Beginner's Guide To Rock Climbing
Rock climbing is an intense adventure that fills the body and mind with an empowering sense of achievement.
Clutching rocks, straining against the mountain and reaching for the next grip to bring you higher and higher: rock climbing can have a meditative quality. An interest in climbing can begin with an innocent exploration of natural rock during a hike, or at a fun event in an indoor rock gym. Either way, when the climbing fever hits, only one thing that can be done about it:
Indoor climbing gyms offer challenging, safe and air conditioned environments for aspiring climbers without natural rock formations nearby. Each gym will have their own rules and requirements. Before buying equipment, test drive the gym you're hoping to join. Some won't allow chalk bags because they are messier and some have auto-belays so you won't need a climbing partner. In most cases, you won't need to purchase a climbing rope if you're climbing primarily in a gym.
Most gyms and clubs will provide training for beginners. Become comfortable with the figure eight knot that is essential for every climber. Make certain that the rope is attached only to the weight-bearing tie-in loop. When you fall (and you will) the correct usage of proper equipment can spare you a lot of pain, or even save your life.
Thoroughly inspect equipment before beginning any climb. The harness should be snug around your waist and thighs. The straps should not be compromised or frayed in any way. Climbing shoes can greatly assist your climb. The toe should be rigid enough to stick into holds without crunching toes, and the rest of the shoe should be thin enough that you can feel the rock face. The extra sensitivity will help with balance and "seeing" surfaces that are out of sight. To extend the life on climbing shoes, don't wear them outside the gym, hiking or while setting up climbs. A chalk bag or chalk ball is necessary to keep hands dry. Fingers will need friction to reach clutch difficult holds.
When climbing, communicate with climbing partners before beginning to ascend. Keep three solid points of reference while you climb; move only one limb at a time. Beginners are tempted to use mostly arm strength to pull themselves up the rock face; don't forget to engage the legs and core. Legs are much stronger than arms and have more endurance. Keep your core tight and tucked into the rock; this will improve balance and reduce gravity's strain on your body. You'll find muscles you didn't know existed. You'll find your limits...and push past them.
- Written by James Hills
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