The Benefits of Rock Climbing
Are you jonesing for some outdoor adventure but too cold to get off the couch? Indoor rock climbing may be just the thing to give you your outdoor fitness fix and keep you toasty and warm inside a gym this winter.
Indoor rock climbing appeals to a wide audience. It can be beneficial as a challenging aerobic exercise that teaches team building, trust, problem solving, and confidence. It also tends to build camaraderie as the most common form of indoor climbing involves a partnership between the climber and another person who controls rope slack.
Considered an extreme sport, climbing can actually be very safe if performed properly and with the right equipment. Taking introductory classes at a local climbing facility will teach you all the right techniques and eliminate the danger involved with the sport. The professionals won’t set you loose to climb on your own unless you’ve demonstrated proficiency. You can expect to learn how to put on a climbing harness, tie various knots, and belay and lower your partner.
Rock Climbing Lingo
Indoor rock climbing facilities have rock walls that are often molded to recreate the look and feeling of the real thing. Almost all rock walls use climbing holds, special pieces that hook into the walls to give you something to grab onto as you climb. These holds come in all sizes and shapes to provide variation for the climbers. And just in case you’re thinking that it would get boring to go to the same climbing facility week after week, think again: indoor climbing gyms change the positions of their holds regularly so that climbers stay challenged. In fact, the gyms used skilled routesetters, specially-trained climbers who make an art of creating interesting indoor climbing courses.
While you can perform solo indoor climbs, the most common way to climb involves the buddy system. One partner does the climbing while another climber becomes the belayer. The term belay refers to feeding rope to the climber as she ascends the wall. The belayer has the important job of watching the climber closely and controlling the rope slack so that in the event the climber falls, she won’t fall very far. Using a correct belaying method, the belayer can support the entire weight of the climber and stop falls using a special belay device that catches the rope.
Gear Required for Climbing
You’ll need to have the proper safety equipment and gear to get started with indoor rock climbing. While you’re learning the sport, you can rent the equipment from your climbing facility.
- Climbing Harness. Your climbing harness is important both for performance and safety. There are many different types of harnesses, and they’re all made to compliment a specific sort of climb. When you’re renting equipment from a climbing gym, you can be sure that you’re outfitted with the correct type of harness. But when and if you decide to invest in your own harness, consult a professional to be sure your harness will fit your needs.
- Rock Climbing Shoes. Climbing shoes are a must. Don’t think you can wear your running sneakers or hiking boots to a climbing gym; these shoes won’t have the special features you need to make your climb easier. Good indoor climbing shoes will aid you with sticky flexible rubber soles, a special curved shape, and a hook to ensure a tight fit.
- Belay Device. There many types of belay devices. The type that’s best for you will depend upon your type of climb, but all belay devices will apply friction to climbing rope so that your partner stays safe.
- Chalk Bag. Chalk is another essential to climbers. Since stress makes your hands sweat, climbers use chalk to keep their hands dry and safely grip climbing holds. The chalk is kept in a waist bag that attaches much like a fanny pack with the bag dangling behind the climber’s back. Behind the back, the chalk bag is easily accessible.
Types of Indoor Climbing
Whatever kind of adventure you’re in the mood for, there’s a rock course to fit your needs. There are several types of indoor rock climbing.
Top Rope. Top Rope is the most common form of indoor rock climbing. A belayer stands on the ground, holding the rope which is attached to an anchor on the top of the wall. As the climber ascends, the belayer controls the rope, and so there is no need for the climber to place clips into the wall for protection. If the climber falls, the belayer locks the rope in a belay device, and the fall is only a few feet. Top Rope is the safest and easiest form of rock climbing.
- Bouldering. This form of climbing is considered the most social because climbers remain relatively close to the ground and more or less at eye level. Bouldering requires the most strength—but less endurance—as it is done without ropes. Since there are no ropes, bouldering routes are shorter but more difficult climbs. To ensure safety, bouldering walls usually have a “crash zone" beneath them made from soft gravel or gym mats to break a fall. This type of climbing also requires a minimal amount of equipment: just climbing shoes and chalk.
- Lead Climbing. Lead climbing also requires a rope, but it involves the climber screwing protection clips into the climbing holds as he ascends the wall. Lead climbing is a little more risky than Top Rope because if there is a fall, the climber can fall a good distance with no one to stop the rope.