After climbing for over a decade, Adelaide-born Jane Engler knows a thing or two about bouldering. One of our key route setters (their role is to design all the problems at Urban Climb) and general lifesaver, Jane has been a part of the Melbourne gym build from the beginning. Now a full-time employee at Urban Climb, Jane runs monthly Climbing 101 courses in Melbourne.
We sat down to chat with her about the course, which has been running at Urban Climb’s Queensland gyms and is new to the Victorian branch.
Q: For those who don’t know, can you tell us a bit about Climbing 101?
A: “Urban Climb’s Climbing 101 course runs over the first three Thursdays of each month (excluding December and January for the holiday period). Each clinic runs for two hours (6.30pm to 8.30pm), and non-members receive full membership for the duration of the course including access to the gym everyday, fitness and yoga classes.”
“People can come and practice what they’ve learnt, and it means you can get immersed in not only the teaching, but the community and culture,” Jane says.
Q: Why is it beneficial to have a structured climbing course for bouldering?
A: “A lot of climbers are self-taught or taught by friends who are climbers,” Jane explains with a small smile. “It’s not a bad way to learn, but it’s a slow way to learn.”
“For a lot of people, they’ll learn the things we cover in the Climbing 101 course through osmosis, watching and talking to people in the gym or trial and error, so they will eventually acquire the knowledge in six months.” She pauses and adds, “Or we can cover it in three weeks.”
Q: What’s the actual structure of the course? Can you break down what participants will be doing week-to-week?
A: “Each clinic begins with a good warm-up, followed by two to three technical topics including footwork, efficient climbing (straight arms or twisting through your shoulders or hips), route reading, balance and momentum.”
“Participants will go through a station set with specific holds to demonstrate each topic. After some drills, I’ll handpick a few specific climbs to allow participants to work on the topic’s technique, before circling back to the start and beginning a new topic.”
Q: Who is the course aimed at?
A: “The course is tailored towards beginners but intermediates can definitely benefit if they haven’t learnt certain techniques,” Jane says.
“Most courses have a mix of complete newbies, people looking to improve their technique and intermediates who have plateaued because they’re climbing using brute strength instead of skills.”
Q: What’s the biggest benefit for beginner climbers?
A: “Beginners mainly benefit from the course by building confidence through climbing regularly, having a coach and asking questions,” Jane says. Jane also cites footwork and climbing efficiently as key leanings, something she calls “climbing smart, not necessarily strong.”
“A lot of people, especially beginners, think it’s all upper body strength. People think they have to do pull ups to get up the wall which is not the case. We teach them to use your feet and legs which are stronger muscles. Female climbers find it particularly useful to start thinking bottom-up instead of top-down, because it’s less about the upper body than you realise.”
Q: What’s the biggest benefit for intermediate climbers?
A: “Intermediate climbers will find new technical aspects they may already know but haven’t put it into context,” Jane says. She points to footwork, climbing efficiently, using your balance and climbing mindfully as common pain points for intermediate climbers.
“Sometimes you climb and you’re not thinking about what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. It’s so important to be mindful of your climb, space, how you place your feet and how you shift your hips,” Jane says.
Q: Those relatively new to climbing have a lot of trouble topping out on some of the harder purple problems, but find they can breeze through blue problems. Any advice?
A: Jane points to technical aspects of footwork and friction with handholds. “You need to start thinking a lot more in terms of how you place your feet and shift your weight, stand and pivoting on your toes.”
What: Climbing 101
When: The first three Thursdays of every month (excluding Dec, Jan). 6.30pm-8.30pm.
$$: $129 for members, $249 for non-members. Includes gym and class access for non-members
Who: Beginners to intermediate. Classes are capped at 14 people per month.
How: Call your local Urban Climb gym, or inquire via the website.
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