is a sport
which participants climb up or across natural rock
formations or man-made rock walls
. The goal is to reach the summit
of a formation or the endpoint of
a pre-defined route. Rock climbing is similar to scrambling
(another activity involving the
scaling of hills and similar formations), but climbing is generally
differentiated because of the use of hands to support the climber's
weight as well as to provide balance.
Rock climbing is a physically and mentally demanding sport, one
that often tests a climber's strength, endurance, agility, and
balance along with his or her mental control. It can be a dangerous
sport and knowledge of proper climbing techniques
and usage of
specialized climbing equipment
crucial for the safe completion of routes. Because of the wide
range and variety of rock formations around the world rock climbing
has been separated into several different styles and
sub-disciplines that are described below.
Although rock climbing was an important component of Victorian mountaineering
in the Alps
, it is generally thought that the sport
of rock climbing began in the last quarter of the nineteenth
century in various parts of Europe. Rock climbing evolved gradually
from an alpine necessity to a distinct athletic activity.
Aid climbing (climbing using equipment that act
as artificial hand- or footholds) became popular during the period
1920 - 1960, leading to ascents in the Alps and
Valley that were considered impossible without such
However, climbing techniques, equipment, and ethical
considerations have evolved steadily, and today, free climbing
(climbing on holds made entirely
of natural rock, using gear solely for protection and not for
upward movement) is the most popular form of the sport. Free
climbing has since been divided into several sub-styles of climbing
dependent on belay
configuration (described below).
Over time, grading systems
also been created in order to more accurately compare the relative
difficulties of climbs.Rock CLimbing in shortshorts is very fun.
Even though.. you might be... exposed.
Rock climbing basics
At its most basic, rock climbing involves climbing a route with
one's own hands and feet and little more than a cushioned bouldering pad
in the way of protection. This
style of climbing is referred to as bouldering
, since the relevant routes are usually
found on boulders
no more than 10 to 15 feet
As routes get higher off the ground, the increased risk of
life-threatening injuries necessitates additional safety measures.
A variety of specialized climbing
exists to provide that safety, and climbers will
usually work in pairs and utilize a system of ropes and anchors
designed to catch falls. Ropes and
anchors can be configured differently to suit many styles of
climbing, and roped climbing is thus divided into further sub-types
that vary based on how their belay
set up. The different styles are described in more detail below,
but, generally speaking, beginners will start with top roping
and/or easy bouldering
, and work their way up to lead climbing
In top-roping, an anchor is set up at the summit of a route prior
to the start of a climb. Rope is run through the anchor; one end
attaches to the climber and the other to the belayer
, who keeps the rope taut during the climb and
prevents long falls.
In lead climbing, one person, called the "leader", will climb from
the ground up with rope directly attached (and not through a top
anchor) while the other, called the "second", belays the leader.
Because the climbing rope is of a fixed length, the leader can only
climb a certain distance. Thus longer routes are broken up into
several "pitches". At the top of a pitch, the leader sets up an
anchor, and then belays the "second" up to the anchor. Once both
are at the anchor, the leader begins climbing the next pitch and so
on until they reach the top.
In either case, upon completion of a route, climbers can walk back
down (if an alternate descent path exists) or rappel
down with the rope.
Climbing communities in many countries and regions have developed
their own rating systems for
. Ratings (or "grades") record and communicate consensus
appraisals of difficulty. (Hence, there may be occasional
disagreements arising from physiological or stylistic differences
among climbers.) The ratings take into account multiple factors
affecting a route, such as the slope of the ascent, the quantity
and quality of available handholds, the distance between holds, and
whether advanced technical maneuvers are required. Though acrophobia
(the fear of heights) may affect
certain climbers, the height of a route is generally not
considered a factor in its difficulty rating.
Climbs can occur either outdoors on varying types of rock or
indoors on specialized climbing walls
Outdoors, climbs usually take place on sunny days when the holds
are dry and provide the best grip, but climbers can also attempt to
climb at night or in adverse weather conditions if they have the
proper training and equipment. However, night climbing or climbing
in adverse weather conditions will increase the difficulty and
danger on any climbing route.
Styles of rock climbing
Muro dell Assino, Italy, 5c
Most of the climbing done in modern times is considered free climbing
---climbing using one's own
physical strength with equipment used solely as protection and not
as support -- as opposed to aid
, the gear-dependent form of climbing that was dominant
in the sport's earlier days. Free climbing is typically divided
into several styles that differ from one another depending on the
equipment used and the configurations of their belay, rope, and
anchor systems (or the lack thereof).
