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How to get into rock climbing

Climbing can be an intimidating sport to get into initially, however once you are involved, it promises a full-body workout and a fun experience like no other.

Whether you’re interested in climbing to keep fit, as a way of meeting new people or to fulfil a grander quest for a more exciting adventure, climbing is an incredible activity and just needs a bit of guidance and explanation to get you properly started.

Climbing has a rapidly growing community of participants meaning accessibility to the sport is becoming easier than ever before. All age groups are getting involved and the sport has even been added to the 2020 Olympic Games, putting it under an even bigger spotlight than it has ever had before.

There are loads of ways to get into climbing, but if you need a bit of advice on the best methods to get involved with this exhilarating activity for the first time, here are some pointers on where to begin.

1. Find a near by climbing wall

As a first move, head online and check out which climbing walls (aka climbing ‘gyms’) are in your area and fit with your goals and budget. 

Most will offer taster sessions and introductory rock climbing courses for beginners. This will give an excellent initial introduction to the skills that are needed to climb safely. There will also be a ton of experienced instructors and trained staff on hand to pass on their knowledge and ensure you are getting the most out of your experience in a controlled but fun environment.

Gyms and indoor walls will attempt to replicate the experience of outdoor climbing in a safer atmosphere through the use of artificial walls, handholds, and footholds and are an excellent way to help prepare you for the real thing, should you decide to head down that path.

Indoor climbing will help you to learn crucial skills such as how to correctly put on a climbing harness and how to attach yourself to the rope. You will  also learn safety techniques such as how to ‘belay’ to and keep your climbing partner safe while it is their turn to climb.

2. Head outdoors

Once you’ve got to grips with the basics, you will no doubt want to test your new abilities on something a little more challenging. As much fun as indoor climbing can be, there is no thrill quite like climbing outside, on real rock. 

If you’re comfortable climbing indoors, it’s now time to transition your skills to the outdoors. Keep in mind however that the transition from indoor to outdoor climbing still has its dangers, so please remember that climbing outside should not be attempted without the guidance from a professionally qualified Climbing Instructor. 

Guided rock climbing trips are very common, and a quick internet search will provide hundreds of recommended and thrilling events that you can take part in. Most will either be a half or full day event, and they will almost always offer the opportunity to borrow or rental climbing gear so if you’re new to the sport you  can have no worries about getting immediately stuck in.

Britain has some of the best climbing venues suitable for everyone from beginners’ right through to experts. For example, rock climbing in the Lake District, the Peak District, Snowdonia  and Pembrokeshire, are all top-rated locations and offer exhilarating climbs alongside picturesque backdrops.

3. Join a climbing club

If you want to find like-minded people who share your passion for your new hobby, you may want to consider joining a climbing club.

They are a great way to meet new people, develop your skills and challenge yourself amongst peers of various skill levels. Most people flourish in new activities when there is a good support network around them, and this is exactly what a climbing club can provide.

When new to the sport, a club can also be a smart choice due to their cost-effective nature. Equipment such as guidebooks, helmets and harnesses can be shared, while accommodation for weekend trips is usually split into groups, thus making it much more affordable.

There are around 300 climbing, hill walking and mountaineering clubs in England and Wales, so you are bound to find one perfect for you. Meetups happen across the country and clubs make for a wonderful excuse to get more in touch with nature, travel to new places and, more importantly, advance your climbing skills.

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Association of Mountaineering Instructors