Updated: Mar 9, 2020
I got introduced to rock climbing a few years back. I was at work in the gym one day and saw a guy doing some calisthenics (bodyweight) exercises. We had a long conversation about some exercises and training. He mentioned he climbed for fun and invited me to the local climbing centre. After that first time I was hooked. For me it was pure fun. The same feeling you got as a kid in the playground but this time on a bigger scale.
Soon I realised that rock climbing crosses the boundaries of many training disciplines and can incorporate them all into one climb. You can go from four or five very small holds (crimps) with slow static like movements that require balance, technique and finger strength to a dynamic sequence that forces you to be explosive throughout the whole body, to jump to the next move.
Eventually it became a way to test my training and see my overall performance improve - struggling on some routes and then a couple weeks later completing it. This wasn’t just physical strength, it was mental too. Countless times I've got to a difficult move (the crux) and it was the mental game that limited me or gave me the edge to push past and move up the wall. I love everything about it.
There are a few different types of climbing;
Bouldering - This is rock climbing stripped down to the bare essentials. Without the need for ropes or harnesses. Only climbing shoes, a chalk bag and a mat are needed. Performing on small rock formations outside can still have an injury risk but by having a bouldering mat you minimise that. The routes are a lot shorter than other forms of climbing but that doesn’t mean the boulder 'problems’ are any easier. (4.5m max indoor height)
Sports - The use of permanently fixed anchors, which the climber clips their rope to, to break their fall. With longer routes (8m-50m) you do require more gear and knowledge of how to use it. Sports climbing allows you to push the difficulty of the climb because you are not worried about the placement of the fixed gear if you were to fall, unlike trad. (mentioned below)
Trad - Trad stands for traditional. Basically you have a naked rock face and as you climb you will place protective gear and clip yourself to that. Obviously falling on this gear has its risks if placed badly. Slow progression and practicing good gear placement is essential for trad climbing. Route reading can become a little more difficult as you haven't got a line of fixed bolts to follow. The cost of your rack goes up a lot more with specialised equipment. (£800-£1200)
Alpine/Mountaineering - This encompasses all climbing disciplines and more. Scrambling, mixed and ice climbing all fall under this umbrella. You will need all skills and fitness possible to carry you to the summit of any big mountain. Assessing and adapting to different situations from weather, route finding in crevassed terrain and depending on location, the remoteness of the ascent. You do not want to be ego driven and underprepared in big mountains!
Each discipline requires different knowledge, equipment and skill set.
As you go through the disciplines and depending how far you take the sport you require professional training and gradual progression. My big thing is if you don’t know, ask, and if you have doubts about your ability to get it done, you probably shouldn’t be there.
Planning, getting the basics right and enjoying yourself are essential! Remember there are a lot of different ways to do things in climbing and it's about finding the easiest and safest way that works for you.
This is me, down the south coast climbing, three years ago. I was about four metres from the floor before my climbing partner noticed the half severed rope above my head. Luckily for me he was switched on. Who knows what would have happened that day if I had continued to climb, but the point to take from this is safely first! Do your checks and don't be stupid. I have never not check my rope since.
Fast forward three years and I've participated in all forms of climbing. Along the way I've met some amazing people who are now really good friends, and gone to places in the UK and Europe I would have never seen if It wasn’t for climbing. However, I do consider myself still to be very new to the sport and there are thousands of places I still need to go and climb and so many things I need to learn.
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