Rock Climbing Tips and Tricks

Rock Climbing Holidays

A great way to progress as a rock climber

If you’re a climber, you know that there is no better way to spend your vacations than clambering up an unfamiliar rock face in the midst of some fabulous scenery. Rock climbing holidays are your chance to have fun, discover new places, and progress as a climber.

What to Expect from a Rock Climbing Holiday

If you go on an organized rock climbing holiday, you will benefit from the attention of an expert instructor who will teach you new techniques, suggest routes, and look after your safety. Talk to your instructor to discuss what you want to get out of the trip, and he or she will devise a training program to suit your needs.

A couple of years ago, a large group of us went to Mallorca for a climbing holiday, and we organised everything ourselves. Going through a company with a guide can be a good option for your first trip, but if there are several of you going, you should consider putting the tip together yourself.

It is important to plan before too. Read more about my holiday, Rock Climbing in Mallorca.

Where to Go on a Rock Climbing Holiday

As a rock climber, you clearly have a spirit of adventure, so you probably have plans to travel the whole world. However, you may have a particular area in mind for your trip, especially if you are restricted by financial or time constraints. The time of year you want to travel may also influence your choice of location. Fortunately, every continent has its own fantastic locations for rock climbing.

Rock Climbing Holidays in the United States

California and Colorado offer especially good rock climbing opportunities. In California, head to Yosemite to scale the gigantic granite faces of Half Dome and El Capitan, or to Joshua Tree to climb beautiful white granite walls and cracks. Colorado offers a range of suitable climbing locations in the Rocky Mountains, Eldorado Canyon, and Black Canyon.

Rock Climbing Holidays in Europe

Europe has a very diverse landscape with some great opportunities for climbing. During the summer months, The Rock Climbing Company runs courses in Snowdonia, Wales, which is the climbing hotspot of Great Britain. These professionally-run courses are an excellent way for beginners to get a first taste of rock climbing in a safe environment, or for more advanced climbers to hone their skills.

During the winter months, you might want to consider heading to southern Europe in search of drier weather. The Italian Dolomites are the place to go for wall climbing, as this area features easily accessible routes which are up to 800 meters long. Alternatively, the Italian island of Sardinia offers challenging limestone climbing with spectacular views of the coastline. The tour operator Mountain Spirit offers guided rock climbing holidays in Sardinia for groups of 4-6 people.

Rock Climbing Holidays in Africa and Asia

Only slightly outside of southern Europe is the North African country of Morocco. Rock climbing in the High Atlas Mountains is a treat, particularly in the Todra Gorge where you can explore gigantic limestone cliffs while surrounded by beautiful scenery. It is best to take your climbing holiday in Morocco during the spring, as summer here is oppressively hot.

If you’re looking for a true adventure, Thailand’s Phra Nang peninsula has some excellent routes located close to beautiful beaches. This is a great place for winter climbing; summer is usually too wet due to the monsoon rains. Adventure travel company Rock and Sun offers fully inclusive rock climbing holidays in Thailand. In addition to guided climbs, these trips include other optional activities to relax your aching muscles, such as yoga, Thai massage, swimming and diving.

How to Plan your Rock Climbing Holiday

When choosing a rock climbing holiday, it is important to consider your level of climbing expertise. Remember that you will be climbing for several days and will get tired, so do not sign up for anything that is beyond your capabilities. If possible, choose a holiday that will allow you to take some time off from climbing to explore the local area; this will give you a chance to rest and recover from the intensive climbs. Find out what equipment you will need to take with you and what you will need to hire. Most importantly, approach your trip with a clear idea of what you want to achieve; when you have a clear goal, you can make an astounding amount of progress in developing your climbing skills in just a few short days.

Recommended tip
Buy the book! I personally would highly recommend buying a book of all the routes available in the country you are going to visit. We decided we were going to Mallorca, months before evening properly planning it. I decided it would be good to know the different locations of set routes available, so I headed over to the Rock Fax website and bought the Mallorca edition. When the booked arrived, I dove in to it and started exploring all the photos to get a good feel of where we were going to go.

Although my intentions were to explore to West side of Mallorca and climb some multi-pitch routes, we in fact only explored the east side due to ‘group decisions.

I would actually say its very important to buy the book, otherwise your not going to know where to go if its a trip you put together yourself.

Should I wear climbing tape whilst training?

Should I wear climbing tape in training?Whether or not to use climbing tape whilst training, and by training, actually climbing or bouldering at a gym. This is something myself and my friends often debate about. After some research in to the matter, here’s what I found.

Pullies are small straps of tissue which loop over the tendons and hold them close to the bone. Taping to give strength to an injured pullie, and hence continuing to climb, is an exercise in futility.

There are only two reasons to tape a pullie injury: firstly, to limit potentially damaging finger motion; and secondly, to remind yourself that you have an injury. Don’t underestimate the latter as a rehabilitation tool. Tape accordingly!

Injury recovery is about letting an acute injury settle and stabilize, and avoiding aggravating activity whilst it is healing. Following this you can begin to strengthen the pullie back to its original capacity, plus more if the injury was a result of weakness rather than an abnormal shock load. It is during this phase that taping can be useful.

