Bouldering Climbing

How to become a stronger climber? Do more bouldering!

I love bouldering, it’s the perfect training for hard climbs. If you want to become a stronger climber, doing more bouldering is the surefire bullet to do it. And you can do it in a gym during wintertime with your friends. Plus it’s a boatload of fun. Why does it work? You become a stronger climber and also better at climbing by climbing more and harder. Bouldering is the essence of the hardest parts of climbing. It puts focus on these skills without bothering with belaying, gear and other safety-related skills. Bouldering challenges your body with complex requirements – also in terms of which muscles it uses. When you start out you will feel soreness in parts of your body you never even knew existed.

It makes little sense to practice these muscles with isolated strength exercises, like as exercising biceps with dumbbells. The more similar the training is to real climbing movements, the better it works.

If you are a beginner – just focus on bouldering. You won’t need much more for the first two years. But keep a few things in mind: How to successfully set training incentives, what good recovery looks like, and what aspects of training should be included. That way you can do intensive training loads while still recovering and becoming stronger and not injured.

Training stimuli and super compensation

In order for the body to become stronger and not stagnant, you must regularly set a training stimulus that exceeds your current capabilities. Otherwise, the muscles have no reason to get stronger.

Therefore you have to regularly try “too heavy” bouldering and movements so that your muscles get the signal that they have to develop more power (“training stimulus”). If you keep setting the same stimulus you won’t progress. Worst case scenario you become even weaker:  Because most climbers are technically becoming better in the long run, their power sometimes even goes down.

To get stronger, it is necessary to try harder moves than you can already.

Another way to set meaningful training stimuli is variety: Other exercises, trying a different gym or training volume and changes in intensity. Try something different at least every few weeks or at least add something new to your program.

After setting training stimuli, your body then needs a certain amount of time to adapt to the load and build up the required strength – this happens in the regeneration phase after the exercise. To recover well and gain strength your body needs enough sleep, a balanced diet and low stress (in other areas of life).

You will become stronger during your rest periods.

Regeneration and breaks

Without adequate rest periods, it is not possible to build up strength. Reasonable breaks are different for different people. Beginners recover faster from a hard-felt workout than an advanced climber because advanced climbers can take stronger stimuli, and the “repair” will cost their body more energy.

Another important factor is the fact that different power-delivery systems of the muscles take different lengths to recover. Glycogen, the main fuel of the muscles, replenishes within 24 to 48 hours. However, cell damage that occurs as a micro-trauma during hard training may take up to a week or more to be repaired.

A good rule of thumb is to get to know your body well and to respect its signals.

Do you feel well rested after the last boulder session? Or are your fingers and arms still sore? Are you feeling fit and motivated again?

Advanced climbers and experienced trainers can go bouldering with some residual fatigue left, but it is also crucial to regularly take some light units. After a few hard training sessions, you can even take a longer break, so that your body can recover well and repair the accumulated micro-damage. If you don’t, you risk training overload in the long-run.

Why easy sessions are important

Although heavy sessions are important, light units have their place as well. For example, fluid movements, technique consolidation, and stamina work best in longer, lighter sessions.

Stamina is also important for boulderers. I know the routes are short, but stamina works for between the boulders too. More stamina means faster improvement between routes and this ultimately makes you climb more in a session. And climbing more means climbing better in the long run.

I recently learned that a  measurement of the average bouldering times in the World Cup has shown that “on-sight” climbs are a question of strength-endurance rather than of maximum-force because they can take up to a minute. For beginners and advanced users with less than two years of climbing experience, it is important to develop your blood vessels to supply your forearms with blood.

Having good capillaries allows for intense metabolism in the muscles and will directly improve your performance. Sufficient capillarization also helps to prevent sore forearms and pumping, as well as helps your muscles to build up more strength. Sounds good right? So, keep doing longer, 20- to 40-minute sessions with low intensity (ie below the surge limit). You can do this even as an advanced climber to make sure your muscular metabolism stays up.

If you stop making progress

If bouldering alone doesn’t make you better anymore, you need to make a targeted program to become a stronger climber.  Climbers mainly want to improve their relative strength in relation to body weight. Therefore, absolute muscle growth, as is useful in power sports such as weight lifting, is not really that useful for you.

But for your grip strength, hypertrophy training (hypertrophy = muscle growth) is useful, especially for beginners and advanced, because the finger muscles are usually not very pronounced and won’t be really trained by a general fitness regimen.

There are different physical constitutions, genetic predispositions, and individual life situations, as well as a big difference between beginners and experts.  So your exercise plans must be individually designed to work.

Bouldering training – what, how and why?

The focus in boulder training is on finger strength, upper body strength, and body tension. Fingers hold your body on the wall – but only when the rest of the body holds the tension.

As these aspects are interconnected they can be trained together in bouldering. Your overall fitness will be that of your weakest link. If you fail you will fail with your weakest link, so improving weaknesses is very important to make you an overall better climber.


Grip and finger training for bouldering

You will gain finger strength from bouldering on small handles, or from interval hanging on the fingerboard. But keep in mind to train to hang with activated shoulders and core while minimizing any movement. Your fingers should be halfway open or hanging completely open.

Only train your fingers when you are recovered and still fresh.

To prevent injuries to the fingers, it makes sense to make them strong. Strong fingers are less injury prone and they will also allow you to hold holds longer. Win-win. Finger training under controlled conditions, like a campus board, allows great strength gains without straining the ligaments and tendons of the fingers as much as a similar training stimulus would in pure bouldering.

