I Want To Try Climbing, What Should I Do?

At the request of some of my readers, this post is going to be a set of tips for someone who has never tried climbing before, but is considering getting into it. It's not like, "Hey, you know what? I'm a good writer, I think I want to get into blogging." In that case, you can sit down with your computer and start a blog on a free blogging website. "Getting into climbing" is more like "getting into horseback riding," or "getting into sewing". There is a bit more to it than just sitting down and beginning. I mean, you can just walk into your nearest climbing gym and start climbing, but having a set of tips first is going to be super-helpful.

Tip #1: Visit your local climbing gym, and try out climbing during their open climb hours.

This is a bit different at every gym, but in general, most gyms offer certain hours on certain days of the week where people that have never tried climbing before can come in, pay a flat fee (usually called a "day pass"), and try out climbing with an instructor. The instructor will belay you and your friend(s), talk to you about basic climbing techniques, and help you get a feel for what climbing is like. This is how I started climbing - I visited my local climbing gym and participated in open climb for several weekends before I knew for sure that I loved the sport and wanted to get involved full-time.

Tip #2: Wear actual climbing shoes

For some silly reason, I fought this when I first started climbing. I thought I could climb in my sneakers and it wouldn't make a difference. This is hilarious to me now. The climbing shoe is made to fit your foot snuggly, and to gather all your toes (which are each weak on their own) and effectively create one, large, strong "toe". The rubber is sticky and stiff, and helps you stick to smaller and smaller footholds as you advance. Find a shoe that fits your foot like a glove - no hot
spots of pain - and that doesn't slip or slide on your heel or toe. Your toe should fill the tip of the shoe (many climbers [like me] wear their shoes very, very tight to achieve this.)

Seth's first climbing shoes
My first climbing shoes: flat arch, wide toe, fit like a stiff sneaker

My current shoes: aggressive arch, downturned toe, much tighter, fit more like a stiff ballet slipper

Tip #3: Try both roped climbing and bouldering

For the most part, every climber has a preference for one over the other. They both complement each other well, and each climber should continue doing both parts of the sport as they advance. Many beginners shy away from bouldering, because it seems extra-scary because there are no ropes. On the other hand, some beginners end up finding it less scary than roped climbing, because you technically remain much closer to the ground. Try both, because if you don't like the roped climbing that you began with, you may love bouldering - or vice versa.

Tip #4: Make friends with other climbers, or climb with a friend or spouse

Climbing alone is just not as fun as climbing with a partner (in my opinion). You typically can't rope climb at all without a partner (unless your gym has auto belays). Bouldering, though you can do it by yourself, is so much more fun with other climbers, friend(s), or a spouse. They offer encouragement, assistance, and general inspiration - especially if you climb with more advanced climbers, which I highly recommend.

Tip #5: Be brave, and don't be afraid to be seen making mistakes

So many people shy away from climbing because many people will witness you falling off the wall and lookin' a fool. Don't be that guy! Every single climber - even the strongest climbers in the whole world - began where you are. The climbing community is extremely welcoming, kind, patient and helpful, and even the most seasoned climbers typically love helping those just starting out. Make it your goal in your first few weeks of climbing to really put yourself out there, and fall off in front of people a lot. It will build your confidence, allow you to try harder stuff in front of more people and will help kill that fear of being seen as weak.

Climbing is so not for everyone. But, for those that it is for, it will end up consuming your whole life. You will fall madly in love and never want to leave the gym (or the crag). I highly recommend that if you want to give climbing a try, you follow these tips - especially #1! Open climb sessions, especially at gyms that will allow you to also try bouldering during open climb, are a fantastic and easily-accessible way to try out the sport.

Please let me know if you have any questions! I could talk about climbing all day, every day!


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