Few sports provide the kind of excitement you can expect from rock climbing, whether it’s on an indoor climbing wall or climbing a mountain. It also means that it can seem like a hard sport to try, with far greater risks than something like running or cycling. Getting involved can also be a more challenging prospect, from finding a place to do it to purchasing the kit you’ll need.
But if you can overcome those little hurdles, rock climbing offers a fun and safe way to make friends and stay fit. It also opens up a whole new way to enjoy the outdoors, adding a dose of adrenaline and rewarding great views – if you get high on the action.
The main thing for beginners to venture into the world of rock climbing is to learn the ropes – literally. The best way to do this is to find a qualified coach who can teach you the basics of staying safe. Once you have the basics done, there is a wealth of information accessible online, from tutorials to YouTube videos covering specific aspects of how to develop your skills.
In this guide, we will show some of the most important information for beginners looking to practice climbing.
The local indoor climbing wall is a great place to start climbing and means you can learn the basics in a safe and fun environment. Bouldering – low-level climbing without ropes – is a good way to start honing the necessary skills, and all you need is a pair of climbing shoes and some chalk. Most walls offer shoes for rental, so you don’t need to invest in a pair until you feel ready.
If you want to try indoor rope climbing, you will also need a harness which can be rented from most climbing centers as well. Your local venue will also be able to provide you with a coach to learn the basics, such as tethering and tying up your partner.
The British Mountaineering Council (BMC) has a number of resources to help you get started, including finding your nearest climbing wall.
Moving from the inner walls to the outside
Climbing indoors is a lot of fun and many people would rather stick to these walls than head out to the great outdoors. For many, the prospect of climbing some actual rocks is the end goal. To do this, you will need to make some adjustments. In addition to ordering a special set, you’ll need to add some additional skills to your repertoire. One of the best ways to make the transition is to join a local mountaineering club where you will be able to find support and guidance from like-minded people. You can also book an instructor for a group introductory session.
Find a teacher
When looking for guidance to improve your skills, you should make sure that you hire a qualified rock climbing instructor or rock climbing development coach. You’ll find these via the Mountain Training Association. If you want to do something more adventurous like a multi-court trail, you will need a mountaineering instructor or a British mountain guide. For indoor training, use a qualified wall climbing instructor.
You may also consider attending events such as the Arc’teryx Lakeland Academy. This annual weekend event aims to educate and share skills so that climbers can enjoy the rocks safely. It includes clinics for beginners and runs several sessions for ladies only. It’s friendly, inclusive and has a welcoming, low-key party vibe. It’s also a great way to try out the tools for free before making expensive purchases.
Where and when do you go
The UK has plenty of great places to climb, from large multi-course mountain roads to single-pitch rocks on the side of the road and sea cliffs. You can also climb on all kinds of rocks and do sports and traditional climbing. For starters, the best time to climb is during the spring and fall and you should always aim to get outside on a dry day.
Basic climbing kit
If you are new to rock climbing, check with your instructor for what they offer. The first few times, you can get away with climbing in your shoes, but if you get into it, you’ll need to buy some rocker shoes. You will also need a helmet, belt, stabilizer and some chalk as a minimum. If you’re really into it, rock climbing is a great pastime for gear addicts, with a great selection available and plenty of upgrades.
Always make sure to wear something comfortable that is loose or stretchy enough to allow plenty of movement. Even in summer, some extra layering is a good idea because there will be parts of the day when you don’t move and the rock may be windy or shaded.
Climbing tips for beginners
There are some techniques that can make climbing easier for beginners, and making sure you’re moving effectively can save energy and help you feel more confident. We spoke to Katie Whitaker, an elite climber and Arc’teryx ambassador, to get her top tips for beginners.
- Climbing may seem like upper-body strength—which can seem like a frightening prospect—but it actually requires technique rather than sheer strength.
- Focus on your feet first. Make sure you place them carefully on the best bookings you can find and keep your weight on top of them.
- Always think about your hip position – try moving into different positions so you know which ones make the movements easier or harder. Try to move your hips from side to side, closer and further away from the wall.