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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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Top health benefits of rock climbing

Rock climbing is one of the best activities to enjoy if you’re a fan of the outdoors. Climbers get to enjoy beautiful scenery and access landscapes from viewpoints that are rarely observed by others. It’s also relatively easy to get started, especially through guided rock climbing experiences or by developing your skills further with a professional rock climbing course.

Physical benefits of rock climbing

One of the main benefits of rock climbing is that you will feel healthier and stronger. Even those just starting experience improved fitness levels, while more experienced climbers boast impressive core strength and highly toned bodies. For many climbers, it’s a great way to work out while avoiding repetitive gyms and mundane exercise machines.

Full body workout

Rock climbing will give your body a complete workout every single time. There’s no need to spend time on each section of the body as climbing will target your legs, shoulders, arms and core as well as parts of your body you wouldn’t even think to tone. The vast range of movements that climbing requires makes dumbbells, squats and sit-ups a thing of the past.

Calorie burner

Want to burn plenty of calories? Climbing is the perfect calorie burner. During an average hour-long session of rock climbing, 899 calories can be burnt, and that’s without considering the prep time or packing away afterwards.

Increased endurance

Rock climbing requires you to hold on tight, keep holding on and to continue making progress upwards; always fighting the pull of gravity and the psychological fear of getting further and further from the ground. As a result, climbers quickly develop impressive levels of both stamina and endurance.

Improved flexibility

Many climbers are well aware of the seemingly impossible distances that need to be covered to grab the next handhold. It’s this stretching and reaching that gives rock climbers an impressive level of flexibility, a trait that helps to improve physical performance and decrease the risk of injury.

Enhanced cardio

It won’t just be strength that’s improved while on the rock face, climbing is also incredible for boosting cardio fitness. Putting all of your muscles to work at the same time inevitably leads to your heart and lungs working just as hard to ensure everything has as much as oxygen possible.

Mental benefits of rock climbing

Rock climbing also has copious benefits for the mind. The unique situations that climbing puts you in can do a great deal in focusing the mind, providing stress relief and boosting self-esteem.

Focus

Climbing up to any height will inevitably lead to intense focus levels. So, when frequently climbing rockfaces, you’ll learn to clear your mind and blank any distractions. This ability to focus is vital for all levels of thinking and thought processes as it supports perception, memory and learning.

This level of focus can also often become meditative. Getting into that incredibly focused zone can lead to a ‘flow state’ where climbers discover the ability to be fully self-aware. This is an incredible benefit for climbers as meditation can be a tough thing to master.

Problem-solving

An obvious benefit to rock climbing is problem-solving. Some rock faces can be harder to master than others, and many will inevitably find themselves in a difficult spot during their climbing career. To overcome these obstacles, climbers develop quick and robust problem-solving skills that are transferable across plenty of situations and are great for overall wellbeing.

Stress reliever

Experiencing any level of stress can be extremely disruptive to a person’s life. It can reduce productivity, make sleep disruptive and cause emotional damage. Rock climbing can be an effective way to combat this.

Through climbing, the body will release endorphins that can make us feel happier, reducing stress. On top of this, completing a challenge is an effective way to release pent up tension and to gain satisfaction.

Encourages ambition

Completing almost impossible challenges and pushing yourself to the limit can become quite addictive, explaining why plenty of climbers are constantly pushing themselves to new limits and trying to improve their techniques.

By promoting ambition and encouraging climbers to test themselves continually, rock climbing can be a crucial inspiration that sees many strive for triumph and satisfaction in many different areas of their life.

Overall, climbing has innumerable benefits, but it’s physical and mental gains can be vital for leading a happy life. With improved physical fitness comes a healthier lifestyle, and with improved psychological wellbeing comes a more determined, focused and success-driven mindset.

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Packing Your Rucksack for Winter Climbing

If you have a winter climb or walk planned for the colder months, it’s vital that you’re fully prepared.

Regardless of whether you’re enjoying guided mountain climbing , or if you’re setting off on your own after having professional mountain training, there’s no such thing as being too prepared. Without,  you could be facing a trip with mountain rescue rather than a successful climb through some beautiful, snowy landscapes.

So, if you’re heading onto the snowy peaks this winter, where should you begin?

The rucksack

There’s plenty of important kit you need to remember, so one of the best places to start your ice climbing and winter walking prep is with your rucksack.

A pack size of 35-45 litres works well for most winter activities. You should also bear in mind that it’s likely that you will have thick gloves on, so its important that your rucksack is easy to use. You don’t want to be mucking around in potentially freezing conditions. Keeping the features to a minimum means less straps and buckles will get caught on things when you’re climbing, usually at the worst possible moment.

Emergency kit

So once you’ve found the perfect rucksack for the job you need to think about your emergency kit. This is a must, regardless of the time of year.

Firstly, in the winter months you need to consider that the days are shorter and night can draw in quickly. Packing a head torch and spare batteries is a must, ideally more than one to avoid any technical faults. You want to ensure you can still navigate off a mountain top in the dark.

We recommend also doubling or tripling up on standard items such as, gloves, spare thermal layers and hats. If you were to get caught out in bad weather, it’s important to have dry items to put on and it’s easy to loose a glove or hat in the snow. As standard your emergency kit should include basic first aid items such as plasters, and some pain killers.. Don’t forget to include more practical items such as a multi-tool  and emergency whistle. We also strongly recommend carrying a small emergency shelter to protect you from the elements if you need to sit and wait for help if injured. You might also want to consider including energy bars to ensure you can keep going through long distances.

Specialist equipment

Winter climbing will naturally bring along hazards such as snow and ice. Without specialist equipment such as crampons and an ice axe (or 2) you won’t be able to safely move around the mountains.