As a beginner, you train your finger power mainly by bouldering so keep practicing easy holds and don’t overdo it. Finger injuries suck and take a relatively long time to heal up.

A short session (10 minutes warm up, then 15 minutes training) on the board once or twice a  week can significantly improve your finger strength.

Call to Action

Go bouldering 1-2 per week for the next four weeks and tell me how that has worked out for you. I promise you – you will see a major difference in how you climb!
Make sure to read the guide to find good places to climb too.


Climbing Mountaineering

Which essential rock climbing knots should i learn?

Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned expert – if you climb you need to know your ropes. There are four essential rock climbing knots you definitely need to learn. Whenever I introduce friends and family to climbing a big part of is just showing them how to tie solid and safe knots.

You should learn a double Figure 8 Loop Knot to tie in, a clove hitch to secure the rope to the carabiner, the double fisherman’s knot to make two ropes into a loop and the European death knot to tie two ropes together.

I’m not to say there aren’t more, but these ones you need to know 100%.

You are literally hanging by the ropes and knots you ty, especially if you start lead climbing and build top-rope anchors for the following climbers, so make sure to practice knots.

Keep in mind that when it comes to climbing, there are numerous ways of tying knots, hitches and bend. Learning them all is impossible, and what I show you is just my way of highlighting the details.

1. The Figure 8 Loop Knot

The Figure 8 Loop knot is one of the most popular knots used in climbing and is mainly used for tying the rope into a harness. It’s also known as double Figure 8 Knot.  The knot resembles the number 8 and is relatively easy to tie and also has clear symmetry. The instructions are as follows:

  • Take the open end of the rope in one hand, and then extend your arm along with the rope. The length of the rope to be taken should be between your fist and the opposite shoulder.
  • Take a bight from the rope near the shoulder area and then twist it for a full rotation, allowing the stationary part of the rope to cross the working part. After which, perform the same rotation again so that it is back to its original position.
  • Now the working part of the rope should be passed through the loop from the front to the back, after which the knot will resemble the number 8.
  • For the follow through, the end of the rope should be passed through the tie-in points of the harness, and then the knot should be pulled close to you.
  • The next step is feeding the rope through the knot, by tracing the original knot. While doing this the working part of the rope should be parallel with the standing part of the knot.
  • After completing this see to it that the strands of the rope are neat and they are in parallel.
  • The last step involves tightening the strands individually by pulling it. One thing to keep in mind is to keep at least five inches of tail.

2. The Clove Hitch

This Clove Hitch is mainly for securing the rope to a carabineer and is a very simple yet strong knot. This knot can be tied within a matter of seconds, and adjusting it is also very easy. One unique thing about the Clove Hitch is that it can be tied using one hand only. Let us look at how to tie a Clove Hitch.

  • Form a loop by holding the rope in both hands and then crossing it over, and then form a second one similarly.
  • The next step involves placing the second loop behind the first one and then clipping them with a carabineer.
  • The Hitch can then be dressed by pulling both the strands tightly.

To tie the clove hitch, with one hand to a carabineer, the instruction is as follows.

  • Hold the rope in your fist with your fingers directed down the rope.
  • And then bring your hands up allowing your fingers to point upwards facing you.
  • The next step involves clipping the rope to the carabineer.
  • For the rope which is below the carbineer, the same method should be applied and then clipped to the carabineer.
  • The final stage is to dressing Clove hitch by pulling the strands tightly.

3. The Double Fisherman’s Knot

This Knot is one of the most secure and reliable ways to join two ropes in a permanent loop, and untying it after it gets tightened is quite a challenge. The Double Fisherman’s knot just as its name suggests consists of two fisherman knots tied together. Tying a Double Fisherman’s knot is as follows.

  • The first step involves bringing both ends of the rope together and overlapping them.
  • Next, hold one end of the rope with your fist with the thumbs over it.
  • The next step consists of wrapping the working part of the rope over the thumbs and the first rope, and then bringing it under, and then wrapping it over again to make an X.
  • Slide your thumbs out, and then put the rope through the X that has been formed, and then pull it tightly.
  • You will be able to see an X and two strands running parallel on the opposite side, while the other end of the rope is inside the knot.
  • The other end of the rope should then be pulled, and the process repeated, after which the rope that is pulled will be the working end.
  • Now you will have to form another X with your thumb, and then push the rope’s end through the X.
  • You will then be left with two knots that have two strands between them. Now pull the knots tightly, and then pull the outer ropes which will bring both knots together.
  • In the end, you will be left with a Double Fisherman’s knot, which will have two X and four parallel strands.

4. The European Death Knot

The European Death Knot is a popular knot used by many climbers for tying two ropes together. Also known as flat overhand bent, this knot is robust, simple and flattens out under load, thus reducing chances of it getting stuck. This knot is most commonly used when rappelling. The instruction for this knot is given below.

  • The first step is to bring both ends of the rope together and then tie an overhead knot with both the strands.
  • See to it that both the ropes run in a parallel manner throughout the overhead knot.
  • The final step is dressing and tightening the knot, by pulling all the four strands individually. It is recommended to have at least 18 inches of tail left to ensure safety.

The above-mentioned knots and hitches are some of the most fundamental ones which a climber should be aware of. They will help a beginner climber to become accustomed to the world of climbing. For Beginners, it is highly recommended to take the help of a trained professional or a seasoned veteran before undertaking a climb.

