Climbing: Where do I start?
Well… if you are reading this article, surely it is because climbing has awoken your interest, or because you have just reached this world and still feel somewhat lost. That is true, climbing can be one of those “intimidating” sports, above all when you are at the start of it all. Several factors like fear, feeling overwhelmed with the equipment and the safety, your physical condition, etc… make us feel certain uncertainty when starting out. We understand and expect that what you are going to read here will help you to start out on your first movements.
Nowadays the term “climbing” includes a great number of disciplines, from boulder to climbing several lengths on high walls, passing through sports climbing and mountaineering. Before starting, what could be important is initially identifying what specifically attracts you to climbing, what are you looking for in climbing. Why do we want to start climbing? Motivations can be different: from wanting to climb peaks that involve certain commitments, the one looking for a complete sport that groups, force, flexibility, resistance, etc… and that can be enjoyable to practise, to the one that simply is attracted to it and wants to try. Calm down, at the moment you do not need to choose anything, the process and climbing experience means that in time you will incline more toward one or the other mode, although normally it means always trying all the modes.
Climbing can be a complex sport, nevertheless, with the proliferation of climbing gymnasiums, trying climbing can be easier than you imagine: Contact the nearest climbing wall, rent a pair of climbing shoes, and simply climb.
Maybe with time, your progress leads you tom climbing with rope and in the open air, then your physical abilities must be added to technical abilities, because these will be essential for your safety and that of your companions. Many opt to learn from friends; nevertheless, we recommend you take formal classes with a qualified guide/trainer who will teach you the safety basics as well as the safety point techniques and how to tie the basic safety knots.
If you are interested in open air climbing, straight away you will notice that climbing is a very social sport and you will always have companion that offer a rope end, which facilitates training a lot.
Open air climbing is done on natural rock walls, on large rocks (boulders) and on mountains; anywhere where there are rock walls you can find climbers. Some of the most popular types of rock for climbing are granite, sandstone, limestone, basalt, and mixtures of conglomerates. Each of these types of rock has its own style of climbing, from “spouts” (wall stalactites), technical panels of small spaces (plain and narrow holds) to fissures (cracks in rocks). Besides the rock type, we have to take our first “steps” in the rocks closes to our place of residence. Later, with experience we acquire more taste for a specific type of rock and surely, we will make several trips to areas where we find that style of rock that we like the most.
Climbing in the open air demands a greater level of experience than climbing in the gymnasium, because there are many variables and hazards. The climate can be a determinant factor, as well as the falling of rocks, the much feared “flights” (falling on the rope). Climbers also need to have much more equipment to climb outside, including their own rope, harness, quickdraws, safety point devices, safety carabiners and a helmet. Although many climbers start in the gymnasium, some learn to climb immediately outside, generally with the help of a guide or taking a course.
But if we are at the very beginning, basically a pair of climbing shoes, comfortable clothes, and some magnesium, is enough.
To start we recommend you look for a par of comfortable climbing shoes, do not be convinced by any friend or shop salesperson for you to buy them too tight, everything will come, but at the beginning we must focus on feeling comfortable, and nobody feels well with their feet forced into a bootee. The ideal footwear for indoor boulders is that which allows you to wear it for the entire session and then while climbing responds to your demands. Even though with time the majority of climbing footwear gives a little, do not buy it so tight that it hurts. Neither do we want that your climbing footwear becomes your house slippers, they must fit well but without causing pain. Regarding models, more of the same, there are infinite models on the market and more every day. To start a simple model (economic) is enough, there are special models for indoor climbing, softer and more comfortable, these can be a good option always when the manufacture has not gone crazy with the price. Do not spend a lot of money with your first climbing footwear, later when you have more experience you will have a clearer idea of what you need, if you need hard climbing footwear with toe and heel protection for ceilings, or soft and flat footwear for horizontal adherence panels. After a certain level it is better to wear tight fitting footwear, because that way you get a better “touch” on the rock and it is “tighter” with more confidence on the small “edges” of technical routes, but consider that until reaching that level of routes the journey is long and it is bet to have comfortable feet, after all there will be sessions in which you practically do not take your footwear off and your feet can suffer a lot due to the rigidity of this type of footwear.
Another key part of your equipment is magnesium, that white dust that we rub on the hands, so they sweat less, and we achieve better adherence of the skin on the rock/resin while we climb. Climbers submerge their hands in magnesium to dry the sweat and avoid them slipping on the holds. Normally the magnesium is carried in a magnesium bag that we attach to the belt and wear at the rear of the body, to introduce both hands every time we feel our fingers are humid due to sweating. Currently and above all the Covid has extended the use of liquid magnesium, this magnesium has a base of alcohol that acts as a disinfectant every time we use it. The use of magnesium is as important as the use of a brush, because after some time, the excessive used of magnesium on the holds, means that these have a hard white layer that becomes very slippery, if we have the habit of using the brush when we see a hold with too much magnesium, we will leave the route in better conditions for future climbers.
At the beginning for indoor climbing, this and some comfortable clothing is enough for you to start climbing.
Do not forget to warm-up (stretching and soft strength exercises) before starting and stretch your body after finishing your session.
Courage! This is about health and enjoyment, nothing else! Enjoy it!