Climbing has been exploding in popularity over the last few years. This explosion is the result of many gyms, colleges, and clubs installing indoor climbing walls. These climbing walls are great for learning the fundamentals of rock climbing, teaching proper technique, and getting some experience without having to risk your life doing it. Unfortunately, many new rock climbers are learning just as many bad techniques on indoor climbing walls as they are learning good ones. If you’re interested in rock climbing, or started your climbing career on indoor rock walls, be sure to make sure you don’t make any of these mistakes.
To begin with, one of the most obvious problems seen in climbing is the use of improper carabiners. Carabiners are used everywhere, from backpacks to key chains. However, many of these carabiners aren’t rated for climbing. You won’t see anyone climbing using these carabiners for support, as they simply can’t support that much weight, but you may see them used to clip shoes, water bottles, or any other types of gear to climbers. While they probably won’t break, it’s best to be safe, as you certainly don’t want any of your gear breaking off, falling down a cliff, and striking another climber.
Next, only wear your climbing shoes when climbing. It may seem like an obvious tip, but wearing your climbing shoes in a clean gym is different than wearing your climbing shoes in a muddy, dirty location. You don’t want your shoes to be coated in slippery mud when trying to establish a firm foothold, and you certainly don’t want to be tracking mud up the wall as you ascend. You may not have to deal with it, but the next climber certainly will.
Spotting a climber on an indoor wall is much different than outside in a real life scenario. Many spotters find themselves growing too relaxed, especially during the beginning of the ascent. Indoors, if a climber doesn’t attach their first bolt correctly, they fall a few feet to a soft foam mat. Outdoors, a fall of a few feet can be devastating. Sharp rocks, roots, and hard ground can cause injuries even from the tiniest of falls. Always pay attention to your climber. Additionally, if you’re the belayer (the person who acts as a counterweight in the event of a climber falling) to your climber, make sure you’re close to the rock wall. In many gyms, belayers are told to stand far back from the wall, letting them get a good view of what’s going on, so they can learn what to do. In real life situations, this can be dangerous. A lead climber falling will jerk a belayer into the hard rock wall instead of jerking them upward. It’s dangerous for both parties.
Finally, make sure to keep an eye out for small falling rocks and debris while climbing. This is often not a consideration of many gym climbers. While gym climbing is a great tool, it’s important to recognize the differences between gym climbing and real climbing. It may just save your life.