Climbing can seem pretty daunting at first glance. There's the climbing gear to figure out, gut wrenching heights to conquer, crazy slang and a very real chance of death if you get it wrong. With all this spinning around your head, it's no wonder that some people are a bit overwhelmed when they decide to start climbing for the first time.
Thankfully there's normally at least one friendly face around to give you some pointers and help you to really enjoy your first time taking on a wall. Climbers might seem like loners but they're generally a pretty friendly lot who are always ready with some helpful tips or to point out that you're 10 meters up a wall with your harness undone.
For those of you that are a bit short on the mate front or, excuse the metaphor, just want to hit the ground running there's Mpora.
We want to make sure you have a great time too, even if we're stuck in an office having to write this advice rather than getting chalked up and racing you up a crag. So here are some killer tips to get you stuck into the awesome fun that is climbing.
1) Use Your Feet
When most people start climbing they pay a lot of attention to what's right in front of them, grabbing at the nearest hand hold and pretty much just dragging their feet up the rock behind them. Upper arm strength is important in climbing but real climbers use everything at their disposal to make it to the top.
It might sound obvious but using your whole body makes the whole process of climbing much easier. Thinking a little bit about where you've placed your feet can make the difference between reaching that next hold and falling off, and when you stick your first route you'll soon be coming back for more.
2) Falling Isn't (Always) As Bad As It Seems
Now here's something that freaks people out when they start climbing, taking a fall. The idea of dropping off a wall is enough to scare most beginner climbers into clinging on for dear life to any hold they can reach. While it is a good idea to develop your grip strength, it's also important to be able to trust your gear and that means that at some point your going to have to take a fall to know how it works.
Having your first fall is actually a very cathartic experience. It lets you know that your rope and harness are doing their job and really helps you to get over the fear of taking a drop. In fact you can even practice falling if you use the right technique to get used to the rush of adrenaline which actually gets to be quite fun after a while.
3) Don't Give Up
Not every route is going to be climbable straight away, but that shouldn't put you off. This is part of the challenge and enjoyment of climbing that keeps people coming back for more. Pushing your limits is part of the game so it's ok if you can't reach the top of everything you try, in fact most climbers have at least one or two projects they are working on at any given time.
There's lots of routes that need time to crack, learning moves one by one or figuring out that one killer hold that just seems impossible when you first reach it. It feels great to top out on a route but even better when you finish one that you've been working on for a while, so don't let your first try at something be your last.
4) Get A Belayer You Can Trust
Great climbing gear is only as good as the person using it and that's definitely true when it comes to belaying.
When you're climbing for the first time, hanging off the side of a cliff on some shiny new rope, you need to know that the person on the other end has got your back. A good belayer will focus on you not their phone while you're climbing, helping to keep you as safe as possible.
If you can get someone who's close to your bodyweight, it will make it easier for them to belay you. If you've got to choose between a man mountain who doesn't have a clue what's going on and somebody smaller who's paying attention though, pick the little guy every time.
5) Have A Lesson From Someone Who Knows What They're Talking About
Climbing is really easy to get into. All it takes is a relatively small amount of gear and some simple but effective techniques and nearly anyone can climb up their first wall. But this accessibility is both a good and a bad thing. It means that plenty of people pick up the basics from their mates, and while this often works out quite well it can lead to some bad and occasionally dangerous climbing habits.
It never hurts to get some advice from a pro, especially when you're going to be trusting your life to what you learn. Most indoor climbing walls and outdoor pursuit centres will give you a short course in how to climb which will cover all your basic safety measures, including how to tie in a harness, what sort of gear you need for climbing outdoors and how to belay properly. This might seem like a hassle but it's definitely worth it to give yourself the best start in climbing.
6) Talk To Your Partner
When you are climbing any sport, trad or top roped route that requires a belayer, make sure you stay in touch with whoever is on the ground.
Although you might be concentrating on the holds in front of you, good communication with your partner will make you feel safer and more confident as you climb. Tell your belayer if you want them to take up the slack a bit or give you some more rope for a tough move. If you can, let them know when you think you're about to fall so that they can soften the drop and you can always ask where the next hold is if you've lost sight of it.
Checking in regularly with your also means that they stay focused on you, especially useful for anyone more interested in selfies than safety. You'll also be surprised how often a spot of encouragement, advice or banter from below can give you that extra push to finish a climb.
7) Keep Your Arms Straight
For first time climbers this might seem like strange advice but it will save you a lot of effort which can be better used actually beating the wall.
When they start climbing, most people keep their arms flexed, constantly burning through energy and putting their muscles under pressure. If you watch experienced climbers, they will often keep their arms straight between moves, relaxing their muscles and saving energy as they figure out the next hold. This more chilled approach decreases fatigue and gives you a better chance of making it to the top. Try it next time you're down the climbing wall and see how much further you can go.
8) Invest In Good Gear, Especially Shoes
We know it can be pretty hard to scrape together the pennies sometimes, but trust us, when it comes to climbing gear you don't want to cut corners. Your life will quite literally depend on the kit you buy so don't settle for anything that looks dodgy or knock off.
This doesn't mean you have to buy the most expensive model of everything but it does mean that you should put some time into researching your gear before buying that £5, moth eaten climbing rope from eBay. If you're saving cash by buying online go and check out your purchases in a store first and ask the staff there what they would recommend. Climbing gear is generally pretty straight forward but the material and build quality of what you buy is important.
Probably the most essential piece of kit you need will be climbing shoes. A lot of walls will rent shoes, but having a good fitting pair of your own will make a massive difference to your climbing and let you go for adventures outdoors too. You'll be on your feet all day so make sure you pick a comfy pair of climbing shoes, and if you want to know what features to look out for just check out this handy shoe buying guide.
9) Take Your Time
Climbing is a pretty exciting sport and it's easy to get caught up in the moment, especially if you're nervous, scrambling up a route before you've really thought things through.
Good climbers take their time, checking out the rockface before they get started and reading the route, spotting where the tough moves will be and thinking out how to tackle them before they get there. A lot of outdoor spots have guidebooks that can give you an idea of what you're facing before you get there and you can also check out the UKClimbing.com logbook which will help you find crags near you and give you a summary of the routes you want to tackle.
Planning out a route can make the difference to finishing it and falling off halfway which will save you energy in the long run. A few extra minutes of preparation before you climb can also be used to double check all of your safety gear, making sure you have the safest climb possible instead of risking yourself on a loose knot or an unbuckled harness.
10) Never Be Too proud To Take Advice
There is undoubtedly some ego in climbing. Conquering a challenging route gives you a great sense of achievement and sometimes this can go to your head. Don't let it.
No matter how good you are at climbing it never hurts to get a spot of advice. Everyone looks at a wall differently and one of your mates might well have spotted a hold that you've missed or already figured out the move you're struggling with.
Sharing tips and advice is part of what makes the climbing community so strong, enabling total strangers to help each other out and really bond over beating a route. This camaraderie is as much a part of the climbing experience as making it to the top, so make sure you don't miss out.