Intro

Rock climbing is rapidly becoming a common household sport with indoor facilities popping up all over the UK and excitingly now the new sport featured in the Summer 2021 Olympics. Climbing combines physical strength with mental focus, figuring out moves as you go, and then using power, agility and flexibility to reach the top of routes.  

Where to go and when 

00083919
We have three of the best areas to climb in France. The Chamonix Valley (Chamonix or Argentiere) is a mecca for climbing. Offering a whole valley full of boulders, crags and multi pitch routes, all in the magnificent setting of the Mont Blanc Massif with stunning views of glaciers and snowy peaks. Verdon gorge is renowned in the climbing community as one of the best areas to climb from beginner short routes, to scenic multi pitches and big wall climbing. Both the Chamonix Valley and Verdon offer varied weather over the summer months. July and August are the warmest months often reaching up to 30°C. These hot temperatures in mountainous areas can lead to some exciting thunderstorms too.

What type of climbing can you do on a UCPA course?

Sport climbing

Sport climbing is the most common form of climbing. Metal loops or ‘bolts’ are bolted into the rock, and climbers work their way up ‘clipping in’ with quickdraws to these bolts as you go. Routes are created, bolted and anchor points are built by professional route planners/volunteersBeginners. You can learn the basics with UCPA, however we think that this course is ideal for people with some indoor wall experience who want to learn to lead safely on outdoor climbs. Equally, more experienced climbers can make use of the UCPA guides local knowledge and learn to push their levels within a controlled environment. Top-roping is where the climbing rope is fixed through the anchor point, with your belaying partner tying in one end and you on the other. It’s your climbing partner’s role to take up the slack as you ascend and control your descent to keep you safe. Lead climbing does not have a pre-placed anchor at the top for safety. Instead, the climber clips their quickdraw into the bolts as they climb and passes the rope through the quickdraw. When they reach the top, the climber will pass the rope through an anchor and descend collecting the quickdraws on the way down.

00070989
climb-land-banner

Multi-pitch (sport climbing)

Multi-pitch climbing is a form of trad or sport climbing where you climb a longer route in separate stages known as pitches. UCPA only offers sport climbing multi-pitch courses, however, the skills learnt on this course will help you in the future if you want to try trad. Climbers ascend as far as their rope will allow before securing themselves ‘safe’ on the rock, build an anchor and set up a belay before their partner can start climbing up to them. Multi-pitch climbs can take hours for a single multi-pitch route. Due to the complexity and rope skills needed to take on a multi-pitch route, this is not suitable for beginner climbers.

 

Bouldering 

Leaving behind ropes and harnesses and just using climbing shoes and a bag of chalk over safety mats, bouldering really is bringing it back to basics. The word basic, doesn’t mean easy though. You will climb short but tricky bouldering problems (a route, or sequence of moves) using balance, technique and strength. Using safety mats alleviates the risks of hurting yourself falling off and leaving all equipment other than your shoes behind means that you are free to concentrate on climbing. Bouldering is a great physical workout, using muscles all over your body - not just your arms. Core strength is a real focus, as is flexibility. As there is so much to focus on when bouldering, it is a great sport to help forget about your everyday stresses, leaving your mind clear and refreshed at the end of your session.

 
Bouldering
Ice climbing

Ice climbing

Ice climbing is rock climbing on ice. Rather than climbing on rock, ice climbers use crampons, picks, ropes and other equipment to climb on ice. Glaciers and frozen waterfalls are the most popular ice climbing venues which is why Chamonix is one of the hotspots for this sport. Many versatile ice climbers also practice mixed climbing – a variation of ice climbing that involves climbing on ice, rock and snow.

What to expect from a UCPA climbing course as a beginner

Our all inclusive approach to climbing will focus on safety, fun and development. We will begin with the fundamentals skills of putting on a harness, tying knots and belaying. From here, progress will be paced depending on your experience and desires and we will address a variety of themes:

Safety techniques: ​getting ready to climb, partner checks, attaching and clipping a quickdraw, coiling a rope, belaying a leader and effective communication. 

Climbing technique: foot placements, movement, route-reading, pacing and resting, breathing, staying calm, trust and commitment.

Background information: Codes of conduct/climbing etiquette, reading guidebook topos and types of equipment on a cliff.

You will have the chance to lead climb, as well as climbing as a second, on routes suitable for your ability. We will visit different climbing areas so that you can appreciate and enjoy the vast variety of climbing styles available in the Chamonix or Verdon valleys. At the end of the course, you will have the basics to be an autonomous sport climber.

00067148

What to expect a more advanced climber

00083928

At all levels, UCPA instruction and coaching is geared to target and develop the key elements: technique, balance, movement, and mental approach. Content below is an indication only, providing an outline of how the course may be delivered. These developments are subject to modification or adjustment at any time for technical, operational or safety reasons, particularly relating to weather conditions. 

  • How to improve climbing technique

  • Efficient use of footholds to support your weight

  • Balance exercises and position of centre of gravity

  • Finding and optimising rests

  • Straight Arm Climbing

  • Clipping Positions and Techniques

  • Flagging, Drop Knees and other steep ground climbing techniques

  • Falling and Dynamic belaying

  • Route finding skills

What to wear

First things first, this completely depends on where you are planning on going and when! However whether you are choosing climbing or bouldering there are some key pieces of kit you will need.

Appropriate clothing

The most important tip to remember when choosing what to wear climbing is to wear something that is not going to restrict your movement and won’t get caught up in your equipment. Breathable items are very good as you can really work up a sweat climbing in the summer heat. Sunglasses are very important as there can be quite a glare bouncing off the rocks. 

Climbing shoes

If you are new to the sport, be prepared for the shoes not to be that comfy at first! Climbing shoes are designed to provide you with grip, they are stiff and tight-fitting to ensure that you get the most control and power you need whilst climbing. There are many different versions depending on what type of climbing you are doing, so make sure you try on shoes relevant to your course eg. bouldering shoes, multi-pitch shoes. UCPA provides climbing shoes for all of their courses, but of course, you are more than welcome to bring your own with you. 

Harness

A harness secures a person to a rope or to an anchor point. Harness is an absolute must when climbing, although you do not need one bouldering.

group climbing
In this article