Climbing

Climbing is one of the core sports we do as a club, with a focus on ice or rock climbing depending on the time of year and the conditions. Our non-winter meets are often at venues with a choice of bouldering, single pitch or multipitch. We're not very hardcore; most of our members climb between VDiff and the lower E grades (British trad grades - up to about F6c if you're looking at sport/indoor grades). Our meets are mostly UK-based and hence we normally do trad, though there are occasional ventures to bolted crags for some sport climbing action. Members often arrange climbing trips outside the official meets list, in the UK and abroad.

Some Rockhoppers climb at the Castle Climbing Centre on Tuesday and Thursday nights, and often arrange other informal sessions at other venues including the Westway, Mile End and the Biscuit Factory. Check out our Facebook page to find who's going when.

You don't need to have climbed before to become a member, though you are more likely to find a climbing partner if you're a competent belayer and second - and even more so if you have a rack and rope and are willing to lead! Don't fret if not, we welcome new members and will do our best to find you people to climb with, and offer advice on how to learn the skills you need. Please note that we're not a training or guiding organisation, and cannot provide direct training for new members. However, we also run an annual Novice Meet where experienced climbers help out members who want to try climbing or improve their skills.

If you're new to the club and would like to climb on a trip, we recommend trying to meet up with us at the climbing wall or a pub meet ahead of the trip - it's always easier to persuade people to climb with you if they know you.

Equipment

The following is an essential minimum kit list for anyone attending outdoor club trips and wanting to climb. Any decent climbing shop will know what to advise you to get based on this list. Your club membership card will get you discounts on gear from several outdoor shops - find more info on the Membership page.

 

  • Climbing shoes: Not too uncomfortably tight!
  • Harness: Any climbing harness should be fine for seconding. If you are buying one and want to progress your climbing within the club get one with at least 4 good sized gear loops for trad gear racking. Adjustable leg loops can be useful for winter climbing and mountaineering use. When buying a harness take advice on the size as the harness needs to fit properly.
  • Helmet: Any helmet designed for rock climbing use, again make sure it fits properly.
  • Belay device + belay carabiner: A basic-plate style device with two holes is very versatile, cheap and perfect for most of what the club does including abseiling. If buying a device it should be suitable for use with thin double ropes (8-9mm) as well as thicker (10mm) single ropes. In practice this means a device with 'teeth' to increase the braking force. Specialist sport climbing devices like GriGris are not usually suitable. The carabiner should be an HMS or specialist belay type.
  • Nut key: Essential for seconding trad climbs and removing gear. The leader will want their second to remove all gear so everyone needs one. Try putting gear in and getting it out while on the ground, as getting gear out while hanging on one handed or dangling on the end of the rope is an added challenge!
  • Personal anchor sling: Specialist anchor systems are available but a standard sling is fine. A 16mm nylon sling is a good choice for this use due to the increased safety margin over dyneema.
  • 2x prusik loops: Essential for all sea cliff areas as they are used to back up approach abseils, but should be carried generally to allow ropes to be ascended. 5mm cord suggested as it will grip better on thin ropes. A good climbing shop will know what length of cord is needed.
  • 2nd locking carabiner: screwgate, autolock or twingate type. Needed for either anchoring to belays when seconding or backing up abseils.
  • 3rd carabiner: You will need at least one more to rack all of the above!
  • Suitable clothing and approach footwear: For mountain areas like the Lake District and Snowdonia this means full hill gear, ie. waterproofs, warm clothes and mountain shoes/boots. Sea cliffs also generally have steep approaches so footwear with good grip is essential.
  • Guidebook: Not strictly essential but if you're leading it will be helpful to have your own to maintain some independence from the group.
  • Climbing manual: Also not essential, but learning how to climb safely rather than immediately pushing your grade will give you a solid base to work from. Rock Climbing: Essential Skills and Techniques by Libby Peter is a UK-focused guide that should cover all the essentials and also more advanced techniques. Most ropework and belay anchors etc. can be practiced on the ground.

Advice on starting to trad climb

A rope (or two) and lead climbing rack is not essential to climb on trips but you will be more independent and probably find it easier to get climbing partners if you do have some of your own gear.

A trad climbing apprenticeship is generally a good idea before trying to progress through the grades on lead as the consequences of a fall on badly placed gear is serious regardless of how hard the climb is. Specialist trad leading courses are highly recommended to complement your general experience. As mentioned above, the book Rock Climbing: Essential Skills and Techniques by Libby Peter will be very helpful too.

A trad lead rack is a huge investment – many climbers go for the cheapest gear to build a rack quickly then end up wanting to replace it as soon as they start progressing through the grades so it’s always worth getting a feel for stuff and trying other people's before investing. Coordinating gear with someone you climb with a lot is one way to keep the cost down. The Needle Sports website has fairly comprehensive advice on buying trad gear.

 

More info

Find information on the club's commitments to its climbing members, or feel free to contact the Climbers' Rep for more info.