Whilst there are simply hundreds of thousands of individual climbing movements. There are a few climbing fundamentals both in terms of climbing and training that will help give you a strong foundation when it comes to developing your climbing skill.
This section covers the most basic of those climbing fundamentals that will be key to you starting out climbing on the right foot. If you have already been climbing a while you might find that you want to revisit these climbing fundamentals once in a while at the very least. However many good climbers now use some of the exercise here as part of their warm up to engage brain.
To set you off on the right path then we are going to cover the importance of warming up, stretching and those essential climbing fundamentals. With these key climbing skills you will be able to apply them to any facet of climbing. Be that Bouldering, Sport, Trad or indoor climbing.
Bouldering is considered by many a low risk part of climbing. However pushing yourself on highly challenging problems makes the likelihood of a tumble far greater than any other form of climbing. It could be argued that if you are not falling you aren’t trying, falling off is part and parcel of bouldering. Whilst close to the ground the injuries, although rarely life threatening, can be debilitating. A badly twisted ankle will end a day’s climbing and may even lay you up for weeks. Simple things will make your session a lot safer, using a bouldering mat(s), good spotting and learning to fall.
With the growing number of people owning bouldering mats it is often possible to stack multiple mats to make the landing safer. Stacking mats, can lead to hidden pitfalls; be aware of joins in the mats, which can potentially twist ankles. It is possible to double over a bouldering mat to give maximum cushioning, however the edge of the mat is another hazard if you land half-on half-off.
Good spotting takes awareness and experience. Having your hands in you pockets, talking to your mate, is not good spotting. Just like belaying it requires your full attention, as well as some thought as to where to position yourself. A good spot will give the climber the confidence to succeed, because they will be more likely to push themselves.
Good spotting comes down to aiding the smooth landing of a falling climber, as often trying to catch them is futile. Slowing down a falling climber reduces the force of impact and gives them an extra fraction of a second to adjust their landing. In more extreme falls, simply catching a climbers armpits will help them to land feet first allowing their natural shock absorbers, the legs, to absorb the impact.
The human body is far better at absorbing an impact if the body is travelling forward or straight down. If moving backwards our legs struggle to keep us on our feet. So simply directing a falling climber so they fall forward can help them to help themselves. By accepting the inevitable when you’re about to fall and trying to spin round and fall forwards, can ensure the safest of landings for you as well.
A fall from a highball boulder problem is hard to spot, often all you can do is aid the climber to land on their feet moving slightly forwards and direct them to a bouldering mat. In extreme cases when the climber is falling backwards from height, trying to catch their bottom and make a football throw back towards the wall, helps slow the fall and help the climber land moving forwards.
Bouldering Safety Summary
Be vigilant when you climb, can you help yourself land properly.
Indoor rock climbing if done right and in a considered fashion should be extremely safe. However there are only a few things that you can learn off this webpage and the internet in general. This should be one of the times that you look for some professional instruction and guidance. Even if it just a several being taught how to put a harness on, tying in, belay and lower off correctly.
In fact most climbing wall insist that you can do the those four things before they let you loose in their facility. Some especially in major cities will check that you can do this with a mini test as well.
Harnesses need to be fitted probably and the buckles securely double based or locked off. The waist belt needs to be tight enough so it won’t pull down over your hip bone, a good rule of thumb is a fact hand can slide down the front but not a clenched fist.
Tying In with a figure of 8
The Figure of eight is the most common knot to tie in with whether we are indoor rock climbing or outdoor, because it is simple and reliable. Done well it is potentially the only knot you’ll ever need to tie in with.
Belaying and Lowering Off
In order to belay and lower someone off indoor rock climbing, you will need to be able to put a harness on and tie into the harness with a suitable knot like the figure of 8. As well as be able to thread the rope onto the belay device and karabiner properly. Finally you then need to be able to belay properly.
Safe and effective belaying is as important as the anchors and system at the top of the crag. Every year numerous people are injured both inside and out when they are dropped by their belayer. As a fundamental skill of climbing, belaying correctly should be of utmost importance, and requires concentration and communication by both belayer and climber.
Trying to multi-task when climbing should be avoided, eating your sandwiches, drinking a ask of coffee and even having a conversation can take your mind off the job in hand. Belaying properly requires both hands.
Belaying a bottom rope
In order to belay properly you will need some coaching from an experienced climber. For the first few times climbing have someone tail the rope until you are ready to do it alone. Many climbers introducing friends to climbing have been dropped at both indoor walls and crags, whilst the novice remains safe it is when the novice belays the experience climber that accidents have more frequently happened.
The most important thing is to never let go of the ‘dead rope’, whilst still keeping the rope snug as the climber ascends. This is achieve by the pattern in the photo sequence above.
Prepare to take in the rope.
Take in the rope.
Lock the rope off.
Move both hands to the dead rope.
Swap the bottom hand to starting position below the belay plate.
Prepare to take in the rope. Repeat the process until climber is ready to come down.
Eventually you will shorten this to:
Back to the beginning
In the US they use the acronym, as they do the hand swap slightly differently to the UK.
Caution – Always back up novice belayers and serious consider getting professional tuition to ensure your safety when learning this skill.
At times the climber may climb faster than a belayer can take the rope in, resulting in a lot of slack, if the climber falls there will be a considerable drop before the rope and gear is shock loaded. If you are climbing, slow down when you notice too much slack, if you belaying, ask the climber to pause whilst you catch up.
When the climber reaches the top you need a simple proceedure, talking to each other, making the rope tight before lowering the climber down. Repeating the same proceedure time and again reinforces the trust be- tween climber and belayer and reduces the likelyhood of an accidental drop as the climber weighs the rope.
1. The climber gets to the top and calls to belayer, “TAKE IN” the climber should look down to see if the belayer is taking in and if possible make eye contact to con rm the belayer has heard.
2. The belayer takes in rope and looks to see if it is tight on the climber. As the belayer feels the rope go tight they shout, “IS THAT YOU?”
3. The climber feels the rope go tight and looks to ensure the belayer has locked off, then keeping a hand on the rope going down to the belayer as a back up, lowers their weight onto the rope slowly, when you have commit- ted your weight to the rope and are happy that you are being held, shout “THAT’S ME”.
4. The belayer pauses, shouts “OK” and then starts to lower the climber in a slow and controlled fashion.
Indoor boulder also has some risk attached to it, in particular you are much more likely to fall. As such whilst the floor is well padded the risk is that you fall onto something or more likely, someone.
Being aware of who is around you when you are climbing is one side of the risk management coin. The other side is when you are not climbing you need to be aware of who is above you. Also not just walking round a corner but giving it a wide birth as someone can be high off the ground on of sight when you go round the corner.
Managing yourself and your children is key, as landing on and being landed upon are extreme painful and have resulted in some horrible injuries. Remember the bouldering wall isn’t a play ground. As an 80kg adult falling from 8ft is not something you want on your or your child’s head.
See the section of bouldering safety for tips on spotting climbers. Indoors the spotter is as much trying to keep the landing zone clear of other wall users as a spotter.