Beginner’s Guide to Climbing

Ultimate Outdoors8 min readActivities

1. Beginner’s guide to Climbing

Types of Climbing

  • Indoor Climbing – Safe, supervised, warm and dry. Develop a head for heights and learn the ropes on challenging and entertaining routes. If heights and knots aren’t your thing try launching yourself up the Bouldering wall before flopping a few feet onto crash mats. Join thousands of other budding beginners who are socialising, having fun and getting a workout. All that’s required is some basic equipment that can be purchased or hired from your local climbing centre.
  • Bouldering – So you’re not keen on heights? There is even a type of climbing for you. Bouldering, the most fun and social form of climbing, tests your technique and strength to the limit. The only consequences of failure are a benign tumble onto crash mats and the laughter of your friends. Needing little more than a pair of rock shoes when indoors, and only a portable crash mat in addition if you’re heading outside, bouldering is the most accessible type of climbing.
  • Sport Climbing – Technical, athletic and absorbing. Sport climbing follows lines of secure steel anchor points meaning a rest and safe haven are rarely more than a few feet away. This extra security allows you to tackle steeper, more demanding faces while rapidly developing your stamina and technique. With little more knowhow and equipment required than for indoor climbing, sport climbing is often the natural progression.
  • Traditional Climbing – One of the oldest and purest forms of climbing. The ultimate mental and physical challenge. When ‘trad’ climbing not only must you make upward progress but also hang around to arrange hand placed anchors to safeguard yourself. Use all you’re your wits, technique and determination to do what few others can.

How to try it


  • Indoor Climbing (routes) - After attending a couple of short introductory courses you and a friend are free to start having fun and getting fit by yourselves.
  • Bouldering – With no safety equipment or rope-work required anyone can turn up and have a go at their local indoor wall. Alternatively, if you already have your own boots and chalk bag, all you need is a bouldering mat and guide book to start exploring the world of outdoor bouldering.
  • Indoors Climbing Walls & Climbing Clubs – Meet like minded people and learn about climbing with experienced guidance. For a comprehensive listing of UK climbing walls and clubs try one of the following websites;
  • Guiding and Instruction – Enjoy climbing in the great outdoors with the peace of mind that can only be provided by a professional and experienced instructor.

2. Rock Climbing Kit List

The following lists are guides to the main pieces of equipment required to start enjoying the different types of climbing.

1. Indoor Climbing* 2. Bouldering 3. Sport Climbingᶿ(in addition to list 1) 4. Traditional Climbing (in addition to list 1 & 3)
Rock Shoes Rock Shoes Rope (≥50m ≥10mmØ) Nuts (full set)
Chalk Bag & Chalk Chalk Bag & Chalk Quickdraws Quickdraws Cams or Hexes (small selection)
Harness Bouldering Mat † Slings Nut Key
Belay Device Whistle Gaiters Stove & Lighter(s)
Map & Map Case Guide Book † Screwgate Carabiners Guide Book
HMS Carabiner Guide Book
* for indoor lead climbing see list 3 † only required for outdoor bouldering ᶿ list also suitable for indoors lead climbing

3. Nutshell Buying guides

Buying Guide to Rock Shoes

  • Different Closures
    1. Lace-up - Offering a tailored fit that easily accommodates different foot shapes and enables adjustment between a comfort or higher performance fit.
    2. Velco – Generally designed to be worn tighter than a lace-up to maximize security on small footholds. The Velcro closer enables quicker removal of your rock shoes to give your feet a break between climbs.
  • Last styles
    1. General Purpose – A convex sole profile gives this style of shoe better levels of comfort and good performance on larger footholds.
    2. Aggressive – A concave sole profile creates a more pronounced point at the toe giving better security on small footholds.
  • Fitting & Sizing
    1. Rock shoes are generally worn without socks
    2. Unlike most footwear there must never be any gaps between your toes and the end of the rock shoe.
    3. Try more than one pair and compare comfort and performance.
    4. All rock shoes will stretch and become more comfortable during the first few times of use, during this initial period a little discomfort is normal

Buying Guide to Harness

  • Features
    1. Closure Styles
      • Traditional Buckles – This closure style are generally a little less expensive.
      • Quick-lock Buckles – Quick, easy to use and extra secure. These pre-threaded buckles are the most up-to-date closure system available and are fast becoming the norm.
    2. Leg Loops
      • Fixed – Ideal for those only wanting to climb indoors/in fine weather and for those not prone to weight fluctuation.
      • Adjustable – Maximum flexibility allowing adjustment to accommodate extra warm layers for winter climbing and changes in weight.
  • Fitting & Sizing
    1. Slacken of all harnesses adjusters
    2. Put on the harness over light clothing and tighten the waist belt for a snug fit
    3. Adjust the leg loops to remove any slack. Do not over tighten.
    4. Check that you are not at either extreme of the harnesses adjustments. This will allow for weight fluctuations or additional clothing.
    5. Check that the gear loops are positioned symmetrically on either side of the body
    6. 6. If possible hang in the harness. In a correctly fitted harness the vast majority of your weight is taken in the leg loops across the back of your thighs.

Belay Devices

  • The Stitch Plate –Although there are many belay devices available most are based on the Stitch Plate design. In general climbers are encouraged to lean to use this device first as it is simple, effective and when mastered the technique can be transferred to any other belay device.
  • HMS Screwgate Carabiners – For safe and efficient use of any ‘stitch plate style’ belay device it must be used with an HMS or ‘pear shape’ Screwgate Carabiner. These carabiners have locking gates for added security, enable smoother belaying/abseiling and dissipate heat generated by rope friction better.


  • Rope Types
    • Single Ropes –Generally more than 10mm in diameter. These are thick enough to be climbed on as a single strand and make great general purpose ropes.
    • Double Ropes – Generally 8-9mm in diameter and must be used in pairs. Among other things double ropes allow you to abseil twice the distance when descending and give you the ability to use a greater numbers of anchor points. These advantages make double ropes especially good for multi-pitch climbing.
  • Rope Lengths – The following table is a guide to what the different lengths of rope are most commonly used for.
35 meter 50 meter 60 meter
Single Rope
  • Indoors Climbing
  • Indoors Climbing
  • Sport Climbing (Single Pitch)
  • Traditional Climbing (Single Pitch)
  • Indoors Climbing
  • Longer Sport Climbs (Single Pitch)
  • Traditional Climbing (Single Pitch)
Double Ropes
  • Traditional Climbing (Single & Multi Pitch)
  • Sport Climbing (Multi Pitch)
  • Traditional Climbing (Single & Multi Pitch)
  • Sport Climbing (Multi Pitch)

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