A Beginner’s Guide to Rock Climbing
When it comes to fun family activities, it doesn’t get much more exciting than rock climbing. Towering high above the ground with nothing but a safety rope and your own skills to keep you ascending the rock, climbing creates a real sense of achievement – and a good dose of adrenaline, of course!
If you’re looking for unique outdoor activities for kids, or even something a little different for that adventurous friend’s hen ‘do or stag weekend, rock climbing should be at the top of your list. Rock climbing at the Ultimate Adventure Centre is perfect for both total novices and more experienced climbers, with 22 challenging routes scaling 8 metres of elevation.
Spending a day pushing yourself to new heights with us, you’re sure to catch the climbing bug. So what’s next? If you’re a beginner climber who is thinking of getting more into this exhilarating sport, here are a few tips to get you ready for the rock!
Learn the ropes
Anyone who wants to try out rock climbing – or any other aerial activity for that matter – will need to get comfortable with the safety procedures that are vital for aerial sports. At our awesome outdoor rock climbing wall, we have 6 super-safe auto-belay devices that allow you to climb independently during your first experience, so you don’t have to worry about safety. But if you like, we can teach you how to use the ropes and equipment, too.
Each instructor at the Ultimate Adventure Centre is highly trained, and will help you learn how to set up for belaying and climbing, from tying a figure of eight knot – the essential safety knot for climbing – to safely belaying and using equipment such as carabiners and ropes.
Not only that, but you’ll experience the thrill of climbing high off the ground whilst taking in the stunning views of North Devon in the distance. What could be better?
Get the right gear
In a sport that involves being at height for much of the time, wearing and using the right safety gear is paramount. Climbing shoes, a harness, and a carabiner are the basics of any climbing ‘rack’, but you will also need to use a rope, helmet and, for best results, a bag with chalk in it (handily referred to as a ‘chalk bag’). Luckily, you can rent all of this at the Ultimate Adventure Centre while you are trying out our climbing wall.
Of course, if you find yourself becoming addicted to rock climbing, you can always go out and buy your own gear. There are plenty of larger manufacturers of climbing equipment, but if you like the idea of supporting local brands, check out the likes of Dartmoor-based Dewerstone for climbing clothing. Alternatively local chains like Taunton Leisure in Exeter offer equipment from a range of brands under one roof.
Getting to grips with gym climbing
There are countless amazing places to climb around the North Devon countryside, but before you consider climbing outdoors, you must become confident with the basic techniques and safety measures. To do this, indoor climbing is key.
Also known as ‘gym climbing’, indoor climbing simply involves climbing at an indoor facility, with artificial holds and all of the safety equipment you need set up and ready. It’s important to visit an indoor climbing gym plenty of times as a beginner because you can benefit from the pointers of the climbing instructors, and get used to the safety procedures in a low-risk setting.
There aren’t many indoor climbing centres in North Devon, but our friends over at Rock and Rapid Adventures are worth a visit if you want to climb interesting routes in a variety of grades. Get chatting to fellow climbers and you might even be able to pick up a few tips on technique!
Learn the lingo
As you climb more and more, you’re likely to begin hearing terms and phrases that might somewhat stump you. Climbing has a lot of ‘lingo’, which is helpful to know if you plan to keep climbing regularly. Here are a few of the most commonly-used phrases and what they mean.
Abseil – To make a controlled descent on a fixed rope.
Anchor – The point of attachment for a climbing rope, usually made with slings or the rope itself.
Approach – The route you walk to reach the base of the climb in outdoor climbing.
Belay – The process of using a rope to keep someone safe while climbing. An essential part of climbing, and an important technique to perfect. A belayer is the person who belays the climber with a rope to keep them safe and catch them if they fall.
Beta – A slang term climbers use to describe the technique and tips used to help them successfully climb the route. For example, once the first climber has completed a route, the second may ask them “what’s the beta?” to get a head-start.
Carabiner – A piece of gear made of a metal loop with a spring-loaded gate or screw gate on one side used for connecting various parts of a climbing system. Essential gear for any climbing.
