Rock Climb Better INSTANTLY - 3 Tips to Last Longer
How to Rock Climb
Rock climbing is a sport in which participants climb up or across natural rock formations or man-made rock walls. It is physically and mentally demanding, and tests a climber's strength, endurance, agility, and balance. Anyone can start rock climbing quickly though, no matter how much experience you have.
When you are rock climbing, use your legs to push yourself up, rather than pulling up with your arms, while keeping your hips close to the wall and knees pointed outward. Scan for resting points often, so that you can briefly relax and plan the next part of your route. Maintain a steady rhythm, by alternating foot, hand, foot, hand, or moving both feet then hands to build good climbing habits.Scroll down to learn about safety and how to use a harness!
Beginning to Climb
Head to a rock gym or bouldering gym to safely learn basic skills and safety.You can also boulder outdoors, but you'll need to find out about safe, established bouldering sites before getting on a rock. Moreover, outdoor sites are usually more difficult, and require guides and deeper knowledge of rock formations. Rock gyms are safe, well-designed spaces for a variety of skill levels, and they often have classes and staff to help you learn. In general, you have two options starting out:
- Bouldering routesare short rock climbing problems that don't require harnesses or ropes, and are a fantastic way to build your climbing skills safely, without complex introductions to belaying or equipment. Since these problems require no ropes certain constraints that come with roped climbing are avoided. Bouldering routes are great for learning to climb and are a fun way to climb although you lack the safety that you would have with a rope.
- Top-ropingis what most people think of when they think of rock climbing. You're tied in and scaling a large wall. In order to top-rope you'll need a partner. If you're brand new to the sport, check with the staff about "belay partners," or boulder until you feel comfortable asking for a partner.
Rent a pair of snug shoes and a chalk bag.Rock climbing shoes need to be snug so that you can feel the precise edges of the rock. They may feel uncomfortable at first, as the toes are often pointed in order to help you stay on small chips and edges, but you'll get used to them quickly. Just make sure they don't cut off circulation. It is common to wear shoes a size down from your standard shoe size. Chalk bags, while not necessary, are used to keep your hands dry -- essential for holding onto the rock as you get tired. Simply dip you fingers lightly in the chalk and clap them together so you have a light chalky dusting on your hands.
- Harnesses, clips, and belay devices are necessary if you're top-roping. The remainder of this section assumes or are bouldering.
Climb to the top of the wall or problem any way you can to get used to the sport.Most walls are marked by routes -- specific sets of rock that you must use to get to the top. While these are more challenging and fun for experts, you need to get comfortable with the height, the holds, and the general feel of climbing first. Ignore the tape marks and just head up the wall, working on the basics of your form. Once you're comfortable climbing, you're ready to start tackling some basic routes.
- If you really want to get to routes, looks for one labeled 5.4 or 5.5, which are good beginner ratings. (In Europe, Fontainebleau grades are commonly used. These grades start at 2a and goes up each number after each 'c' grade.)
- The fear of falling and the fear of heights are perfectly normal human instincts. Remember, however, that you have a bevy of safety equipment, padded floors, and a knowledgeable person holding you up. After your first few slips, you'll get used to it.
- Starting with an expert, even just a friend who climbs often, is a great way to break slowly into the sport.
Push up from your legs instead of pulling up with your arms.This is the number one rule of good climbing, and the hardest thing to get used to. It feels natural to pull your body up the wall because your fingers feel like they're more firmly locked onto the holds. But your legs are much, much stronger muscles, and you'll tire out halfway up the wall if you're trying to do ten consecutive pull-ups. There are a couple of surefire tips to get accustomed to using your legs:
- Keep your arms extended. Let your weight hang low, gripping the hand holds purely for balance and bending your knees for power.
- Set your feet before moving your hands. Get good, solid footholds that you can put weight on.
- Keep your weight on your toes, not on your hands, by dropping your heels lower than your toes.
