Frequently asked questions
1. You have to be fit, lean and strong to climb, don't you?
Not at all! The beauty of climbing is that it caters to all body types, shapes and sizes. As a great full-body workout, it also helps you to get closer to the shape you want to be. Our climbing walls start with great intro and starter routes, and you can build from there as you gain strength, technique and confidence. With a wide variety of routes, you'll find that there are challenges for every body type - tall, short, skinny, solid, the works. We'll also help you along the way, to help you get fitter and stronger, so you can be the best climber you can be.
2. Isn't climbing dangerous?
There's a common misconception that you have to have a screw loose to even think about climbing as a sport or hobby. With the proper safety training, and in a safe, controlled environment, climbing is actually one of the safest sports around. Look, it's not chess, but if you think about it, you can even hurt yourself getting out of bed in the morning! With roped climbing, the rope is solidly anchored into the roof (or the quickdraw, if you're lead climbing), and with a decent belayer on the other end (yes, we'll train and test them) it's pretty much impossible to hit the ground. We've also put in a specialised impact foam flooring, to help absorb and dissipate the force of any tumbles. With bouldering, we have thick foam crash pads under all the walls and routes, giving you a nice soft, controlled return to earth.
3. What's the difference between sport climbing and bouldering?
In a nutshell, sport climbing is climbing with some form of rope. Either top-roping or leading (see below for the difference), you can get up to some serious height on a route - either at the gym or out in nature (also referred to as 'the crag'). Strictly, sport climbing also includes 'trad' climbing - where you set your own anchors on a route before clipping into them - and 'soloing' - where you climb sport routes with no ropes or support (and have very good life insurance).
Bouldering, on the other hand, is generally done without ropes, and keeps to heights of not much more than 4-5m metres at a time. It's literally derived from climbers spotting a perfectly good boulder out in the wild, and going "Hmmm, let's climb that." They would generally down-climb after finishing a route (or 'problem', as they're known in bouldering), and would lay out portable crash pads beneath themselves in case they come off the rock face.
4. What's the difference between top-roping and lead climbing?
With top-roping, the rope is already set above the climber, and they simply climb up the route, with the rope attached to themselves and their belayer at the other end. They then just rappel/abseil down once they're done with the route. With lead climbing, though, the climber effectively takes the rope up with them. They're still tied in to the rope the same way, but as they climb up the route, they clip into quickdraws - which are either already in the anchors in most gyms, or clipped into the anchors when climbing natural rockfaces (most documented sport routes already have bolts anchored into the rockface at specific intervals, by climbers or mountaineers who've gone before). These quickdraws then effectively act as the anchors/pulleys for the climber, so that if they take a fall, they only fall as far as the last quickdraw they clipped into. When finishing a route, the lead climber may need to 'clean the route' - which is unclipping any quickdraws they're put up themselves - and would then pull the rope through once down on the ground. Belaying a lead climber is not massively different to belaying on top-rope, but there are some slightly more technical nuances to it, which is why it's tested separately.
5. How do climbing grades work?
In South Africa, the grade systems for sport climbing and bouldering are slightly different. For sport climbing, it works on a pure numbering system, where the higher the number is, the harder the grade. In a climbing gym environment, very easy routes (many easy holds, close together, making the route almost ladder-like) would start around the 11/12 mark, and very advanced routes would start topping out around the high 20's. There are only a handful of climbers in SA who can climb a 30, for example. Grades can be very subjective, and you may also find that a grade may be given a 'plus' designation if it's felt to fall between two grades (eg. a 16+ would harder than a 16, but not quite warrant a 17 grading).
For bouldering, there's a combination of numbering and lettering, also staggered upwards in line with difficulty. Each number grade runs through an a, b, and c version, before dialling up one number. By way of example, an easy boulder problem would be a 4a, which would progress to 4b and 4c, before becoming a 5a. The best boulderers are tackling problems in the 8a-c range.
6. I don't know how to belay - where can I learn?
You can learn right in our gym! Book a 2-hr Intro Course, and our staff will show you how it's done, watch you practice (generally while 'standing safety' on the rope), and then test your belaying ability.
7. Do I have to come with a partner, or can I just arrive on my own?
While it's certainly easier if you have a climbing partner or belayer, you're more than welcome to simply arrive on your own. Apart from bouldering and traversing - which can easily be done on your own - our staff will be able to belay you while you do a couple of routes. As much as we don't charge extra for this, please note that it does depend on how full we are, and how busy the staff members may be.
8. Do you offer climbing as an extra-mural sport for school learners?
We most certainly do. We offer in-house training and coaching, and can put together structured programs on a term-by-term basis. We can also refer aspirant climbers onto specialised performance coaches - especially if the young climber is showing signs of being a serious future competitor.
9. What is some of the climbing jargon and terminology that's useful to know?
Apart from the terminology which has been mentioned in some of the above questions and answers, here are a couple of other common terms you're likely to come across:
Jug: This is a grip which is relatively easy to hold - the climber would be able to get their hand or fingers around the grip, and get some purchase from behind as well.
Crimp: This is a much more difficuly grip to hold, and many small foot placements would also fall into this category. These grips rely on finger and tendon strength to be able to climb them.
Pinch: The name dictates the type of grip needed to hold onto it - the climber would be relying on their compression strength to be able to generate enough pressure to maintain hold of this grip.
Sloper: This is a grip where there is no defined edge to get any kind of grasp on - these require friction and tension to be applied to be able to be climbed.
Slack: This is the amount of 'looseness' left in the rope. Experienced climbers often like to climb with slightly more slack, as it gives them more range of movement and flexibility, whereas beginner climbers generally prefer to feel the support of the rope, and choose to have as little slack as possible in it. As a short rule, the more slack in the rope, the further the climber will drop/fall before the belayer can catch them
Send: To send a route is to climb it without stopping, sitting or resting - to effectively do it 'in one shot'.
Positive/negative edge: A positive edge is one where there is clearly apparent grip to be had (a big jug would be immensely positive, for example). A negative edge would be very difficult to grip or stay on, specifically where it just slopes away.
Features: In a climbing gym environment specifically, features would describe other aspects of the wall or route that aren't specifically allocated grips. Say that you were climbing a route where there was an edge of the wall on one side - if you holding onto, or heel-hooking, the edge was part of the route, then that feature would be 'in'. If the route is meant to be climbed without any assistance other than the grips, then features would be 'out'.
Traverse: A traverse is climbing a route along the bottom of a set of walls. Sometimes they are defined as traverses, and other times they are simply 'made up' by the climber. Climbers would then travers left or right along a long section of wall (effectively moving across many sets of anchors), without really getting much more than a metre or two off the floor. It would be done without ropes, and with the foot holds generally not being that positive, it's a great way to work on strength, balance, weight distribution, and foot/hand placement technique.
Grigri: A grigri is a device that allows the climber to 'self-belay'. Both ends of the rope are fed through it and its carabiner, and it acts as a 'catch' in the event of the climber taking a fall. The climber can then lift a lever on the grigri to lower themselves down. They're loved by route-setters the world over :)