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post-title Climbing Rocks!

Climbing Rocks!

Climbing Rocks!

Climbing Rocks!

With indoor and outdoor climbing facilities springing up around Cambodia, we chat to climbers in the Kingdom, and explain what those new to the sport should expect.

Climbing is on the rise as a popular hobby across the world right now. It has been officially added to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, and the availability of climbing locations and equipment has steadily increased year on year. Climbing in Cambodia is no different, with people in the capital having access to indoor climbing gyms and the opportunity to visit numerous locations only a couple of hours out in the provinces.

The first thing you notice when you walk into a climbing gym is how diverse the climbers are – this isn’t just a sport for muscle-bound men. There’s an even split between the genders, and frequently you’ll see kids and teenagers scaling the walls with ease. In fact, any variations in height and strength can be evened out with the right techniques. And in Phnom Penh, the ratio between locals and foreigners seems fairly balanced.

While the idea of attempting a route in front of a bunch of experienced climbers might be intimidating, there’s a sense of welcoming and community spirit, with people quick to offer help and suggestions to those on the wall, as well as monumental cheering when a route is successfully completed.

For beginners, there are two different types of climbing which can be started immediately:

Top rope

This type of climb is characterised by the use of a safety rope running from the top of the route which is attached to the climber’s harness.

With the rope able to catch the climber if they fall, the routes can be of any height and still remain safe. This often means that climbers feel more comfortable attempting challenging climbs, as they know they will not fall if they lose their grip, and can reposition themselves quickly back on the wall or rock face if they are not lowered down.

The routes generally focus on moving vertically up the wall, which can mean that climbers must overcome any fear of heights they have, while needing endurance skills to make it to the top of the wall. However, unless the gym has automatic belays to attach to, you’ll need a trained partner to hold the ropes and check over your safety gear.

Bouldering

Bouldering is done without any harnesses or ropes, and is therefore only done on routes that are around 4-6 meters high, with crash mats below the climber.

The routes often run diagonally across the wall, which adds an extra dimension to the awareness the climber requires. Some routes can be entirely traverse, where the climber moves horizontally across the wall, or they can be a circular route where the climber finishes in the same position they started.

As the routes are short, a particularly challenging section can easily be climbed back to, allowing the climber to practice repeatedly without expending a lot of energy.

In whatever style climbers choose, they need to use both their body and their mind to succeed. Routes need to be thought over, with the possible hand and footholds noted before starting the climb. Footwork is also key – many beginners will overly rely on their upper-body strength to haul themselves up, which will only lead to poor technique in the future.

Successful climbing depends on skill – even when you fall. Safety should always be considered throughout a climb – knowing how to fall and land safely, should you lose your grip, is important, as is being aware of other people both on the walls and on the ground below.

When it comes to equipment, most places will be happy to hire out shoes and harnesses. Beginners needn’t make any investments before turning up – in fact it’s better to try a few different designs (of shoes especially) before spending your money!

The differences between indoor and outdoor climbing aren’t hugely different, though indoor climbing is considered more accessible. When climbing outdoors, the handholds are usually cracks and holes in the rock face, which can be a challenge if you’re only used to manufactured grips. And unless you’re at a designated climbing spot, you’ll have to bring all your own ropes, harnesses and crash mats if necessary.

In Phnom Penh, the main focal point for climbers is Phnom Climb, an indoor gym that’s recently celebrated its 1st birthday. It offers both bouldering and top-rope climbing, and also organises trips to the outdoor climbing sites of Chelea and Kampong Trach. If you’re lucky, you’ll be sharing the wall with local members that are preparing to represent Cambodia in the Olympics!

For those seeking outdoor climbing beyond the capital, Climbodia has been offering tours around the mountains of Kampot for many years, with permanent routes in the Phnom Kbal Romeas national park, and those in Siem Reap should get in touch with Angkor Climbers Net for both indoor and outdoor climbing.

See you on the wall!

Some words from local climbers

Christine

How long have you been climbing?
Around five years, but more seriously in the last two years.

What do you enjoy about climbing?
Part of it is the community. Even though I go bouldering alone, I usually find other people at the gym who are working on the same problem. We look at it together, try different ways of doing it, help each other out. You don’t get that as much in other sports.

Do you find the sport accessible/welcoming?
If people see you struggling on a problem, they will usually offer some advice, show you their way etc. I admit that it can be a bit intimidating for beginners, especially when seeing really experienced climbers tackle insane routes that have probably taken them years to build up to.

What advice would you give to those just starting?
My advice would be the two things that I need to work on the most: finding motivation and not comparing yourself to others. I would say get as much help from climbers that are at a higher skill level than you, and don’t let it get to you when other people who started at the same time suddenly improve much faster. Everyone is built differently and some people have a much slower learning curve than others.

Carlos

How long have you been climbing?
1 year.

Do you find the sport accessible/welcoming?
Yes absolutely, climbers are chill and friendly – they always welcome newbies.

What’s your biggest challenge?
At first I didn’t feel 100% comfortable about heights, but then top rope climbing give me the opportunity to slowly get comfortable with it.

What do you want to do next?
Maybe learn how to route set, seems pretty fun to come up with your own route!

What advice would you give to those just starting?
Keep trying, don’t give up if you can’t get a route in one day – we all have bad days, just come back and you will see how you get it.

Joe

How long have you been climbing?
On and off for about 5 years.

What did you think when you first started?
That it was a lot of fun, exciting, and addicting right away.

Do you find the sport accessible/welcoming?
Yes, since there are routes available for all different levels of climbers. I’ve taken many friends climbing for their first time, and I’ve never had a time where there weren’t any routes available for them to complete. Even for those with fear of heights, shorter bouldering problems are available.

What do you want to do next?
I am excited to one day lead climbs outdoors and then eventually do some multi-pitch climbs.

What advice would you give to those just starting?
Just have fun with it, make some friends who are at your level of climbing, and tackle problems together.

Climbing Rocks!Climbing Rocks!

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