Climbing is fun, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. New climbers and those thinking about trying it out often have a hard time figuring out how to get started. We sat down with Deputy Gym Director and climbing coach Lewis Yeaple to get his advice for new climbers.
How long have you been climbing?
I started around six years ago as a freshman in college. I grew up going to climbing gyms when I was younger, but it just never seemed to stick until I started to get more into the culture and the community of climbing gyms.
What do you wish you’d known when you first started climbing?
Everyone in the gym has been in the same position as a first-timer. Regardless of the person’s skill level, they all started from a similar place when they first stepped into a gym. They’ve seen those different colored routes, all these walls, all this new information; they’ve experienced the information overload. That means they all understand where you are as a new climber.
So, when it comes to fear of judgment or intimidation, know that everyone has been in a similar boat.
What are the biggest keys to getting better at climbing?
Especially for new climbers, the main thing is just consistency. Come in and climb as often as you can, get immersed into the community, and be social. In the climbing gym, it’s super beneficial just watching other climbers, getting to know other climbers, knowing how they climb and what goes into progressing.
Just come in to climb. Many of the techniques, the flow of climbs, will come naturally. Establish a passion for it, and the rest will come.
You mentioned the climbing community as a big part of improving. How can a new climber tap into that community?
Yeah, I think it comes naturally just from coming to the gym. Say you’re climbing, and you have your eyes on a particular route on the wall, and someone else does, as well. That’s just a natural relationship that you can have with that person; you have a shared interest and a shared goal. It can be easy to have a natural conversation and go from there.
How often should I be climbing as a new climber?
Listen to your body. When I first started, the skin on my hands was the biggest limiting factor. I’d go to the gym four hours a day, and I was just destroyed by the end of the week. I think twice a week is a better starting point for new climbers.
What sorts of beginner climbing techniques do you think everyone should learn?
I think the basic footwork is super essential; learning how to utilize your new climbing shoes, for example. Climbing shoes exist for a reason, and they are capable of way more than new climbers usually think. Footwork is probably the biggest thing – especially for new climbers – to ensure progression. Even if you’re super strong, if you don’t know footwork, you’re going to be plateauing super early on. That’s also one of the most significant ways to break through barriers in your climbing progression.
I like to think of body positioning as well – keeping core tension and utilizing your center of gravity to your advantage to make sure you’re getting up the wall efficiently.
You mentioned center of gravity. Can you elaborate on that?
Yeah, your center of gravity is how the majority of your weight is pulling you down to the ground. You should be aware of how to position that weight over the best footholds. Those footholds should take up most of your weight, taking all that weight off your arms.
Where should I get started if I want to try out a climbing coach?
We offer climbing coaching for all levels. If you’re an absolute beginner to rock climbing, within your first month or so of experience, and you still feel like you aren’t super comfortable with indoor climbing and the facility, I would highly recommend our Bouldering 101 class. It’s a great introduction to minimize the fear of climbing. It ingrains things like how to fall correctly. You’ll have a professional watching you to make sure you have a clear understanding of etiquette, the grading system, the background and history of bouldering, and some basic techniques.
Typically Bouldering 101 is between four and six students with one instructor. It takes about an hour and is a great way to meet other climbers with a similar experience level. Those people often climb together in the future.
If you’ve taken Bouldering 101 or you feel like you’re pretty comfortable with the facility already, I recommend Technique 101. Technique 101 reviews some of the basics of Bouldering 101; it goes into some deeper techniques to improve your climbing. It goes into the different types of holds, how to best climb on various terrains, footwork, and other skills to help you overcome barriers.
Technique 101 is a slightly smaller class, one instructor with four students. It’s a little more personalized regarding individual needs and goals.
We also offer Private Coaching, which is for people wanting a more personalized plan. You get two one-on-one sessions with a climbing coach: the first is an initial assessment to understand where you are currently and what your weaknesses and strengths are. And by the next session, you will have a training plan ready for you to meet your climbing goals.
For more information on our climbing coaching services, please see the Coaching section of our website or stop in and talk to the front desk.