As you gaze up at the 35-foot indoor “rock” wall, with its angled overhangs and dangling ropes, you wonder how anyone can actually hang on while making their way to the top. Dotted with multicoloured handholds and carabiner clips, it’s tempting to grab a low grip and give the wall a go—and easy to see why this sport is drawing huge numbers of first-timers to indoor climbing gyms across the country.
“Every mountain top is within reach if you just keep climbing.”
~ Barry Finlay
Rock climbing has become increasingly popular over the past decade, with the number of indoor public climbing gyms in Canada tripling from 2010 to 2019. The sport is likely to see even more growth this summer, when rock climbing makes its debut as an Olympic sport at the Tokyo Summer Olympics.
Mississauga has a number of indoor rock-climbing gyms where you can give this sport a try. It’s a great way to achieve a full body workout while challenging yourself and having fun in the process.
Why should I try it?
Indoor climbing is fun and physical, and it’s a great workout without “working out” in the typical sense. It’s also a great way to improve your flexibility and balance while building new skills. After your first climb, you will likely find you have used muscles that you didn’t know existed! A few climbing gyms offer options where you can try it out for an hour or 90 minutes without committing to the purchase of a full day pass or membership.
Is it a good workout?
Climbing is a great full-body workout, especially for your legs, arms and abs. As you push with your legs and pull with your arms, you’re stretching and toning your entire body at once. But climbing is not just about the physical aspects. It’s also a great mental exercise because not all handholds that you see may be used. As you climb, you need to be thinking ahead while planning out your next steps on your ascent up the wall. Using a handhold from another route is akin to cheating on the puzzle so climbing feels more like a 3D interactive game at times. Enjoy solving the puzzle of how to get from the bottom to the top! In the process you forget just how much exercise you are getting.
Do you need to be in good shape to try it?
Not really. First time climbers are often surprised by what they can accomplish, even on their very first climb. Each wall has different “paths” you can follow as you climb higher, with some walls steeper than others. Routes are usually colour-coded by handholds, with the difficulty marked near floor level with a plastic card listing the numerical degree of difficulty. The higher the number, the more difficult the route.
What should I Remember as I start my first climb?
Being aware of your body and your centre of gravity is key. This will help you maintain balance as you climb. Using both the inside and outside edges of your shoes to grip as you are climbing will allow you to be creative moving both across as well as up the wall. Remind yourself that you don’t have to move quickly up the wall. You can take your time and relax as you find your path upwards.
What should I wear? Do I need any special equipment?
You definitely want to wear comfortable clothing with some stretch: fitted yoga tops and bottoms work well. Stay away from anything too tight and keep the dirt factor in mind—you may get sweat or chalk marks on your clothing. Indoor climbing gyms have harness and shoe rentals on site.
What kind of climbing is suitable for beginners?
When you’re starting out, your best option is roped climbing, where your harness is secured by rope to an anchor point. Top roping’ falls into two categories: standard and auto belay. With standard top roping, the rope is anchored to your climbing partner and runs through a device that helps them maintain tension on the rope and has auto-locking features. Auto belays are an extension of this idea but instead of a partner on the ground keeping tension on the rope, the tension is maintained by a device at the top of the wall that lowers you to the ground with a slow and predictable descent rate.
There is another way to start climbing. Called bouldering, this involves climbing on much shorter walls with thicker crash pads below. Bouldering requires only climbing shoes, no harness or ropes, so it’s simple and quick to get started. Ground falls are to be expected, though, so make sure the gym you select has at least 10 to 15 low, easy challenges set just for absolute bouldering beginners so that you don’t inadvertently end up taking extra risks by doing challenges beyond your level. If you’re concerned about ground falls, start with roped climbing to avoid ground falls altogether.
What should I look for in a climbing gym?
When you walk in, you should feel a welcoming and friendly vibe from the surroundings and the staff. Climbing facilities tend to be designed with a primary focus on either beginner or experienced climbers. Make sure you choose a gym that is designed for beginners, rather than one who welcomes beginners as an afterthought. You will want to ask about the safety standards at the facility, and what beginner options are available. Find out if they have a specific area where newbies will learn in a separate area from the more experienced climbers. Most climbing gyms will do an initial orientation with you, so you know where everything is in the gym and you understand how to have fun while staying safe. If you are bringing children, make sure the gym you visit has a separate kid’s area with climbing routes designed just for those little ones with a shorter reach.
Hub Climbing, Mississauga
Up the Bloc