Rock climbing has always been a popular activity. As long as there have been mountains and boulders, there have been people who want to climb them. Recently though, rock climbing has started to be viewed as a real sport and not just an outdoor activity. Rock climbing gyms are springing up all over the country. You no longer have to save up and use an Expedia flight coupon to go to Peru to learn how to climb a mountain.
Perhaps there is even one in your city. Climbing gyms can be intimidating at first. Everywhere you look there are ropes and hooks and people hanging off walls. It’s always a bit uncomfortable to walk into a new environment and have no idea what’s going on. The staff at your local gym will undoubtedly be well educated on the gear and equipment and will help you to safely start climbing. You will be fitted with a harness and rock climbing shoes.
If you are just learning, it is best to rent shoes and a harness from the gym. If you decide to become more serious about the sport then you can buy your own.
The only parts of the gym available to beginners are generally the walls with an auto-belay. An auto-belay lets you clip your harness into the carabiner attached to the rig and climb without a partner. When you fall or let go, the auto-belay will gently lower you to the ground. They are a great way to get used to climbing and falling. After spending a few gym trips using those, you may feel that you want to expand to using the other walls. There is often less of a line for top roping walls and the more walls available to you, the more fun you can have.
To learn top roping you’ll need a partner. Instead of the auto-belay, it will be your partner’s steady hands on the other end of the rope that will prevent you from falling and ensure that you are let down gently. The rope will be strung over a pulley at the top of the wall and both sides of it will dangle on the ground. Your partner will take one side of the rope and will use a small device clipped onto their harness called an ATC to control your descent. You will be attached to the other side of the rope by a knot called a figure eight follow through. Once you and your partner have mastered tying the knot and operating the ATC you’ll be ready to try them for real. Your gym may require that you to demonstrate your ability to use these techniques safely before they allow you to use the top ropes in their gym. The staff will evaluate you to make sure you can tie your knots, use your ATC, and communicate well with your partner.
Once you have mastered top roping you may want to learn to lead climb. Lead climbing is much like top roping in that you have a partner, but unlike top roping, in lead climbing the rope is not already attached to the top of the wall. Instead, the climber carries the rope up with them as they climb and inserts the rope into hooks on the wall as they go. This adds an additional level of challenge and danger.
Rock climbing is a great form of exercise and a wonderful social activity. Educating yourself about the different types of climbing available will ensure that you will feel confident at the gym and can make the most out of your next trip to the rock climbing adventure.