There are many different types of crampons but the most important thing to ensure is that yours are matched to your boots. So either buy them together or take your boots with you when you head out to get some and go to a recommended professional store.

You may also want to consider taking a small metal shovel with you as these can be really handy for creating a shelter if the worst happens and you need to get out of the elements. A winter skills course is ideal to learn how to prepare and stay safe in snowy conditions.

Navigation tools

As with any mountain walk, ensuring you know your route before setting off is vital. As is ensuring you take the necessary tools to navigate around the mountains. Just taking these tools isn’t enough on its own however: get trained in how to use them too.

Never forget to pack a compass and a map. A spare of each is a good idea in winter. Even if you’re taking part in a guided walk or walking in a larger group, having your own could help you out if something unfortunate or unpredictable happens.

Packing your rucksack

There’s a lot to include when you’re going mountaineering in the winter so to ensure you don’t get weighed down, it’s important to pack your bag well.

Think about what you’re going to need when and then pack accordingly. Spare layers and emergency kit can go at the bottom, with items you’ll need more often, such as drinks, food and technical kit can go nearer to the top.

At the top of your bag in the lid pocket, place smaller items such as a spare map and a headtorch. . Placing items in small waterproof ‘dry bags’ will help keep your kit dry, but will also make things easier to find when you need them.

Lakeland Ascents

Our range of professional mountain skills courses and guiding gives us an enviable reputation. Regardless of whether you’re looking for a qualified instructor to help you develop your mountaineering or climbing skills, a mountain guide to lead you up Scafell Pike or host a team challenge event, or learn how to navigate in a far corner of the Lake District, our team can help.

Contact our team to learn more about our courses and guided winter climbing.

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Don’t Go Scrambling Without Reading Our Top Tips

Scrambling is a fantastic activity that’s a favourite among those who love the outdoors. It mixes the beauty of dramatic landscapes with exhilaration and adrenaline, a perfect choice for experienced walkers and climbers. 

However, while it provides a great experience and a fun way to explore, rugged terrain can put scramblers at potential risk. Scramblers, therefore, need to pay constant attention to the environment around them, use good judgement and have well practised technical skills  to safely explore this challenging mountain terrain.. 

So, what can you do to ensure you remain safe while scrambling? 

Choosing the right grade

Different scrambling routes are graded based on their difficulty. Therefore, before you pick out your chosen scramble, you need to have a clear understanding of the grading system. The most common grading system is a numerical one, scaling from 1 to 3. 

Grade 1 is the easiest and will only require a small amount of climbing and will mostly be escapable if you choose to abandon your route. For Grade 2 routes, a little more experience is required, along with good route finding skills. Some scramblers will choose to use a rope at this grade so having these technical skills dialled is really important too. . Grade 3, will be the hardest to conquer, making these routes only advisable for confident scramblers. At this grade, escape will be difficult and most scramblers will use a rope for the whole ascent, requiring a solid set of technical climbing and rope skills. 

Choosing your scrambling route

Once you’ve assessed your capabilities and chosen the right grade for you, you can pick your route. Guidebooks will help you here, but when considering which scramble  to try, be conscious of other factors that could affect accessibility. 

Daylight

First of all, consider how much daylight you’ll have and how long the route will take to complete – you don’t want to get stuck in the dark because you’ve chosen a lengthier scramble. 

Weather conditions

While the cooler weather might be more tolerable for scrambling, consider if it will mean getting stuck in a downpour or whether there could be snow on the rocks. If you could face showers, choose a route that won’t be as slippery when wet and gives you options to escape..

Fitness level

It’s also important to bear in mind the fitness levels of both yourself and your fellow scramblers. If anyone has a low fitness level or a medical condition, it might be advisable to choose a gentler route – at least while you get started!

Preparing for your scramble

Make sure you are completely happy with the route before getting started. Review your plan nd the review it again, ensuring you have a good idea of where you’re heading. In more remote areas, such as the Lake District, paths can be slightly harder to identify, so try and pick out some landmarks so that you be sure you’re heading the right way. Have a good look at your chosen line as you approach the rock – it’s loads easier to see where you’re going when you’re a few hundred meters away, rather than already committed to the rock.

Carry the right kit

The kit that you carry will depend on the weather conditions, your experience and skills and the route that you’ve chosen. As a minimum you’ll want good mountain clothing as well as stiff boots and emergency kit to keep you warm in the event of an emergency. A helmet is a good idea, even on easier grades as the risk of rock fall in the mountains is high. At more advanced grades, a basic climbing rack and a rope may be required to keep more tricky sections safe. What technical kit to carry can be the topic of a whole blog on its own, but we’d be happy to advise you if you need help.

Guided scrambling

If scrambling sounds a bit daunting, or you’re a beginner in need of a helping hand, then guided scrambling could be an advisable option. By going on a guided scramble, you’ll have the security of exploring the landscape with instructors who have been through an intensive programme of professional mountain training, helping them prepare for absolutely everything.

Scrambling courses can also be a great way to get started and gain confidence. The courses teach  scramblers the core skills needed to have a great day out in the mountains, whether you’re new to the sport or an experienced scrambler wanting to learn the technical skills needed to progress into Grade 3 terrain,

Regardless of whether you’re looking for guided or unguided routes, there is plenty to explore. Take some time to prepare and you’ll be set for a fantastic day out.

Lakeland Ascents

Our range of professional mountain skills courses and guiding gives us an enviable reputation. Regardless of whether you’re looking for a qualified instructor to help you develop your mountaineering or climbing skills, a mountain guide to lead you up Scafell Pike or host a team challenge event, or learn how to navigate in a far corner of the Lake District, our team can help.

Contact our team to learn more about our courses and guided scrambling..

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