Basics of Indoor Rock Climbing

If you’re just in the gym to have fun and get a feel for climbing, you’re more than welcome to enjoy the walls as you please, so long as you’re respecting the basic safety rules related to the walls. You agree to our comprehensive list of rules (which can be found on the site’s main page) through your participation within the facilty – but here are a few we’d like to reiterate:

  • You should not be positioned under another climber and allow all climbers clearance to return to the ground unobstructed.
  • Your shoulders should not go any higher than 12 feet from the ground without being secured by some belay system – like our auto-belays or while climbing with the assistance of a certified top rope belayer.
  • You may not secure a top rope climber, nor may you lead climb or belay a lead climber without certification from our staff. Inquire about classes before your next visit!

What do all the colors mean? Which is the easiest/hardest color?

The colors of the holds on the walls do not indicate difficulty at all. All the holds of the same color that are within the same section of a wall make up one path. That is to say, you should only hold or step on one color as you go up a path, ignoring all other colors on the wall for that climb.

When climbing the taller walls for Sport Climbing these paths are called Routes and when Bouldering on the Boulder Island, on a wall temporarily set for Bouldering or when climbing within the Cave, the paths are called Problems, as in, these are for you to figure out and solve.

As stated previously, you don’t have to follow a single color if you’re just in the gym to have fun. We call this – climbing without adhering to a single color – “Rainbowing.”

So, how do I tell what’s easy vs. what’s difficult?

You’ll notice tags along the walls near the beginning of each route or problem. In Sport Climbing, the Yosemite Decimal System is used to indicate difficulty. The first number – and within a climbing gym that number is always a 5 indicates that it is a Class 5 Climb, which is so steep (vertical or close to it) and tall, that a rope and belay system is required to secure the climber. The number following the “5.” is the route’s difficulty or grade. A 5.6 is easier than say a 5.9 – and when you see a 5.11A vs a 5.11B, you should know that these are “five elevens” and not “five point one one” (and therefore are much harder than a single digit difficulty), and that within the range of climbs that fall within the grade of 11, but still vary enough in difficulty so as to stand apart from one another. A 5.10A is easier than a 5.10B – and a 5.10D is the hardest within the 5.10 grades.

Within our gym as far as Bouldering goes, we use Color Spectrum Grading to give an approximation of six ranges of difficulty indicated by a colored plastic card-shaped tag affixed to the wall near the start of the problem. The order – from easiest to hardest is: GREEN, YELLOW, BLUE, RED, ORANGE, BLACK.

You’ll also find a piece of tape affixed to the grading tag. Match the tape on the plastic tag with the color of the problem and the tape on its Start Hold(s) to identify its grade.

The Start and End Holds of a Route or Problem

The Start and End Holds of a Route or Problem are indicated with matching stripes of tape. Sometimes, a route/problem begins with two hands on the same hold and other times there will be a hold for each of your hands. The number of tape stripes indicates how many hands should be on that hold when you start the route.

Starting and Finishing a Route/Problem Properly

Begin by holding ONLY the single or pair of holds which are indicated (with tape) as the START HOLDS of your route/problem. You must then have BOTH feet off the ground before you may reach for any other hold and proceed climbing. A route/problem is considered successfully completed when both hands have reached the END HOLDS at the top of the wall (which are also marked with tape).

Example of a False Start: Grabbing a hold other than the start hold (or two start holds in the case of this problem) before your feet are both off the ground.

A Proper Start: You may only hold the Start Holds (the two red holds Tim is holding each have a single piece of tape) – you must then get both feet off the ground before reaching for anything else.

Finish your route by holding on to the END HOLDS with BOTH hands. If Bouldering, down climbing is recommended, but if you must jump down, please look around for people beneath you.

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