What Type Of Climbing Is Best For Beginners?
Climbing is a challenging yet rewarding sport that can offer a great sense of accomplishment. However, with all its specific jargon, rules and techniques, it can seem intimidating. If you’re looking to get into climbing, an advisable first step is choosing a type that is suitable for beginners. We spoke to adidas experts Jakob Krauss and Tosca Sepoetro find out what types of climbing there are, what they involve and which one is best for those who are new to the activity.
While there are many different types of climbing, the three most common types are: traditional (i.e. trad) climbing, sport climbing and bouldering. You can also climb both outdoors and indoors.
A normal climbing day will start with a pleasant hike to the climbing crag (a rugged steep cliff), so you'll get a full days workout and also see some beautiful sights along the way.
Outdoor vs Indoor Climbing
Outdoor climbing is arguably more authentic to the essence of climbing, as you’re immersed in nature and getting the full experience on the rocks. “It’s also cheaper, as you generally won’t have to pay an entry fee,” says Jakob Krauss. “A normal climbing day will start with a pleasant hike to the climbing crag (a rugged steep cliff), so you’ll get a full day’s workout and also see some beautiful sights along the way.” However, the risk of injury is higher if you are a beginner. To climb outdoors, you’ll need some experience under your belt or an experienced guide by your side, as it takes a bit more skill to do so safely.
If this is your first foray into climbing or you’re just looking to get a quick climbing fix, indoor is your best bet. “It’s convenient, accessible and not reliant on any weather conditions” Jakob says. “Climbing or bouldering gyms are available in most big cities and, if you don’t have your own gear, you can rent it there and take advantage of auto-belay systems (a device that automatically takes up slack as you climb) and dedicated bouldering areas with crash pads.” The controlled environment also makes the indoor climbing experience incredibly safe and reduces the risk of injuries and accidents.
Types of Climbing
‘Trad’ or traditional climbing refers to the original, historical style of climbing before sport climbing existed, where a climber carries protective gear (like camming devices, hexes and nuts) to place into cracks or ‘weaknesses’ in the rocks. The climber will then attach the gear to their rope as an anchor to prevent a fall. Traditional climbers have to find their own way through the cliff as the route is not pre-bolted, which requires some experience, consideration and skill. Trad climbing takes place outdoors within nature, and requires a buddy or ‘second climber’ to belay and help retrieve the gear as you ascend up the pitch (the steep part of the route that requires a rope).
Sport climbing was born of trad climbing in the 1980s, and can be performed both indoors and outdoors. A sport climb will take place on a predefined route, with permanent, professionally placed bolts on the rocks to clip into. “Sport climbing involves at least two people, one who climbs while the other belays and they usually switch during the session,” explains avid climber and adidas Global Digital Content Strategy Manager Livia Cruzel. “It requires climbing shoes, a harness, a rope and a belay device.”
Sport climbing hones in on the physical challenge of climbing, and is less about route-finding and strategy. “Climbers need mental endurance to get to the top,” Livia says. “The climber has to pace their effort to conserve energy. Finding the right movements, the right foot holds, the right flow in a route takes time and practice.”
There are sport climbing routes suitable for all levels of experience and it is safer than trad climbing for those who are less experienced.
If you’re entirely new to climbing, indoor bouldering is the best place to start as it’s both accessible and very safe. “You can also go bouldering outdoors, but you’d have to bring four to five crash pads with you to protect your falls and it’s not as safe, so it’s not recommended for pure beginners,” Livia says.
There are no ropes or harnesses at indoor bouldering gyms, but the walls are usually less than 6 metres high and climbers are protected with mats on the ground. Indoor bouldering has skyrocketed in popularity in recent times, with many artificial bouldering walls at climbing gyms opening up their doors for climbers of all experience levels. Bouldering is said to be more sociable than other disciplines, as boulderers will climb problems (the route or sequence of moves to complete the climb) for a shorter amount of time, and will often go with others to debate and share methods and solve the boulder problem together.
Fun fact: Climbing will make its debut at the next Olympics and will feature three disciplines: Speed, Bouldering and Lead. So there’s never been a better time to start bouldering!
In terms of safety and ease, the best type of climbing for beginners is indoor bouldering in a climbing gym, where you can benefit from qualified instructors and protective measures. Once you’ve got to grips with the basics and have given your body a chance to get accustomed to any challenges, you can advance to the great outdoors and explore the more strategic and demanding forms of climbing. An adventure awaits.
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