Chalk bag – A bag climbers wear attached using a waist belt that holds chalk, which is put on the hands to keep them dry and grippy.
Choss – Used to describe rock that is crumbly and liable to break. Important to know (and avoid) on the South West coast!
Crag – An area of rock that has climbable routes.
Crux – The hardest move or sequence of moves on a climb.
Grade – The grade of difficulty given to a climb. In a gym, this can range from 3 at easiest to 8 (and sometimes above!), but a new climber will probably be sticking between the 3-5 range. Above 5, you will start seeing ‘a’, ‘b’ and ‘c’ attributed to numbers, as well as plusses. These simply indicate an ascending degree of difficulty between numbers. Confusingly, this grading system changes depending on where you are – so just ask your instructor if you’re unsure!
Holds – The things you hold onto in a climbing gym or outdoor climbing wall.
Jugs – Large, jug-like holds that you can grasp with your entire hand or many fingers.
Overhang – A wall that overhangs, where you are positioned slightly upside-down to climb.
Pinch – A shallow, raised hold that you have to pinch with the tips of your fingers to hold.
Pocket – A hold or dip with a small hole that you can fit a few fingers in to hold.
Project – A climbing route that the climber spends a long period of time trying to work out and perfect.
Pump-y – Climbs that require a lot of pulling with the arms. ‘Pumped’ is also used to refer to having tired, overworked arms!
Rack – Collection of climbing equipment
Routes – Different climbs at a crag or indoor climbing gym.
Send – The process of climbing a route. You may hear experienced climbers encourage each other to “send it!”
Slab – A shallow-angled wall that isn’t very steep.
Sloper – A smooth, raised hold that you have to use the flat of your hand to hold and push down on.
Top rope – A rope that is passed through a fixed anchor at the top of a climbing wall or cliff, with each end tied to the climber and the belayer at the bottom. The safest form of climbing!
Undercling – A hold that requires the climber to apply counter-pressure is applied to the underside of a hold or rock flake by pulling up on it.
Essential climbing moves
The jargon doesn’t end there, but thankfully a lot of it is helpful as a learning climber. Still, to avoid getting halfway up the wall with people shouting instructions you don’t understand, check out these basic climbing move terms now!
Dyno – This move essentially involves jumping for a hold. It’s for those who don’t mind moving dynamically and pushing out of their comfort zone, and is ideal for when your arms just aren’t quite long enough!
Lay-back – A layback is when you pull to one side of a hold, moving your bodyweight to that side so you can begin to move your feet up horizontally and then…
Rock-over – Move your bodyweight in a rocking motion from one side of the holds to another, or from a hold on one side of a route to the opposite.
Mantle – A mantle is effectively pushing down on a hold or piece of rock, pushing your bodyweight up – rather than pulling as you normally do. You can do this with just one hand or both, to then move your feet up to the next spot.
Bridge – A bridge is when the climber places their hands or feet wide apart on the rock or holds with equal pressure, either in a corner or a gap. This is a good way to increase stability and balance.
Flagging – This simply involves placing one foot on a hold and either crossing the other leg behind it or wide out in the other direction. You would do this to move your body weight for balance or to streamline the weight you are pulling.
Heel hook – In a heel hook, you place your heel in a hold to pull yourself into the rock.
Toe hook – The same as a heel hook, but with your toe. Could also be used for a more secure point of leverage.
Gaston – The British Mountaineering Council describes this one well: “Imagine opening a pair of lift doors with your hands; this is the way to place your hands on the climbing holds when doing a gaston.”
Campus – This is probably not one for beginner climbers, but just so you’re in the loop, ‘campusing’ is climbing up a route with no feet. Yep, you just pull yourself up with brute strength. You won’t catch me doing that any time soon!
So, now that you’ve read more or less everything you need to know as a beginner climber, you can head to the climbing gym or crag looking a little less novice, with all the knowledge to stay safe and ‘send it’ on your next project! Check back soon to find out our top five spots for beginner outdoor climbing in North Devon…
Why not book in to climb with us? Contact us today on 01237 88 00 28 or email email@example.com to find out more.