Rock Climbing 101: Tips for Beginners

Hiking – of course. Bike, no problem. But climbing? It’s a sporting adventure that has always seemed slightly beyond our reach. Swinging 45 feet off the ground, held only by a rope, feels like a Herculean feat of strength that we’re not sure we possess.

But it turns out that climbing the side of an indoor climbing wall is actually a lot less scary than we thought. “Climbing is a very welcoming and accessible sport for beginners,” says Alex Johnson, professional climber and five-time US national champion. The most important thing to keep in mind for beginners? Don’t feel intimidated. “It’s easy to get discouraged – it happens to everyone – but the best way to improve is to keep trying,” says Johnson.

Plus, hanging on to a wall for dear life is more than an adrenaline-filled adventure, it’s also a serious workout. Research shows rock climbing can provide an aerobic workout, build upper body strength and maintain cardiovascular fitness Physiological adaptation in non-competitive climbers: good for aerobic fitness? Rodio A, Fattorini L, Rosponi A. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research / National Strength & Conditioning Association, 2008, September;22(2):1533-4287. Physiological responses to indoor climbing and their relationship to peak cycle ergometry. Sheel AW, Seddon N, Knight A. Medicine and science in sport and exercise, 2003, Oct;35(7):0195-9131. The physiology of climbing. Giles LV, Rhodes EC, Taunton JE. Sports Medicine (Auckland, New Zealand), 2006, Nov;36(6):0112-1642.. Plus, figuring out the best way to climb the wall also gives your brain a mental workout.

We discovered how accessible climbing is to Brooklyn Rocks At New York. After a lesson with helpful instructors, we felt comfortable enough to to assure with a partner and hit the bouldering wall by ourselves.

Ready to try some Spider Man style moves yourself? The tips below will help you get into your nearest climbing gym feeling totally ready to hit the ground running – er, climb a wall. (Note: These tips are helpful to keep in mind, but an introductory lesson from a certified instructor is essential for any beginner.)

1. Choose your poison.

There are several types of climbing. Try them all to see what’s floating on your boat, says Brooklyn Boulders instruction manager Luke Livesey. Reel (or rope climbing) with a belay partner allows new climbers to cover a great distance on walls. No partner? No problem – use a self-belay. If you’re afraid of heights, bouldering — climbing without ropes — is a great option because the walls are shorter, Johnson says. (If rope climbing is a long-distance race, bouldering is like sprinting, she explains.) Finally, in the great outdoors, you’ll either do sport climbing, where the climber follows routes with pre-placed anchors, or traditional (trad) climbing, where the climber places his own protection along the route. (As you probably guessed, trad climbing is not for beginners.)

2. Get ready.

Good shoes are essential. “I recommend choosing more flexible climbing shoes, so you can have better feel and grip on the wall,” Johnson says. Avoid socks if your own shoes and wear thin ones if renting them. For bouldering, the only other gear you need is a chalk bag, and you’re good to go. To top rope, climbers also need a harness, lead rope, chalk bag, carabiner and belay device, all of which should be available for rent in your climbing room.

3. Learn the ropes.

So you have the equipment; now you have to learn how to belay correctly. In fact, climbers must be certified in insurance before hitting the wall on their own, so taking a course is essential. “Belaying is really about getting into the rhythm and learning muscle memory,” says Brooklyn Boulders instructional assistant Sarah Laine. Translation: Reading about belaying won’t be much help. But here are the basics you’ll learn in an introductory lesson: tie a figure eight and a fisherman’s knot to secure the lead rope to the belayer’s harness. Keep your right (or left, if left-handed) hand paused. position (sometimes called home base) under the belay device and don’t let go! As the climber goes up the wall, they create slack, so the belayer has to pull through to catch them. Pull the slack out of the climber’s side by pulling down with your left hand at the same time as you pull the slack up with your right hand, then return to the pause position. (Think: up, down, pinch, slide.) Never let go of the rope with your right hand. Your left hand is just a helper – you really want to shoot more with your right.

4. Choose your route.

Roping routes will always start with a five, followed by a decimal point, and then another number corresponding to the difficulty level of the climb, Laine explains. Routes labeled 5.5 or 5.6 are beginner routes, and the higher the number after the decimal point (like 5.12), the harder the climb. Block routes are rated by the V scale, starting with V0. Once you’ve selected a path, start with both hands on the starting holds (usually labeled with two pieces of tape), keeping your feet on the ground. Then follow the same colored route along the wall. (Disabling the color is actually cheating.) Some lanes won’t have two footholds at the start, so you can just keep the other foot against the wall when you start.

5. Engage your heart.

It seems like rock climbing requires significant upper body strength, but your core strength is actually the most important. Experience in sports like gymnastics, yoga or Pilates gives novice climbers a boost, Livesey says. The other necessary body parts you will need to recruit are the fingers, hands, and upper body (arms, shoulders, and back).

6. Keep your arms straight.

“Think about how you carry groceries – with your arms outstretched, right?” Livesey said. “It would be much more tiring to wear them with your arms bent, and similarly climbing becomes more efficient when you keep your arms straight.” At the same time, try to keep your legs bent, which makes it easier to lift your lower body.

7. Plan your climb.

“It’s a good idea to sequence your hand movements and identify all the pressure points on the wall before you begin your ascent,” suggests Livesey. “Climbers often mimic hand motions to identify the correct (or most efficient) order in which to use each hold while still on the mat.” As you gain experience, you’ll be able to read the footage better, which is considered a great skill, he says. Also try looking for clues: which holds have chalk on them (to tell you where other climbers have placed their hands) and which have rubber shoe marks?

8. Learn the lingo.

Communicating well with your belay partner is key to getting you both on the same page, says Johnson. Here are some of the basic climbing commands you’ll encounter: Climber: “Belay”. Belayer: “Belay activated”. Climber: “Climbing”. Belayer: “Get on.” Climber: “Take”. (if you want to take a break) Insurer: “Understood”. Climber: “Lower”. Belayer: “OK, descent.” Climber: “Out of relay”. Belayer: “Belay off. »

9. Take a (safe) jump.

Coming down from the top of the wall may seem scary at first, but as long as you’ve taken all the proper safety precautions, you’ll be fine, Laine says. And it’s actually quite fun! When you are ready to descend, alert your belayer (“lower”), straighten your arms, keep your feet against the wall, and let your arms go. Think “feet first” so you can push your legs. It may be safer and less hard on your knees to try to descend the same way you climbed, rather than bouncing off the wall, Johnson says.

10. Get ready before you go out.

Climbing in a gym is a completely different sport than climbing outdoors, Johnson says. The notes are going to feel a lot harder on the outside than on the inside. Also, you probably won’t have access to qualified instructors and the outdoors is a less controlled environment – you’re at the mercy of weather conditions and natural catches. But when the time comes, as long as you take the proper safety precautions and communicate well with your partner, going outside can be a whole lot more fun than climbing inside, Johnson says.

Virginia F. Goins