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Make sure to learn these knots, thanks for reading and check out my other article on finding good places to climb outside.

Climbing Mountaineering

Should i always wear a climbing helmet?


I believe that few activities come close to giving you a sense of liberation, freedom, and excitement like climbing does. I started to climb when I was in my early thirties, and I immediately fell in love with it.

Climbing gave me an opportunity to break free from the bonds of society and travel to different places. And I got to experience new cultures and I have also made some friends along the way.

I didn’t always wear a helmet

My experience with climbing goes back 4 years when I started indoors in a very safe environment. Safety was priority number one,  and as such everything inside was configured in a way, to prevent accidents and mishaps. We had foam mats, bolted holds, well-spaced bolts, and there was always an instructor nearby. That’s why the need to wear a helmet never really came up, and the indoor facility where I learned didn’t see helmets as a necessity.

I gradually transitioned from Indoor climbing to Outdoor climbing when I was in Colorado and got hooked immediately:  I loved the outdoor experience and felt one with nature.

Even while outdoor climbing back then I never wore a helmet regularly. I thought safety was good. And I wasn’t undertaking any risky climbs, and most importantly no one around me was wearing a helmet. And compared to others, I would consider myself a pretty “safety oriented” climbers: Following all the safety checks, putting redundancy as a high priority etc.

And while i didn’t wear a helmet I was aware of the risks of not wearing it. Stories of people getting fatal head injuries were nothing new, and even professionals were not exempted. Climbing helmets have a rare distinction of not only making you look uncomfortable. They can also be pretty uncomfortable to wear. At least if you pick the wrong one.

Of course mine was wrong. I had a huge blue helmet from the 90s back then – a big, uncomfortable and suffocating plastic mountain. To be honest, the chances of sustaining a head trauma while climbing are relatively low, and I was willing to take the chances.

When rocks fly

When I met my girlfriend and now wife this all changed though, as we started picking up mountaineering and via ferrata. I finally decided to invest in a helmet and bought her a climbing helmet first to wear when doing via ferrata. But sports climbing without a helmet was still a routine. I was even kind of proud of my decision to forgo them. And somehow nothing terrible happened to me when I climbed without them.

The only rare occurrence of me using a climbing helmet was when going for mountaineering or via ferrata. Simple reason: there were higher chances of encountering falling rocks. As such the majority of my climbing hours were without helmets, and I was pretty confident undertaking any climb without wearing one.

However, my outlook towards climbing helmets changed, after I had a particular climbing session with my wife a year ago. It was one of these moments which could’ve gone incredibly wrong and I thanked god later that it didn’t.

It was just an ordinary climb, but we had some Spanish guys on the route to our left, who were pretty loud and clumsy. And I just had started what was like the 3rd climb of the afternoon, got ready to clip in and *woooosh*:

A piece of rock the size of my head flew by, loosened by the Spanish lead climber to my left. I was so surprised that I almost lost balance, but somehow managed to still clip in. My wife jumped to the side and was missed too – thank god. But I knew: Had this been 20 inches to the right it would have knocked me unconscious easily. And I would have fallen 12feet to the ground – I hadn’t made the clip.

I would have been dead or at least severely injured.
Next day I bought a helmet. It’s that easy.
I was stupid and lucky and in my ignorance, I had taken a gamble.
I decided not to take that gamble anymore.

Not the most fashionable but better then their reputation

Climbing Helmets took a step in the right direction in the early 2000s, they are now much lighter and more comfortable. They’re not as ugly as the earlier models too.
I bought a sleek grey Petzl helmet and I was taken aback by how light, comfortable and functional it was. With a new helmet and much more awareness surrounding climbing Helmets, I started to wear them and have never looked back. Climbing Helmets had now become a mainstay in my climbing gear, and they accompany me no matter what type of climbing I do.

Be it going on traditional routes or sports climbing, I have started donning them everywhere. I have now grown accustomed to having small pieces of rocks fall onto my head while climbing. And when it happens, I don’t even blink, my helmet just keeps debris away from me.

More than just skin protection

Many People tend to think that a Climbing Helmet is just to safeguard your head from falling pieces of rocks. However, the function of a good climbing helmet goes much deeper than that. It can save your head even when suffering a fall as well. Don’t listen to so-called “experienced” climbers who might have nothing positive to say about climbing helmets. Yes, helmets are not cool, but when the rock is loose I swear by them and they saved my head on quite a few occasions. I have seen people suffer head injuries that they could have easily avoided if they had just put on a simple climbing helmet.

Good thing is, I see more and more people wearing helmet nowadays. Helmets still don’t look super fancy. And they can probably never compete with a full head of long hair with a headband looking like an old climbing hippie. But at least they have come a long way from the clunky turtle shells they were in the past.

It not about looks mainly, and I know I will take a helmet over a head injury anytime. In the end, it’s up to you and your preferences. If safety is not your main priority, feel free to ditch the helmet. But if you’re a family father and try to be responsive with the rest of your life – do me a favor and wear a climbing helmet!

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Make sure to check out my article on climbing shoe selection


How do I find rock climbing near me?

So you just started out rock climbing in the gym and now you are hooked. After you took the first lessons you quickly became more confident. Now you are bored by top roping the beginner routes in your boulder gym. Maybe you already tried intermediate routes or even some lead climbing. Quick and easy: If you want to find more rock climbing near you can either spend more time in the gym (which is good training), go outside and look for rocks to boulder on (pretty close to rock climbing), talk to your local climbing scene or learn traditional climbing. 

