Updated: Dec 30, 2019
Fortunately, for your sake and everyone else’s you, are not.
It is remarkable how consistent Hollywood movie makers are when it comes to misrepresenting climbing scenes*. One would certainly expect better from them. It should not be a challenge to get it all right with a quick five-hour ride North into the Yosemite Valley. California is, after all, the right place to find expert advice from experienced climbers. Something that movie makers all along seem to ignore.
When it comes to climbing you are actually not expected to do anything but have a great time and enjoy yourself. You might not believe it, but you will not be the only beginner at the climbing gym.
This said, I shall focus on the styles that help you get started with climbing. Those would be two out of the three styles most climbing gyms offer, namely bouldering and top-rope climbing.
Most people start with bouldering. There are good reasons to recommend it as a first climbing activity however we shall bear in mind that this post is meant to help people that might have certain health conditions. There is no real impediment if you feel no pain or are generally fit, nevertheless, bouldering consists of resolving more complex climbing problems, therefore it requires some notion of technique and the ability to read a route.
I quite like bouldering. I can practise it on my own or with friends but I certainly find it more challenging to start with than top-rope climbing. Bouldering consists of resolving usually up to ten steps climbing problems, which can reach an average height of 15ft from ground to top. It is practised without ropes or any other safety equipment either.
Some young or inexperienced boulderers tend to complete a route and then jump off the top. This may give the wrong impression that jumping off is a standard procedure in bouldering, which it is not. Jumping off may actually cause accidents and some serious injuries.
Should you go with bouldering, please consider the following three precautions. In the first place, tell people that you are a beginner and ask for advice. There is nothing wrong with that. On the contrary, you will be offered valuable tips. It is also good practice to keep away from the walls in case there are people bouldering up. It is also essential to try to climb the route down.
If you are lucky enough to have friends who climb or if your local climbing gym offers social events**, I would suggest top-rope climbing for you. Once at the gym, your friends and staff will make sure that you have your safety equipment on and you know how to comply with the establishment safety rules.
Summarising, there are different climbing styles. We are focusing on some of the sport climbing ones, those that would help you get into climbing to build up your confidence, take your mind off your health concerns, and strengthen your body. Cancer is not an impediment to climbing, please do not hesitate to give it a try. Climbing gyms are the best places to get started with either bouldering or top-rope climbing. Some climbing gyms offer social events that might help you start. If your closest gym does not organise suitable social events, it will certainly offer top-rope climbing courses for beginners.
*Link to Alex Honnold’s Breakdown, which explains some of the most ridiculous climbing scenes https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R7qSiEKntQA