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  • Writer's pictureAlex Moran

The Ultimate Guide: How Beginners Can Start Climbing

Are you ready to ascend to new heights and explore the exhilarating world of rock climbing? Whether you're drawn to the challenge, the thrill, or the sheer beauty of scaling cliffs, beginning your climbing journey can be both exciting and daunting. But fear not! With the right approach and a solid foundation, anyone can embark on this incredible adventure.

I have now ran rock climbing courses for over 15 years and have been climbing for work and personally in Scotland, Norway, the USA, Spain, the Alps and the Himalayas. Through my own rock climbing journey and helping many people improve their rock climbing over the years I have a few key points which will help you overcome all the obstacles which rock climbing presents so you can succeed and, most of all, have fun!

Understanding the Basics

What is Climbing?

Climbing is more than just scaling a rock face; it's a blend of physical strength, mental focus, and problem-solving. It challenges your body and mind, offering a unique sense of accomplishment with each ascent. No matter what grade you climb, you will still get this sense of achievement, adrenaline and the mental and physical challenge.

Benefits of Climbing

Apart from the thrill, climbing offers a plethora of benefits, including improved strength, enhanced problem-solving skills, increased flexibility, and a strong sense of community among climbers. There is also a huge benefit from being more in touch with nature. In Scotland and across the world, you will often be rock climbing in incredible wild locations in the mountains, on the coast or in beautiful forests. This connection with nature has a huge benefit for mental health and can also help us value the protection of the wild places where we rock climb.

Alt= Rock climber climbing into the sun on granite rock
Climbing into the sun on beautiful Granite, Joshua Tree, USA

How to Start Climbing as a Beginner

1. Find a Climbing Wall/ Climbing Gym (Indoor climbing)

Often the first step is to start with some indoor climbing at your local climbing wall. Locate a nearby climbing gym that offers beginner-friendly courses. These gyms are equipped with climbing walls of varying difficulty levels, providing a safer and more controlled environment for newcomers. They are a great place to meet people and form new rock climbing partnerships. It is also a great place to start building some of the strength and movement techniques which you will need to practice to improve your confidence. Be aware that just because it is a "gym" environment, it does not mean that it is totally safe. You still need to learn the proper ropework techniques and how to stay safe. You can often sign up to a beginner rock climbing course for indoor climbing at your local climbing wall.

2. Enrol in a Beginner Climbing Course (Outdoor climbing)

Once you have started your journey and feel confident in the indoor climbing wall you may feel that the time is right to step out and head to your local cliff or crag to start rock climbing outdoors. This is a step which will introduce a lot more potential danger into your sport so it is important to get the right instruction for a beginner to rock climbing. Signing up for a structured beginner climbing course is crucial. These courses are tailored to introduce newcomers to climbing techniques, safety skills, equipment usage, and basic climbing etiquette. They lay the foundation for a safe and enjoyable climbing experience. Often people have gained a lot of strength in the indoor wall, which is great, however, without the proper rope skills accidents can happen. It is really important to bring your grade right down and start from the lowest grades when roc k climbing outside as the skills needed are so different.

3. Invest in Proper Gear

While climbing gyms often provide rental equipment, investing in your gear as you progress is essential. Start with climbing shoes and a harness, ensuring they fit comfortably and provide the necessary support. When you sign up to a rock climbing course, your instructor will be able to help you decide on the best equipment for you and tell you how to choose the right size and fit. Just like all safety equipment you need to buy items which are CE marked and marked with the UIAA international standard for rock climbing equipment. Make sure you buy from a reputable outdoor shop or online store who will be able to advise you.

4. Focus on Technique

As a beginner, emphasis should be on learning proper climbing techniques rather than solely relying on strength. Techniques such as footwork, body positioning, and efficient movement will significantly impact your climbing ability. It is really common, especially in those who already go to the gym and are strong, for people to forget that the best climbers are those with perfect technique not the strongest arms. Good rock climbing courses will have a focus on movement and technique as part of the syllabus.

5. Build Strength and Endurance

Whilst rock climbing technique is the most important you must also train your body to be able to hold on in, often stressful, positions for a long time. Supplement your climbing with exercises that enhance core strength, flexibility, and endurance. This will aid in tackling more challenging climbs and reduce the risk of injuries. In the initial stages of your rock climbing journey, it is often enough just to go climbing a lot. Be careful not to start pulling on small holds, using fingerboards, or more advanced training boards until your body is ready. Your tendons are especially weak when you first start rock climbing so make sure you protect these as much as possible.

6. Climb Consistently and Set Goals

Rock climbing is no different to all sports and skills, consistency is key to improvement. Make climbing a regular part of your routine and set achievable goals. It is really important to remember that your confidence and mental strength for rock climbing is something which must be nurtured. Rock climbing is not just a game of physical strength but also mental toughness. Therefore you should aim to progress slowly, carefully and incrementally. Trying to jump rock climbing grades too soon can cause you to have a stressful or scary time and this can set you back. Progressively challenge yourself by attempting rock climbs slightly beyond your comfort zone. A good rock climbing course will always leave you with a plan of how to progress in a steady and controlled way based around your ability at the end of the course. Rock climbing instructors will be able to set you clear goals.

7. Learn from Others

Engage with experienced climbers, seek advice, and observe their techniques. Learning from others' experiences can provide invaluable insights and shortcuts in your climbing journey. A good rock climbing course will identify mistakes people often make when they start climbing and help you to avoid them. One thing to be aware of when starting out is that there is lots of information on the internet and YouTube about rock climbing, however, be aware that lots of this is put up by unqualified climbers who may not be giving you the best information. Therefore, always make sure you attend a rock climbing course with a qualified instructor and seek out online rock climbing courses from a qualified and authoritative source.

8. Embrace Patience and Persistence

Remember, climbing is a journey, not a race. Embrace the learning process, celebrate small victories, and persist through challenges. Patience and persistence will take you far.

Alt= Leading a rock climb in the Scottish Highlands on a rock climbing course
Leading a rock climb in the Scottish Highlands


Embarking on a climbing journey as a beginner can be immensely rewarding. Starting with a structured beginner climbing course at a reputable gym, investing in proper gear, focusing on technique, and embracing patience and persistence are key elements in laying a strong foundation.

Are you ready to take the first step towards conquering vertical heights? Enrol in a beginner climbing course today and experience the thrill of reaching new summits!

Remember, the joy of climbing lies not just in reaching the top but in the entire journey of growth and exploration it offers.

For more information on beginner climbing courses and rock climbing essentials, reach out to me here at Alex Moran Mountaineering for expert guidance and support. I have both face to face rock climbing courses and online learning available.

Now, lace up your shoes, harness your determination, and let the adventure begin!

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