Keeping Warm at Highball this Winter

It’s no different here at Highball.

Some climbers are welcoming the circa/sub 10 degree temperatures; the holds coming back to life after shedding their sweaty summer skins. Others however, are still arriving at reception wearing their summer attire and voicing their disapproval of the cold before even warming up. Sympathy from the crew (who are sensibly wrapped up in downies and hats) will be in short supply!

The purpose of this Blog is to offer some guidance on how to keep warm during the colder months and hopefully help you embrace the cooler conditions and the friction they bring. There’s no reason to be cold……

“They’re not cold, they’re just not dressed properly”
Observation of a Highball Regular, Winter 2012/13

How to dress for climbing = Layers!
#FACT – If you arrive wearing shorts, a t-shirt or other thin single layers, you will be cold. You need to think about layers, one on top of the other, which you remove as you get warmed up and then put back on in between problems, routes or when you have a rest. This helps you to retain the warmth you’re generating and stops you getting a chill on your ‘damp bits’.

Look at what the ‘seasoned’ climbers are wearing. They’ll arrive wearing insulated jackets, hats and even gloves or mittens. But when they’re warm, the layers will be off and they may be down to just their base layer and a big bobble hat – BUT they wont arrive in or sit around in just T-Shirts because they’d be cold.

It’s all about wearing the right clothing at the right time, not wearing too little too soon, and not sweating because you’re wearing too much which can bring on a chill.

Top and Bottoms
Start with a long sleeve ‘active’ base layer. If you’re a ‘colder’ person maybe opt for a thicker merino wool (ski type) base. Most climbers will then layer a t-shirt, a fleece jumper and to begin with, a jacket too.

The same goes for your legs. Most people will be ok with one layer, but don’t be afraid to wear thermal leggings if you need too.

Top Beta: slowly remove layers as you get warmed up and then put them back on when you rest or stop. One of the biggest mistakes people made last year was warming up, stripping down to their base layer/t-shirt and then getting cold because they didn’t put a fleece or jacket back on when resting.

It’s vitally important to keep warmth in your hands. Having a pair of gloves on during your ‘pulse raiser’ is a great way to get them warm. If you stop climbing for a quick break between routes or problems, put your gloves on to retain the heat.

Climbing can create huge pressures in your finger and wrist joints, so warming them up properly is even more important in the winter. Be sure to wiggle them and mobilise them; pay them extra special attention.

Top Beta: Mittens are excellent for rest periods, keeping your wrists and fingers toasty in-between sets.

Feet are a tough one as most of us wear climbing shoes which won’t allow us to wear socks!

Warm up your climbing shoes where possible. Use your car heaters to warm them as you drive here and when you get here, put them up your jacket to keep them warm whilst YOU warm up.

Top Beta: Down bootys are great to slip on when resting but thick socks are just as good. – or put your shoes back up your jacket!!

Warm Up Effectively
Jumping straight on the wall isn’t advised. You need to get blood flowing through your arteries and veins, and warm up your muscles and joints before getting on the wall.

Pulse Raiser – 5-10 mins at least!
Skip, Cycle, Walk, Jog, Run. All of these will help get you ready. Remember Burpies? They’ll work to!

Loosen up – 5 -10 mins.
Loosen up your joints, flick your hands, induce a ‘flash pump’ (one hand clapping), rotate your wrists, shoulders, hips, and bend all your joints. Get that pumping heart pushing blood to all corners of your body.

Mild Stretching 5-10 mins
Some people stretch at the end, some at the beginning, and some do both. If you stretch at the beginning, be sure not to push yourself too far.


  • Dress Appropriately. Layers, layers layers
  • Warm Up Effectively – use the skipping ropes, even have a jog around the car park or centre before attempting to climb.
  • Add/Remove layers as necessary – don’t get lulled into a false sense of warmth. When you stop/rest – put on a layer.
  • Keep your hands warm – wear gloves/mittens when resting and warming up.
  • Warm you climbing shoes and keep them warm!

A few other points to bare in mind:

  • Our general rule is if its less than 10 degrees outside, the roller door is closed – this is obviously subject to wind and rain. If its 10 degrees plus, the door is likely to be open – we like to have as much fresh air and sunshine flooding in whenever possible during the winter – it helps prevent SAD!
  • Due to Highball’s size, the building is subject to ‘super-cooling’. This means after the sun comes up and begins warming the earth, the air inside Highball will continue to drop. Often, the air can be colder inside than outside. For this reason we may open the door in the morning to ‘let the cold air out’ but it will be closed again about lunchtime, before the suns rays start to weaken and the air temperature drops again.
  • The biggest problem we’ll have over winter isn’t the cold, it will be condensation from all your sweaty bodies – beware the drips! We are looking into a solution for this….
  • Spectators will need to wrap up extra warm as they wont be generating any body heat. We do have blankets around the café so you can get all cocooned up and cosy. Help your yourself – and don’t forget our awesome hot drinks!
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