So my girlfriend wants to take an indoor rock climbing class tomorrow, which I’ve never done before. Now, I realize it’s a class, so I’m betting (hoping?) they’ll fill me in on most of the basics. But that aside, I figured it can’t hurt to be too prepared, right?
So what all should I know before going in? What should I be wearing? Do they usually provide proper foot attire at the site? And how does the whole belaying thing work–will we support each other, or will the trainers handle that for the first lesson?
They will teach you everything you need to know in a single briefing. You’ll be taught specific rope knots, techniques and verbal communication to use. I broke down and bought a knot tying kit as a home reference in case I went again with my nephews. You’ll be belaying each other after the briefing while the trainers watch and then you’re on your own.
Wear track pants or something similar that has a lot of stretch and crotch-friendly seams. Don’t wear jeans because the seams under a climbing harness can be uncomfortable. For women, yoga pants rock! Inaugural lessons typically teach you how to properly put on a harness, tie in with a proper knot, and how to belay. They will hove rover you and watch carefully until they are satisfied you know what you are doing.
Rent climbing shoes. A common mistake for beginners is that they do way, way too much work with their arms, when it should be more like climbing a ladder: Your arms will keep you close to the wall and over your feet, let your legs do all the real work. That’s why it’s important to have climbing shoes. The rubber has excellent friction so your feet feel secure. If your feet don’t feel secure, you will start working your arms more than you need to. You won’t remember this (at least few people seem to), but: try not to over-grip. You don’t need to squeeze your hands super-tight as if you’re trying to crush the holds in a death grip. I’ve been climbing almost 20 years, and I still over-grip if I get nervous. You won’t fall, you’re on a line, so if you remember not to over-grip you be able to climb longer - forearms get tired first from squeezing hands tight, tight, tight.
Seriously, I used to be afraid of heights until I started climbing. At first I would sort of freeze up when I looked down, but I got over it pretty quickly. I think it was being lowered down on the rope that did the trick for me. I realized that even if I slipped, there was no way I would fall more than a foot or two. Just keep your eyes in front or above you and ignore everything below your feet.
It seems counter-intuitive, but quite a few climbers I know and past climbing partners have been afraid of heights. In fact, a few took up climbing specifically in hopes of getting over their fear. Generally, you eyes are scanning the area of the wall in about a two-foot radius from your head and chest. So you tend to be so focussed on that solid wall that really close to you that you don’t get a bad “open-air exposed” feeling. So my one friend said he often doesn’t even really notice how high he is until it’s time to sit back and come down.
I’d recommend getting used to sitting back in your harness when you get tired and do sit back to rest your forearms well before you feel so tired you think you’ll lose your grip. Sitting back is like sitting in a swing. You sit back, you feel some stretch in the rope, the it feels very secure with the squeeze around your legs and waist. Keep looking at the wall and where you want to go, otherwise you may not like feeling suspended.
In both my own experience and that of my height-fearing friends, the time you are most likely to have your fear of heights strike you, is when your forearms are getting tired and you think you’ll lose your grip unexpectedly. Better to take control and let go on purpose. Yell “take” (which tells you belay to tighten up all the slack they can), and keep your hands on the holds as you sit back in your harness to minimize swinging.
Let your hands down by your side and shake them our to get some fresh blood flow. Put your palms together as if to pray, then lower your hands (fingers still pointing upwards) and raise your elbows to stretch your forearms. Seriously, it that moment when you think “Oh, no! I can’t hold on!” that will be the most likely to scare you. So don’t even go there. When you think “Wow, my hands are getting really tired.” Just yell to your belay to take up the slap so you can sit and rest a couple minutes.
Working on climbs that are too tough for me, I’ve gone up one move at a time. Move sit back and rest. Next move. Sit back and rest. That’s the beauty of top roping. You can take as much time as you like.
In the post above, “slap” should have been “slack” as in “take up the slack.” Also, try to keep your feet on the wall when you’re hanging on the rope. It will help minimize swaying or pivoting on the rope and feeling a little bit of something under your feet will be a bit reassuring.
Was anyone else at a facility where they had auto-belays? Where I went, you just kinda clipped one to your harness and started climbing. (There were also self-belays available, but you needed an instructor to help you with them if you were a beginner.) If you felt like you had to get down you could just let go of the holds and gently breeze down. I think that’s a way to cope with the heights thing: just realize that if you DO go down, you’re not going to go down very quickly, and the instructors sure as hell aren’t gonna let you fall and break your neck.
As for my own experience, I banged my knees up something fierce, and was quite sore the next day. But I also had a lot of fun, and if given the chance, I’d do it again.
I sometimes have moments of dizziness/vertigo early on in a climbing session. I just hang on tight and wait for them to pass. I usually stop at the top of the climb,and look around, and look down, and savour the fact that I made it up, and here I am at the top. There’s certain climbs that I can’t do; they are just too scary. I mostly avoid them, but every now and then I will challenge myself with one. Then it’s a question of really focussing on the holds and the moves, and not thinking about the drop.
I have never been indoor rock climbing. It sounds really fun! I hope you have a good time.
But, I wanted to ask. Aren’t you the guy who posted about having a good date and asking for kissing advice? If so. Awesome! Things worked out well enough for her to turn into a GF. Congrats! If not. Never mind.
Yay! Glad you had fun (and that the girl is working out). Gym harnesses are adjustable so they fit anybody. I personally find that they never feel quite right, even though they will do their job just fine. That why regular gym climbers with invest in their own. When it fits you properly and you’ve had a few climbing sessions to adjust it just right, they feel more comfortable and secure.
I’ve been in one where they had them on the kiddie wall. They had a couple out on some real climbs, but they had to switch them out for regular anchors because too many people were complaining about them. Nasty things. To get better, you have to climb things that are difficult and challenging. The last thing I want to do on a challenging climb is use up all the energy to start over every time I got to the move that stumped me. With a real belay, you can sit back and rest and continue to work out the problem and figure out a solution to the move. You can’t on an auto-belay. You get lowered to the ground. Their fine on climbing walls that you get on cruise ships or in fancy arcades, or the climbing wall they have at a local bowling alley. But horrible things in actual climbing facilities.