When one thinks of rock climbing, the first image that comes to mind is that of Tom Cruise hanging off a cliff without any ropes, in the middle of nowhere, in the opening scene of a very appropriately named movie, Mission Impossible. Rock climbing is anything but that.
In this sport, the participant climbs up or across natural rock formations or artificial rock walls. Contrary to popular belief, climbing is very safe when done with modern equipment and an eye on safety. It tends to be relatively injury free. The risk factors are bunched primarily in natural rock climbing—when leading on rock outdoors, you can take falls and suffer gear or placement failure with significant consequences. This is the dangerous part of the sport (and the most fun).
Feel the thrill: Rock climbing is safe when done with modern equipment.
If you are a climber and fitness is your primary aim, the accessibility, safety and speed of artificial climbing walls makes them preferable to natural rock walls. However, if you are looking for an overall aesthetic experience, the outdoors are better.
Rock climbing can be done by almost anyone. Rock climbing humbles the strongest of alpha males when a graceful lady, with apparent ease, moves up the toughest of rocks. This sport is less about brute force and more about adopting the correct techniques. Moderate fitness levels are required for climbing. Since it’s a non-competitive sport and you climb at the level that suits you, you can fit yourself to what you’re comfortable with. Age, as in almost all sports, is overrated even in climbing. You don’t need to be in your early 20s to start climbing. Starting late is not at all a negative factor in this.
Anurag Tiwari, a young tech entrepreneur who has started Delhi Rock, a climbing community, to promote rock climbing in the National Capital Region, says: “One or two sessions of 1-2 hours each of climbing a week will yield good progress. Climbers can start on easy routes, and progress upwards in terms of difficulty level. General fitness, flexibility and conditioning are useful prerequisites, but climbing itself will help with those.”
Rock climbing builds tremendous physical coordination and all-body awareness. It’s a whole-body exercise and though your upper body gets a fair share of grunt work, your legs and feet are your most important instrument for upward motion.
With its unique mix of aerobic (easy, quick moves) and anaerobic (tough, hard moves) activity, climbing builds great all-round physique and fitness levels. Also, since it relies on body weight exercises, it is non-impact sport (as in you are not pounding your knees, which you do when you run), and generally utilizes smooth and gradual motion.
The benefits of climbing are immense, and it fits the bill of what companies should be promoting among their employees. Rock climbing is a strategically oriented, problem-solving, intense sport which builds concentration, mental stamina, will power and the ability to overcome your fears. It involves a lot of teamwork and collaboration too. You learn to trust your climbing partner with your life and vice versa, in a very tough environment. For this, your communication skills improve tremendously. And you have to learn to believe in other people, the perfect recipe for acquiring skills that help build strong teams.
So how do you start? You definitely need climbing shoes, a climbing harness, a pear-shaped locking carabiner, a belaying device, a chalk bag and some chalk. That’s the basic gear list, and the cost would total about Rs 8,000-9,000 (30-40% less in the US). And after that all you need to do is find a climbing wall and someone to teach you the basics.
Rajat Chauhan is a practitioner of sports and exercise medicine and musculoskeletal medicine, and CEO of Back 2 Fitness.
Write to Rajat at email@example.com