You feel it’s time to get outside. That feeling of progress needs to be with you again. And start looking for spots to climb outside. I know I did the same when I started, and one of the big questions was how to find good rock climbing near me. No one wants to drive 3 hours during a weekday just to get a little session before dinner.

But you most likely don’t live in the European Alps or a place like Yosemite, with a lot of very accessible and easy to find spots. That’s why you will need some sort of written guide and or tips from your local climbers.

And maybe you are out of luck because you live in a place like the Netherlands: Where it’s flat and you have to look really hard to find a place to rock climb. No matter where you live, I have some tips for you. You can call it a go-to guide to help you get started.

Spend more time in the gym

This one sounds counter-intuitive but hear me out.There are only two skills I found that you cannot really train in the gym.

Number one is the training of your eye and brain to find holds and routes. It’s a difference if you have a rock wall in front of your face littered with possible and impossible holds or clearly marked colored plastic handles. But this is somewhat of a vague argument with all the chalk marks on frequented climbing spots.

Number two is the psychological effect climbing on real rocks has: It can be wet, dirty, humid, holds can break, anchors can be loose. It’s the real deal, and no amount of gym can make up for it and the situations you encounter.
But for everything else, you can use the gym. Even for training falls the gym is perfect. Gyms are where champions are made. Look at the current elite in climbing and they almost all started out in the gym. It’s the perfect place to train technique, strength, and endurance in a safe environment. So, don’t worry too much about being outside all the time if you are beginning. If you simply have no options to get near a good climbing spot you better spend your time training at the climbing gym than to sit at home.

Start bouldering

Can’t find rock climbing spots near you? Find a huge rock instead. You won’t be training safety and belaying there. And neither will you fight your fear of falling at great heights. Other than that its a great way to training climbing skills. Bouldering is like taking the hardest part of your climbing route and training just that. It’s the number on the activity the really good climbers focus on to get even better. And when a climb gets really hard and physically challenging – it becomes a boulder. There is one downside: Bouldering is without a safety buddy while boulders still can get relatively high (around 3-5 meters or 9-15 feet). You must definitely learn to fall correctly and buy a crash-pad and possibly have a buddy to move the crash-pad under you if the boulder traverses etc. Other than that it’s big fun and you will become better at climbing quickly too when you spend a lot of time bouldering. And most areas have some sort of rocks where you can boulder . If you live near a forest, chances are high you can find a single large rock there somewhere.

Talk to the locals to find good rock climbing near you

Most places have some kind of climbing scene. Chances are high that these locals know if there is an option to climb outside at all or not. Get in touch with them. I know you love the internet, but the climbing community has a lot of individualists and free spirits. Some of them don’t like to share information with anyone on the internet. Usually, you won’t be told the best secret spots unless you build some rapport first with them. So go out, talk, and have fun. Climbing is more fun with a group anyway and you will learn a lot when you climb with people that climb harder and better than you.

Talking to the locals is also a great way to bond and build ride sharing groups if you need to drive a bit longer. If the next good climbing spot is 2 hours away, great. The long drive becomes way more fun in a group of friends plus you can share gas money too.

Buy a written guide

Something definitely to consider if you leave near a place with some climbing opportunities. I am from a part in Germany where we have hundreds of routes – so it’s to have a written guide to keep an overview and find good options for different weather conditions. There are tons of written guides for all kinds of locations out there, but generally, if there is a written guide it means there is a reasonable amount of climbing spots for the area. Otherwise, nobody would have to spend the time writing the guide.

Learn traditional climbing or trad (BE CAUTIOUS THOUGH)

If you have no sports routes near you (with bolted anchors and fixed bolts to use with your quickdraws) but generally live in an area with rock walls and mountains, you can also learn traditional climbing. This is the way people used to climb – using gear that they completely removed after the climb. Trad climbing is more complex than sports climbing though when it comes to personal safety as you need to know how to use slings, cams, and nuts safely. This is not something you should teach yourself! So if you want to learn it, take a course and some lessons – your life may depend on it.

Climbing vacation

I used to live at a place where I couldn’t find any rock climbing near me when I was in Florida. So I simply did what I would also recommend to any of you guys: Go and take a climbing vacation. That way you will practice what you learned in the gym in real. But don’t forget to connect to a local guide and even better: Take an outdoor rock climbing course before you wet your feet.

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Let me know if you have tips and tricks. How do you find rock climbing places near you? Make sure to also check out my other beginner article about building top rope anchors


Can i learn life lessons from rock climbing?

Rock climbing makes you physically and mentally stronger. And if you do keep doing it, it will also change your personality. There are aspects of it that directly translate to the rest of your life. See, rock climbing brings some skills into your life that you can use for other situations too. I learned these three interesting life lessons from rock climbing:

  1. Never hesitate after you made a plan
  2. Prepare to fall high – it hurts less than falling to the bottom
  3. Keep your balance

Climbers keep a calm head when things get ugly when the going gets tough. They need to, otherwise, they lose balance and then they’re screwed.
A lot of time when you have a hobby it brings you into situations that are specific to this hobby. Think of football or basketball: A lot of skills and things you learn are very specific for the sport. But some stuff, especially like teamwork and tactics, you can learn and apply to the rest of your life.

I learned three life lessons from rock climbing the hard way which helped me become a better climber and human being.

