So you want to start rock climbing?

Climbing is currently experiencing a boom in participation in the UK, and with its inclusion in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics (along with Surfing and Skateboarding) it’s easy to see why. Not only does climbing work the majority of our 656 muscles, it challenges the mind as well.

The easiest way to start your journey in climbing is to head down to the local climbing wall, and with over 300 walls registered in the UK you may have a few to choose from (find your nearest indoor wall here). Once you have mastered your skills at the indoor wall, you can head outside and make the move from plastic to rock. Understandably however, the first time you step into a climbing centre can be intimidating and/or exciting. Hopefully this article will help put some of those anxieties to rest. The next question is what type of climbing do you want to do?


The most accessible type of climbing is ‘Bouldering’, low height climbing without the need for a rope or a harness, all you need is a pair of climbing shoes (which can be usually be rented from the centre). Most climbing walls will conduct an ‘Intro to Bouldering’ session, which will teach you the basic technique and etiquette of indoor bouldering over the space of 30 minutes, as well as different hold types/colours and their corresponding difficulty. Once you have this information, you will be free to explore the bouldering wall till your arms are sore. A bouldering session can set you back anywhere from £5-£12 depending on the size and location of the wall.

Bouldering is also a great way to meet other climbers of all abilities, most people are happy to chat while taking a rest, and will be more than happy to provide you with ‘beta’ (tips on completing the route). Once you’ve got the hang of it, you might also want to invest in some chalk and a chalk bag, which can help improve your grip on the holds.

Top Roping, Lead Climbing & Auto-Belays

The other type of indoor climbing can be broken into three sections;Top Roping, Lead Climbing and Auto-Belays.

Top Roping (where a rope is fed through a fixed point at the top of the wall) skills are usually the first rope skills a climber will learn and these can be progressed into Lead climbing where the climber must attached the rop to the wall as they progress up the route. Both require someone who can belay you (the act of protecting you from a fall using a belay device) and some training. Again, most walls run ‘Learn to Climb’ and ‘Learn to Lead’ courses which usually consist of 2 or 3 sessions spread over a number of weeks where your instructor will show you crucial skills such as how to correctly put on a climbing harness, how to attach yourself to the rope, how to belay another climber and how to safely lower them to the ground once they’ve reached the top. At the end of the course you will be signed off and able to climb routes within the gym. The best way to practice these skills is to have a partner and most walls will have Women’s Nights where you can meet other female climbers and swap belays.

The final type of roped climbing is ‘Auto-Belays’, which are mechanical devices found on some walls which will halt your fall and gently lower you down to the floor. You can usually do a 5 or 10 minute overview with one of the centre’s supervisors if they did not go through it on any of the other courses.

So if you’d like to give climbing a go, why not give your local centre a call and see what they have to offer. We’d love to hear about your experience and see your photos, don't forget to use #DPWomen!

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