Ah, rock climbing: the great sport of the brave, fearless and insane. What better way to enjoy a hot summers day than by hanging off a rock by your fingernails while your back is crisped by the sun. Rock climbing has been steadily gaining popularity in the UK in recent years – membership of the British Mountaineering Council has more than doubled in the last decade – and there are over 300 clubs around for you to try it out. So, what do you need?
Rope Me in
Climbing ropes are not cheap things. They need to be able to support your weight rushing towards the floor with ease as well as being sturdy and flexible so they don’t break when rubbing against rock surfaces. The most common ropes are 9.5-10mm in diameter, and are enclosed within a protective sheaf to protect against sharp rocks. These types of rope are neither the heaviest nor the lightest and they are known as All-Round single ropes. Other varieties are available from lightweight twin ropes all the way up to work-horse single’s, which are heavy and give the most protection. For a beginner, though, the all-rounds are the perfect ropes.
To go with your new rope, you’ll need to get a good harness. Much like the ropes, these things are not cheap but as your safety is at stake, it’s best not to skimp on price. A good quality harness will be comfortable and easy to fit, with padding on the leg loops and an easy access area to clip into. The most important thing is to find one that fits. You don’t want to start up a route only to find that your harness is chafing and biting into your skin – that’s not a good feeling.
So Many Clips!
Rock Climbing comes with a lot of different clips known as karabiners. These are what you use to attach yourself to the rope and the rope to the wall, so they need to be strong and durable. The type that you’ll need the most is a screw gate – this type screws close so that the clip will not come open, giving you that extra protection. This brings us to the important knot. When tying in, you need to tie the correct knot. When joining a climbing club, they will often give you a short, one question exam to gain entry: How do you tie a figure of eight knot? Learn it – this knot is extremely strong and easy to undo by hand while never coming undone on its own – the perfect climbing knot.
Grip to that Rock
If you’ve ever tried climbing in a normal pair of shoes, you’ll know how difficult it can be to gain purchase. Climbing shoes are designed with rubber soles that grip hold of the wall. The stickiest rubber is on the soles of the 5.10 climbing shoes – their revolutionary rubber is award winning – while the best made shoes have traditionally been those made by Scarpa. For those on a budget, other shoes, such as Red Chilis, are good value.
The main differences in climbing shoes are their fit. Some have a pointed toe, while others are flat. Flatter shoes are more comfortable while pointed toes allow the climber to find tiny foot-holds easier. Make sure you choose a shoe which fits you well: they should be snug on your feet but not so tight they’re uncomfortable.
When it comes to your climbing equipment, you are going to spending a lot of money, so it’s worth looking into what you’re exactly after. As it’s your own safety, make sure you only get the best quality equipment, however.