- Aid Climbing - Still the most
popular method of climbing big walls. Progress is accomplished by
repeatedly placing and weighting gear which is used directly to aid
ascent and enhance safety.
- Traditional climbing -
Traditional or Trad Climbing involves rock climbing routes that do
not have permanent anchors placed to protect climbers from falls
while ascending. Gear is used to protect against falls but not to
aid the ascent directly.
- Sport Climbing - Unlike
Traditional Rock Climbing, Sport Climbing involves the use of
protection or permanent anchors which are attached to the rock
- Bouldering - Climbing on short, low
routes without the use of the safety rope that is typical of most
other styles. Protection, if used at all, typically consists of a
cushioned bouldering pad below the
route and/or a spotter, a person that watches from below
and directs the fall of the climber away from hazardous areas.
Bouldering may be an arena for intense and relatively safe
competition, resulting in exceptionally high difficulty
- Free climbing - The most commonly
used method to ascend climbs refers to climbs where the climber's
own physical strength and skill are relied on to accomplish the
climb. Free climbing may rely on top rope belay systems, or on lead
climbing to establish protection and the belay stations. Anchors,
ropes, and protection are used to back up the climber and are
passive as opposed to active ascending aids. Subtypes of free
climbing are trad climbing and
sport climbing. Free climbing is
generally done as "clean lead" meaning no pitons or pins are used
- Free soloing (not to be confused
with free climbing) is single-person climbing without the use of
any rope or protection system whatsoever. If a fall occurs and the
climber is not over water (as in the case of deep water soloing), the climber is
likely to be killed or seriously injured. Though technically
similar to bouldering, free solo climbing typically refers to
routes that are far taller and/or far more lethal than bouldering.
The term "highball" is used to refer to climbing on the boundary
between soloing and bouldering, where what is usually climbed as a
boulder problem may be high enough for a fall to cause serious
injury and hence could also be considered to be a free solo.
- Solo aid - Free soloing in which the climber
wears a harness and a carries limited protection but doesn't use a
rope. The climber may free solo or scramble much of the route but
use protection only where safety demands it. Doing so involves
placing gear overhead which is then attached to the climber via a
short length of cord to his or her harness. The climber then climbs
above the protection and reaches down to remove the gear before
proceeding- possibly after placing another protection point and
attaching to it via a second loop of cord. This "leap frogging" or
"boot strapping" technique is akin to gear conservation techniques
that may be used in traditional climbing. Solo aid may or may not
use gear to directly assist ascent.
- Indoor Climbing - With indoor rock climbing
you can train year round and improve your climbing skills and
techniques. Indoor climbing is great for beginners because it gives
you an idea of what it's like to climb actual rocks outdoors.
- Scrambling - Scrambling basically
uses hands and feet when going up ridges, rock faces, or
buttresses. Scrambling differs from "technical" climbing in terms
of the the terrain grade in the
Yosemite decimal system scrambling is possible on anything less
than fifth class. Most scrambling
is done in a "free solo" style. However, it is not uncommon for
climbers to use ropes and protection on an exposed climb that is
technically considered a scramble.
- Deep Water Soloing - Having to climb a rock
and fall on deep water sets it apart from the other styles.
- Mixed climbing - A combination of
ice and rock climbing, often involving specialized ice climbing
slippers and specialized ice tools.
- Rope soloing - Solo climbing
with a rope secured at the beginning of the climb allowing a
climber to self-belay as they advance. Once the pitch is completed
the soloist must descend their rope to clean their gear and reclimb
the pitch. This form of climbing can be conducted free or as a form
of aid climbing.
- Simul climbing - When two
climbers move at the same time. The pseudo-lead climber places gear
that the pseudo-follower collects. When the leader runs low on gear
they construct a belay station where the follower can join them to
exchange gear. The stronger climber is often the pseudo-follower
since a fall by the follower would pull the leader from below
towards the last piece of gear. A potential devastating fall for
the leader. In contrast the a fall from the leader would pull the
follower from above, resulting in a less serious fall. Most speed
ascents involve some form of simul climbing but may also include
sections of standard free climbing and the use of placed gear for
advancement (i.e. partial aid or pulling on gear).
- Top roping - Climbing with the
protection of a rope that's already suspended through an anchor (or
also known as a "Top Rope System") at the top of a route. A
belayer controls the rope, keeping it
taut, and prevents long falls. Most Indoor climbing or "gym climbing" is top
roping on indoor purpose-made climbing
walls although it's also common to boulder and sport climb
indoors. Gym climbing is used as training for outside climbing, but
some climb indoors exclusively. Due to its simplicity and reduced
risk, most beginners are introduced to climbing through
Criticism of rock climbing
Some areas that are popular for climbing are also sacred places for
indigenous peoples. Many such indigenous people would prefer that
climbers not climb these sacred places and have made this
information well known to climbers. A well known example is the rock formation
that Americans have named Devils Tower National Monument. Native American cultural concerns also led to
complete climbing closures at Cave Rock at Lake Tahoe, Monument Valley,
Australia, the well known monolith
Uluru is sacred to local indigenous communities and
climbing is banned on anything but the established ascent route
(and even then climbing is discouraged).
