Indoor rope climbing: Tips for beginners

Climbing is a great test of mental and physical strength, as well as a great way to push yourself out of your comfort zone. Not many other sports test your physical and mental limits the way climbing does.

Getting into climbing can be frustrating, but the reward of achieving your goals is worth it, no matter how small they may seem at first. The feeling of accomplishment when completing your project is always worth the effort you put into it.

Indoor rope climbing is a great way to get started and meet new people in the climbing community. It may seem intimidating waiting to get on the wall with experienced climbers around, but knowledgeable climbers are the best people to learn from.

Everyone started somewhere. From my own experience, good climbers are happy to take a break from their own projects and help you with yours. Both of you will benefit from this collaboration.

With practice and patience, you too can be climbing routes that once seemed far beyond your reach.

Learn the basics

Indoor rope climbing is a great way to get into the sport of climbing. Many rope climbing gyms hold classes to learn the basic knot tying and belaying skills, as well as proper technique.

It is a good idea to attend these classes to learn and practice these skills when starting out. Practice tying the figure-8 knot at home so you feel confident when tying in at the gym. You can learn many important climbing knots on REI’s website. Confidence in your figure-8 knot and safety equipment is key to feeling comfortable on the wall.

Gear up

Once you have committed to the rope climbing gym you should invest in a pair of shoes. Good climbing shoes that fit your feet as opposed to rental shoes will make a difference in your climbing. Rental shoes tend to be worn out and have rounded edges.

A new pair of shoes will have defined edges for gripping small foot holds and have fresh sticky rubber. When starting out, getting in and out of your shoes should not be the hardest part of the day.

Find a pair of shoes that fit snugly without socks, maybe even a bit uncomfortably tight. You will enjoy climbing more if you’re not distracted by how painful your feet feel. But – the tighter the shoe, the better you’ll be able to use your feet on the wall.

Rope climbing gym rental harnesses aren’t always the most comfortable. Although a rental harness won’t affect your climbing abilities, having your own is a good way to keep track of your gear as your collection increases. You’ll skip the hassle of renting a different one each time by having your harness sized to you and ready to go for each indoor rope climbing session.

A simple harness that’s easy to use is the best option. Two great rope climbing harnesses are Black Diamond Momentum and Petzl Adjama. Black Diamond harness also comes as a package with a belay device, chalk bag and chalk.

Climbing Harness

Technique

Having good technique is essential to progressing in rock climbing. Many new climbers focus on their strength since it is easy to build quickly and measure progression. However, to get better at climbing proper technique is necessary. If you know how to use your body to climb efficiently, you can save yourself a lot of energy and progress to climbing higher grades.

A good way to work on technique is to master climbing routes within your abilities. Once you send a route, climb it again multiple times utilizing different techniques each time. Practice moving your feet twice for each handhold you grab up or grabbing a hold with the opposite hand than you typically use. Try climbing the route without bending your arms and see how that makes you use your feet differently.

Experienced climbers are great to learn technique from. Don’t be shy or intimidated. If you see someone warming up on a route you’ve been working on or struggling with, watch them and learn from their beta. “Beta” being the path they take troughout the route. Watching good climbers and asking questions is a great way to learn technique.

Set goals and stick to a plan

Keeping a climbing schedule as with any activity will help you reach your goals. It can be frustrating to not see improvement in your climbing skills. Setting aside time to climb 2 or 3 days a week will see the most improvements. By committing to 2-3 days a week your muscles will have enough time to recover between sessions without losing strength.

Sticking to a schedule is easier with a partner. Chances are, you see the same people at the gym if you’ve been sticking to a schedule. Introduce yourself to other climbers who climb at your ability and plan to meet up a couple days a week. If your rope climbing gym offers classes, try taking a few. These classes are not only a good way to learn indoor rope climbing skills, but also meet new people with similar abilities.

Move your feet

A common mistake for beginners to make when starting out is reaching with their hands for the next hold and relying on upper body strength to make the next move. This pumps up your arms and tires you out faster.

With indoor rope climbing, focus on your feet rather than your hands. By taking the time to move and set your feet, you won’t have to reach as far for the next hold. When you find yourself in a position on the wall stretching your arm to reach the next hold, look down at your feet. See if you can move one or both up to a higher hold and stand up. You should be able to reach the next hold from a comfortable position.

This will conserve your energy which is especially important for indoor rope climbing as you are able to get more laps done in a session.

Relax and enjoy

Always remember to relax and breathe on the wall. Holding your breath limits the amount of oxygen your muscles receive causing them to cramp and tire out faster. This can be easier said than done when up 40 feet on a wall. Try not to look up or down, but focus on where you are on the route and what moves come next. By taking deep breaths between moves you make sure your muscles are getting enough oxygen and are not over exerting yourself. Also, resting a moment to collect yourself on the wall will let you focus better on the task at hand and climb more efficiently.

Being the newbie at the rope climbing gym can be intimidating, but everyone had to start somewhere. No one who comes to the gym is there to judge, but rather are happy to help out new comers. Indoor rope climbing is a great way for beginners to get into and learn the sport of climbing.

If you’d like to start with bouldering first, make sure you check out the tips I’ve listed for beginners in a buildering gym!