Rock climbing has always appealed to me. I remember watching Cliff Hanger as a teenager just thinking how cool it was and how exciting- a really daring sport. Last year, I realised there was a climbing club not too far away, Granite Planet. Although they run weekly sessions indoors, the club regularly take trips outside to popular rock climbing routes all over Cornwall and beyond. So my girlfriend and I decided to join up. Everyone was so nice and helped us get started, teaching us the basic knots etc. We haven’t been outside on the real rocks just yet, I want to make sure I’m really confident on the indoor walls first. However, each week I go I feel I improve. Although it can be really difficult, I’m feeling much more competent when climbing. It’s only been 4 months but my girlfriend and I absolutely love it. It’s great to have a hobby that we can do and develop our own skills together. There are literally so many reasons to get into climbing for anyone who is interested in going themselves. Here is a list of our 5 main reasons why we love it:
1. Cheap / Little Gear
The equipment you need isn’t meant to make you look cool or trendy, it’s fit for purpose- keeps you safe. However what I like about climbing is how cheap it is. At most indoor climbing facilities you can hire out all kinds of equipment, but the one thing I suggest getting is your own pair of climbing shoes. Obviously I didn’t want to pay out for some shoes until I’d been a few times and knew I liked it. I began just wearing my Van shoes and my girlfriend wore her trainers. They were both fine, although made it trickier to grip onto the small holds with your feet. So when a climbing shop came to Granite Planet, we decided it was time to get some shoes. I got a lot of advice from my fellow climbers and the shop staff to make sure I picked ones that fitted correctly- pretty tight, no movement, nothing digging in to your foot, toes remaining straight inside and not curled up. I finally picked these and haven’t looked back. Since getting them, my climbing has improved a great deal as I now have better grip and “smearing” up the wall (using the friction of the shoes when there are no holds) has become easier. They cost me £60, about what I’d spend on a good pair of running shoes.
A few other necessary things needed for indoor climbing are:
- Harness: Made of nylon, this device sits around the legs and waist allowing you to be suspended with very little effort.
- Belay Device: This is a mechanical device which creates friction when someone is belaying (basically holding onto the other end of the rope!).
- Caribener: A metal spring-loaded clip used to fasten ropes.
- Chalk Bag: Does what it says on the tin – it’s a bag with chalk in. It works well to absorb the sweat on your hands to stop you slipping on the holds when doing trickier climbs. It’s the same stuff used by Gymnasts.
To keep our costs down, I found all of these items on EBay. As long as the condition of them is really good, it’s worth getting them yourself, else you’ll have to keep hiring them out which will cost a lot more in the long run. Once you have these items, you won’t need to buy them again for a long time.
If you join a club you can often get cheaper deals and rates to go climbing and find people to climb with. Check out The BMC website to find your nearest centre and to browse their website.
2. Fun / Indoors
As you can probably tell, I love climbing. What’s more fun than scaling up a wall, being free for an hour or so, and being able to be suspended in the air, whilst your partner belays you down. It’s great for couples as you communicate regularly, helping each other work out the trickier routes and you can praise each other for doing well. Being indoors means we can continue climbing, whatever the weather. Recently the rain has come in every single day, but this hasn’t stopped us. Plus it’s way more fun than sitting in front of the TV on a rainy evening. It is a great way to unwind after a long day at work and luckily our centre is open until 10pm every single day, so it’s really accessible to fit in with our busy schedules.
3. Friends / Team work
The first day we went climbing at Granite Planet was during an introductory session- check if you’re local centre has one as its normally a free way of seeing if you like it. One of the climbing club members, came over to say hello and gave us a health and safety chat, then taught us how to do the required knots. She stayed with us for half of the session then let us try it on our own. Since joining the club, and attending the weekly sessions, we have made lots of friends amongst the regulars. What is great is the way everyone is so helpful. If, for instance, I am climbing up a tricky route and end up getting stuck, someone will always be there to help, giving me instructions on how to get to the top or offering me words of encouragement to give that boost of confidence. If ever I ask for help about the best way to climb up a route I haven’t tried, someone will always be there to offer advice or demonstrate how they would do it. It is really supportive and very friendly!
Okay, it’s not a cardiovascular sort of exercise, however it is so great for fitness. Climbing uses muscles in both the lower and upper body, and it works the abdominal muscles too, plus your fingers, arms and shoulders all get a great work out. I feel I’ve improved my stamina and have become much more flexible and agile due to the way the body is used for reaching and stretching for the holds. I only go once a week,but I can definitely feel the difference. If you’re really into it you can use something like Maxinutrition nutrition to get even more from your climbing work out. A great sport like this, which keeps you active and healthy, is definitely a good thing!
5. Puzzling / Problem Solving
Although the basics of Rock climbing is just climbing up a wall, it provides not only a physical, but a mental challenge too. The objectives can be to get to the top in the quickest time or try a new route or keep trying a route that is difficult- lots of endurance needed. Before climbing each wall, I look at the route I’m about to face. I plan and decide how I will climb it, i.e. Which foot, what hand, where I need to lean, stretch, jump etc. Sometimes I just have to improvise and try out different ways to get up to the top. What I find useful once I’m back on the ground is to look at the route and break down what went well and what didn’t.
Another really good tip is to watch other more experienced climbers trying the routes too. They sometimes use certain techniques that I’ve never seen before, or use a different arm than I would have used. Although everyone has their own strengths, it’s great to see how others complete a wall and it’s great for your own progress.
Talking of progress, I love being able to track mine. The climbs are all graded by number and letter. At our centre, they go from 3-7 and A-C. 3A being the easiest, 7C is the most difficult. Each week I will try out routes at 5C, my current level, as I still find these difficult, but achievable. The moment they become easy, I’ll decide to move up a level. There is no pressure from anyone to try a harder grade, it’s all about what I feel I want to do. And there is nothing more satisfying than finally figuring out a problem that was initially just too difficult!