Climbing… ok, but where should you start?

July 21, 2020 / By nicolas

4 minute read
Climbing in 2020 became what fixed gear was in 2008. Before the coronavirus, visiting a climbing facility on a Saturday afternoon was similar to visiting a Walmart during Boxing day. If you’ve always been curious about trying this sport without knowing where to start, here is what you need to know about the different types of climbing. What type of climbing represents you best? How to differentiate different sorts of climbing? Here are a few answers.

Indoor bouldering

Indoor bouldering is probably the least intimidating type of climb for a novice, but not the easiest. It is also the one that requires the least preparation since no equipment is necessary, other than climbing shoes. Being in front of a boulder wall is a bit like being in front of a big puzzle. Usually, you have to recognize the route to take and try to strategize your climb before starting. Without a pre-established path, you’ll probably be finding the puzzle quite complicated.
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Since the indoor boulder walls are generally not very high (less than 5 meters), the practice is less intimidating for those who are afraid of heights. Colour or number codes also let you know how difficult the track you are about to try to conquer is. And do not think that the height of the wall will make it easier physically, on the contrary! Your hands, forearms and legs will suffer more than ever. Where to do it in Montreal? Allez Up! Nomad Bloc Shakti Bloc Shop


Once you’re familiar to indoor bouldering, you may be tempted to go and climb outside. But beware, these two types of bouldering are entirely different. In nature, protection is minimal and when you fall, it hurts. But hey, that’s part of the fun for some people. Crashpads, specific protective mattresses for bouldering, have only been available since 1993 and they are thinner than the cushions installed in indoor facilities. The other major difference is in the complexity. The climbing holds where to put your feet and hands are not coloured or obvious. The grips are often much smaller and your hands will need to be trained for you to be successful.
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You will also need your equipment: crashpads, a brush, chalk, protective hand tape and your climbing shoes. Ideally, be accompanied by an insider the first time you go bouldering.

Top roping (or bottom-roping)

This type of climbing is probably the most well-known and it is practised indoor and outdoor. Top roping is generally practiced in pairs. Attached to a rope via a harness, the climber tries to reach the top of a wall rising between 9 and 16 meters, while his partner, called a belayer, secures the rope at the bottom of the track, while also taking care of the slack. Once at the top (or following a fall), the climber abseils with the help of his partner.
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Free solo

Basically, free solo is for adrenaline junkies.  It would be best if you were not afraid of death. It it RECKLESS. If you still haven’t seen the Free Solo documentary, you know what to watch it before your next climbing session. In this documentary, we follow climber Alex Honnold in his quest to climb El Capitan, a mountain located in the Yosemite National Park, in the United States. Honnold tries to climb this 914-meter monolith with his bare hand, alone, without a harness, a rope and protection.

For those who prefer not to play with death, you can also do outdoor climbing in a safe environment. A lot of equipment and planning is required to practice sport or traditional climbing, so if you are just getting started, you might want to begin with indoor bouldering. That’s where you’ll develop your technique anyway. In short, there is something for everyone and for all levels of recklessness. If you want good references for places to go climbing this summer, I invite you to consult our list concocted for you last month.