Replace Your Winter Blues

With Climbing Shoes

Published: Tuesday 5 November 2023

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When winter hits, with temperatures getting more arctic by the day, endless rainfall and sunsets which start disturbingly early, it’s generally as predictably gloomy as Red Bull’s attempts to invite women to their competitions. You are forgiven for feeling a distinct lack of motivation to do anything much beyond hibernating, eating comfort food, catching up on tv shows (or classic 90s movies – what is it about Christmas and old movies?) or anything that avoids having to be outdoors or accept how grim it is!

While we love cookies and a Netflix binge, we miss the opportunities to be active, outdoors and social that come with summer, especially the safety of daylight. Which is why we think indoor climbing is a perfect sport to beat the dull days and long nights. It’s a great way to stay active and meet a really friendly community of people, somewhere that is well lit and sheltered (but often still cold, sorry!).

Climbing, Bouldering, Leads… Huh?!
We get the confusion! Every sport comes with a whole new vocabulary. Climbing, as a general term, is generally split into two basic types: Lead climbing (on much higher walls with ropes and harnesses) and bouldering (closer to earth and without ropes). If you’re new to climbing, bouldering is probably a good first choice as it’s the easiest to start and loads of fun. And hey, there’s a climbing gym in practically every corner of the UK (over 450 to be more precise). Convenience, check!

Find a local spot using our handy Sports Directory.

 

First Timer? No Sweat!
So, you’ve picked a wall. What’s next? Most places have compulsory intro lessons for first-timers – these are usually 30-60 minute group sessions to orientate you and show you the ropes (or lack thereof in bouldering). You will hear about how to climb safely, the rules for ascending and generally a chat about their grading system (more on that later). If turning up alone sounds intimidating, rope in a friend (climbing puns are easy) or use our “friend finder” to look up a willing buddy in your area! Sport is always more fun with a cheer squad.

Happy woman hanging from rope at rock wall in climbing gym
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Dress Code: Comfort Over Style
No idea what to wear? We’ve got you. Forget fashion parades; this is all about comfort. Leggings, a comfy top, and a trusty hoodie will do (maybe even a beanie or bobble hat, it can get cold). Climbing shoes? Rent them first. Once you’re hooked (and trust me, you will be), splurge on your own pair. And chalk up those hands – it’s not just for gymnasts and teachers! You can buy chalk at your local wall and a little bag to carry it around in (less Birkin and more bum bag), although most have bags laying around.

 

Grading – More of that Climbing Vocab
Grading might sound like school stuff, but it’s just climber talk for “how tough is this wall?” Walls are separated into individual routes, a set of coloured holds of varying shapes and sizes that go from the bottom to the top and sometimes sideways. They vary from beginner to expert and are “graded” as a way of denoting the ability required. While there are two common grading systems (Font and V) many climbing gyms will have their own, which can be as simple as easy, medium and hard. Start easy, and as you get more confident, go bolder. It’s not a race and no one cares what grade you’re doing, and if they do they should probably find something better to do.

"...it's not being the best, but having a smile on your face doing it"

On starting climbing

To Beta or Not to Beta?
You will also probably hear another term “beta” being thrown around. This is specific information on how to complete a climbing route, otherwise known as cheat codes for when you get really frustrated! Stuck on a move? Watch and learn from others (this is totally legit and not considered stalking) or ask someone for “beta”. Figuring it out can be a lot of fun, but it’s entirely up to you if you want a route to be a challenging mystery or a paint-by-numbers learning opportunity.

Remember: It’s Supposed to be Fun!

Here’s the bottom line: climbing is about having a blast. It’s about making it to the next hold, even when you thought you couldn’t. It’s the exhilaration of finally hitting the top despite being terrified of heights. It’s fist bumps with your friends at the end of a session. It’s not being the best, but having a massive smile on your face doing it!

Take it easy, laugh at your slips, and high-five your wins. The climbing community is a friendly bunch, always up for sharing a tip or two. So, grab a friend and rock up at your local wall (yes, we unashamedly love a good pun). Who knows, you might just find your new winter love.

Ready to defy gravity and laugh while you’re at it? Find your nearest wall in our Sports Directory and a buddy to go with. She Is Action beta testing launches Monday 11th December until the end of winter.

Also check out our interview with climber Rachel Harding on how discovering climbing has been pretty life changing.

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