What the expert says ... Lucy Creamer is the current British climbing champion and a member of the British Climbing Team
Don't overuse the arms Relying on upper-body strength to pull yourself up is a common beginners' mistake. Pushing with the legs conserves energy. But don't push up through the whole sole of the foot - stand only on the area around the big toe. This helps you gain height and, as this part of the foot is more sensitive, it gives you better awareness of your grip.
Go bouldering Bouldering (a form of climbing without ropes on small rocks and boulders) is a good way of practising hard things at a low level. Don't worry if things go wrong, as a crash mat is placed where you're likely to fall. Bouldering improves your technique, strength and problem-solving skills. Many climbing walls offer bouldering, but the bouldering mecca is Fountainbleu in France.
Calm yourself If you get nervous or feel panic welling up when you're on the crag, take a few deep breaths - in through the nose and out through the mouth. This relaxes you physiologically and psychologically. I incorporate into my climbing the breathing techniques I learned in yoga. Looking down can cause you to lose focus and panic, so keep your eyes on the rock in front of you and slightly above.
Get knotted Learning how to tie a few knots is pretty important for a beginner. You aren't going to be climbing anywhere without them! The figure-of-eight is probably the most common knot used in climbing, and is used to attach the rope to your harness. It's a good idea to practise tying knots at home until they become second nature.
Be prepared With the adrenaline buzzing, there can be a tendency to plunge straight into a climb, but preparation is everything. Stand at the bottom of the wall or crag and plan your route. Work out where the hard bits are and try to determine a rest point before you get to them, so you can shake your arms out and take a breather. Also, familiarise yourself with your gear and make sure it is properly 'racked' on your harness, so you can locate what you need quickly when you need it.
Come outside A climbing wall is a great place to start - a nice, controlled, comfortable environment - but to restrict yourself to indoor climbing would be a shame. It's like only ever running on a treadmill. Climbing outdoors is much more varied and unpredictable - no two routes are ever the same. It's more rewarding physically, mentally and spiritually. Popular areas include the Peak District, North Wales, Pembrokeshire and Dorset.
Join the club The British Mountaineering Council (BMC) - the national representative body in England and Wales - is your first port of call. It offers club listings, information on indoor and outdoor climbing, technique, safety, equipment and, most importantly, what to do if you encounter a bear. Annual membership costs £28.50 and includes subscription to Summit magazine, personal accident and civil liability insurance, and discounts on gear and events. Contact 0870 010 4878 (thebmc.co.uk). Equivalent bodies exist in Scotland, 01738 493942 (mountaineering-scotland.org.uk) and Ireland, 00 35 31 625 1115 (mountaineering.ie).
Hit the wall There are more than 250 climbing walls in the UK, many offering 'taster' sessions and introductory courses, as well as more advanced tuition. Taster sessions usually cost £10-£20. Find a listing of public climbing walls on the British Mountaineering Council's website.
Great outdoors Outdoor activity centres run climbing sessions and courses for all abilities. Check out factivities.co.uk for a listing of more than 1,800 centres across the UK. The mother of them all is the National Mountain Centre at Plasy Brenin in North Wales (pyb.co.uk).
Read up You can learn a lot about the world of climbing by reading one of the UK's climbing magazines - Climb, Climber or Friction Climbing. You'll also find loads of useful information at ukclimbing.com, climbinfo.co.uk, climbing.ie and planetfear.com.
What to wear Comfortable clothing that's not too tight to restrict movement, nor too baggy to get caught up. Snow + Rock (0845 100 1000, snowandrock.com) and Ellis Brigham (0870 444 5555, ellis-brigham.com) both have branches nationwide stocking a massive choice of gear for both sexes. Nevisport has 14 branches in the north of England and Scotland and an online shop (01397 701701, nevisport.com). Three of Ellis Brigham's stores even have a climbing wall for you to try kit out on.
SheActive (0870 766 2566, sheactive.co.uk) is good for women, stocking brands such as Scarpa, Wild Country, Peak Performance and the female-only Thaw.
If you're climbing outside, wear layers of breathable, sweat-wicking clothing rather than one bulky item. The Peak Performance Micro Vest (£60, 0800 389 8655) keeps your torso warm while leaving your arms free. Available for both sexes.
As for footwear, trainers will do at first, but once you get into it you'll want climbing shoes. Popular footwear brands include Scarpa, Five Ten, Red Chili and La Sportiva.
On the downside
Risk factor Well, haven't you seen Touching The Void?
All that gear! You can't just get up and go climbing on a whim, it'll take you ages to get dressed and 'rack up'.
What goes up must come down Abseiling has caused more fatalities than any other mountaineering activity, according to the British Mountaineering Council.
Climber's finger A tendon injury caused by trying to support your body weight with one or two fingers.
Develops mental agility and toughness
Sometimes described as 'vertical chess', rock climbing entails problem solving, planning ahead and keeping your nerve. Researchers at Texas A&M University found climbing could reduce stress, improve self-confidence and encourage positive thinking.
Gives you a firm handshake
Hand and arm strength was far superior in experienced female climbers compared with that of novices in a study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.
Works the abs
Climbing builds a strong core (back and abdominal region). Your abs work particularly hard when you are holding your body weight against gravity, such as on an overhang.
Makes you bendy
Climbing improves your flexibility all over, as you are constantly reaching and stretching, but particularly around the hips, thanks to the frequently adopted 'frog position' in which the hips are open.
Builds steely thighs
Of course, rock climbing builds strength and definition in the back, shoulders and arms, but the legs - particularly the quads and calves - also develop muscular endurance and strength in order to support you for extended periods and propel you upwards.