Hurra – we now have top-rope climbing licenses! And how you can get yours too
“OK” said our instructor, “that’s all the theory. Let’s do some climbing now.”
I instinctively made a step back. You see, I never was much of an athlete, I don’t have much strength in my hands and the idea of hanging on a rope 12 meters above the ground gave me shivers at that moment. I looked at the colorful hand-grips on the climbing wall and I wondered what in the world I was thinking two months ago when Katja asked if we should sign up for a trial climbing course and I said “yes”…
But to be perfectly honest with you, I knew why — precisely because I was a bit afraid and because I wanted to confront that fear in a gentle way. By taking a course and learning about climbing…
So we booked a course at the DAV (the German Alpine Association) which promised to teach us in two evenings of 3 hours each the theory and basic practice of top-rope climbing. And they did!
On the first evening we started by learning about how strong harnesses, ropes and carabiners are. Then we practiced putting the harness on properly and tying up the double-eight follow-through knot. The theoretical part ended with an explanation of how to secure a climber (proper term: to belay) with a tube and carabiner and how to perform a proper partner check. We then carried out our first couple of climbs.
On the second evening we had a refresher on everything we learned previously and then we practiced a lot more. Each person changed several times between climbing and belaying. We then practiced falling and securing a partner with different amounts of slack in the rope, and finally we experimented with the newer semi-automatic belaying devices: Mammut’s Smart, Climbing Technology’s Click Up and Petzl’s Gri-Gri 2.
The instructor was very tough on the safety of climbing and on securing your partner, but he never pushed us to climb faster or higher than we felt comfortable. Which was perfect, because you have to feel perfectly safe in order to let go of your fear and start climbing up the wall.
The climbing license
After the two evenings all five course participants had understood the theory and were able to apply it properly, so we each received a top-rope climbing license. In Germany it is mandatory to possess such a license in order to secure a climber. After all, you are literally holding someone else’s life in your hands…
But here is the fun part: you don’t need a license to climb!
How you can start climbing?
Follow these easy steps to see if climbing is something you’ll enjoy:
- Call all climbing gyms/indoor walls/outdoor climbing towers in town and ask when they have an open-house or a weekend of public activities.
- Hit the climbing wall together with friends who have experience and are licensed to secure you. You’ll have to pay 10 EUR for entering the climbing hall and about 5 EUR for the climbing gear per session.
- Take a climbing course like we did, find a climbing partner and head to the climbing hall at least once a week.
If you don’t have a climbing partner yet, check the webpages of the climbing wall companies. They usually have a community area where you can find the right person.
What about the costs?
The costs for climbing is comparable to a gym membership and much lower than other “adrenaline sports” (skydiving, paragliding, motocross, speedboat):
- A two-evening course to learn how to climb top-rope and how to secure a partner: 75 EUR, including entrance, gear rental and a climbing license at the end. The price is 55 EUR per person if you are a member of the DAV (which we are).
- Climbing harness: 50 — 70 EUR
- A pair of those funny climbing shoes: 80 — 120 EUR
- Simple belay device (tube and carabiner): 25 — 35 EUR. Modern belay device (Smart, Click-Up, GriGri) and a matching carabiner: 40 — 80 EUR.
- A monthly subscription to the climbing hall: 30 EUR. If you climb less often, you can purchase 10 entries to the climbing hall for 100 EUR.
To make it easier for anyone to start with this exciting sport, climbing halls rent all necessary equipment for very reasonable prices.
Inspiration for the future: an experienced lead climber working an 8+ route.