Amongst the old shophouses that seem to have stood still in time along Serangoon Road, Kinetics Climbing stands out, gleaming for attention with its modern signboard.
I stole a quick glance through the shutters and wasn’t expecting what I found – a group of climbing enthusiasts trying to scale the floor-to-ceiling rock climbing walls that make up the premises.
“How big can the climbing gym be if it’s contained in a shophouse?“, I thought to myself, certain that it wouldn’t be that difficult to conquer all the obstacles in a day. Perhaps it was the Spider-Man movie that was playing tricks on my mind.
But don’t let the facade fool you! The shophouse is large enough to house a couple of top rope walls, bouldering walls, and even a small shop for all your climbing needs.
There you’ll find a wide selection of climbing shoes, harnesses, clothes and various types of chalks (both liquid and powder forms).
If there’s anything that would turn bouldering into my new-found fitness obsession, it would be these chalk bags that come in all sorts of shapes and sizes and pretty designs!
We were then introduced to the sport with these vital pieces of equipment for the various climbs ahead of us. Yes friends, there’s so much more to “Rock Climbing” than meets the eye.
Top Rope Climbing
Before getting onto the walls we were strapped into the harnesses. If you’re new to the sport like us and have no idea how to get into gear, wear it like you’re putting on a huge underwear, fasten the sides and you’re good to go.
Belaying us was Eunice, one of Kinetic Climbing’s passionate instructors, who always reminded us to use our legs to push our bodies upwards instead of just relying on our hands.
The last time we did Top Rope Climbing was in OBS (Outward Bound Singapore), and I for one, didn’t even reach the top. This type of climbing turned out to be less difficult than I thought it was going to be, and I felt more confident scaling these walls, given the “safety net” I had in Eunice.
If there’s a sure-fire way to learn to trust someone, it’s through coming down from the wall knowing that your belayer has got your back. Here’s where you’ll have to lean back and straighten your knees forming an “L” shape, simultaneously pushing away from the wall.
We were super proud of ourselves, but had clearly started off with the easiest part of the day.
To help us better understand the different forms of climbing, Eunice and Kinetics Climbing Managing Director, Jay, then demonstrated what Lead Climbing was, where Eunice had to bring the belaying ropes back to the top with the help of a few metal fixtures on the wall.
Not everyone can be a belayer or dive straight into lead climbing, and Kinetics Climbing offers classes and certification courses that you can sign up for to learn the ropes.
Bouldering was the main thing on our agenda for the day, as none of us had done it before and didn’t know what to expect. It’s a tad more challenging than Top Rope Climbing, mainly because you’re required to move fast while solving each set that is attached to a Vermin (V) grading system.
As seen on the chart, the grading system starts from V0 for the younglings, to V9 and up for Yoda. Basically if you’re super new, don’t bother attempting the Black sets.
Each set will be marked with a v-shaped tape indicating the starting handholds, labelled with the level of difficulty and the route-setter’s initials.
Jay told us that seasoned climbers would sometimes be able to identify the route-setters just by the type of route they planned, as each holds a unique characteristic in the “problem” waiting to be solved.
The sets at Kinetics Climbing are changed bi-weekly, challenging climbers on every return. To conquer each set, start from the designated handhold and reach the indicated ‘end rock’ by only touching rocks of the same colours.
So if you start with yellow, you have to plan your route and Spider-Man your way across the wall using rocks of the exact same yellow.
Here’s where the chalk bag comes in handy – powder your hands before every climb to increase friction. I’m quite prone to sweaty palms, so this helped a lot.
Unlike Top Rope Climbing, Bouldering has no ropes or harnesses. But before you start fretting, the walls are usually shorter in height (about less than 6 meters) and there will be crash pads (mattresses) to cushion your fall.
We had to first learn how to fall properly; on our bums and not our hands, lest we sprain or break our wrists.
I found myself going way faster than I did on the top rope climb, because the longer you take to solve the “problems”, the faster your energy will seep away.
If you’re game enough, move on from the flat walls to these overhanging climbing walls. I can’t even really ‘Monkey Climb’ so this was a bit of a #fail.
The most challenging climb of the day for us was having to try to hoist ourselves up to the ‘end rock’ while finding our balance on a tiny foothold. It definitely required a pretty big leap of faith!
We learnt so much that day from Eunice and Jay about this sport that’s now even recognised in the Olympics, and hey, maybe someday they’ll be the ones clinching awards for Singapore.
If there’s one thing that we took home, it was Jay’s analogy about the difference between Top Rope Climbing and Bouldering — the former is likened to a 30 – 40 minutes run, and the latter, a 100-meter sprint.
While both will challenge your mind and body, I preferred Bouldering because of the creativity and exhilaration that it provided. Looking for a new fitness hobby? This could be it!
Prices: S$17 (day pass, no time limit), Other rates here