Who: Written from the perspective of content writer Laura who would describe herself as decently fit
Where: Climb Central at Funan Mall
What: Rock wall climbing is exactly what it sounds like. You climb an artificially constructed wall installed with grips for your hands and feet while suspended from a harness. You don’t need any prior experience to climb, although I would say that you need a minimal amount of strength, especially in your upper body. Climb Central requires that you have to be above 5 years of age, weigh more than 20kg and taller than 1.1m to climb. (All children between the ages of 5 to 12 have to be supervised by an adult).
When: I booked the 7pm slot on the 25th of January 2021 online. Each slot lasts two and a half hours (which I later found out was because you have to rest quite a bit in between). Slots are released for booking 3 days in advance at noon. A first-timer adult entry set, which is inclusive of the registration fee and equipment rental, costs $32.
Why: I’m always on the lookout for new, fun activities to try, given that I am lucky enough to be pain and injury-free. Fitness is not just a physical activity to me; it is also a way to mentally unwind.
Before climbing: You are advised to arrive 10 minutes prior to your slot for registration, which the front desk very helpfully assisted with. After registration, I collected my harness and a pair of climbing shoes, which the front desk showed me how to put on. Your harness should be tight; if you can put your thumbs in the space between your harness and hips, then it’s too loose. Your shoes should also be slightly tight but not painful (this may be a problem for people with bunions, but I simply sized up and was still able to climb properly). In any case, they have a chart that you can measure your feet against to determine which size you should rent.
All first-timers have to attend a fifteen-minute safety briefing, during which the instructor will familiarise you with the two climbing systems available at the facility: the manual belay system and the auto belay system. Belaying is a foundational climbing skill. Every climber has a belayer on the ground who handles their rope and adjusts it while they are climbing and descending - this is the traditional manual belay system. There is also an auto belay system that doesn’t require another person on the ground to be your belayer because it is fully machine automated. As a first-timer, I prefer the auto belay system as it’s more convenient and easier to use, especially if you are climbing alone, although I would recommend coming with an experienced friend for your first time, because…
While climbing: It can feel intimidating once you’re left alone. After the safety briefing, you are free to explore the different routes available and climb on your own. If you are climbing alone, you have no choice but to use the auto belay system. If you are climbing with an experienced friend, you can get them to belay you, which is what I did, although I wasn’t confident enough to belay her. (If not done correctly, the person who is being belayed can freefall down the wall). There are numerous routes available, all sorted by difficulty level. First-timers can start with the beginner routes, which are akin to relatively straightforward, vertical ladder climbs.
After climbing: You will feel tired. Climbing is a full-body workout. A common misconception about climbing is that it only utilises upper body strength; in reality, you should also use your legs to climb up so your upper body doesn’t get tired too quickly. Depending on how fast you climb, climbing can also feel like a cardiovascular activity and you may find yourself out of breath halfway through the route. I felt sore in my shoulders, upper traps and upper arms after my session, but this soreness did not carry over to the next day, although I suppose how much you ache after also depends on your fitness level.
Things I liked:
That there was a safety briefing prior to the start of the class, although I think it would take more time and experience to feel confident manually belaying someone else. It’s a good thing there are auto-belay systems available as well.
When you’re climbing, you have to fully focus on the activity to get to the top, which can really take your mind off your worries and let you unwind fully. In this aspect I found climbing to be extremely therapeutic.
Things first-timers should look out for:
Fear of heights. I am not scared of heights, but the first time I reached the top on my first route felt a bit scary, especially once I realised how high up I was. I managed to overcome this fear pretty fast though.
Every time you complete a route, be it on the belay or auto belay system, you have to let go and let your belay partner or the auto belay system help you descend to the ground. This is something a lot of first-timers struggle with initially, myself included. Although you know it’s safe, it is counter-intuitive to human nature and our inbuilt survival instinct to simply let go when you’re hanging at such a high height. This takes some getting used to.
You can bring climbing chalk, which you smother all over your palms to help you climb. Chalk increases the amount of friction between your palms and the grips on the wall, which might give you a better hold while climbing.
Bring water and rest enough in between routes. Climbing is physically demanding; you have to rest in between routes in order to climb again.
All things considered, would I recommend rock wall climbing?
Yes! It is a good, full-body workout that you can take at your own pace. Climb as slowly or as quickly as your body can, and rest as much as you need in between routes. It’s best to come with an experienced friend so they can look out for you too.