10 tips for a safe climbing session at the gym

A short guide for ambitious beginners

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If you believe indoor climbing is just another paid attraction you can go to unprepared, jump on and have fun – think again! This is a challenging sport so better get ready before rushing headfirst into it.

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Choose your project wisely

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Photo: Sava Chapanov

The so-called “Small hole” in Vratza is one of my favorite crags in Bulgaria. Beware, though, before you rush off for the weekend. You don’t go there during the summer, your affairs should be finished by the end of spring, otherwise, there’s a pretty good chance for them to remain incomplete.

The following text describes the misery I’ve been living in lately, being stuck in bad conditions at the wrong crag. After an optimistic start of the season, what I needed was some adaptation to the longer lines, some extra endurance and then – to attack my goal – clearing all the routes up to 8a+ quickly.

After I finished the first route on my plan I jumped on the second one “VTI” 8a/8a+ – thirty technical moves through a heavy overhang without any good rest. A boulder crux in the middle and another one at the very end. With a naïve approach and the egoistic intention to crush the cave in the early summer, I did all the moves by my first and second try. Now I needed to clear the sequences and bang “VTI” on my second session. But nature had different plans and poured huge amounts of rain in the next weeks. The cave was soaking wet. It wasn’t unexpected but still…

That was the beginning of the season – many possibilities in front of us. We were climbing on other crags with much better conditions but my thoughts were always with the cave. The upcoming summer heat was whispering: “no more Vratza for you.”

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Controlling the field

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Photo courtesy of Eric Perlman

What do you actually see when you watch proximity flyers gliding with top speed around trees and rocks? What makes the solo climbers look that impressive – is it the fear they might die any moment, or is it the performance itself? I doubt it. Pondering the topic, I’ve realized that I feel the same thing every time I watch racing cars furiously taking turn after turn, when I follow the precise steps of the tightrope walker balancing between the skyscrapers… Some of the best spectacles I’ve witnessed during my lifetime, things that make me feel good about humanity, are related with a phenomenon I decided to call “controlling the field.”

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