Preparing for Your First Rock Wall Visit

August 20, 2021

Written by Kylie Tidmore, Rock Wall Monitor

In the two years that I have worked at the LaHaye Rock Wall, I have encountered countless people that “really want to come climb, but they are nervous or intimidated.” I have heard countless people say they wish they had taken advantage of the rock wall while they had the opportunity.

First of all, at the wall we love new climbers! Most people will agree that the best part of climbing is the community—and you being a part of that community will only make the experience better! If you’re nervous, use this blog to learn some basic rock wall lingo as well as some at home exercises you can do to prepare for your first rock wall visit.

Checking In

When you come to the rock wall, the first thing you will see is our silver desk, shining brightly with the sun’s reflection. We will be sitting behind it, smiling, and ready to welcome you in! You will have the option to climb on the bouldering wall, the grasshopper board, or the auto-belay tower.

We do have free shoe rentals as well, but a lot of climbers do bring their own shoes. If you find yourself wanting to pursue this sport, check out some great options for climbing shoes on REI’s website!

Bouldering and Hold Types

Bouldering is a shorter version of climbing. When bouldering, no ropes are used and the climber falls safely onto a padded surface when they are done. The bouldering wall, as well as the tower, is covered in brightly covered rocks that we call holds. If you were to walk around and try out these holds, you would notice that there are different shapes and grips required to use these.


The easiest hold is called a jug and is a deep pocket in a rock where you are able to hold on well.


Another type is called a crimp, where the rock is a thin edge on the top and the climber may only be able to get their fingertips on the hold.


Another type is called a pinch, where the climber has to literally pinch the hold to stay on. The last major hold we often use is a sloper, which looks like a ball, and the climber has to hold with an open palm.

Exercises to Get You Ready

Climbing uses a unique set of muscles other exercises typically do not utilize, including hand and finger strength. Going into climbing slowly and carefully, with adequate warmups, is crucial to avoid straining a weak muscle that has not been trained yet. Pushups are a popular exercise for climbers because they counteract the muscles used to pull the climber up the wall. Climbers also like using hangboards which are specifically designed for rock climbers to train and condition for climbing. During quarantine, I found myself hanging on door frames and bricks that stuck out from my house, as a makeshift hangboard. Doing these exercises builds up finger strength, but again should be done gradually. Another easy ‘diy’ is taking a block of wood and attaching a rock, or other weight to it, and seeing how long you can pinch it (mimicking a pinch or sloper hold). If you’re serious about training, check out this link from REI on creating your own hangboard at home!

See You Soon!

Now that you have become more familiar with how the LaHaye Rock Wall operates, I hope you will have the confidence to come and see us this semester! Again, we love welcoming new people and want to help you fall in love with climbing just like we have! Grab some friends who are up for a challenge and head to the wall. Want to experience a class first? Check out our Fall 2021 offerings here!