Never hesitate after making a plan

Hesitating too long will actively destroy any chance you have to reach your goal. The golden rule in climbing is to stay relaxed and calm. But you can overdo it too. Newbie climbers often start climbing overly slow to show off technique. And they eventually notice it uses way more energy than if they did a route quicker.

Experienced climbers know that there will be parts while you’re on your way up to the top where you have to be fast. They prepare for these sections and when they start executing there is no way back – like dynamic moves like jumps etc.

This change of slow and quick needs to be constantly practiced. If you go try a new route, sometimes you face difficulties. You might be in over your head, the routes are too hard and now you need to find a way around the crux (aka the hardest part). Maybe you’re not even sure where the next hold is, and you start to look. Now you need to be calm, don’t become hectic. Relax but keep looking for a solution. But never hesitate. If you think there is a way to go, give it your 100%. Aim for the hold and execute.

Hesitation will lead to fatigue, which will make you sweaty and intend you might not even be able to execute the move because you are too tired. Because you waited too long – see: some windows of opportunity are not open for long. You need to take action and execute when it is possible. Its the same in most situations in life: Wait for too long and the situation will play out one way or the other – only now you’re not in charge in anymore and need to live with it.

A prepared fall from high above the ground is not so bad – but don’t touch the ground

Be prepared

Taking a whipper is no big deal when you climb. It’s one of the things that intimidate new climbers, but once you get used to you quickly become familiar with it. This mindset comes from two facts you know when you are experienced enough: You have a buddy who will belay you and keep you from hitting the ground hard (your safety net), and you know that you trained it in the gym for many times. But you need these two prerequisites.

Climbing becomes very dangerous very quickly if you screw up near the ground, where you are not high enough to safely fall without touching it. This is when you CANNOT screw up or you will be in serious trouble. On the other hand, even if you are high up you can get injured badly if you are not prepared when you impact into the wall.

It’s the same in life: A fall from somewhere, like losing your job, having trouble with your partner etc is way easier to take in if you’re sufficiently prepared. This can be financial, psychologically and socially. And a fall from high up can be usually stopped before you hit rock bottom. Like losing your job: If you have a safe buffer of saved money its not a problem to take 2 months and look for a new job. Do this without some savings and you are quicker in trouble than you can say “ramen for anything”.

So keep preparing and try to be high up enough – when you take a big fall you will be thankful.

Keep your balance – it’s the most important thing

Balance is the most important thing in climbing. It’s the crucial skill most climbers learn when they start out with climbing, and it can make the difference between failing and mastering a route.

Without balance you cannot do anything, not even the easiest routes. If you watch experienced climbers you can see that some climbers are so good at keeping their balance that they can, in fact, make up for shortcomings in other areas like strength or endurance.

As long as you’re balanced you can save your energy and prepare to reach the top. Live works the same: You can hustle all you want if you start losing your balance between work and life or fun and discipline your plans will not work out. Staying in balance keeps you in game, you’re in it for the long run and what you do is sustainable.

Call to Action

That’s it, these are my top three main life lessons from rock climbing I learned. There are some more, but I will talk about them in another article. Let me know if you have questions and definitely post a comment and tell me what you think!

And if you need some more practical advise: This is what you should know about your climbing shoes.

Bouldering Climbing

Should rock climbing shoes hurt?


The question i get asked most often

One of the first questions i get asked by friends and family members who i teach basics of rock climbing. It’s a justified question that one: When people learn to climb, one of the first things to buy are usually shoes and they obviously need to fit.
In fact, i got asked this question so many times that i decided to write this post, answering the question “Should rock climbing shoes hurt”.
I will also give you tips and advice on choosing the right pair of climbing shoes and tell you some of the stuff you need to know about climbing shoes.
After reading this guide you will be ready to start buying your climbing shoes.

The short answer to the question: No, climbing shoes shouldn’t hurt.
They should be tight enough to make some people feel a little uncomfortable at first. And this is what beginners often describe as “they hurt”. 

Difference between snug shoes and shoes that hurt

New climbers have problems differentiating between snug shoes and hurting shoes. I always tell them the easy rule: Your shoes are too tight and hurt if the pain is so strong that you cannot focus on your climb. If they just feel uncomfortable and twinch or peak a bit when you slip in them – that’s totally fine.

About rock climbing shoes

Your connection to the rock is made mostly by feet and hand. You don’t wear gloves for the hands but you wear shoes. That means your shoes are at least as important as hands and a good grip strength. You can find shoes designed for any style or niche of climbing: Bouldering, crag climbing, traditional climbing or big walls and sport-routes.

My rule of thumb

Start on a neutral, not too aggressive shoe that feels comfortable. I teached friends and family members the basics of climbing and i will always recommend a pair with round toes a neutral shape and medium level of stiffness. You can use them to get used to climbing shoes, and when you feel ready you can make the transition to a pair with lots of heel tension and a downturned shape.
Your first climbs shouldn’t be about enduring pain in the feet because your shoes are too tight. They should be about learning technique, coordination and moves on the rock.
Beginner Tip
Keep your climbing shoes off when belaying or taking a break and chatting. This tip will save your feet on long climbing days.
Only wear them when you actually climb. So remember to bring a pair of flip-flops or easy to slip-in sneakers in your backpack. And of course, don’t wear socks in them!

Why fitting rock climbing shoes are important

Your rock climbing shoes are your contact point with the rock. Since the 50s when people where climbing with mountain boots or barefoot and today lies a world of technology advance. Technology of climbing shoes was a major driving force of rock climbing performance and style. And wrong type of shoes can not only hold you back but also destroy your performance gains. So make sure to keep these three points in mind when choosing your shoes.

