14 Indoor rock climbing tips for beginners
Starting rock climbing and going to the gym for the first few times? If you’re like most beginner climbers, you are probably a bit intimidated, and not just because the walls are tall.
If you’re just getting started with rock climbing indoors, let me give you a few tips that will help you not look like a newb climber.
1) Ask if someone is finishing with a rope before hovering
It’s hard to find a free rope in a crowded gym, especially when you are just starting and only have a short range (often 5.5 to 5.9) within which to climb. If you want to get on a specific rope, it is customary to ask one of a few questions, all to understand if they are freeing up the rope after the current climb:
- “Are you switching?” (kind of confusing, but is the default question. It means “Are you going up next or are you done after this climb?”)
- “Excuse me, are you going up this climb next?” (much more straight forward)
Don’t just stand a hover waiting. You’ll distract them and quite possibly waste your own time.
2) Don’t walk under someone who is climbing
Walking underneath someone who is climbing, whether bouldering or top roping, is dangerous. So don’t do it.
If the person falls off the wall onto you, they could hurt you. Always give them space to land in case they fall.
3) Don’t start an overlapping route
If someone is already climbing, whether bouldering on the next problem or on the next rope, look to see where their problem/route goes. If your potential problem/route overlaps with theirs, or your rope may interfere with them climbing, do not start until they are done.
This goes back to the above point about not being under someone else who is climbing because it is dangerous. Also, should that person need a few minutes to rest before continuing their climb then you will be caught as well. While this is a good way to learn how to rest on the wall, it will also be annoying to you and them.
4) Don’t walk between a climber and a belayer
This one is debatable and sometimes controversial, but it is also sometimes unavoidable. Once again, this is a rule of thumb because it can be dangerous for you to be between the belayer and the climber. If the climber is larger than the belayer, if they fall then the belayer may be lifted off the ground and fly to the wall.
If you are standing between them, you both can be hurt plus the belayer could lose control of the rope and drop the climber.
If you must walk between a climber and belayer, do it as quickly as possible and get out of the way.
5) Don’t stand on someone else’s rope
When the gym is crowded and there are many ropes on the ground, it can be easy to step on them.
Don’t do it.
This one is a bit of a personal pet peeve, but there are many good reasons for not stepping on someone else’s rope:
- It’s dangerous to the climber if you are standing on the rope when the belayer is letting them down, as the belayer could be distracted;
- It’s very bad for the rope. At minimum it will wear out faster and at worst…well, let’s not talk about that.
Related to this, also be careful with where you throw the extra rope you are taking up when belaying. Don’t put it under someone else’s feet!
6) Do know your limits and defer
If you are new, learn the upper limits of your abilities. If you are a 5.8 climber and trying a 5.9, but there is a 5.12 climber right beside you with an overlapping route, let them go first. Otherwise you will frustrate them and feel hurried yourself.
Climbing is supposed to be fun!
7) If the gym is busy, don’t monopolize a rope
Sharing is caring. We learned that in second grade, and it continues to apply.
If you have been climbing on a rope for a while and others are waiting for it, consider finishing up and letting them have the rope. We’re all there to climb and monopolizing one rope is bound to annoy a bunch of people.
8) Don’t take your water bottle onto the mats
Most climbing gyms have this as a rule taped onto the mats, and it’s for good reason. If you take a water bottle on that doesn’t close well or could open by itself, then it will likely spill. Climbing mats are tough to clean and even harder to dry. They are a hard foam that can get very smelly and may have to be replaced, which is very expensive.
9) Store your stuff properly
Most gyms have dedicated places to store your backpack or whatever bag you bring. Don’t leave it laying around or leave your harness on the ground while bouldering, for example. Chalk bags are ok to leave on the ground while bouldering – everyone does it – but larger equipment can dangerous.
10) Use climbing chalk
If you’re like me, your hands get sweaty while climbing. Once you’ve been climbing long enough, you may find that your hands even get sweaty when you watch climbing films.
Chalk is used for a few reasons:
- To help you get a better grip on holds;
- To keep the holds from becoming sweaty and gross.
Climbing chalk will likely help you climb better and it keeps the holds dry for others.
11) Wear proper clothing
We covered this in what to wear rock climbing, but wear suitable attire that is comfortable. Also, remember you are trying to fit in to the crowd.
12) Don’t be a monkey
I don’t know if you’ve ever watched a movie about monkeys, but if you have you probably know that they fling their poop.
I was on a backcountry skiing course one time here in Colorado and our guide told us that we were monkeys because we threw our stuff everywhere when practicing rescuing someone. A backpack over here, a pole there.
There are a lot of people at a gym. Don’t leave your stuff in their way.
13) Try hard noises are ok
Watch a video of Chris Sharma or Adam Ondra to see what I mean. They both make incredible animalistic noises when they are going for a hard move or fail.
Feel free to express the rage if you need to. Just don’t be surprised if people laugh at you.
14) Be supportive of others
One of the best things about the climbing community is that people root for each other and are stoked when people make it to the top of a project or make a hard move. So be supportive of others.
If you see someone climb a hard route that they’ve been working, tell them good job. Even a nod of approval means a lot to people.
What tips do you have for beginner indoor climbers?