Plan your moves in advance, putting your limbs in position for each move.If you're struggling to reach a handhold with your left hand, you don't have to become Mr. Fantastic to grab it. You need to move your left foot higher -- elongating your left side and making the reach easier. Climbing is a deliberate, thoughtful sport, and muscling up the wall will only get you so far. Stop to think about the best way up a route, or ask experienced climbers for advice.
- Learning to read a route from the ground, visualizing where your hands and feet will go in advance, is an essential skill you can never start practicing too soon.
- The more time you spend gripping the wall, unsure where to go, the more tired you'll get.
- The set of moves you use to get up a wall is called your"beta."
Find good resting points to plan your route and relax your arms.Most routes have 1-2 spots where you can catch your breath and loosen your muscles. A good rest spot is anywhere you can comfortably stand with most of your weight on your feet. You should be able to take one arm comfortably off the wall to get chalk and stretch out. While resting:
- Plan out your next few moves. Memorize what footholds you have coming up and think about which limb you want to go where. If needed, ask someone at the bottom for advice.
- Re-chalk your hands. Chalk runs off on rocks, so get some more.
- Shake out your arms. Let them hang and give them a good shake to dislodge some of the lactic acid that has built up.
Move deliberately up the wall.There are advanced moves that require speed, rapid precision, and even small leaps (called "dynos"), but these are for later in your career. For now, you want to focus on fluid motion. The best way to do this is to focus on each limb first, then move your body. Also known as "static climbing technique," you move each limb, get set, then move your body over into the new position. Think of yourself as a slinky, coiling and uncoiling up the wall.
- Set your feet, knees bent.
- Shift your body weight the direction you're headed.
- Step up with a foot while simultaneously grabbing a new hold with the matching hand.
- Re-set your feet and opposite hand.
Know that climbing muscles take some time to build.One of the biggest hurdles for new climbers is that they feel weak after only 1-2 runs. Your fingers will be sore and your forearms will be burning, so much so that you don't feel like you can even hold onto the wall anymore. This is natural, however -- your forearms are not frequently used at this intensity in everyday life. However, if you climb a few routes 2-3 times a week you'll quickly get over this hump and can focus on climbing technique, not how sore your arms are.
- Take rest breaks in between climbs. Don't get back on the wall until your feel rested again.
- Stretch your forearms by clasping your palms in front of your chest and elbows out as if you were praying. Slowly rotate your hands down until they point in front of you to stretch.
Tying In and Climbing Safely
Learn to tie in and belay with a trained supervisor.Belaying is not a difficult process, but it is an essential one if you're serious about climbing. Most climbing gyms will require you to take a supervised test before you're allowed to belay someone. They usually offer classes or free, quick lessons as well. You should always practice belaying with a trained expert. While belaying needs to be trained in person, however, you should know how to tie into your rope no matter what your skill level.
- Belaying is when someone stands below the climber with the rope. They catch them if they fall, give them more rope as they climb, and lower them down slowly when they finish.
Attach your harness as snugly as possible.Whether climbing or belaying, your harness should be snug across your waist and thighs. Do no skimp on this -- tighten every buckle as much as your comfortably can. This includes the leg loops, which cannot be skipped.
Create a figure-eight in the bottom of the rope, leaving roughly an arm's length at the bottom.This is frequently done for you at climbing gyms, but you should understand the process if it is not. There will be two identical strands of rope coming down from the top of the wall. Grab the one closest to the wall and measure out roughly an arm's length. From there:
- Gripping the rope at your "arm's length," drop the bottom of the rope. Holding it up, you should have an upside-down "U" shape in your hands.
- Pinch the two sides of the U to create a "bite," or small 1-2" loop.
- Wrap the bottom of your rope around the bite. You'll cross over your hand so that the end of the rope is back on your side of the bite.
- Thread the end of the rope through your bite hole.
- Pull the end of the role through to make your figure eight.
Thread the end of the rope into your harness.This is how you tie in. While all harnesses are different, in general, you'll thread the rope through two loops in the front of your harness. You'll later tie the end of the rope into your figure eight, effectively attaching yourself to the rope.
