Looking for a way to challenge yourself mentally and physically in a fun, social environment? Rock climbing is the sport for you! Our featured blogger, Sarah Jane Jacob, from ‘Gun Girl Down Under,’ is the guest author of this piece.
I still remember the day when, as a 19-year old in the mid-‘90s, I discovered that there was a rock climbing gym in my home town. I had long wanted to try the sport, so the very next day, I turned up at the gym to check it out.
The pleasant young man beyond the counter asked if I had a climbing partner. In my haste to visit the gym I hadn’t considered that I would need one. Luckily it was a quiet day, so he was able to belay (hold the rope and take in slack as I ascended) me, as I made my way up a climbing wall for the first time. The experience was addictive, and I soon found myself climbing several times a week in the gym, and then climbing outdoors on the weekends with my new climbing friends.
For me, rock climbing is a physical form of problem solving. There are many different ways to climb a cliff. The way a petite woman in her 30s, such as myself, will approach a climb, is very different to how a tall, strong teenage boy will climb that same route.
You can choose to climb in an indoor gym, or take it outdoors at one of literally thousands of “crags” (natural cliffs that can be climbed) across the world. If you decide to take your climbing practice further, you can also participate in climbing competitions held across the country, and the world.
The quickest, easiest and least intimidating way to try climbing is to visit your local indoor rock climbing gym. It’s best to go with a friend or your partner, so you can belay each other; it’s a great activity for couples. However, many gyms now offer self-belay devices, which take up slack as you climb up the wall, and take your weight if you fall off – which means you can go solo if you like.
Alternatively, you can sign up for a beginner’s climbing course at an outdoor/adventure school, and try outdoor climbing on real rock.
You can also join a climbing club, if one exists in your local area.
Learn the lingo
Rock climbers use a lot of jargon specific to the sport. It’s worth familiarising yourself with some common terms, so when fellow climbers start talking about chimneys, aretes and quickdraws, you know what they’re talking about. A climbing glossary can be found on Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glossary_of_climbing_terms.
Lots of knots
There are many different types of knots used in rock climbing. You will not be required to know all of these when you first start climbing, but you will need to learn the figure-of-8 knot, as this is how you attach the climbing rope to your harness
There are 2 ways to make your way up a cliff:
Lead climbing comes in 2 flavours:
Rock climbing is the perfect activity for gear freaks, as there is a seemingly endless range of equipment that you can purchase – especially if you decide to climb outdoors.
To get started, however, you will only need a few pieces of equipment:
Regardless of whether you try out climbing at a gym or with an outdoor guide, the first thing you will receive is a safety briefing and some basic instruction from your instructor. Make sure you listen carefully and ask questions if you don’t understand what is expected of you. You will begin with top-roping a climb, for safety reasons.
In the beginning, you can expect to get a few bumps and bruises, as you learn how to manoeuvre yourself on the rock or wall. You will probably find that you will be quite sore after your first few sessions – rock climbing is a whole body activity, and you will use lots of muscles that you didn’t even know existed! Over time, you will find that your strength – particularly in your upper body – will increase considerably.
Climbing might be for you if you: