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Climbing the Walls

Get to the top with training


Climbing is an excellent way to reach new heights of personal accomplishment. Learn climbing basics and how to start as a beginner.

Have you been looking for a new and interesting way to test your fitness mettle? Perhaps you want to shake up your workout routine. Or maybe you’re ready to overcome a fear of heights.

Whatever your motivation, climbing is an excellent way to reach new heights of personal accomplishment. Climbing walls at an indoor facility is a safe way to learn the ropes and, with confidence gained indoors, anyone can learn to reach for the top outdoors as well.

Up the Walls

A good place to start your climbing adventure is at an indoor wall centre. Most of these specialized climbing facilities offer beginner’s courses where both children and adults can learn the basics. Most provide all the climbing gear, so all you’ll need is a good pair of sneakers.

Qualified instructors review safety precautions, gear tips, knot tying, and body-placement techniques in detail. Once you’ve stepped into a harness and donned a helmet, you’ll soon be climbing vertically (known as “top-roping”) as well as horizontally (“bouldering”).

You’ll find the challenge to be both physical and mental. Finding your way up a route takes deep concentration. Like a puzzle, you’ll be engaged in working out a sequence of moves to make your way to the top.

On the Rocks

Once you’ve mastered the basics, you may want to climb higher–outdoors. As a beginner, participating in an organized outing with an association such as the Alpine Club of Canada (ACC) is an excellent way to meet the challenge. These groups provide all of the necessary equipment, expert members, and trip planning so that all you have to do is focus on your climbing.

Prepare thoroughly for your first climb. Proper clothing and protection for the weather will make the experience a comfortable one, and high-energy food will keep your reserves stocked. Try to carpool with an experienced climber; you can pick his or her brain for tips during the drive.

Beginners should warm up with designated novice routes before advancing to more challenging ones, since different skills are required for different outcroppings. Your brain will be working just as much as your body when attempting to squeeze your fingers and toes onto protrusions of rock that you never knew could hold your weight.

Be sure to listen to your body and pace yourself. It’s important to move at your own speed and avoid trying to keep up with the more experienced climbers. Drink plenty of water, stretch your arms and shoulders, and when you’ve finished your climb, thank yourself for remembering to bring a folding lawn chair to fall into.

The challenge of a new experience might initially draw you to reach for the heights, but it will be the wonderful social camaraderie that will keep you coming back.

Rock Climbing Glossary

Belay–process of feeding rope through a device and connecting to a climber and a support person (belayer) to catch the climber in case the climber slips or falls

Bouldering–rock climbing without a rope, normally limited to short climbs so that a fall won’t result in injury

Harness–device worn around the waist where rope is tied for the climber and where the belay device is attached to the belayer

Lead climbing–form of climbing in which the climber places anchors and attaches the belay rope as they climb

Route–path a climber takes to get to the top of a climb

Top rope–basic and common practice of belaying using a rope that is attached above the climber



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