Rock climbing is a fun and challenging sport that can be enjoyed by people of all ages. If you’re thinking about giving it a try, this beginner’s guide will teach you everything you need to know to get started. We’ll cover the basics of rock climbing, including how to find a good spot to climb, what gear you’ll need, and basic safety tips. So whether you’re a complete novice or an experienced climber looking for some new tips, read on for everything you need to know about rock climbing!
Rock climbing can be an enjoyable and rewarding sport, but it can also be dangerous. Before you start rock climbing, it is important to understand the risks involved and to take the necessary precautions to minimise those risks. Climbing and mountaineering are activities with a danger of personal injury or death. Participants in these activities should be aware of and accept these risks and be responsible for their own actions. If you are unsure of anything then we recommend taking a few lessons with our friendly instructors. We have a range of rock climbing courses to suit all abilities.
What to expect when you start rock climbing
If you’re new to rock climbing, your first outing is likely to be a bit nerve-racking. But with a little preparation, you can make the most of your experience and have a lot of fun. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Dress in comfortable clothing that won’t restrict your movement
- Bring a few spare layers of clothes to help you keep warm
- Wear closed-toe shoes or trainers with good traction.
- Rock shoes are specialized shoes designed for rock climbing. They have sticky rubber soles that provide good traction and help you stick to the rock. They also have a snug fit so that your feet don’t slip around inside them. If you’re just starting out rock climbing, it’s best to wear regular shoes or trainers until you get more experienced
- Wear relevant PPE such as a harness and a Helmet is a must!
- Bring plenty of water and snacks.
- Be aware of your surroundings and the people around you, including people above and below.
Where to go to start rock climbing in England and Wales
There are many great rock climbing spots in the UK, and the variety of terrain means that there is something to suit climbers of all levels of experience. If you’re a beginner, we recommend starting out at one of the following locations:
The Peak District
This area in the north of England is home to some of the best rock climbing in the country. There are routes to suit all abilities, and the stunning scenery is an added bonus.
A lot of the climbing in the peak district is on gritstone edges and these tend to be shorter in length than elsewhere in the country. This is great for beginners as there are a lot of suitable venues to choose from. But short routes don’t always mean easy routes, there are plenty of hard routes on gritstone meaning there is something for everyone. Windgather Rocks is one of the places we take beginners and it is a popular place to start rock climbing.
Stanage Edge near Hathersage is another great place to rock climb in the Peak District. It’s one of the busiest climbing spots in the UK and for a very good reason. At 3.5 miles long it’s the longest gritstone crag in the country. It’s up to 20 meters high in places and has over 2,000 routes. Yes, you read that right, two thousand routes!
The Lake District
Another great place to start rock climbing in England is the Lake District. The area offers a little bit of everything for climbers. From easy beginner routes to challenging multi-pitch climbs that can take a whole day to climb. Some climbing venues are close to the road whereas some take 2 hours to walk to. If you are after the mountaineering experience, or even some long routes close to the road the lakes has it all. Wodens Face in Borrowdale is one of the venues we use for our start rock climbing sessions.
Wales is home to some of the best rock climbing in the UK, and Snowdonia is one of the most popular spots. With a variety of climbs ranging from easy to very difficult, it’s a great place to test your skills. Tremadog, near Porthmadog, is a fantastic venue with the upper tier offering single-pitch climbing and fantastic multi-pitch climbing on all the other crags in the area. There are not a lot of easy routes here though. For really easy routes you can try Lion Rock near Llanberis.
For the brave there are also sea cliffs on Anglesea, Gogarth being one of the best sea cliffs going.
How to choose the right rock climbing route
Climbing route difficulty
One of the most important things to consider when you start rock climbing is choosing the right route. Routes are rated using a numerical system to express the technical difficulty of the route.
Confusingly there are a number of grading systems in use and the system used for a route will depend on where it is and how it is climbed. Now, I won’t go into the grading systems in a great deal of detail here as it is way too confusing but for now, just remember the lower the number the easier the route.
Each numerical grade can be sub-divided by the letter a, b & c with ‘+’ and ‘-‘ used to further adjust the difficulty. So, for example, 4a is easier than 4b and 6a is harder than 5.
In the UK we also have trad grades (short for traditional) that, rather confusingly, start with “Difficult” (D) as the easiest routes followed by “Very Difficult” (VD).
As a beginner, you should start with an easy climb graded 3 or 4 on a numerical system or “Difficult” routes on the trad system.
Once you’ve gained some experience, you can try routes of a higher grade. Just remember to always start with an easy climb that you feel fairly confident you can complete. There’s nothing worse than getting halfway up a route and realising it’s way too difficult for you!
Climbing route length
Climbing on a rock that is less than one length of rope is called single pitch climbing. These can be up to 50m long so they can be quite long routes. If you want to climb more than a single rope length then this is called multi-pitch climbing.
Multi-pitch routes are a lot more difficult to escape from should something go wrong and for that reason, for beginners, single-pitch venues are the only option for an introduction to climbing.
This is because of the escapability of single-pitch routes and the ease of walking to the top of the crag to set up the ropes. When climbing, regardless of what happens, the beginner can be lowered to the ground quickly and easily. And in all honesty, 10-20m is plenty high enough for a beginner to climb.
What equipment do I need to start rock climbing?
As a beginner, the only rock climbing equipment you really need is a pair of rock shoes, a harness and a helmet. You can often hire this equipment from the climbing wall or centre you are visiting.
If you’re thinking about taking up rock climbing as a hobby then it would be worth investing in your own gear. This is because it’s more comfortable to use your own kit and as you