When climbers like me first come to Hub Climbing Markham, we see there are two types of rock climbing: bouldering and autobelay. What’s the difference?
Autobelay is where you wear a harness and clip into a carabiner. Then you try to top the route without falling. If you do fall, the machine will simply catch you on your way down, providing a smooth descent. Autobelays are usually on higher walls.
Bouldering is a type of climbing that does not require any gear (harness, rope, or belay device). The climber tries to climb on shorter climbing walls and upon falling, the climber simply rolls on the mats below.
My first time climbing on autobelays was actually quite a funny story…
I stepped on the first hold and climbed up with ease. Grab, step, grab, step… I repeated the simple pattern until I heard, “Okay that’s good, you can come down now.” That’s when I realized how far I’ve gone up. I turned my head towards the ground and my whole body tensed. My friend, Cynthia, was curiously watching me struggle from the ground.
My body was frozen as I was halfway up the wall. Am I supposed to just let go? Nope! Won’t get that from me, not today. Gripping the jugs as tightly as humanly possible, I carefully dipped my foot lower in an attempt to climb down.
“Hey don’t climb down, let go and the autobelay will catch you!” I heard from below.
At this point, my arm was getting sore and I didn’t think I could clutch on much longer. Taking a deep breath, I sat back into my harness, and I finally let go of the handholds. As I braced for a sudden drop, I was happily surprised as I felt myself being lowered smoothly and the next thing I knew, Cynthia was laughing at me on the ground.
As I write about this experience two years later, I can still vividly remember that day filled with adrenaline and excitement.
Are you sure you want to commit to this move? Won’t be a good position to fall, my dude. Hold back on the next move here…
The scariest part of bouldering for many people is the fear of falling. When bouldering, there is always a small voice inside my head, constantly pecking me with questions:
Sometimes fearful self-talk holds us back when bouldering. Whether it’s a big dyno, small foothold, or committing moves. This is an instinct that we’re born with. Although there is little risk present, the amygdala is stimulated with emotions that aim to protect us from danger. The fear of falling tries to limit our actions but will possibly take away from our performance.
Autobelay climbing, for the most part, throws this problem out the window. After the first encounter with autobelays, I learned that the descent is super comfortable. In other words, autobelay provides a comfortable environment, and if you’re clipped in correctly, every single “fall” should be smooth, gradual and controlled.
When on the autobelays, I find myself jumping and stepping with ease of mind. Committing to any move is easy because I can give it total concentration, and I’m not scared to try moves anymore. Yes, they can still be hard, by all means, but the mental battle is totally gone when doing autobelay climbing.
This environment helps unleash all the potential on the wall. Trusting the autobelay will prompt you to give 120% of your effort, which pushes your limits to become an even better climber.
No partner? No problem. Alex Honnold only started free-solo because there was no one there to belay him. Now with autobelays, you can climb solo without constantly fearing to merge with the ground underneath.
Autobelay climbing requires almost no equipment whatsoever. Where other members of the rope-climbing family require you to bring gear like a grigri, an ohm device, ropes, locking carabiners, etc, autobelay only asks you to have a harness, which is a lot less to ask for in comparison.
Comparing these types of roped climbing to school teachers, autobelay is like the chill professor who only asks that you bring a notebook and yourself to class, whereas the other professors ask that you bring a protractor, a ruler, seven different coloured highlighters, four notebooks, and the list goes on…
Needless to say, autobelay is the easiest way to get started with rope climbing. How easy? You don’t even need a partner. Yes, that’s right. Autobelay is the only type of rope climbing that doesn’t require someone else to belay on the ground because the machine does that for you.
If you have young children and want to get them in this awesome sport, then autobelay is the way to go!
Parents love to start their kids with autobelays. If you are scared watching your child boulder, unsecured to a wall, autobelay is a great way for them to learn to climb, build confidence, all while securely in the harness.
Lots of kids who start at a young age grow to love and embrace the sport and end up performing on a world stage. Sometimes I genuinely wish that my parents started me as early as a few years old so I could be infused in such a great environment from a young age.
If you love climbing and wish to let your kids into the sport, then autobelay is just the perfect start! For all you know, these autobelays at Hub Climbing could plant the early seed to your child’s climbing dreams.
Hub Climbing’s kids summer camp 2019
Wanna try more autobelays?
Hub Markham has 22 autobelays and Hub Mississauga has 32 units. Hub Mississauga is the biggest rock climbing gym in the entire GTA!
Hub’s autobelay orientation for new climbers
We’re a beginner-friendly gym with large areas dedicated to new climbers. Hub’s expert staff will orient you on how to put on your harness, how to build good habits around using the autobelays.
Guest Contributor, Dec 2020