What Is The Meaning Of Colors At Climbing Gym? – (For Beginners)

Whenever you see a video when someone is climbing on an indoor climbing or bouldering gym, then you can see many colors of the holds, sometimes it’s hard to recognize due to their density but they are not randomly put there to confuse you but it’s a pattern for climbers. There are many ways of interpreting colors at a climbing gym, so stay with us to learn more about what can be relevant to your local climbing gym.

The holds colors are most commonly used to show you the full route that you will be climbing, but that’s only the new system’s approach to route setting. If your climbing gym isn’t one of those modern gyms then it can look totally different.

colors at climbing
What is the meaning of colors at climbing gym?

Many people are shocked by the number of colors that they can see on a climbing gym, it’s almost like a balls pit for kids, but there are some patterns and systems to it. Let’s start with something that is not so often used anymore.

The old route setting system

The old route setting system was a bit different, route setters used every hold without looking at its color, they simply put a colored tape connected to the next holds. It had some benefits to it like the route setters could use every single hold that they have in their storage to make a great problem to solve.

There is also a big disadvantage of that approach, but only for climbers and not the route setters. That big disadvantage was that the climber has some trouble visualizing the next move and they can easily forget about a foothold just because from the current position it’s hard to see that small colored tape on each hold.

To summarize it all, the route setters had it way easier than it is now with the new approach, they also could create better and funnier problems to solve, with a little disadvantage and that was the additional work of putting that tape connected to every single handhold or foothold.

When it comes to climbers they could get a better route to climb, but they needed to spend way more time remembering the correct placement of every hold because the tape was not as intuitive as it is now with the same color for every hold.

The new route setting system

Nowadays in most gyms, we have a system based on the colors of the holds, The whole route should be in one single color for climbers to earlier recognize what the next move should be. In one bouldering gym, there can be a lot of blue routes for example but they should not be too close to each other because that will make climbers confused.

So even if you see the two routes of the same color they should be pretty far away to make it clear to you what holds you can use. The color most of the time is not related to the difficulty of that route unless your climbing gym has a huge amount of spare holds to make them represent every difficulty, but it’s rare to see.

The most common is to see a special tape connected to the first two handholds, which will represent the difficulty level of that route, they should be connected to the handholds to show you the starting position. For example, a route built from green jugs has 2 tapes on the bottom of that route for your left hand and right hand, to let you know where to start,

The difficulty level will be shown on those tapes, they should be identical. Many gyms use colored tapes to represent how difficult that boulder is:

  • Green – The easiest problems
  • Blue – Easy problems
  • Purple – Medium problems
  • Red – Hard problems
  • Black – The hardest problems

Above you can see a simple example of grading for many gyms but it should be something similar on your climbing gym or bouldering gym unless your gym does use one of the official climbing gradings but that’s rare to see because for beginners it’s hard to read and understand.

Every gym has a different way of grading the problems, but there should be information about it somewhere on the wall or elsewhere, just take a look around and you will see the instruction.

In summary – What is the meaning of colors at climbing gym?

There are two main systems for route settings, one based on tapes and the second based on the whole color of the route you will be climbing, but both of them don’t use the color of holds to show climbers how difficult that route really is.

To get the information about how hard the climbing problem you want to climb is, look for tapes that are connected to it, there should be a description of the difficulty represented by a number or any other symbol but the information should be intuitive for sure.