Climbing activities can sometimes encroach on rock art
sites created by various Native American
cultures and early European explorers and settlers. The potential threat
to these resources has led to climbing restrictions and closures in
places like Hueco
Tanks, Texas and City of Rocks, Idaho.
Although many climbers adhere to "minimal impact" and "leave no trace
" practices, rock climbing is
sometimes damaging to the environment. Common environmental damages
include: soil erosion
, chalk accumulation,
litter, abandoned bolts and ropes, human excrement, introduction of
foreign plants through seeds on shoes and clothing, and damage to
native plant species, especially those growing in cracks and on
ledges as these are often intentionally removed during new route
development through a process commonly referred to as
is a style of rock
climbing which seeks to minimize some of the aesthetically damaging
side effects of some techniques used in trad climbing
and more often, aid climbing
by avoiding using equipment such
as pitons, which damage rock.
Climbing can also interfere with raptor
nesting, since the two activities often take place on the same
precipitous cliffs. Many climbing area land
institute nesting season closures of cliffs
known to be used by protected birds of prey
Many non-climbers also object to the appearance of climbing chalk
marks, anchors, bolts and slings on visible cliffs. Since these
features are small, visual impacts can be mitigated through the
selection of neutral, rock-matching colors for bolt hangers,
webbing and chalk.
created by non-climbers is often
mistakenly attributed to the climbing population, driving the
implementation of new climbing restrictions.
The most significant form of vandalism directly attributable to
rock climbers is alteration of the climbing surface to render it
more climber-friendly and/or safe.
With the advent of hard, bolted sport
in the 1980s, many routes were "chipped" and "glued"
to provide additional features, allowing them to be climbed at the
standard of the day. This attitude quickly changed as the safer
climbers to push hard without much risk, causing the formerly
more-or-less fixed grades to steadily rise. Altering routes began
to be seen as limiting and pointless.
Unlike trad climbing
uses protection only as a back up in case of falls, some forms of
climbing--like sport climbing
or, especially, aid climbing
--rely heavily on artificial
protection to advance, either by frequent falls or by directly
pulling on the gear. Often these types of climbing involve multiple
drilled holes in which to place bolts, but in recent years an
emphasis on clean techniques has grown.
Today, the charge of vandalism
is more often a disagreement about the appropriateness of drilling
and placing permanent bolts
other anchors. Typically in America, the first ascensionists decide
where to place protection on a new route, and later climbers are
supposed to live with these choices. This can cause friction and
retro-bolting when the route is perceived to be dangerous to
climbers who actually lead at the grade of the climb, since the
first ascensionists often lead at a higher grade and therefore
don't require as much protection. Failing to properly design a new
route at its grade is considered arrogant and very poor form.
strongholds of rock-climbing tradition like Yosemite
National Park, many routes are being gradually upgraded to safer
standards of protection.
Another form of vandalism in rock climbing is pulling existing
bolts and anchors. This often happens after retro-bolting occurs.
Many climbers feel that if the route has been done without the
benefit of protection, it should stay that way. However this
argument only holds water when the first ascensionists were
climbing at the limit of their skill--as in Yosemite
's infamous test-piece, the Bachar-Yerian
. In the case of first
ascensionists failing to install adequate protection because the
new route is below their leading standard and they didn't require
it themselves, this attitude is harder to justify.
Many significant rock outcrops
private land. The rock climbing community
has been guilty of trespassing
cases, often after land ownership transfers and previous access
permission is withdrawn. In response to access closures, the
climbing community organized and a group formed to correct problems
and represent climber interests.
The Access Fund
is an "advocacy
organization that keeps U.S. climbing areas open and conserves the
climbing environment. Five core programs support the mission on
national and local levels: public policy, stewardship and
conservation (including grants), grassroots activism, climber
education, and land acquisition."
A few climbers are experimenting with taking small parachutes on
hard climbs. This allows the climber to abandon the route without
de-climbing it - essentially turning the rock climb into a BASE
jump. This has led to debate in the climbing community about
whether or not it allows for greater risk and if it "cheapens" the
experience. BASE jumping on any level is generally also
banned in areas known for their rock climbing, most notably
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