- Make sure that the rope goes through both loops -- the one on your legs and your waist, before tying in.
Take the end of the rope and trace out your figure eight to make a double eight knot.Once you're figure-eight is made and you're attached to the rope, complete the tie-in by doubling up on your knot. To do so, you'll simply take then end of the rope in your hand and follow the shape of your figure eight, threading the end in, under, and over the rope to create a snug, secure double figure eight:
- Note the path of the rope coming back towards you, from your figure eight.
- Slide the end of your ropeexactlythe same way this rope runs so that you have parallel ropes.
- Trace the rope up and over, then back through the figure eight. Again, you're just trying to follow this rope line, create two parallel ropes for a double figure eight.
- When you're done, the end of the rope should be pointing forward, following the rope up the wall.
Pull the rope tight and consider making a safety knot.Grip the both sides of the rope, two ropes at a time, and pull the knot tight. Use your fingers to push or mold the double figure eight so that you have parallel lines throughout with no crossing, twisting, or braiding. Most gyms require a simple safety knot as well, tying off the loose end. To do so:
- Place your thumb on the rope, roughly 2-3" above the figure eight. Grip the loose end in your other hand.
- Wrap the loose end over your thumb twice, making an X above your thumb.
- Wrap the end around one last time, then feed it through the hole where your thumb is.
- Pull the loose end tight to cinch the knot down.
Check your knot for safety.There will be five pairs of parallel rope -- one before the knot, one after the knot, and three little segments in your double figure eight. Your double figure eight should look identical on the top and bottom, and the safety knot should be tight. There shouldn't be any crossed ropes. If there are, loosen the figure eight slightly and bend or move the ropes so that they are all parallel, then tighten it again.
- Always have an experienced climber check your ropes when you're first starting out.
Communicate with your belayer before climbing.There is an almost universal code for climbers, and it is used to ensure that everyone is set and the safety measures are in place. Before you climb, you must always follow this protocol. However, some places use different climbing calls.
- You ask, "On Belay?"
- They reply, "Belay on."
- You get ready on the wall and say, "Climbing?"
- They respond, "climb on."
Improving Your Climbing Technique
Keep your hips close to the wall.Do this by pointing your knees to the side. The more you lean back, the more you rely on your fingers to hold you close to the wall. This drains your energy quickly and will almost definitely hurt your fingers over time. Instead, angle your knees away from the wall, almost like a frog, to keep your hips close to the wall. Whenever you need to push away to survey the route or grab another hold, make the movement quickly, then hug the way again to save energy.
- You want as much weight as possible on your feet at all times.
Relax your grip.Frequently, during harder moves or when you get tired, you'll tend to grip the hold tightly. However, your hand holds are generally just there for balance. Remember, you want your feet to do most of the work, so loosen up your fingers. Trust them, almost hanging from them for balance, not to keep your weight on the wall. Your fingers are basically just balance hooks.
- As you get better, you'll encounter overhangs and moves that require some serious finger strength. However, you'll build this naturally as you progress towards harder climbs.
Find your "dead point" when making big moves on the wall.The dead point is the spot when you transition from moving up to falling down. Basically, your momentum is shifting from a "jump" to a fall, and as such you don't move at all, making it easier to grab the hold. Not all moves are close enough that you can move slowly from one to the other. Sometimes you'll need to push off with your foot and grab the hold while on the move. Learning to grab it right when you hit your apex will greatly increase your fluidity on the wall.
- To practice, find a route with several holds just out of reach, or practice on the bouldering wall. Practice grabbing the hold with your arm extended so that you don't feel any drop as you grip it.
Climb with rhythm.While this may change for some routes or crux moves, developing a rhythm is often the best way to conscientiously build good climbing habits. Think of moving with the feet first, goingfoot, foot, hand, hand,orfoot, hand, foot, hand,up the entire wall. Start with some easy routes to get used to this. Because you're moving quickly, with your feet first, you'll naturally come to rely on your leg muscles and stop over-using and tiring your hands.
