Rock climbing may have a reputation as a hardcore sport for bodybuilding enthusiasts, but climbers in Vermont say you don’t have to look like Thor or David Hasselhoff to scale great heights on the wall.
“Once you’ve built up some strength, that’s also helpful, but the basics of rock climbing are really about balance and footwork,” said Andrea Charest, co-owner of the climbing and climbing center. mountaineering Petra Cliffs based in Burlington.
Focusing on balance and footwork, Charest broke down some of the tips she considers essential for beginner climbers to start reaching new heights.
Stinky old sneakers won’t do the climbing. Climbing shoes are the way to go, Charest said.
“Climbing shoes have sticky rubber and very sharp edges so you can really use the edge of your toe on the holds,” Charest said.
The climbing shoes also have a slight inward curve on the bottom, an upside-down U-shape.
The curve helps you “use your feet a bit like hands to pull your body up against the wall,” Charest said.
Push with your legs
While many new climbers’ first inclination may be to focus strength on the arms, it can be much more energy-efficient to lift with the legs, Charest said.
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“Your legs are much stronger than your arms,” Charest said. “So finding the balance points to be able to push with your big muscles in your legs really helps with climbing, compared to pulling with your arms.”
During a demonstration, Charest extended a climbing wall by using his legs to move from a squat to a standing position, while keeping his arms relatively straight.
Keep your arms straight
Extending your arms in a bent position is a quick way to drain your energy. It’s best to keep your arms straight while climbing, Charest said.
“You can imagine yourself starting out on monkey bars. You have your arms outstretched as you hang and swing on monkey bars,” Charest said.
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With straight, relaxed arms, you can hold on to your bones more than your muscles, Charest said.
Charest identified three fundamental ways to use his feet: the regular step, the backward step and the heel hook.
Regular steps involve placing your foot flat with your big toe on one foot, then pushing up into a tiptoe position. This step always allows you to gain a little extra height, Charest said.
Backward steps are similar to regular steps, except that they use the little toe to raise the height of the balls of the feet.
Heel hooks involve stepping on your heel, which allows you to rotate your foot and bring your hips closer to the wall. Keeping your hips close to the wall decreases the distance your arms have to reach to grab the next hold, Charest said.
Enter the area
One of Charest’s favorite parts about climbing is the focus zone she places it in.
“When you’re on the wall, nothing else matters. Sometimes it can turn a day into a really bad day,” Charest said. “Being on the wall, just focusing on your next move, can really change your thoughts.”
The joy of rock climbing kept Charest at Petra Cliffs for 21 years, growing from part-time birthday party host to co-owner.
Where to Indoor Rock Climb in Vermont
Here are some places to go indoor rock climbing in Vermont:
- BrattCave Bouldering Gym (74 Cotton Mill Hill #252, Brattleboro)
- Green Mountain Climbing Center (223 Woodstock Avenue, Rutland)
- Kingdom Climb (847 Rocky Ridge Road, St. Johnsbury)
- MetroRock Vermont (320 Sunderland Way, Essex Junction)
- Motio Recreation (6 Park St, Randolph)
- Cliffs of Petra (105 Briggs Street, Burlington)