Some More Stuff You Might Like to Know About Rock ClimbingJuly 24, 2008
Rock climbing is an extreme sport, and a sport where you pit yourself against yourself. Of course you can pit yourself against others too, but really it is your own spirit that you are pushing to its extreme, your own courage that you are challenging.
Who better to get some really good advice from? So listen up everyone, here it is:
Relying on upper-body strength to pull yourself up is a common beginners’ mistake. Pushing with the legs conserves energy. But don’t push up through the whole sole of the foot – stand only on the area around the big toe. This helps you gain height and, as this part of the foot is more sensitive, it gives you better awareness of your grip.
Bouldering (a form of climbing without ropes on small rocks and boulders) is a good way of practising hard things at a low level. Don’t worry if things go wrong, as a crash mat is placed where you’re likely to fall. Bouldering improves your technique, strength and problem-solving skills. Many climbing walls offer bouldering, but the bouldering mecca is Fountainbleu in France.
If you get nervous or feel panic welling up when you’re on the crag, take a few deep breaths – in through the nose and out through the mouth. This relaxes you physiologically and psychologically. Looking down can cause you to lose focus and panic, so keep your eyes on the rock in front of you and slightly above.
Learning how to tie a few knots is pretty important for a beginner. You aren’t going to be climbing anywhere without them! The figure-of-eight is probably the most common knot used in climbing, and is used to attach the rope to your harness. It’s a good idea to practise tying knots at home until they become second nature.
With the adrenaline buzzing, there can be a tendency to plunge straight into a climb, but preparation is everything. Stand at the bottom of the wall or crag and plan your route. Work out where the hard bits are and try to determine a rest point before you get to them, so you can shake your arms out and take a breather. Also, familiarise yourself with your gear and make sure it is properly ‘racked’ on your harness, so you can locate what you need quickly when you need it.
A climbing wall is a great place to start – a nice, controlled, comfortable environment – but to restrict yourself to indoor climbing would be a shame. It’s like only ever running on a treadmill. Climbing outdoors is much more varied and unpredictable – no two routes are ever the same. It’s more rewarding physically, mentally and spiritually.
What Gear to Wear:
Comfortable clothing that’s not too tight to restrict movement, nor too baggy to get caught up. If you’re climbing outside, wear layers of breathable, sweat-wicking clothing rather than one bulky item.
As for footwear, trainers will do at first, but once you get into it you’ll want climbing shoes. Popular footwear brands include Scarpa, Five Ten, Red Chili and La Sportiva.