If you’re thinking of getting outdoors more, but you don’t have a dog to walk and the thought of running makes you angry, nauseous, upset, or all of the above, then rock climbing is easily the next best option. Not only is it one of the most popular activities that we offer down in the Pyrenees, it’s also something you can do in the UK. In fact, in terms of variety, our little island is pretty amazing for rock climbing.
That’s right guys, our beaches may be cold and muddy, our skies may be grey and depressing but damnit we’ve got rocks! And where there are rocks, you’d better believe there are people climbing them.
It’s exhilarating, a great way to exercise, and it’s way easier to get started than you might think. So, here are some helpful tips to get you going.
Find an indoor climbing centre
There’s no law that says you have to start climbing at an indoor centre before heading outside. But it’s not a terrible idea. Climbing on actual rocks and, more importantly, above actual rocks, can be daunting at the beginning. A climbing centre minimises this by replacing the floor with soft, cushy matting and the harsh rock with brightly coloured hand-holds.
Start with Bouldering
Most decent climbing centres have a bouldering area. This is good news for those of you who either
couldn’t convince any of your friends to come with you, or didn’t have any friends to ask in the first place.
Bouldering is just rock climbing done at low levels without the aid of any ropes, harnesses or tedious things like that. Typically, you won’t be any higher than about 3 metres off the ground, and the flooring is extra squishy in the bouldering area, so it doesn’t matter if you end up in a nose dive.
Bouldering is an awesome sport in its own right, but it’s also a great way to get a feel for climbing without too much risk. Once you’re feeling more confident, you can grab yourself a buddy and head over to the climbing walls…Oh, those of you who came without a buddy, you need to go make friends with one of the other people in the bouldering area. Maybe buy them a coffee or something?
It’s sensible to hire equipment from the climbing centre the first few times you go. I won’t lie to you, sticking your bare feet into a smelly pair of rented climbing shoes isn’t the greatest feeling. But it’s better than forking out £50.00 on a pair of shoes only to discover you hate climbing.
To start, you’ll need to get your hands on the following bits and pieces:
- Climbing shoes (Don’t be tempted to buy these online. Climbing shoe sizes are all over the place, so you need to try them on first)
- Harness (Same as above, this needs to fit you. But hey, it’s not as if your life depends on it…oh…wait…
- Screw-gate karabiner
- Belay device
Grab a guidebook
When it comes to good climbing, we really are spoilt for choice in this country. Regardless of where you decide to go, you’ll need to pick up a decent guide book. This will give you a detailed idea of all the routes in the area with pictures, information on difficulty, access and a bunch of other super useful stuff. Rockfax make a range of guidebooks covering the most popular climbing spots in the UK.
Find an instructor
When you decide to head into the great outdoors, it’s worth going with someone who really knows what they’re doing. Some of you might have friends that already have enough experience to guide you safely, but if that’s not the case, you need to hire a decent instructor. They’ll provide you with ropes, karabiners and all the other necessary equipment until you’re experienced enough to head out solo. They also come equipped with an arsenal of motivational speeches to help you through the trickier spots.
Well, there you go! A guide to get you started as a rock climber in under 800 words. But, before you go, there’s one more thing to mention. There’s being afraid of heights, and there’s being afraid of heights. The latter being a paralyzing, debilitating fear, the former being common sense that we all possess on some level. Even the most experienced climbers get shaky when they’re 20 metres above the ground clinging to a cliff face. That’s why they do it! If there was no fear involved there would be no point. So, if you’re prone to panic attacks when having to stand on a chair to change a light bulb, maybe climbing’s not for you. If the thought of climbing makes you a little nervous and sweaty, it’s worth giving it a go. You’ll probably surprise yourself!