So you’ve decided to look for a thrill, and you are eyeing rock climbing. Even the name of this sport will give you an adrenaline rush. And make no mistake, this is a sport in which both beginners and professionals will never fail to get a thrill. You will always find your next wall is a challenge.
Choose your trainer
The first thing to do, before splurging on equipment, is to shop around for an instructor. This should help you ease into the sport, and have a list of easy-to-achieve targets. An instructor will also help the new climber build a series of simple, but good habits that would prevent dangerous mistakes along the way. Such as the habit of always, always wearing your helmet if you are at the foot of a wall or a climbing route. Even a small loose rock is a great risk. Luckily, climbing helmets come in amazingly stylish designs.
A trainer will also literally “teach you the ropes”- he or she will do an on-hands training about specialized knots, which are hard to glean from a book. And nothing beats the real experience of detangling and arranging a hundred meters of rope, which as a new climber you will be asked to do under supervision. Never leave your rope tangled, and never with even a single knot in it- knot a rope and its strength is compromised, and the last thing you want is a rope snapping. Last but not least, an instructor will motivate you when the going gets tough, and will push you through the frustration of sore forearms and scratched fingers.
Shop For Equipment
When it comes to climbing equipment, even beginners deserve a good quality. While climbing is not a cheap sport, some varieties require only minimal equipment. For instance, there is indoors bouldering- climbing very short, but very difficult walls and overhangs while clinging on tiny artificial ledges. This requires only a pair of climbing shoes and a magnesium bag, in addition to grit and physical effort.
Indoor sports climbing would require a bit more- a climbing harness and karabiner, as most indoor climbing gyms provide their own ropes and belaying equipment. This is an excellent choice, with new trendy indoor gyms popping up even in big cities, away from any mountain range.
For outdoor wall climbing, you would have to invest in a good static rope- one that can withstand smaller falls. And then there is the biggest challenge, classical tour climbing, where two partners just pick a rock face and scale it, while achieving a complex securing system with multiple specially-designed tools that secure the climber to nooks and crannies. This model of climbing was a big challenge for me as a beginner climber, as there is no way I could give up mid-route. Tired or not, scared or not, I had to go up and up. So perhaps a beginner should choose a simpler mode of climbing, to gain strength, confidence and skill with knots and equipment.
Get to Love Nature
Being an outdoor person always helps. Even if you are not scaling rock faces, going on hikes and camping outdoors is good practice. Get used to it, as rock faces are often found some hours away from roads. Build up stamina while enjoying beautiful nature- and get used to temperature shifts, rain and sunshine. A mountain is never a thing to trifle with, so building a general experience in nature, knowing the seasons of summer storms. A summer storm while in the middle of a rock face is no joke at all. Also, rock climbing techniques, even if you are not a climbing ninja, are a wonderful addition for all trekkers and hikers. This will allow them to visit interesting peaks and landmarks, requiring some form of securing, usually with a simple piece of rope and a karabiner. Many beautiful European peaks are more easily accessible to people with basic training in alpine equipment, knots and self-securing.
Don’t Forget to Have Fun
Rock climbing is not a competitive sport, and it is a change to build great friendships and hear amazing stories. From narratives about the beauty of nature, to the tales of the best who dared to scale the most dangerous mountains, rock climbing will make you reach out to people of unbelievably broad backgrounds. And in this sport, you are only competing against yourself. Curiously, an artificial route or a rock face may be very easy for you, but very hard for another climber- and vice versa. Your height, body shape and weight may help you or hinder you- so indeed you are always in a competition against your limitations, slowly getting better. There are no limitations for either men and women, and even little kids may become excellent climbers, thanks to their low weight and supple bodies- and a lack of fear.
But even with a little bit of fear, being a beginner rock climber is awesome- a beginning of a path with many physical, mental and even spiritual rewards.
- Freelance Writer