Common Taping Problems

Contact dermatitis is probably the most common. This is a local skin reaction in response to the tapes adhesives. Cheap tapes use cheap adhesives and as such elicit a greater propensity to cause contact dermatitis. To minimise this apply brown Leuko tape only. If you are sensitive to tape then use a hypoallergenic underlay such as Fixomul. When you finish climbing be sure to wash off all the sticky stuff and apply a skin cream.

Tape Slacking
Tape will also slacken over a relatively short period of time. You will need to re-tape every hour or so to maintain its effectiveness, irrespective of whether the injury site is not painfull.

Taping Methods

As per Lesson Number1, tape does not replace your pullies, nor does it supplement their strength. If you get the tape tight enough to do so, all you will end up with is a self-inflicted necrosing finger. I have seen a vast array of taping methods, with the intricate ‘figure 8’ around the joint being probably the most popular. Essentially these techniques are a waste of time, as they are attempting to unload the injured pullie system while maintaining range of movement. Done tight enough it may actually achieve this, and then your finger will progress through a panorama of colours, culminating in a lovely blue/black that will match the toe nail you stubbed last week. Like the toe nail, your finger may well fall off! Though probably sooner and certainly more smelly.

Realistically, taping can only be afforded in two of many possible climbing-related finger injuries. They are injuries to the A2 and A3 pullies. If torn, pain is typically felt at the sides of the injured digit, most often on the little finger side of the ring or index finger. Pain can, however, be located anywhere between the first and last joints. It can be sharp or dull whilst climbing, though is usually dull after you have finished and cooled down. It is normally aggravated by crimping and direct pressure. Having a gentle feel with your thumb is a good way of locating the tender area.

To be effective, correct taping of A2 and A3 pullies must result in restricting the ability of the finger to bend in the middle. To apply the correct technique, first note that there are three creases on the front of each finger; one at the base, middle and end. With your finger straight, tape from half way between the first two and finish half way between the second and third, overlapping the tape 50%. You will quickly realize that your capacity to crimp is zero. Perfect. It will be great for your climbing, as studies have shown open hand to have greater endurance.

Lesson Number 2: recovery is a process. Consider pain as an index of the damage you are doing. If it is not painful, you are probably fine. And this includes during your warm up. Reduce the tightness of the tape slowly and progressively over a number of weeks depending on whether it hurts following each session. Remember, this is a guide only. You must first see a qualified medical specialist to assess and diagnose your injury.


Improve your Climbing with Sling Training

Physiological overload interspersed with rest generates strength; overload without rest causes degeneration. Not a difficult concept. All climbers will, however, be injured at some point. It is the nature of climbers that they try, at times, too hard, or things just don’t quite go according to plan. Your injury’s worst enemy is your ego, which will tell you that you too can look good doing 1-5-9 on the campus board just like Bla Bla. Ironically, the same passion that drives you to go climbing in the first place will also hinder your recovery. If you get an injury, be smart about it.

So the only time you should consider using tape, is only when you have injured your fingers. So yes, you can use it whilst training, but not as a training method.

Perhaps you are one of those climbers like I used to be, someone who has developed strong fingers, but still has a poor upper body strength. Every winter season I have been focusing on this area, doing lots of core, bouldering, weighted pullups, front levers and plyometrics, and I was keen to learn more about how sling training could help me improve.

Sling training is a portable body weight training system, based around a set of suspended slings. The closest analogy to sling training is the Gymnastic rings. However the sheer difficulty of these exercises makes them inaccessible to those of who lack the power of a gymnast! Sling Training exercises overcome this by allowing the user to reduce the load by changing their body angle or exercise type.

The equipment I used was the Liana Fly, the Pulley and the Bat, from Jungle Sports. The Liana Fly allows you to do most of the basic exercises. The Bat is excellent as it introduces instability into the exercises, forcing all your stabilising and core muscles to work harder and the pulley allows you to introduce rotational exercise into the program.

Jungle Sports also provides a very good series of training exercise videos so you can see it action before thinking about buying, because it is quite expensive.

Its clear from when you unpack the equipment, that this is a real quality product. All elements are really well made, from the Bat to simple things like the slings themselves. Because the system is portable it’s possible to install it in most places. The slings are available with hooks to mount on your ceiling or a door anchor. I decided to hang them from a tree in the back garden.

So I was now ready for my first session. For each exercise you need to adjust the height of the wrist loops from the ground. This is really simple and done by sliding a lock up and down the rope. Once the height is correct you can start your first exercise.

The first thing you notice when you start is that the exercises are really hard! The best I could do was a slight forward lean! I simply don’t have the shoulder, chest and core strength required to sustain the positions that he does. From a climbing perspective this makes sense, as my weakest areas are very steep compression moves, exactly the same muscles these exercises target.

The next thing that is apparent is that each exercise works so many muscle groups. The criticism of weight training is that it generally isolates individual muscle groups rather than working the body as a whole. This certainly isn’t the case with sling training. Because you need your core locked and your body moves, even for exercises as simple as a bicep curl, your whole muscle chain is being used, much more like climbing.

So far the training has been going very well. I have been doing the exercises either on my rest day or as a second session in the day if I have time. As far as I can tell it has had little impact on my climbing training. To really understand how applicable sling training is for climbing I need to see if the training will help improve the climbing areas we chose to focus on.

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