- Quick, focused climbing saves energy, as it prevents hanging on the wall and getting tired.
- Focus on your breathing as you move. Many people hold their breath as they try hard moves, but that just deprives your muscles of much-needed oxygen. As you develop a rhythm, breath into it as well so that you have regular, rhythmic breathing.
Climb down a few routes.This is a great training exercise for your balance and route spotting. Most importantly, it focuses on landing your feet very precisely, making your footwork exponentially better. If you can use your feet effectively on the way down, you'll develop the skills needed to place your feet anywhere on the way up quickly.
Increase your climbing pace while staying deliberate in your movements.Skilled climbers move quickly, as this saves energy wasted by holding onto a rock while deciding what to do. While you don't want to try scrambling up the rock, lunging wildly, you want to make your moves quickly. Once you've decided what to do -- do it. Don't wait around or keep shifting as you'll only lose energy and make the rest of the climb even harder.
Watch other climbers to learn new moves and possible betas.The beta, or sequence of moves used, becomes increasingly important the harder the route gets. While beginners generally can choose 4-5 ways up a route, difficult routes (5.10 and up) sometimes only have 1-2 sets of moves that can be used. Frequently, they aren't always that obvious. There are hundreds of moves, techniques, and little tricks that can be used for specific problems, but the rock climbing community is luckily a very inclusive one. Watch other climbers, pantomiming the moves from the ground to get used to hand positioning.
- If you're struggling on a route, ask another climber for advice. Your belay partner may have a great view from the ground, for example, of a move or hold you're missing.
QuestionWhat if I fall and fell to the floor because the ropes came lose?Community AnswerThis shouldn't happen, your belayer will have you safely, and these ropes are checked regularly to ensure that they aren't going to break.Thanks!
QuestionWhat happens if I fall while bouldering?Community AnswerBouldering walls are only 15 feet high and located above a squishy mattress. As an inexperienced climber, you will also have a spotter, so no reason to worry!Thanks!
QuestionHow do I climb upside down?Community AnswerThis is not recommended as it is extremely dangerous, do not attempt this under any circumstances unless the wall is specifically made for that purpose.Thanks!
QuestionWhat if I fall from the harness?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerThis situation should not arise. You will have been properly fitted for a harness and double checked for a snug fit.Thanks!
QuestionWhat do the climber and belayer say to each other to communicate when the climber has reached the top and wants to be lowered back down?Community AnswerThere is. Before you climb, you ask, "On belay?" After your harness and knot are checked and your belayer's is checked, he'll say, "Belay on." You say, "Climbing," to which your belayer will reply, "Climb on." At any point, if you wish to take a rest, say, "Take!" At the top, say, "Ready to be lowered!" to which your belayer will respond with "Lowering!" At this point, you lean back, put your feet against the wall, and put both hands on your harness as you are lowered.Thanks!
QuestionWhat if there's no harness?Community AnswerThat would be bouldering, where you climb with no harness, about 15 feet up above a cushy mattress.Thanks!
- If you have never lowered before, it is highly recommended to try a practice lower. Climb up about ten feet and then ask your belayer to lower you. You will feel more comfortable at a lower height sitting back in your harness and letting go of the wall. In addition, you can communicate more easily with your belayer when you are only ten feet apart.
- Take your time
- Always climb with a partner who can safely belay for you.
- Join a rock climbing club.
- Check if the rope is twisted or unsafe before the climb.
- Try to prevent free-climbing overhangs.
- Keep your arms as straight as possible to ensure energy conservation.
- Move slowly and cautiously; going too fast will increase the chance of injury.
- Do not attempt to abseil or climb without proper equipment and training.
- Climbing is inherently dangerous. No amount of experience or protection can fully eliminate the risk involved.
Things You'll Need
An experienced friend
Climbing protection (eg cams, nuts, quickdraws)
Snacks and a water bottle
Sources and Citations
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