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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A golden boy|Petar Ivanov

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Photo courtesy of Yanne Golev

Some time ago, we were watching the finals of a bouldering competition in Sofia when Petar Ivanov, the youngest among the finalists, started to flash all the boulders, making his leadership more than obvious. By that time I was already working on my “field control” concept, so I said to one of the route setters:

"Pepi controls the field today, don`t you think?"

"He doesn't control it, he is the field!" the guy answered laughing.

It was true, the dominance of this young man was undisputed.

Nine years after the nursery teacher called his parents, demanding they take care of the young tree hanging monkey`s needs, Petar Ivanov steps into the world of climbing. Today he is fifteen, a multiple European gold winner and overall champion from European Youth Bouldering Cup 2016.

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Dirtbag’s not dead!|Iskren “Iso” Hristov

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Dirtbag’s not dead! In fact, he’s home in Bulgaria for a while, very much alive and kicking.

Meet my unknown buddy Iskren “Iso” Hristov who has found his way to traveling, geting in touch with people and experiencing amazing things by means of climbing. A month ago he just came back from his last trip to Turkey, where he spent three months volunteering at one of the best climbing camps around Antalya.

This “dirtbag” word got quite popular in the last years and everybody is talking about them – the new beatniks, the modern hippies that seem to follow their dreams not caring about the mainstream lifestyle standards. They travel a lot, have immodest amounts of fun and even beautiful girls are seen around them. The normal holiday saving people are watching enviously, unable to understand how is it possible – having all these opportunities without being a working slave first.

Once I used to see climbers who don’t push themselves hard enough as losers. I remember adopting such stereotypes and applying them to people with different motivation like my friend Iso for example. “What a flabby piece of shit,” I was thinking…

…and I was so wrong!

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Vauxwall Climbing Centre|London’s Finest #3

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“The best place in the world. It has everything you need… I practically live here.” – Louis Parkinson

While walking around the streets or at the shopping mall for example (please, do not judge this idea too hard), you may find yourself in front of a glass wall and behind it – like in a big aquarium – strong people battle gravity. You witness a different climbing fauna and immediately are impressed – a thousand reasons make you crave trying some of the things these people do.

The picture is similar with Vauxwall Climbing Centre at the heart of London. While curiously observing the busy South Lambeth Road – only two minutes from VauxHall Station, you’ll come upon the sheeny windows and orange-blue colors of VauxWall. You will notice the occupied hosts working their stuff at the reception desk and behind them – all kinds of species: smaller and bigger fish, powerful whales showing off their fitness and slick boulder sharks swimming gracefully through their sporty entertainment in the climbing aquarium.

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The Arch Climbing Wall|London’s Finest #2

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Building One

Cruising around Bermondsey I couldn’t stop thinking of biscuits. Usually my hyperactive mind starts overcoming its ADD around the early afternoon and the different voices talking inside my head are harnessed in the single adequate transmission of their master. By this time of the day, my London tour brought me in front of that massive Victorian industrial park. The sign read “Biscuit factory”.

“Master should write about this,” the voice said.

“Wait, what should I write about?”

“It’s not cookies for sure.”

Few meters ahead, there was the sign with the monkey on it. Now that was something familiar. The Arch Climbing Wall! Without further hesitation, I entered the yard.

“BINGO! A bouldering wall! Master knows he cannot resist,” the voice was giggling.

“Shut up!” I responded.

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Mile End Climbing Wall|London’s Finest #1

Outside Mile End Climbing Center

Wikipedia says that “Mile End is a district in East London, England, 3.6 miles east-northeast of Charing Cross.” For me – yet another cityscape spreading in front of my eyes as I come out of the tube. My destination – the famous Mile End climbing center, the only thing I was associating with this geographical concept in East London.

Intending to write my first climbing wall review for the “London’s finest” project I jumped straight into the gym located on a beautiful riverside and surrounded by a calmingly green landscape. I approached the venue, immediately instagrammed my presence and entered replete with curiosity. Once inside – straight to the reception, smiling suspiciously and asking tons of questions. That’s what I mean when I call myself “an alien climber” – locals are looking at me as if I were the first V-1 flying bomb that hit Mile End in 1944 during WWII – something foreign, unknown and totally unexpected. In the best scenario I could be a nerdy and bothersome beginner or some sort of mystery customer.

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