Essential knowledge for your first indoor rock climb

Indoor Rock Climb

Are you thinking about your first indoor rock climb? Has the adventurous spirit captured you?

If you are like me the idea of rock climbing is glamorous and the natural place to start is with an indoor rock climb.  I remember my first time I was younger and it was over 11 years ago now. I hope by sharing my experience it will enable others to go out and try something new and hopefully find a lifetime pursuit you can continue to enjoy for the rest of your life.

indoor rock climb  Right from the start, I want to tell you that rock climbing is completely addictive and it will provide you with enough depth that you will never get bored of it.

There are numerous skills that you can learn, these skills can take you some amazing places around the world. Within climbing, there are many different disciplines that you can progress through and I will cover of the progression in future articles.

I want to focus on the indoor rock climb here because for most climbers this is the place they start.

What to expect at your first indoor climbing session

It may vary slightly but essentially your first indoor climb will be where you acquaint yourself with the plastic wall and holds in front of you. I am not going to sugar coat it, it may feel a bit odd at first but I guarantee this will get better. As you become ever more confident you will learn how to use the various holds to your advantage,

The fear of your first indoor climb can be overwhelming particularly if you have a fear of heights. Indoors climbing is safe and under the correct supervision, you should be confident climbing up the wall.

Climbing Holds

Climbing holds can be a challenge to read. You may wonder what I mean by this indoor climbing-holdsbut you can essentially grab a hold in many different ways. At first, you will grab at the holds any way you can. With time you will develop a skill using the hold more effectively which will make you more efficient moving up the wall. This is more to do with climbing technique and will be something I cover in more detail in future.

For now, as a newbie climber to facing their first indoor rock climb standing in front of a wall, you will be faced with various holds. What you will notice initially is they vary in color. You probably wonder why and what this actually means. It’s actually fairly simple, the colored holds relate to different routes. The different routes are separated using different colored holds. If all holds were the same color it would be very difficult to distinguish the hard routes from the easier ones.

There is no set color for easy and hard routes. You will have to look around the wall and find which color relate to which difficulty. Normally you will see a poster or board hanging up which indicates the difficulty and color. To some extent you can look at how big the holds are this may give you an indication but the actual grade might be important. You might find that low down the holds are bigger and easy to hold and higher up they are smaller. The grade of the route will allow you to practice and train at different levels as you become stronger and more confident

What are Indoor climbing grades

There is quite a lot of confusion around climbing grades. At first you may not be particularly concerned about climbing grades, however, at some point, you will come into contact with them.  Generally speaking, most indoor walls will use the Frech grading system which gives an overall assessment of the physical and technical difficulty of the climb. Below I have listed the most common of these grades. As the number and letter increase this indicates the climbing getting more difficult. The English system grading system looks similar to this but try not to confuse the two, The British grading system refers to the hardest single move on a climb, not the overall difficulty. In future posts, I will look at the implication of this.  If you are interested in learning more about rock climbing grades the a have a look at Rockfax.

4b 5c 6b+ 7a+
4c 6a 6c 7b
5a 6a+ 6c+ 7b+
5b 6b 7a 7c

The first few indoor climbing sessions

Climbing sessions can be structured in different ways. You may go to the wall and just complete some low-level bouldering. This might mean you stay fairly close to the ground and traverse around the wall getting a sense and feel for indoor climbing

Your session could be more technical than this and you could go and put on a harness and practice going up and down the wall. Your session may involve learning the specific techniques to enable you to climb safely on your own.

The basic techniques you might learn include tieing knots. The basic ones being the figure of eight or bowline. You will also learn how to belay which is basically where you hold the rope while someone climbs.

The equipment you will use for your first indoor rock climb

Your first session or first few session might involve no additional equipment. As previously mentioned after a few sessions you might be introduced to some basic equipment


You will use this when you practice your first climbs up the wall.

Climbing Shoes

This will make your climbing experience easier. You can more stick with specialist shoes. It will give you a better connection to the wall and generally more confidence when you place your feet. Don’t be put off you can go and do your first indoor climb in your trainers you don’t need specialist shoes at first.

Climbing Harness

An essential piece of equipment if you are climbing vertically. It is important it fits correctly and is done up correctly. Normally in the first few of your sessions, you will be able to borrow this you will not require your own.

Chalk Bag

Again not essential but chalk will enable you to grab the rock or the holds easier.

Belay device

This is a technical piece of equipment that allows the rope to be stopped when your climbing partner falls. You also use the belay device to lower someone down from a climb under control. It is an important part of the climbing safety system.

Where can I go to find out  more

The BMC has a great collection of video which off you instruction on different areas of climbing skill. Videos are no substitute for proper instruction but they do give you a great overview of fundamental skills.

Also, you can visit Climbing website which offers some useful guides, in-depth articles, and videos for those of you who want to broaden your knowledge and climbing skills.

The most useful place for you to visit for your first indoor rock climb will be your local wall. Your local wall will have a qualified instructor that will teach you the basics skill to operated safely indoors. Joining your local wall is a great way to meet new people and find a potential climbing partner. I will be compiling a list of local climbing walls in the coming weeks so make sure you keep an eye out for that. Good luck with your first indoor rock climb and please share your experience with me.

If you will like to contact me regarding anything here please do. If you would like to collaborate please also get in touch.