Rock climbing, in its oldest form, has existed for thousands of years. It was only in the late 1800s that rock climbing became a sport of its own, setting down roots in Europe.
Ever since, climbing, in many forms, has steadily grown in popularity, especially here in the United States where countless natural formations offer enthusiasts challenge after challenge. At the same time, rock climbing gyms have popped up in many cities that don’t have natural climbing formations nearby.
In fact, many of our readers are members of the larger rock climbing community, at every level of expertise and experience.
We asked you, our readers, to share some of the questions you’ve had about rock climbing. For answers, we looked to award-winning professional climber Deborah Albuquerque.
Albuquerque’s bouldering grading stands at V6-V7 and her rope grading is currently 5.11c-5.12.
She has claimed titles at Do or Dyno and the North Face Tristate Bouldering Series. At this year’s Greenpoint Redpoint competition, she impressed judges so much she was promoted from the Intermediate to the Advanced category.
Albuquerque was kind enough to answer some of your burning questions and offer advice and tips for beginner climbers.
Randall C. (Waltham, MA): How did you get started with climbing? Did it stem from other athletic interests?
I started climbing after my girlfriend saw a climbing gym in our neighborhood. We had recently finished watching Ultimate Beastmaster, an obstacle course reality show in which rock climbers stood out, showing incredible advantages compared to other athletes. I had done a bit of parkour before, but what I most enjoyed about it was the climbing and jumping, so when I tried rock climbing for the first time, I fell in love with it.
Julie K. (Orlando, FL): Do you tend to prefer real-world bouldering or indoor bouldering?
I started climbing indoors, and I really enjoy it because the route setting tends to be more dynamic nowadays than real boulders outdoors. But recently I started climbing more outdoors and although it’s not exactly my comfort zone, it’s super exciting to climb in nature. The climbing style has to change, though, because the stakes are higher since natural Boulders don’t always have the safest falling zones, can be higher than indoor boulders, and hurt way more when you bump or scratch yourself on them. So I have started to love climbing real-world bouldering more every time, not only because it makes my static technique better, but because it also makes me more present and aware.
Tyree L. (New York, NY): Is bouldering a good workout? Which muscle groups benefit the most from bouldering?
Bouldering is the best workout ever! You get stronger, improve your balance skills and your flexibility, and it’s entertaining since both your analytical and intuitive sides are always engaged. Bouldering mainly develops your upper body muscles, but it engages the whole body. Complementing bouldering with free weight exercises strengthens the body for better climbing performance and avoids injuries.
Leon R. (Austin, TX): Is there any gear that’s essential for all new climbers?
In the very beginning when someone is still climbing indoors, they can rent the gear until they decide if they enjoy climbing, but after that I would recommend that new climbers get their own climbing shoes and chalk bag because it’s very uncomfortable to wear gym shoes after a while and the chalk from most gyms isn’t the best you can get. Also, a lot of climbing gyms charge extra for renting gear every time.
Samantha F. (Ojai, CA): Do you prefer climbing with a team? Are there any benefits to doing a solo climb?
For me, climbing with a team is more fun because people are there to spot you and cheer you up. When you climb outdoors it’s even more necessary to have a team with you for safety reasons. I prefer to climb with other people, but on a daily basis, I train solo at the climbing gym where I follow a specific training routine made for me. The advantage of training solo is that you can focus on working on your own weaknesses.
Sammy V. (New York, NY): Are you involved in other sports, and if so, do they help you become a better climber?
Nowadays I focus on climbing almost exclusively. I enjoy following professional parkour, skateboarding, and surfing, but the more I have focused on my climbing career, the less I have had time to practice other sports. Parkour is a sport that I’d like to practice more often because it can benefit my performance at climbing competitions.
Carter T. (Aurora, CO): What’s the most important piece of advice you have for new climbers?
Work on your weaknesses and keep challenging yourself!
Gary S. (Altoona, PA): Are there moments during real-world climbs that are frightening, even to an experienced climber like yourself?
Of course! Climbing is a dangerous sport ultimately, you should never be too relaxed, and a certain amount of adrenaline rush is necessary as well. I still have a long way to go when it comes to controlling my mind while climbing. Practicing sport climbing requires me to deal with the natural fear of taking high falls on the wall with safety. Climbing will be frightening sometimes and that’s a sign it’s challenging you to grow.