Types of shoes

It’s your choice: The can be neutral, moderate and aggressive. We’ll discuss pros and cons in a minute.

Features of the shoe

If you like laces or straps, linings and rubber reinforcements. All these influence the performance and feel of the shoe.

Fit of the shoe

They should be snug but not painfully. Find the right fit and it will help you climb longer, harder and more difficult. Plus it’s a wonderful feeling to find bomb traction on tiny footholds or smears (smearing is when you use the surface friction of your shoes sole because there are no good footholds).

The three types of shoes explained

1. Neutral

Perfect all-day shoes. These will let you go flat on your toes, and they are a great choice for beginners because they feel comfortable. But even if you’re experienced: I always keep a pair of neutral style shoes in my backpack for all-day climbing and when im climbing easier climbs. If you’re doing multi-pitch climbs its also good to have a backup pair of neutral, feet friendly shoes.


  • Awesome all-day comfort
  • Medium-to-stiff midsole, with thick rubber sole for support
  • Flat profile is perfect for slotting into cracks


  • You don’t get as good a feel for the rock like with more aggressive shoes. It’s because of the thick stiff soles – they are not designed for maximum sensitivity.
  • Due to the relaxed fit they are not that good for very difficult overhanging climbs. Don’t worry about this too much: You can definitely do overhanging routes with neutral shoes. If you fail overhanging climbs, chances are way higher it’s because of your technique and strength then due to your shoes

2. Moderate

Moderate shoes have a slightly downturned shape. This shape is called camber, and it makes them good when you climb technical stuff. They are the swiss-army knife of climbing shoes: You can do slab routes, crack climbs, long pitches and overhanging sport climbs with them.


  • The Downturned shape gives your feet a strong and more powerful position. It will help tackle difficulties and cruxes. (A crux is the most challenging part of a climb)
  • They have more rubbery and stickier soles. Soles are not as thick as neutral shoes.
  • Still more feet friendly than aggressive shoes


  • Not that good for very overhung climbs or hard boulder problems
  • Hurt more than neutral shoes
  • Sticky rubber and thin soles mean they won’t last as long as neutral shoes

3. Aggressive

The pro stuff. Lots of downturn and heel tension. This type of shoe gives your feet a very strong and powerful position. Which means you can climb the hardest overhanging climbs with them. The asymmetric shape curves toward your big toe, which will give you incredible focus and power over the toe. You can use this power to find precise placement on even the tiniest holds. But they can hurt – if you are a beginner, stay away from them, these shoes take time to get used. Even experienced climbers usually only wear them for single-pitch sport climbs or at the gym when tackling boulder problems.


  • Very downturned shape means a strong, powerful position for overhung sport climbs, boulder problems or hard gym climbing.
  • Sticky rubber and thinnest soles: More grip and feel than neutral or moderate shoes.


  • Feet can hurt after a while. This is normal. You will get used to it.
  • The pronounced downturn won’t fit into cracks as good, and can make smearing difficult.
  • Sticky rubber and thinnest soles war down fast

Climbing shoe features explained

A variety of climbing shoe types and brands

Climbing Shoe Closures

Very versatile. When you rest and your feet are hot, just open them. For difficult climbs, strap them down, crack down at the toe and make them even more performant.


These hook and loop closures are super convenient. Great for bouldering and gym climbing, and super fast to slip out off between climbs.
Only downside: Straps can get dirty quickly and won’t work until you clean them. So keep them clean.


Greatest sensitivity and a very low profile. They are good for training too: Without a stiff sole your feet get strong quickly. Also good for thin cracks because of the low profile. But you need to be careful when trying them: They must fit your feet good, as there are no means to adjust them



Rock climbing shoes shouldn’t hurt, but they also have to be tight. Hope this guide is helpful to find a good pair of climbing shoes!



How can i build a top rope anchor ?

I started climbing indoors two years ago, and when I transitioned to outdoors I felt unsure at first. This changed after I learned how to build basic anchors and was able to go top roping on my own with my buddy.
I will tell you how to build a simple and tough top rope anchor that works on many climbs.
It will help you to be a safe toprope climber, and you can work on your strengths and technique without the risk of lead climbing. And when you’re ready you can make the move to lead climbing.

Who should read this article

You may be started climbing indoors too, now you’re ready to rock outside. But you are not really sure how to tie into the real rock, anchor building is something you have never done before. And now you are at the route, asking yourself the question most beginners asked them before: How can I build a top rope anchor?
It’s almost embarrassing to ask someone else – but trust me: You are not alone.

Why this anchor

Lots of sport route climbs have two bolts (or chains and rings attached to bolts) at the top, which makes it very simple to climb top rope.
When you learn this anchor, you can climb lots of good routes without worry. And you will become naturally stronger and have even more fun. And it’s a dirt cheap and simple anchor: You only need four locking carabiners and one double-length sling (48 inches or 120cm).

Warning: This technique only applies if you have safe access to the top of a cliff, where bolt anchors are often placed. Anchor yourself to a tree or crack with a long sling or length of rope before approaching the cliff edge to set up a toprope.

