Learning the Ropes- 20 Tips for Beginner Climbers
If you had told me a couple years ago I would take up rock climbing as a hobby I wouldn’t have believed you. It wasn’t that long ago I climbed outside for the first time, so I remember how daunting my first time rock climbing was. It is the beginning of a new year, and it’s time for a new challenge. Here are some of my climbing tips for beginners.
1. Trust the gear
While working as a climbing gym instructor for several years I saw many frightened beginners rock climbing for the first time. Several of the newbies had trouble believing I could actually catch them. As long as you know what you are doing the gear will catch your falls. Trust the climbing gear and ask as many questions as you need to in order to feel comfortable with using it.
2. Flexibility & balance are key
Strength is an important factor of climbing, but it’s not everything. Once you begin trying harder routes it become more difficult to muscle your way to the top. Balance and flexibility can be the difference between you sending a route or sitting out. Take a yoga class or try some basic yoga poses as home for hip openers and shoulder stretches.
3. Chalk will save your hands some pain
Some climbers don’t use chalk, and I am shocked. Using chalk makes a world of difference in the amount of blisters and skin tears I get while climbing. Additionally, chalk helps with grip on crispy routes.
4. Climb with your feet
When trying to convince others to try climbing for the first time a common response is “I don’t have good upper body strength”. The first instinct when climbing is to use only the upper body. While climbing is a great shoulder and back workout, upper body isn’t everything. Without good footwork it is difficult to improve your climbing technique.
5. Use climbers palm cream
Another way to save your hands is to help the healing process. In order to recover quickly use climber hand balm right after your climb. ClimbOn! is a great brand you can purchase from REI that will help your hands recovery process.
6. Climb at least two-three times a week to start off
Perfecting any sport takes time, and climbing is no different. Set realistic climbing goals. Climbing everyday in the beginning is challenging. Your muscles aren’t accustomed to using the muscles you use for climbing. For the first couple times, expect to be sore. Start out climbing several times a weeks and gradually pick up the intensity.
7. Know the difference between bouldering and top-roping
Bouldering and top-roping are two very different ways of climbing. Top-roping is an endurance workout and helps increase stamina. Bouldering is a strength exercise that is more technical.
8. Don’t go by yourself
Climbing with others is beneficial for getting feedback. It is better to learn from other climbing experts than to go on your own. Your friends will point out when you are dabbing on a route, or if they see a hold you don’t.
9. Know the lingo
Learning the terminology can be tricky starting out. People will assume you know the lingo. They might shout out ‘smear’ and you have no idea that means to utilize the wall and push off. Over time you will pick up the climbing terms. Ask when you don’t know something and try to pick up as many climbing terms as you can.
10. Invest in your own gear & save money on rentals
Many gyms have climbing rental equipment, but it adds up after a while. On average you will spend about $10 each time only on gear. Invest in your own gear is not only good for your climbing, but your wallet.
11. 10 or V3 ??? Understand the basics of the grading system
It will be difficult to know which routes you should climb if you don’t understand the difficulty. Grading systems carry between countries and regions. In the United States knowing the different grading systems for bouldering and top-roping will help you understand which routes to try first.
12. Climb with the pros
I climb with people who can climb a V6, while I can barely climb a V1. Learning from the pros is a great way to understand better technique and new challenging beta. They will also give pointers and advice crucial to your improvement.
13. Climb indoors before going outside
Climbing outdoors is more risky. For your firs trial run I suggest climbing indoors. Climbing outdoors also requires you to have all your own equipment. Learning how to tie a figure 8, lead climb, and set anchors is easier indoors.
14. Keep your arms straight
One of the best climbing tips for beginners I learned. This is something I struggled with a lot in the beginning. If you keep your arms bent they are likely to tire out quickly.
15. Don’t be afraid to fall
It is a natural to be afraid of falling, but don’t let it stop you. You are tied in for a reason. and falling is just a part of improving. As long as you have crash pads or are roped in don’t be afraid to fall.
16. Try Routes out of your league
Don’t assume that you can’t climb it because the grade is higher than your usual route. Try it anyway. Often times I will find a 5.8 that is easier for me to climb than a 5.6 because of the style of climbing. Additionally, the best way to improve is to constantly be challenging your abilities so even if you can’t make it to the top it is good to attempt it anyway.
17. Take a intro course
Most indoor climbing gyms offer course you can take. Learn how to lead belay, lead climb, or tie a figure-eight knot in an intro course. You don’t want to go outdoor climbing without proper instruction and risk endangering the lives of yourself and others.
18. Know your KNOTS
Figure 8s, clove hitch, and prusik are all useful in the world of rock climbing. Brush up on your knot knowledge and practice a few of them at home before venturing outdoors.
19. Breathe & don’t think about it
Breathing might seem self explanatory, but mastering your breathing technique can majorly improving your climbing. Especially, while lead climbing I get nervous and fall back on my breath techniques to steady myself.
20. Have fun
Rock Climbing for the first time is intimidating, but overall the reason why I keep doing it is because it is fun. Enjoy yourself.
Follow these climbing tips for beginners and you will be a pro in no time. Happy climbing.