Indoor Wall Climbing is an ideal prerequisite to rock and ice climbing.
Indoor wall climbing can be standalone recreation or supplementary training for rock and ice climbing. A perceived fear of heights may actually be a fear of falling and that fear can be quickly and easily eliminated. It is a similar misconception which prevents claustrophobic people from attempting their first caving mission in a place like Rat's Nest Cave.
Two Calgary climbing facilities are The Stronghold (Calgary Climbing Centre) and The Crux. The University of Calgary and Mount Royal University maintain climbing walls and Elevation Place in Canmore maintains an impressive climbing facility. Each wall climbing location will offer an introductory course to teach the basics and get you started with rental gear.
First, you will be required to pay a small, reasonable sum of money for your initial training where you will meet some similar-minded, adventuresome people. Next comes an introductory video about safety and etiquette. These are important.
When sensible and important rules are followed it is less likely a mishap will occur. Safety is paramount.
Then you will be asked to sign disclaimers absolving the facility of responsibility for any accidental harm. You may wonder if you have made an error in judgment but hang in there because now you are going to get busy. You may begin, without equipment, on bouldering wall to get a bit of experience with a variety of hand and foot holds.
There are cushioning pads on the floor below to provide a soft landing in the unlikely event you fall. The bouldering walls allow simulation for horizontal traverse on big rocks. Play like a child.
Qualified and experienced instructors will review the gear and illustrate its use. Dressed in unflattering, loose-fitting clothing for flexibility, you will learn to tie a secure double, figure-eight knot.
If you do not have you own gear, you may rent a harness, a carabiner (biner for short - pronounced beaner), a belaying device (one per pair of people) and snug-fitting climbing shoes. At the beginning, thin, tight-fitting socks are OK but bare feet are better inside the shoes. If you prefer putting your bare feet in your own shoes, get help with the initial fitting.
A partner is mandatory. One person will climb while the other belays (secures the other end of the rope attached to the climber). You will get into your harness and make just-right (not too tight - not too loose) secure connections at the waist and on each leg. The instructor will check.
The climber and belayer MUST check each others gear thoroughly, every time, prior to beginning the climb. This is important.
Your biner is attached to the front, center loop on your harness and locked down. Now you will thread about 5 feet (152 cm) of rope through the biner, and tie your perfect double figure-eight knot. If you do not like the look of it, undo it and start again until you get it right. Ask the instructor to critique. Eventually, with practice, the rope length allowance and knot will be intuitively perfect every time.
The loop on the belaying device will be passed through the locked-down biner attached to the harness. Many wall climbing locations use a gri-gri for belaying. It is a mechanical device which secures rope while a climber is ascending. The gri-gri reduces risk for beginning indoor climbers. Indoors, either is fine and the gri-gri adds a small margin of safety for new students. It makes sense to own your own belaying device with its unique 'feel'. You will learn a list of brief, clear commands a climber and belayer use for clear and concise communication.
It is wise and common to begin on the easiest wall with big knobby hand and foot holds, frequently spaced so you can easily find something to stand on or to grab. Do not be embarrassed if a 4-year-old or a senior citizen is climbing on the same wall with you. While climbing, the belayer is pulling rope through the belaying device to reduce slack in the line.
Each wall climbing facility will have a series of walls with progressively difficult holds and obstacles to promote increased skill-set. Proceed as you choose. Your belayer will keep you in the air.
Always be kind and polite to your belayer. Treat them with the utmost respect. They may literally hold your life in their hands. Climbing is a very powerful trust and team process. It is a concept that can be carried forward to all facets of any life. There is great power in trust, truth and common decency.
The photos in this post are from several climbing sessions to provide an idea of the process and of people achieving new goals beyond their wildest, initial expectations. If and when you have a chance to see an accomplished climber at work, it is like a vertical dance.
In the photos you may notice a bag hanging from the back of a climber's harness. This contains chalk used for keeping sweaty hands dry and stable on hand holds.