Bolted anchor in action
This is how it looks in action

The Gear you need

Like I said: You will need four locking carabiners and one double-length sling (48″ or 120cm). Wider slings (1.7cm to 2.5cm or 3/4″ to 1”) are generally better and don’t get used up so quickly. You can use a pre-sewn one or loose webbing with a tight water knot. If the sling rubs against the edge of the cliff shorten it a bit. If you use the sport-climbing technique, you also need two quickdraws. They are relatively cheap and if you start lead climbing you can reuse them, so go ahead and buy yourself two.

How can I build a top rope anchor – 4 steps

  1. Clip the carabiners in. Through each bolt or ring or chain clip one locking carabiner. After that clip the sling into each of the carabiners. Lock them immediately, otherwise you’ll forget it and that means trouble.
  2. Equalizing sling. Pull on the sling so the loops are even. If you used a water knot make sure to keep this part near one of the carabiners but don’t let them touch. Pull all the loops into the direction where you will be climbing – this makes it nice and even and minimizes tension on the bolts.
  3. Master Point. Now just make a figure 8 knots with all the four strands. Using this knot makes each part of the anchor independent and gives redundancy. That’s a huge plus. Make the knot snug and clean and you’re almost good to go.
  4. Clip the Rope. Clip two locking carabiners through the strands of the figure 8. Make sure to keep gates opposite to each other so they cannot accidently open themselves. Then clip the rope through the carabiners and presto: You are ready to climb.

Some options for the anchor

  • You can also use two 24″(60cm) slings instead of the longer one. When you do this, make sure to clip each on into one bolt. Careful, it might be harder to equalize the anchor now if the bolts are at different heights. If this is the case, double one sling and extend it with a quickdraw or connect another second sling to the first with a girth hitch
  • There is a typical anchor setup used by lead climbers on sports routes, and you can use it for toprope too: Clip a single quickdraw to each bolt and clip the rope through the lower carabiners. Keep the gates opposed on the lower carabiners, best is to use locked carabiners. Make also sure to place the upper carabiners in a way that keeps them safe from being opened by the anchor chain or the rock. This has happened in the past, and that’s why it’s super important to stay redundant and double check
  • You can also set up your toprope on an anchor, many people do this and some even leave slings and gear for permanent anchors on the tree. If you use an existing anchor make sure to check either the tree and the gear for quality and safety. The tree should be at least five inches thick in diameter and alive, well rooted and not over a cliff. Slings and fixed gear must not be cut or torn or old and worn out. So make sure to check for fading and fraying. If the gear looks even a little bit suspicious, don’t use it, and build your own.
  • Also inspect gear and chains as well as bolts, and rings. Fixed gear should always be rust-free, i.e. there can be some spots but no major rust and bolts should not be tightened or bend.
sport climbing anchor with quick draws
Sports climbing anchor with at least two quickdraws. Keep gates opposite to each other to prevent opening.


There you have it, this method of building top tope anchors is safe, quick and easy to learn.
Check out some of my other articles on anchors and climbing shoes.
You now know a solid and battle proven technique, and you can use another technique for sports lead climbing style anchors.


How do i build the perfect climbing rope anchor?

When i got into climbing i was overwhelmed with the vast knowledge needed to stay save. There are tons of nots and rope techniques to lear. And if you ask people out there you will get 12 different answers for the same question.
Let me tell you one thing: There is no “perfect” anchor. Every anchor can be messed up and destroyed when it is abused or built without care.
But there are some good things to keep in mind and proven techniques to build safe anchors.

The anchors i show you are proven, safe and they can save your life if done right. 
And no matter what you do, you will need a climbing rope anchor to fix your rope. It’s literally the first thing you need to build when you want to climb safely.

What is a climbing rope anchor ?

A climbing anchor is a system of individual anchors which are connected together to create one master point where the climber and rope can clip into. They are then securely attached to the rock.
By the way, it doesn’t matter if you’re a top-rope climber or lead the climb – knowing how to build the perfect climbing rope anchor is the first skill you need to learn. It will save your and your buddies live.

You need to keep some things in mind when you build an anchor. Let’s break it down to two steps:

  • 1. Step: Find or create single anchor points to use in the the system.
  • 2. Step: Connect those anchor points together using one of the techniques i’ll show you next

Since there are so many variables that come together it’s impossible to cover all scenarios. But i will tell you how i setup my anchors – there are other techniques out there, but this one is proven, easy to learn and works.
And: After this article you will also understand how anchors work and know the most common way to build the perfect climbing rope anchor.

1. Step: Identify those Points

Before you build the anchor, you will need to find the points for it. What they are is more or less up to the terrain, which gear you have etc.
I’ll introduce you to some typical anchors i use.

Natural anchors

These can be trees and large rocks. They can be awesome anchors which also conserve your gear. But you need to play it safe and check them before you use them as anchors.

  • Trees:
  • Don’t just use a tree. Make sure to check if its alive, has good roots and is solid before you use it. Never use a tree growing out of a cliff – unless you are chased by a bunch of ninjas and running for your live ;-). Also push against it with a foot to test it and use the golden rule: It should be atleast 12 inches thick in diameter (or 30cm for our metric friends). If you use it for your anchor, circle a runner around the base of the tree and clip the ends together with a carabiner. Use a Flat Overhand Bend (like in the picture) or Double Figure 8 Knot as loop.
  • Rocks: You can use horns and chockstones (stones which are tightly wedged in a crack). When checking the integrity of them, don’t forget to make sure they are solid and well attached. Be extra careful if you notice brittle rock or cracks. When building the anchor you can loop a runner over the top of the rock on a horn and clip it to the rope. Or you circle a runner line around the feature and clip the ends together on chockstones – it works like a tree.

