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Indoor Climbing Tips

Indoor Climbing Tips

Some of the TriHards have been regularly heading out to Canberra’s Indoor Climbing centre for a number of years now; this, however doesn’t make us experts! We haven’t climbed the roof yet, or done the lead climbing course. Being the non-competitive types that we are, we just go for cross-training purposes (okay, for fun and socialising, but cross-training sounds a lot better!) We’ve picked up a few tips along the way, which may be of some use.

1. Buy a Harness.

The thought of falling off a wall and pushing your nethers up to your throat while wearing one of the hire ribbon harnesses may give you incentive to not fall off (and, you know, some people may actually enjoy that sort of thing). But that also means you won’t overly push yourself for fear of turning your beloved buddies into pancakes. There is nothing like your own harness, it’s comfortable, it’s set up to fit you, and there’s no pain when you come off the wall. The first time one of the TriHards came off the wall in his own harness, he actually laughed, such was his relief.

There are a heap of harnesses out there, and vary in price, so would only really be a worthwhile investment if you’re planning on climbing more than a couple of times a year. If you’re in Canberra, check out Mountain Designs for a good range of harnesses, Paddy Pallin in Braddon also have a pretty good range of climbing gear.

2. Join the Canberra Climbing Association

You don’t have to be Canberran to join, of course. But it’s definitely worthwhile, particularly if you’re a native. You’ll be supporting climbing in Canberra, get discounts at the indoor climbing centre and Mountain Designs (so if you’re climbing regularly, or buying some kit, the membership will pay for itself within a couple of weeks) and they run introduction to climbing days a couple of times a year, which is an excellent way to get out on the crag for some “real” climbing with experienced climbers. You can check out their site for more info.

3. Shoes

No, you can’t use your old ballet slippers to climb. Well, you can, but they’re not as good as climbing shoes, and people will mock you! Climbing shoes are an excellent investment if you’re getting more serious about climbing. The rubber soles help to get a good grip on the wall, let you really push up off your toes and help your feet hang on to the smallest of holds.

4. Watch the good climbers.

Turn up a bit early, or take a break, and check out how the good climbers do it; that one with his feet tucked around his ears as he flips up another hold, or the guy hanging upside down from the ceiling. You can pick up a lot just from watching them, there are little moves in climbing that you can practice, which work; ways to grip holds which you may have never thought of when you were there, that turn out to be a fantastic grip.

5. Be One With The Wall

But first you must catch a fly in your chopsticks! Following from 4, we’ve noticed that a lot of the really good indoor climbers just hug onto the wall; there is a minimum space between them and the wall. They look more like lizards climbing the wall than people. It makes sense, particularly on inclines, if you can get your centre of gravity closer to the wall, then you’re not really holding as much up...

6. Lift with your legs

How many times have you been told to lift with your legs? It’s still true in climbing. The temptation is there to grab that big, nuggety handhold above you, and just pull yourself up. And that can work for a while. But your arms are smaller and have less muscles than your legs (well, in most people) so they’ll burn out quicker. You should be using your hands and arms for balance, and your legs to lift you to the next level.

7. Do a series

Do a series of climbs up and down an easy wall; start off easy with two or three, and try to move up to five, then move on and do it on a harder wall. We do this as our warm down of a night. The idea is to go up a few times, only stopping to abseil down, and try not to make a noise with your feet (this means you’re getting good foot placement). If you’re absolutely buggered after a climb, or two, and you can’t move your arms, you know that you’re using them too much. Doing a series provides a good exercise for your technique, not to mention a fairly good workout!

8. Get a grip

Hand grip and finger strength play a big role in climbing (here’s another tip: never shake hands with a climber!) As you do more and more climbing over time you’ll discover that your fingers and forearms get stronger on their own, just from the regular exercise. But if you’re impatient, or want to work them a bit harder, there are exercises you can do to strengthen them.


The first cheap (but not really easy) option is to just use a door frame at home. You don’t need to buy any expensive exercise equipment, most houses have a door or two around somewhere (any small ledge will do, one which will only fit your finger tips across it). Jump up, and catch on to the top with your fingertips, then just hang for as long as you can. You can even do it watching tv! It also has the added bonus that each time you do it, you’ll probably grab a different spot, so you’ll effectively be dusting while you exercise.

Once you’re done just hanging, or if you want to push yourself a bit harder, you can start doing chin ups. Do a couple of chin-ups, then hang when your arms are tired, and do a few more. That’ll give you an excellent workout.

You can buy or make stuff as well; such as a finger board, but you’ll have to mount that somewhere. The idea there is to mount it higher than you; you jump up to the first rung and hang on with your fingers, then you climb up the rungs, one hand at a time.

9. Try Outdoor climbing.

There’s nothing like trying the real thing after spending a bit of time indoors. Surprisingly, it can be easier (or harder) than indoor work. The trads call indoor climbing technical climbing, because the holds and climbs are usually designed to sharpen techniques, so climbers have a bunch of set moves. But getting out to the real thing, looking down a cliff when you’re halfway up and realising this is the highest you’ve climbed, and there is no friendly belayer below you checking out the girl on the next wall can be a real eye opener, and definitely a confidence booster when you go back inside. And you may have a bit of climbing cred!

If you’re in Canberra, you could turn up to one of the CCA’s introduction to climbing days. They’re a friendly mob, who ensure that you have a safe climb; or check out Chockstone.

Well, that’s about it for our tips. Feel free to email us if you have some more.