Climbing is going through a huge growth phase at the moment. It seems like everyone is talking about it. Here at The Climbing Experience in Maidstone, we’re passionate about all types of climbing and encouraging as many new people into the sport as we can. After all, climbing is great exercise, as well as a great way to socialise and meet new friends. We’re sure you’ll find it as addictive as we do.
In the first of a series of articles about climbing for beginners, we provide an introduction to climbing, some of the common terms used and helpful hints on technique.
Rock-climbing is essentially using a specific route to scale a wall, be that indoors at a centre like ours or outdoors at a crag. The route is specified with hand and footholds, with those indoors aiming to mimic those found on real rock.
Types of hold
So named because they are shaped like a jug. If it rained, they’d fill up with water. These are considered the easiest kind of hold to use and are often found on beginner routes. They are big and easy to grip on to, as you can get all your fingers behind the shape.
A crimp is a hold on which you can usually only get your fingertips, and in the more difficult cases only one or two fingertips. These edges might feel quite positive at first, but they can be hard to pull up on and are one of the trickiest holds for beginner climbers, as they require a lot of finger strength.
Slopers are described well by their name. They’re big handholds, but due to the fact they slope they can be tricky to get a purchase on – there’s no edge to grip behind. The key to using slopers is to try and keep your centre of gravity below them. Often, the whole hand will need to be laid flat on top of the hold.
These are holds with a hole (or pocket) in them. Sometimes the pockets are large enough to get a few fingers inside for an easier pull, but often you’ll be faced with the dreaded mono-pocket. These are just big enough to fit a single finger inside and anyone who says they don’t mind them is lying to you.
Volumes are specific to indoor climbing. They’re used to add variety to the features of the wall, i.e. they add ‘volume’. They’re large, angular, 3D pieces of coloured plywood and are considered to be part of the wall. They can be used as part of any route.
The more difficult the hold is to use, the trickier the climb will be. Other factors that play a part in the route’s difficulty are how far apart the climbing holds are spaced from each other, and the type of movement needed to go between them. Both indoor and outdoor routes are often set a grade that accords with their difficulty. There’s a variety of grading systems that correspond to the many different types of climbing.
Types of rock-climbing
This is the form of climbing we have at The Climbing Experience. It’s one of the easiest forms of climbing to get into as a beginner. This is because all you need to start bouldering is a pair of climbing shoes! You climb to a lower height than with other types of climbing and so do not use ropes.
Lead climbing is any type of climbing where you are taking rope and protection from the ground up. Protection is metalwork which attaches to the wall to catch the climber when they fall. There are two main types of lead climbing:
- SPORT CLIMBING – The rock already has bolts in it, to which you can clip your rope on to.
- TRAD CLIMBING – With trad (traditional) climbing, the rock wall is not typically bolted, meaning you place more ‘protection’ into crevasses and cracks which you can then clip on to.
A few tips and techniques
LEAD WITH YOUR LEGS
This is the most important thing to remember as a beginner, because your legs are so much stronger than your arms. The key here is to push yourself up with your legs and not pull yourself up on the holds with your arms. You’ll find that doing this will help you to conserve energy and climb more efficiently. Try to keep your arms straight and let your legs do all the work.
Balance is important when you’re climbing. Flagging is where you remove your leg from a foothold and move it to either side of your body to counterbalance movement. Imagine you’re using your legs in the same way a cat uses its tail for stability.
READING YOUR ROUTE
Before you jump on a climb, take a few moments to assess the route from the ground. This will help you plan what movements you think you’ll need to make, so you won’t lose energy due to thinking too much while you’re on the wall.
Climbing is a strenuous and intensive activity. Remember that your body and mind will need rest, both in between attempts at different routes and in between climbing days. Keep getting stuck on the same problem? Take a break and come back to it later or another day. You’ll find that the time away from it gives your body a chance to recover and your mind fresh perspective.
When you come to The Climbing Experience for the first time, you’ll do a bouldering induction with us, where instructors will go through everything you need to know to get started and help grow your confidence on the wall. Our instructors are there to help and are happy to answer any questions you might have about starting to climb.