Get Your Grip On | Discover the Thrills of Indoor Rock Climbing

by | May 16, 2023 | Rock Climbing, Intro to Rock Climbing, Skills and Training, Where to Climb

Rock climbing is a fun and accessible sport that will allow you to test your mental and physical ability. Here’s how to get started!

We’ve all watched the opening scene of the popular 2000s movie Mission Impossible 2, where Tom Cruise is casually free soloing up a mountain face with nothing but chalk and some strange shoes.

Since then, rock climbing has exploded in popularity also notably with Indoor Rock Climbing making its Olympic debut at the 2020 Games in Tokyo, further boosting the sports presence among other popular options! But what is indoor rock climbing, and why is everyone suddenly frothing to squeeze their feet into weird shoes to climb “walls”  while having their friends shout “Allez?”

Follow along as we highlight why indoor climbing is a thrilling and safe way to test your physical and problem-solving abilities while getting passively shredded over time. Starting a new sport, especially an unfamiliar one, can feel quite intimidating, so we’ve taken the liberty of breaking down the barriers to entry in a six-part series on rock climbing, starting with beginner-friendly indoor climbing.

Cover Image Credit: F8 Bouldering

Indoor Rock Climbing Is Fun And Accessible For Anyone!
Indoor rock climbing is super fun and can be accessible for anyone! (c) Catarina Monteiro

What is indoor rock climbing?

Indoor rock climbing has made climbing a much more accessible sport for people of all backgrounds. It is also known as “gym climbing” and is a form of rock climbing that takes place indoors, on artificial climbing walls and holds that are designed to simulate the challenges of outdoor climbing but in a safe environment. PS: This makes it weather-friendly, as it can be done year-round. The two main beginner-friendly entry points to indoor climbing are: 

  • Bouldering: climbing without gear (i.e. no ropes or harnesses) over short heights of around 3 – 3.5m. This style of climbing can be done alone and is great for learning how to move on a wall.
  • Top-roping: climbing with a harness while attached to a rope that is anchored to the top of a wall. This style of climbing requires two people.

A third potential option for a solo session is the auto belay system. If you’d like to climb on rope but don’t have a buddy, auto belay is a good solution, as it is a machine that helps climbers climb independently without the need for a partner to hold the rope.

It works by being attached to your climbing harness and to the top of the climbing wall. When you climb, it takes up the slack in the rope for you, and if you fall, it will automatically start working to bring you safely down to the ground. So, you can climb without worrying about falling, as the auto belay will catch you.

Climbing The High Walls When Indoor Rock Climbing Requires A Rope
Climbing the high walls when indoor rock climbing requires a rope for safety.

Why indoor climb?

Firstly, who doesn’t love being able to channel their inner child into a sport? Climbing is a great reminder to continue “playing” in life, yet it also requires problem-solving skills and quick thinking. Most people get a huge thrill from successfully and/or artfully completing a difficult climb — a combination of a mental and physical challenge. It is also a great way to passively workout, build muscle, and learn skills like pull-ups.

Pro tip: I never trained for pull-ups yet was able to do them after only a few months of climbing.

A generally held false consensus about climbing is that ‘climbing is only arms’. Climbing is a full-body activity that requires large inputs from your legs and core. The best part is that none of it feels like a workout; instead, it’s just playing on the wall. Finally, it can be done alone or in groups as a social activity, though both offer different types of experiences.

Indoor Rock Climbing Is A Great Way To Get Stronger In A Fun Environment
Indoor Climbing at Bloc11 on a Bouldering wall. This wall overhangs but you will find plenty of easier gradients to climb as a beginner! (c) F8 Bouldering

Where to do indoor rock climbing?

Once you’ve decided if you’re comfortable with heights or prefer being closer to the ground, you can hop on a wall at one of these local gyms in South Africa:

Indoor Bouldering

Top-Roping Indoors

  • CityRock (Paarden Eiland – Cape Town, Irene – Pretoria, or Randburg – Johannesburg)

The day pass and gear rental rates differ for each gym, so it is worth checking out their websites for additional information. 

Top-Roping Is Typically Done On Taller Walls Will Easier Gradients Than Bouldering.
Top-roping is typically done on taller walls will easier gradients than bouldering, though different routes will vary.

Can anyone climb?

The biggest YES! Indoor climbing holds a big advantage in that it can be tailored to different skill levels and abilities, from beginner to advanced. It is a great way to passively or actively improve fitness and overall health. You DO NOT need any prior experience or upper body strength to climb. Come as you are! You don’t need to buy all the kit to be able to start; all you need to bring are comfortable clothes and some GEES as gear is available to rent at the gyms.

Climbing is suitable for ages 6 and up and for people of varied genders, heights, weights, and physical abilities; it can also be disability friendly (para-climbing). But do check in with the rules of your local gym, as they may each have their own age restrictions or other restrictions based on the capacity of their facility.

Indoor Rock Climbing Is A Great Way To Get Stronger In A Fun Environment
Happy climbing everyone!

Next up

Indoor climbing provides an ideal space for those seeking physical and mental challenges, whether it’s a passion for climbing rocks or plastic or simply a desire to have a good time with friends. In our next article, “Indoor climbing | What to know before your first session?” you’ll discover essential tips to help prepare for your first indoor climbing session.

See you on the wall!
Disclaimer: Rock climbing or similar activities have inherent risks. This article serves as a guideline for the sport, and while it is intended for your benefit, it is not guaranteed that following these steps will prevent injury or harm. WILD AIR Sports accepts no liability for injuries sustained while using these guidelines. The hands-on support of a professional instructor is recommended for beginners.

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