A Beginner’s Guide to Rock Climbing and Bouldering
Two things first.
Be prepared to develop a physical and intellectual relationship with it. Now, calling it “It” just sounds impersonal and reminds me of Cousin It from ‘The Addams Family’. So let’s call “it” — Wall.
The Wall will test your limits.
It holds no biases.
It does note discriminate.
It does not care about your past.
It has no preconceived notions about your character.
It will be there when you fail, and it will stand by you when you triumph.
It won’t squabble with you.
It expects nothing in return.
When it comes to it, only you can stand in the way of this nonjudgmental bond between the both of you. Don’t give up.
I do highly encourage you to choose a partner that is meticulous in checking gears (particularly your belays and theirs), more than once, and is severely allergic to shortcuts. This kind of applied habit is crucial to both your safety.
Get in-person lessons from qualified professionals
Don’t simply rely on YouTube or read articles on how to properly knot a climbing belay. Sure, you can get the gist of it, but actually applying the learning with certified professionals under their tutelage, makes a significant difference. If you don’t use your belay properly, you can risk your safety and your partner’s safety.
Ordinarily, indoor rock climbing gyms provide private or group lessons. If you live in Toronto, Joe Rockheads is our go-to. They have several climbing walls and freshen up their climbing holds every so often — this makes each visit unique and more exciting. Their location is also pretty close to home, which is always a bonus.
You will mostly likely become a contortionist
All kidding aside, these climbing holds are specifically designed by route setters who create a path on the Wall. Some of these climbing holds are strategically positioned in a place that make you carefully think of the most optimal path to take, to get you to the top. There are moments when you will wonder where the heck you’ll situate your feet or hands (sometimes both), to get to the next climbing hold. You’ll resolve yourself to the point that it is impossible to make the next move, until you contort your body in such a way that you can make it work. Keep in mind that climbing isn’t all about using your arms — you’ve got your legs too. Don’t rush to get to the top, you do have to take a moment from time to time, and identify the best path to take. You’ll get there.
The gear is important
My fiancé and I have been using the Black Diamond harness for a couple of years now and we quite enjoy it. Your local sporting goods like REI (if you’re in the US) or MEC (if you’re in Canada) have a range of equipment that should suit all levels. As beginners, we only bought the harness and shoes. That’s all you will really need to get started, since you’ll mostly be tackling indoor climbing walls for now. One thing about the shoes that I will caution you about is, they are highly uncomfortable when you first use them. They are made with a firm down-turned fit, which makes it feel quite unnatural (unless you used to be a ballerina). Another pointer for when you’re in the climbing gym is to bring some flip flops. That way you can take off your shoes while between routes and will save your feet from more discomfort.
Here’s a great article about finding the right type of shoe for you.
I’m reiterating what I mentioned in the beginning of the post — The Wall will test your limits. There is no need to feel defeated by it. It’s completely acceptable when you’re mid-way to the top, to take a breather and analyze your next move. Make sure to always communicate with your partner who’s belaying you. If you’d like to take a break and get back on stable ground, let them know.
It’s a really enjoyable sport! We’re going to continue climbing when we get the chance.