Tree anchor with carabiner – Knot: Flat Overhand Bend

Rock anchors: Horn on the left, Chockstone on right

Fixed anchors 

You will most likely find fixed anchors on sport climbing routes. They are placed there and are permantly fixed to the rock. You can use quickdraws, carabiners and runners to attach your gear. Look at these example drawings to get an idea:

Fixed anchors on artificial gear: Bolts connected with chains.

Just because they are artificial doesn’t mean they are save. Metal and concrete rusts and after a while these things will come off too. So make sure to check for signs of weakness like cracks or lots of corrosion. If you’re not sure: Don’t use them. Stay away from bolts or pitons that move in any direction.
Be super cautious if you find old out-dated gear like 1/4 inch bolts or sheet metal hangers like these:

Oldschool 1/4 inch bolt with rusty sheet metal: Stay away.

Don’t need to say anything here i think…STAY AWAY!


2. Step: Connect your anchor points

You found your individual points – now it’s time to connect. You should always have at least two points holding a downward pull and one for upward pulls.
Most important when connect them is to equalize them, so the load is distributed evenly. You got 2 choices when it comes to equalization: Static or self equalizing.

Static Equalization

Static equalization

Static equalization means you equalize the anchor points beforehand. Once you tie the system off, there will be no slack or adjusting it later. This is a great method for climbing where you have one clear direction of pull: Like straight down. If you climb more advanced and might have situations where pull is upward you should use a self equalizing method.

Cordelette Anchor: This is a way to connect two, three or more anchor points to using static equalization. To make a it, use a 18–20 ft. long section of 7 to 8 -millimeter Perlon accessory cord tie it into a big loop with double fishermen’s knot.

Equalizing 3 anchor points with a cordelette:

  • Clip a cordelette into each of the quickdraws attached to the anchor points with carabiners, then pull down top sections between the pieces.
  • Connect the sections with the bottom part of the cordelette by moving them together, then clip a locking carabiner to all three loops
  • Pull on the carabiner to even out tension
  • Move the fisherman’s knot directly below the highest of your anchor points – that will keep it clear of the master point
  • Position the fisherman’s knot, which connects the cordelette ends, so it is below the highest anchor point to keep it clear of the master point knot that you will tie. This is important as you don’t want it to be where the master point it and tangle up.
  • Try to figure where the force will come from and pull the carabiner in that direction
  • Then tie the sections together with a figure eight not or, if you don’t have enough cord an overhand knot (easier to tie but harder to untie after loading)
  • Tug the carabiner firmly to make sure all the anchor points are equally weighted

3 Steps to equalize anchor points with a cordelette

By the way: The figure eight knot is called master point – and it will be around 3-4 inches thick. It’s the main clip-in point for the anchor and it is where you and your buddy clip in.
Cordelettes are great when directions stay the same. If they change though, you can end up with an anchor where one point takes the entire load. That’s never a good thing as you want redundancy.


This term sounds fancy but it’s pretty simple. It means you build an anchor which adjusts itself no matter where the pull comes from. And it distributes the load evenly on the anchor points. It’s good when pull directions can change during your climb.
I’ll show you a simple technique that works good for many situations. Of course there are more techniques, but this one is easy to learn. If you ask me, keeping it simple is king and the easier a technique is – the less potential it has to turn your climb into a disaster because you forget something.

The sliding X 

  • Clip a single sling to the carabiners at each anchor point.
  • Grab the top section of the sling. Now give it a half twis, then clip a locking carabiner into the twist and around the lower section of the sling.

If one anchor point fails, there will be lots of extension. This will shock load the other anchor point, which is not good. To limit this you can tie some additional overhand knots just above the clip-in points: They allow the system to adjust, but will limit extension and shock loading when an anchor fails.

Sliding X. Without the extra Knots

Anchor Theory

Anchor with a cordelette

Anchors are different and there are some points you should keep in mind. There is a tool called SERENE-A, it’s a good mnemonic.
My tip: Until you memorize it, keep a written note with you when you build an anchor and go through SERENE while you build it. It will save your ass!

Solid: Each component of the anchor must be fully solid.

Equalized: Rig an anchor so the load is distributed equally between the individual anchor points.

Redundant: Your points must be reduntant. If one anchor fails, the authors should not fail automatically too. Use always two, better more solid anchor points. Three is a good number. Ensure to keep redundant carabiners and slings too. I cannot stress this enough: Redundancy is the number one rule that will save your life if applied right.

Efficient: Make efficient use of time and gear when you’re building an anchor, and don’t create something overly complicated – see the KISS (Keep it stupid simple) principle.

NExtension: Construct without extensions. This means if an anchor fails, it should not suddenly shock extend other anchors. Important for the X Slide.

Angles: Consider angles created by the sling or slings in your anchor system. A larger angle puts more force on an anchor, so keep angles 60 degree or less.


You learned two basic anchor techniques and how to build them. You know there is no perfect anchor, but you can build safe and good anchors using SERENE-A.
Now, just because an anchor fits SERENE-A doesn’t mean it is perfect. But if you build them to meet this criteria, you have a good guideline to build a safe anchor.
Keep these things in mind, and have fun gearing up and building your first outdoor climbing rope anchors. We will dive into Multidirectional Anchors and Anchor Angles in later posts!

Always remember: Your safety is your responsibility. No article or video can replace proper instruction and experience. Make sure you’re practiced in proper techniques and safety requirements before you climb.