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Can indoor climbing satisfy those who have had the taste of the outdoors?

Posted on July 14 2013

Indoor climbing is really booming and in many ways is leading the surge in growth for the sport. Most new climbers will start indoors in big shiny city venues far away from any serious rock. Considering the safe environment and strength training you can get from indoor walls this is no bad thing.

Indoor walls are really useful to train your technique and strength and especially work on your weaknesses. You can create almost any movement you want indoors and really push what is possible. Whether it is endurance, power, crimps or slopers you can really train your body. It is so useful for the professionals or when it is just too cold to climb.

If we are honest as well - for us mere mortals we can’t climb as a career (yet). If you have a 9-5 job it is definitely the best option unless you only want to climb a couple of times a year. Never-the-less you can go out of your comfort zone more outdoors and experience a real thrill, a real adventure.

My reason for writing this article is a trailer I saw a few weeks back. It was an adventure for sure, but not as epic as Leo Holding’s adventures for example. What caught my eye is it was all about a new experience. The story is about Daniel, one of the worlds top boulderers, but he has never crack climbed or multi-pitch climbed in his life. He has probably never gone above 40m in that case. He is being taken out and shown a new world of climbing. Something that in my eyes (sorry to the hardcore boulderers) is more exciting, extreme and dangerous. Of course Daniel is a professional and bouldering is his love so it probably won’t change that. But I bet he will never forget it.

That’s the whole idea of life. If you have got to the end and have no memories, what was the point? Something like this you will never forget. Daniel himself went back to that feeling of being a beginner, the excitement of something new. Not training at the best level in the world but trying and falling and having fun. It’s called Unearthed and the link is below:

I have seen a few of these films now and they always seem to have a sense of community. Its something I have experienced first hand on all the climbing trips I have done. Climbers share chalk, talk, tips, tea, guide books and act like they have known complete strangers for ages. It is surreal for a Londoner. Climbing clubs are the best and most accepting and even if you are not part of the club they normally let you join in (because you normally soon will be).

The question is can you get this feeling indoors. Climbers are friendly in the walls but tend to stick to themselves (not the same). Climbers are less relaxed in doors. There is a lot more swearing and frustration. Indoor climbing has a more gym like feel. It is the best gym in the world, which is actually fun and that you won’t give up in a few months but it doesn’t compare.

It depends what level you are. The first time I led a climb was indoors and that felt exciting and new. But not as great as leading a climb outdoors. My first outdoors was a big climb in Wales which tiny nuts had to be used. It was fantastic. My heart still races indoors when I am pushing my grade and I might slip (or know I definitely will slip) but still it doesn’t compare to the uncontrollable leg shake I get when I am feeling even a little out of my depth outdoors.

At some point everyone has to try it to see what I mean. You won’t get a sense of it (maybe still a little taste) at Harrison’s Rocks. Head to Scotland, Wales, Norway or the Alps and the scale, the rock the problems will blow your mind. Brightly coloured holds still do their job and still have their very welcome place in my life (especially when laid by Yann Genoux - and I still religiously climb indoors weekly but i yearn to get out more now. The feel of the rock itself, how it is naturally formed and how each type of rock is as different as playing tennis on grass, clay or concrete just means you can never get bored.

Without indoor climbing I would never have fallen in love with this sport, I would never have improved as quickly as I have. I owe it so much. I feel a little bit guilty for writing an article like this but it is honestly how I feel. I should warn you though I am the type of person who will take pictures of rock and amazing natural holds.

If you want to see for yourself and experience first hand an epic climbing adventure consider our Southern Alps trip. We promise your world of climbing will never be the same again.


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