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Does the idea of hanging off the side of a cliff with only your own body strength keeping you above the hard ground make your palms clammy? We’re here to tell you not to sweat it—rock climbing isn’t as scary or difficult as you think, especially if you go into it prepared. Check out our beginner’s guide to climbing, with tips and advice from experienced climbers to find out what to expect—and get ready to discover your new favourite sport.

Go with a friend.

Whether your pal has climbed before or is a beginner like you, this is a great activity to do as a duo. Teaming up with an experienced climber comes with an added bonus: their enthusiasm for the sport is catching.

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Start at an indoor climbing gym.

They’ll have all the gear you’ll need, plus most indoor places cater to beginners. Choose your gym based on price, reviews, location and the style of climbing you’re interested in—sport (or roped) climbing or bouldering (short, hard climbs that don’t require ropes).

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Rent (or borrow) everything.

Make sure climbing is a pastime you’re really into before you shell out a bunch of cash for gear. If you decide you like it, our experts recommend buying climbing shoes (uncomfortable, but you’ll get used to them), a chalk bag (chalk is a must for sweaty hands) and a harness.

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It’s not all about upper body strength.

The pros tell us that footwork is huge. Focus on it (along with balance) and you’ll excel. Keep in mind that you’re not just pulling yourself up a rock, you’re using your feet and legs to push yourself up.

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Of course you need your arms, too.

While grace and balance may be the key to climbing, upper body strength is required. Good news: climbing can increase it. One thing to be cautious of is that it’s easy to injure fingers and shoulders. You’ll want to exercise both outside of climbing, but go very slow with the finger strength training. For shoulders, try resistance bands.

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So… what about that whole ‘fear of heights’ thing?

Classic advice like ‘don’t look down’ definitely applies here, but climbers recommend viewing it as a personal challenge and using climbing to overcome your fear—a strategy that they promise will work. Another tip: look at the climbers around you to feel like it’s not you alone against your fear of heights… you’re all in this together.

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Get out there already

What you’ll find: A supportive community. An incredible way to connect with nature. Unbeatable views. A stronger body. A physical and mental challenge that will give you a natural (and literal) high. A sense of accomplishment. And, obviously, FUN.

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