A basic guide to finding your route at the rock climbing gym

Nothing beats pawing dirty rock with your bare hands.

But, just like with any sport, participants are sometimes forced to practice indoors. For climbers, late nights and stormy days often mean a trip to the rock-climbing gym — but playing inside isn’t a bad thing at all.

The basics

Most climbing gyms are the same: a tall building with artificially constructed walls (usually 20 to 60 feet high) with grips for both hands and feet that mimic the sizes and shapes of holds on outdoor rocks.

The walls can be brick or wood, but most are made from thick multiplex boards with holes drilled into them. (Your gym may even use steel or aluminum.) The grips on the walls vary in size, shape and color and gym staff swap them around to design routes for all levels of climbers

First, find a route with the rating you need — it might be named, for example, “5.7, Wayne’s World” — and notice what color tape it’s written on. As you start climbing, use only grips labeled with the same color tape.

If you’re really struggling, there will be other grips all around you can use, but try as hard as you can to only use grips with the right color tape.

gym gloves