Known Rock Climbing Spots

Our earth has provided some truly incredible naturally occurring mountain ranges, impressive cliffs and other breathtaking rock faces. Naturally, the rock climbers of the world have dedicated hours on end finding the best places to pursue their passion.

Here is a list of our favourite well known rock climbing spots.

  • Acadia National Park, Maine
  • Joshua Tree National Park, California
  • Yosemite National Park, California
  • Todra Gorge, Morocco
  • Red River Gorge, Kentucky

Conclusion

Rock climbing is a sport, hobby and pastime that is becoming increasingly popular across the world over recent years. Climbing has evolved and taken on new styles, strategies and methods to truly offer something for everyone.

Getting into rock climbing is easier than ever, with the development of indoor facilities and rock climbing gyms, the sport is accessible to virtually anyone. From traditional climbing and free solo climbing experts, to beginners looking for a relaxed bouldering climb on an indoor wall, climbers of all skill levels can find their place.

We have discussed how to start rock climbing, and covered some of the important aspects of getting started as a new climber. We went over some of the main physical benefits that rock climbing can offer, as well as provided a brief run down of the rock climbing gear essentials.

We also discussed some of the aspects of rock climbing training, understanding climbing difficulties, rock climbing safety, and a handful of our favourite well-known rock climbing spots.

Anyone who is looking for guidance in regards to how to start rock climbing should take these aspects into consideration and get a head start on becoming a great climber!

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