How do I get into climbing?

June 20, 2023 3 min read

A remarkable lower-grade gem, definitely worth the walk.

Jon Barton on a remarkable lower-grade gem. © Dave Parry

Getting into climbing can be an exciting and rewarding endeavour. Here are some steps to help you get started form our resident lifelong climber, Jon Barton:

You have most likely been to a climbing wall/gym or watched some climbing on the television and thought – hmm that looks fun … what is the next step?

Research and learn: begin by familiarising yourself with different types of climbing; such as indoor climbing (bouldering and top rope) or outdoor climbing (sport climbing and trad climbing). Understand the equipment required, climbing techniques and safety protocols. When I started climbing there were books like the classic Advanced Rockcraftand magazines like Climber and Rambler. The books have certainly got better, start with Mountain Leader Training’s Rock Climbing and our book The Climbing Bible. But for a much broader idea of what climbing is about, Andy Kirkpatrick’s 1001 Climbing Tips is the one to read.

Find a climbing gym: look for a climbing gym or facility in your area that offers introductory classes, beginner-friendly routes, and knowledgeable staff. Climbing gyms provide a controlled environment for learning and practicing climbing techniques.

Rock the grip of nature, Gwyneth Uttley on both sides of Brain Dead.

Rock the grip of nature, Gwyneth Uttley on both sides of Brain Dead. © Dave Parry

Take a course or get instruction: sign up for a beginner's course or take lessons from a qualified instructor. These courses will teach you essential climbing skills, safety practices, and techniques to improve your climbing ability. Most importantly, don't listen to that nonsense from the old timers about ‘proper climbing’ and learning the traditions; many of us learnt to climb indoors and I for one thoroughly recommend it.

Start with bouldering: bouldering is a great way to begin climbing as it requires minimal equipment and can be done indoors or outdoors. Bouldering focuses on short, challenging routes close to the ground. It helps you build strength, technique, and problem-solving skills. But remember the fun really begins when you start scaling rock faces and for that you need to …

Learn rope skills: if you want to progress to rope climbing, learn basic rope skills like tying knots, belaying, and understanding climbing gear. Many climbing gyms offer belay certification courses, which will teach you how to safely manage the rope for a partner.

Practice regularly: consistency is key in climbing. Dedicate regular time to practice climbing, both indoors and outdoors. As you gain experience, you'll improve your technique and confidence. Climbing isn’t about strength, it is about technique and experience. Sorry, but these cannot be learnt overnight. Plus, for a beginner, climbing is fun, it's social and all round healthy, but the exhilaration comes once you start moving up the grades.

Steve Royle savouring the commitment.

Steve Royle savouring the commitment. © Dave Parry

Join a climbing community: engage with fellow climbers to learn from their experiences, get advice, and find climbing partners. Climbing communities often have online forums, local clubs, or social media groups where you can connect with other climbers. UKClimbing is the big one, and a great place to start connecting.

Outdoor climbing: if you're interested in climbing outdoors, consider joining guided trips or finding experienced climbers who can mentor you. Outdoor climbing requires additional skills and knowledge, such as understanding rock formations, route finding, and placing traditional gear (if doing trad climbing).

Focus on safety: climbing is an adventure sport that carries inherent risks. Always prioritise safety by using proper equipment, practicing good technique, and learning rescue techniques. Additionally, be aware of weather conditions and follow local regulations.

Progress at your pace: climbing is a journey, and everyone progresses at different rates. Set realistic goals, celebrate achievements, and be patient with yourself. Enjoy the process of improving and challenging yourself. I spent years on ‘beginner routes’ and don’t regret it at all. Get a copy of Classic Rock and enjoy some of the best rock climbs in the world!

Remember, climbing can be physically demanding, so it's important to listen to your body, warm up properly, and gradually increase the difficulty of your climbs. Have fun and stay safe as you embark on your climbing journey! Like any sport, don’t rush it, don’t compromise safety, try not to train, train, train, only to have to take big layoffs through injury.