Guide to Indoor Rock Climbing

written by local expert Tom Rogers

Tom is the co-founder of Adventure in You and has been traveling the world for the last 9 years, living in 5 different continents. His advice on travel gear, adventure travel, and business have been featured in Foundr, Business Insider, CNN and more.

Rock climbing is a fun sport that you can do almost anywhere in the world. While I am no pro at it, I’ve scaled walls in Thailand, London, and even in Ecuador. Whether it’s outdoor or indoor rock climbing, it is a fun sport and is a great way to squeeze in some exercise.

If you’ve never rock climbed before, I recommend you start with an indoor wall as there are fewer elements you have to deal with.

I fondly remember trying to scale up a massive volcanic boulder in Ecuador and while it was awesome, the wind was howling that day which definitely added another level of difficulty to my already steep climb. While I mostly prefer outdoor rock climbing, I have had a few fun times in indoor rock climbing gyms which is why I wanted to write this quick article introducing the basics for you.

Indoor Rock Climbing Styles

Top Rope Climbing

This particular style of climbing is when you (the climber) is securely attached to a rope which is looped through an anchor system at the very top. Below you is another person (your belayer) who assists your climb.

In most climbing gyms, they have trained staff to help you belay which will help catch you in case you fall. If you’re with an experienced climber, he can also assist you in this process.


Unlike the top-rope style of climbing, bouldering is a free reign wall where you can climb with neither a harness or a rope. Boulders are usually placed really close to the ground and are meant to help you practice your grip and the ability to move from one place to the next.

There are thick padded mats placed on the floor in case you fall. While it sounds scary, bouldering is a great way to build skill and strength as you navigate your way amongst the various routes within the boulder.

If you want to goof around or just generally test your upper body strength, this is where I recommend you start. My partner Anna is slightly terrified of heights so whenever we do go to climbing gyms, she usually sticks to this wall.

Lead Climbing

As soon as you’re comfortable in indoor rock climbing walls, the next step is to start lead climbing which is essentially attaching yourself to bolts within the route. As you scale the wall, you quickly attach yourself to the face of the route by clipping yourself on.

Lead climbing needs lots of practice with their hand technique in order to clip the rope into the quickdraw, as well as learn about rope positioning, and how to fall. Most indoor rock climbing gyms have specific routes just for lead climbing. rock-climbing-lead

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Rock Climbing Locations

As you can imagine, there are tons of indoor rock climbing locations. In fact, if you want to find somewhere near you, all you have to do is type indoor rock climbing near me and a whole list of search results are guaranteed to come out.

Similar to choosing the right gear, I usually read the reviews of the indoor climbing gyms to see if the equipment, staff, and the climbing routes are worth trying out. I’ve been to a few gyms around Asia where there is no sense of safety so make sure you look into it beforehand.

Indoor Rock Climbing Safety and Gear

One of the first things I look at when choosing a gym to go indoor rock climbing is their gear. Remember, your safety is in the hands of a few harnesses and ropes so you have to make sure they are in good condition. If they are looking old or worn out, it is best to find another gym.

Here are the following things that I would double check when going to a new climbing gym:

  • Climbing Harness
  • Quality of locking carabiners
  • Grip and outer sole of shoes

Most rental equipment comes with your climbing session but it is always worth double checking before signing up.

If you’re a pro climber or simply someone who is looking to get into it more, there are a wide range of climbing equipment out there for you to build your own gear collection. I suggest you take the time to read about the products you are purchasing to make sure they are of top quality. Most products will also have loads of reviews which you can peruse to help you make your decision. rock-climbing-equipment

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Relax and Have Fun

Last but not least, my biggest tip when it comes to indoor rock climbing is to enjoy the process. Yes, it may seem daunting at first, especially for those who are scared of heights, however, the entire process should be fun! It’s not about climbing or scaling the wall the fastest, instead, it is about training your body, strengthening your core, and getting a wider flexibility range as you move around.

If you’re looking for more tips on climbing, check out our beginners guide to rock climbing which gives out basic tips on basic posture, equipment, and more.

Inspired? Pin it! Indoor Rock Climbing | Looking for tips on how to get started rock climbing? Check out our guide for more details #rockclimbing

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