Rock climbing techniques for beginners

No need for a crash mat in Ton Sai!

No need for a crash mat in Ton Sai!

The Krabi region is a rock climbing mecca like nowhere else in Southeast Asia, with the jagged limestone cliffs forming the perfect aphrodisiac for hardened adrenaline junkies from all over the world. The sight of lean, tanned climbers covered in chalk and strapped into bulging harnesses is common around the crags of Railay, Ton Sai and Koh Phi Phi, but getting into the sport is just as easy with a range of beginner’s courses and excursions on offer.

Starting rock climbing comes naturally for some people, but can be intimidating for others. While experienced climbers can seem to fly up routes without any effort, those without training will struggle to get off the ground.

But if you want to get a head-start on the competition (or impress that girl/boy you’ve just met with your vertical prowess) then check out our easy rock climbing beginners hints and tips for some simple advice on staying safe and happy on the up.

The surprising truth is that climbing, at least at the basic level, really has a minimal amount to do with physical strength. Anyone can climb to a reasonable standard by simply applying the correct techniques, you just have to make Darwin proud and let your inner ape out!

However, unlike our primate cousins, humans are not used to climbing every day and it’s a habit we quickly forget. But learning to climb should be like second nature, and so picking it up is a smooth learning curve that won’t be alien to anyone. More on climbing in Krabi.

Beginner rock climbing techniques

When moving up, always stay as close to the wall face as possible. The nearer your centre of gravity is to the wall, the less work your muscles have to do to hold you in place. If you are completely vertical, then your body need only stand rather than actually cling to the rock. It also helps to climb with the inside edges of your feet, rather than the toes which involves using your calf muscles more.

Rock climbing around Railay Beach

When resting, which you should do often to look down and check your footholds, make sure to straighten your arms so you don't get cramp or tire them out. Also lean back slightly but keep your handholds fairly high up. Bring each foot up one at a time to reduce the wear on your hands.

Always rely upon your legs (which are much stronger than your arms) more than your upper body. You wouldn’t climb a staircase by pulling yourself up with your arms, and a rock face is no different but just a little bit steeper!

It’s best not to lean too far from the wall when resting, as when you are ready to continue it just takes more strength to pull yourself back against the face again.

Try to think about your next move and so position your hands and feet on the appropriate holds which will help you for that. Reducing the amount of unnecessary switching will improve your speed and skill by ensuring you plan your next manoeuvre well ahead.

Keys to practising basic climbing techniques

Knowing the basics of rock climbing techniques is one thing on paper, but a wholly different concept when you’re dangling several metres off the ground. The essential thing about good technique is that it must be developed, and it certainly helps to have a qualified instructor on hand as you progress.

It is important to master easy routes in order to foster self-confidence and a sense of achievement, but don’t be afraid of trying difficult routes as well to push your boundaries. When climbing simple routes, try to finish them with as little effort as possible. If you feel tired with aching arms at the end of an easy route then you could probably improve your technique. Perhaps there was an easier move than that burn-inducing pull-up or a more subtle approach to the problem?

Other areas in which to study and improve consist of the specific types of holds and when to use them. These can include techniques perfect for the Krabi area such as crack climbing and chimneys. Balance is also crucially important, and knowing how to manipulate your centre of gravity by flagging, switching feet or cross-hooking. The final area of expertise is body tension, as a great deal of climbing needs the holding of tension between two or more contact points in order to stay on the face. More on climbing trips in Krabi.

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