I have climbed since around 2008. I started working as an instructor in 2010 after doing a massive career change. I worked at an indoor wall for 5 years and got to climb for free. Sounds great right? It was. I met tons of people, I made so many friends, my climbing improved as I was there climbing around 3 – 4 times a week and I learnt a ton about the industry. Pretty quickly I started climbing outside (mainly bouldering, with a little bit of sport) and again had an absolute blast. I ended up going to Fontainebleau twice with around 10 people per trip and basically spent the entire time climbing in the sun, drinking beer or wine in the evenings and eating cheese and bread. It was lush.
So, how do you get into climbing?
The easiest way to start is to have some lessons. You can book in when it suits you and most, if not all, indoor walls will offer this. Some even do sessions for people who have no climbing buddies so you can still learn without having to convince your mate that it’s a good idea! Yes, there is a cost to start off with, but when you are going to be 40 foot up in the air you kind of want to know how to tie in properly, put the gear on properly, get up and down the wall properly and, when you are on the ground looking after your mate, making sure that you don’t kill them! A good climbing centre will adapt lessons to meet your needs, you’ll learn loads and, by the third or fourth lesson, are normally ok to head off on your own after a quick free safety check.
Another way to get involved it to join a Mountaineering Club. Don’t be fooled by the name. Most Mountaineering Clubs are full of climbers. Some require you to be referred (this is rare and generally the clubs who have the best huts do this to stop people using them as a cheap holiday – fair enough). Some require you to be proficient at belaying before you join. Some have novice days. Most clubs are super friendly so do not hesitate to get in touch with your local one. Climbing/Mountaineering clubs generally have a club night at a local wall and will organise trips out in the UK and occasionally abroad to go climbing! Instant awesomeness to be had all round.
The best place to find a climbing club is again the BMC
BMC stands for British Mountaineering Council, but they kind of cover anything to do with climbing, mountaineering etc… They have TONS of useful information so go take a peek at the website. It’s an invaluable resource.
Finding a climbing buddy
If you don’t already know someone who’ll have lessons with you or who you can join after you have learnt, then don’t be put off! You can either start by bouldering at your local wall where you will meet people, join a club, speak to your local wall and see if they have a list of people looking for climbing buddies or go online! I recommend checking out Women climb: find a climbing partner on Facebook. They also have a website: http://www.womenclimb.co.uk/ Women Climb also have information on women only climbing clubs who are always super friendly, supportive and all round fab people to get to know.
Isn’t it a bit, well, macho?
No. It really isn’t. You are not suddenly going to start looking like the wrestler The Rock. You won’t suddenly have rippling back muscles and burst out of your work shirts. You are highly likely to get more toned and you will most likely find muscles in places you never had them before, but you will not end up ripped and pulling doors off their hinges. I did lose some weight when I started climbing, but it evened itself out with cake in the end.
Is everyone going to know I’m new and judge me?
Ok, straight up: you may meet a few dickheads on your journey. However, you’ll spot them a mile off. They will be dressed head to toe in climbing gear, will talk at you about their climbing, will talk at you about your climbing, will offer unsolicited advice and will forever be “working a problem” (problem is a climbing term which means a climb that you cannot do first go and you need to put some effort into over a period of days or weeks or months… sometimes years). They are generally in climbing walls, you don’t get them so much outside, but they are quite rare. You are more likely to meet a bunch of fantastic people who’ll become friends for life. Keep in mind that everyone started somewhere and being new is great because it means you’ve not picked up any bad habits as yet!
Let’s take this outside!
YES! Climbing outside ROCKS! Pun intended. It really does. It’s an incredible experience and one I still enjoy (even at 5 months pregnant – yes, you can climb while pregnant, more info on my blog which is at the bottom of the page). However, you must make sure that you either go with someone you trust who knows what they are doing or have some lessons. Now is not the time for trial and error or YouTube tutorials! A lot of indoor walls offer courses to allow you to climb outside, however most climbing climbs will also teach you the basics. Again, look at the BMC , UKC or Women Climb websites – all offer courses and all are trusted in the industry (I especially recommend Women Climb BTW, brilliant bunch of ladies).
Climbing is something that I love and have sometimes hated. It’s a sport that will allow you to challenge yourself every time you go. If you do it right, it is safe and there are so many different types of climbing to get involved with. Some people only every stick to one type, but I say try them all! How do you know if you do not like something without giving it a go?
Oh and a word about heights. I was/am scared of heights. Climbing really helped.
I now also teach people to climb outside, as does my husband and we get to spend a lot of time in the outdoors. It’s a wonderful adventure and one I highly recommend you try.
To get more inspiration, listen to this Podcast; Gemma Smith on the Tough Girl Podcast
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