A common misconception is that climbing is inherently dangerous, that this danger can’t be avoided and that if a person is to climb they have to put themselves in harms way. This really isn’t the case, you can enjoy the incredible thrill of climbing, and the rewards it brings, in great safety.
Getting in to the sport can be very straight forward too, with the benefits ranging from great exercise to overcoming a fear of heights. I got in to climbing only about two years ago just after starting university, a perfect environment for meeting climbers and using their experience to get in to the sport.
Anyone can climb, you don’t need to be strong or particularly fit, and you could even be scared of heights – I’ve never been particularly fond of being at great heights but love climbing! To start there isn’t too much kit required either, climbing indoors is a great start point and here you will always be able to rent climbing shoes, harness etc.
I was lucky enough to meet people who took me to the climbing wall and showed me the ropes before venturing outside and expanding my climbing horizons. If you don’t know anyone that climbs they are relatively easy to find; the British Mountaineering Council (www.thebmc.co.uk/) and UK Climbing (www.ukclimbing.com) are great for finding clubs and individuals who climb, as well as your nearest climbing walls.
Start out with a few visits to a local wall, you can take lessons or learn with the help of a friend, get used to wearing climbing shoes, wearing a harness and the rope skills required – this is also good training for the body, it takes a while for it to adapt to such a different kind of exercise.
People learn at different rates, some will pick up climbing in a number of visits, while others may take months. I found the trick was to push myself to the limits, watch others closely as they moved around the wall, and climb regularly to maintain a good level of climbing fitness and strength. The move to climbing outside was relatively smooth; I loved it! Outdoors climbing feels different but there’s a greater thrill to it and the all round experience is much better, it will also bring your climbing on a lot more than climbing on an artificial wall indoors.
Learning to climb opened up a whole world of adventure and fun to me; from rock climbing there is a possible move to winter mountaineering, and an endless supply of fun in the mountains. You can climb all over the world, whether it’s on a crag in the Lake District, a cliff in Thailand or an 8,000m peak in the Himalayas. You’re unlikely to get worse at climbing, you’ll constantly learn and are likely to have a new hobby for the rest of your life (or until you’re physically unable to climb anymore!). I’d definitely recommend giving it a try if you haven’t already, you’ll be hooked!
Tom Evans writes for his blog Exceed Possibility at http://www.exceedpossibility.co.uk/