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First Time Climbing - What Should You buy?

If you’ve never tried climbing before, getting on the wall for the first time can be a daunting experience. You’re probably wondering how to get into rock climbing. Or if it’s a fitness activity you are looking for, you might be thinking, ‘does rock climbing get you into shape?’. Well, we have answered your questions in our handy guide, which is perfect for beginners. Find out what you need to know before you give rock climbing a try.

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What is rock climbing?

Rock climbing is a sport or leisure activity which involves climbing rocks either indoors in a climbing centre or outdoors on natural rocks. It requires strength and endurance and can be both exhilarating and dangerous at the same time. But don’t be put off! There are many different levels and types of rock climbing for all abilities, and everyone has to start somewhere.

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How to get into rock climbing

Start simply. If you have never been rock climbing before, head to your nearest indoor rock climbing or bouldering centre to learn the ropes. You can usually book a taster session, (and sometimes you have to if you have never climbed before). You can learn a basic technique, how to use climbing equipment and how to stay safe while climbing.

Bouldering is a great way to start climbing as you don’t need to worry about ropes. You can build your strength and confidence and it is safe. If you want to get over a fear of heights before climbing, bouldering is a great place to begin as you can stay as close to the ground as you want to and won’t climb any higher than around 15ft. It’s a great way to learn how to fall safely and get comfortable with falling off the climbing wall because- this will probably happen a lot.

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What to buy when climbing

If you are just going climbing for the first time to try it out, you don’t need to bother buying any equipment at all. First of all, you might not even enjoy climbing, so you don’t want to spend lots of money on brand new equipment if you are never going to climb again. If you are active, you might already own suitable clothing and most indoor climbing centres have equipment available to hire.

If you are wondering what to wear for rock climbing, we’d recommend wearing comfortable sports clothes which you can move freely in. Make sure the material is not too tight or stiff as it could rip and you don’t want to wear anything that makes you feel uncomfortable or restricts your movements. The best shoes to wear to try out climbing for the first time are close fitting pumps with a rubber sole; like Converse or something similar.

Once you get into frequent climbing, then it may be worthwhile investing in some of your own equipment if you are paying to hire all the time. However, you don’t need to buy everything all in one go. If you are ready to buy some of your own equipment, we’d recommend starting with your own pair of rubber-soled climbing shoes, a chalk bag and some chalk if you are buying it frequently from your climbing centre.

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How to climb a wall

Before you show up at your nearest climbing centre for the first time, you’re probably wondering how to climb a wall. One of the best tips we can give you if you’re want to know how to rock climb is to push with your legs, don’t pull with your hands. Your leg muscles are much bigger and stronger than those in your arms so you should use your hands for gripping higher up the wall, but use the force from your legs to push your body up. Climbing is a great full body workout so if you engage your core, leg and arm muscles, rather than relying on one muscle group, your climb will be much easier and you will have a great work out.

Additionally, it is handy to plan your route before you climb. In an indoor climbing centre, the rocks for you to grip and stand on are colour coded, and instructors and other climbers will be able to tell you the easiest colour route to follow. Therefore, before you start climbing, choose the colour of your climb and start ‘reading the wall’ to see which route you might take so you can be mindful of other climbers.

If you are climbing with a harness and rope attached, you will need a climbing partner so they can feed you the rope to climb and stop you from falling too far if you lose your grip through a technique called belaying.

If you don’t know what to do, ask for help. Indoor climbing gyms are great places to socialise so speak to people if you’re stuck as you can learn from more experienced climbers.

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Different types of climbing

There are different types of climbing; some are better suited to beginners and others are more dangerous and involve extreme skill. We would recommend bouldering or traditional climbing if you are just starting to climb, but you can find out about the different types below.


Bouldering involves climbing up to 15ft above the floor over crash mats, without any ropes. It is a great way to start if you have never climbed before as you don’t need to climb very high and won’t be distracted by climbing equipment.

Traditional climbing

Traditional climbing is about the physical and mental experience and is usually practised in climbing gyms. You will be attached to a climbing harness and top rope, anchored at the top of the wall. You’ll work with a partner who will feed you more rope and help you to lower down by using a technique called belaying.

Lead or sport climbing

Lead or sport climbing focuses on intricate moves and climbing technique, rather than reaching a destination. You will follow a pre-fixed route with anchors bolted into the wall and will need to work with a partner to feed you more rope.

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Big wall climbing

Big wall climbing is a type of outdoor climbing done up huge rock faces, stretching hundreds or thousands of feet above the ground. You should only try this if you are an experienced climber as it involves skill. It is extremely dangerous and you will need lots of expensive equipment.

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First time climbing tips

Follow our 8 simple tips to learn how to start rock climbing so you can make the most of your first time on the climbing wall.

1. Wear comfortable, stretchy clothes that you can move in

You don't need special climbing clothes but you will need some flexibility in your hips and legs so make sure your clothes are stretchy.

2. Take off any rings or obstructive jewellery

Rings can dig into your hands and long necklaces could get tangled around ropes so take these off before you start climbing.

3. Choose a climbing partner you trust.

You climbing partner needs to be paying attention to be able to belay the rope to you when you're climbing and catch you by applying tension to the rope if you fall.

4. Use chalk on your hands

This will dry up any sweat on your hands, give you better grip and help prevent your hands from getting chapped or sore.

5. Learn from others and make friends

There will be other, more experienced, climbers at an indoor climbing gym, so ask questions and you might make some new climbing friends.

6. Don't take selfies on the wall

This can hold the queue up and might make people mad at you.

7. Listen to your body

If you are feeling tired or sore, don’t push yourself to have one more go, listen to your body and stop climbing as you could injure yourself or end up with very sore muscles the next day.

8. Finally, have fun!

If you fall, just get back up and start again. Everybody has to start somewhere so enjoy yourself and make your first time climbing one to remember.