Using an indoor climbing wall is a great way to get into climbing. They have routes which are specifically set from beginners and usually have the facility to hire all the climbing equipment you will need (usually for a small fee).
To climb indoors you will need a pair of rock shoes and a harness. A chalk bag and chalk may also help you as you progress, but are not essential to begin with. You should be able to hire all the equipment you require from the climbing wall. This is recommended for your first few visits as climbing equipment is expensive and it’s worth finding out if you like it before splashing out your hard earned cash.
When you first walk into a climbing wall, you’ll notice that there are a huge amount of multicoloured holds fixed to the walls. Each wall is usually numbered for identification. Climbing routes are then listed usually by wall number and colour and given a grade of difficulty.
Routes are normally colour coded with either coloured holds or small pieces of tape marking the route. They are graded for difficulty, with the aim being to climb to the top using only the coloured holds listed. When starting out, finding your feet, it’s a good idea to try using any colour hold you need. It’s more important to get a feel for climbing indoors, than to complete any specific route. As you progress, you can then start looking at the different routes, which can make the climbing more challenging.
Before climbing indoors you will need to either have a few sessions supervised by one of the climbing wall instructors, or in the case of most indoor walls, an experienced climber can “sign you in”, basically agreeing to look after your safety during your visit. Even if you know an experienced climber, it’s still worth considering having a few sessions with an instructor as they will teach you the basic skills you will need including how to tie in, belay a partner, basic climbing skills and of course how to ensure you learn how to climb safely.
To climb indoors, as with outdoors, you will need a climbing partner. That is someone who can belay you and in turn whom you can belay. If you don’t have a climbing partner, don’t despair, climbing walls often have certain times where people without a climbing partner can belay each other. Many indoor walls also have “auto belays” too. An auto belay is a device which you clip into via a locking karabiner. As you climb up, the auto belay “takes in” the slack rope, effectively belaying you. When you reach the top of the route, or if you fall off, the auto belay allows the rope to descend slowly. This can be quite a scary experience the first time you have to let go of the holds, so when using an auto belay for the first time, it’s worth only climbing a few feet, before letting go. Once you are used to climbing on an auto belay you can climb at anytime you like, regardless of if you have somebody to climb with or not.
Once you have been bitten by the climbing bug (and you will), it’s worth getting to know the staff at your local wall. They will advise you of any improver classes available, belay sessions, climbing competitions, yoga sessions, etc.