Whilst people outside rock climbing realise that it is a physically demanding sport they often don’t realise it is also a mental sport that requires a lot of control and problem-solving skills.
The goal is quite simple, to get to an endpoint. Usually, along a predetermined route, the climb may see you going up, down or even traversing to enable you to continue along the route until you get to the end goal. The finish.
This can be done at leisure or in a competition based environment. The competition environment is carried out on either timed courses (fastest wins) or alternatively route that get progressively harder (person who gets the furthest wins).
Grading routes and techniques
Climbing routes are graded in order of difficulty. However, there isn’t a worldwide standard grading system in place so you will find that certain routes and different countries all have variables e.g some may be easier than the grade given which can be a cause of dispute.
There is a multitude of factors that affect grading. Some of these being gradients, size, and availability of handholds, as well as the number of handholds available and distance, traveled between being able to have a rest.
There are many different types of rock throughout the world and different climbing techniques have been developed for the most efficient way to climb them. For example, climbing up a crack within a rock will require a different technique to climbing the face of the rock.
Climbing can take place both outdoors and indoors.
Indoor climbing is done on an artificial wall with set routes and can be used for a bit of fun, a workout or for the more serious as a way to improve your skill and techniques. The advantage of the indoor venues is they are within a controlled environment where that isn’t affected by the weather.
If you are using ropes you will probably have to have an initiation to ensure proper knot tying and health and safety.
Outdoor Climbing is mostly weather dependant as rain or wind and dramatically increase the difficulty of a route. A sunny calm day is best.
Types of Climbing
Aid Climbing- Using devices to help aid your climb. This can be done should the climb be too difficult and where free climbing isn’t possible.
Bouldering- Takes place on smaller rocks and boulders, usually only chalk and a crash mat are used. Originally used as training and improving techniques for bigger climbs. Bouldering is an excellent form of exercise to increase your flexibility and strength.
Free Climbing- The climber uses strength and skill to perform the climb and uses ropes for protection.
Lead Climbing- The climber anchors the rope to the wall as they go with the help of a climbing partner belay (feeds a rope as they go).
Multi-Pitch- The length of the rope determines how far the climber can go. If the climb is longer than the rope then, the climb is broken down into sections or pitches. The first climber goes as far as they can whilst setting up the anchors and then when the second climber follows and bring the anchors with them for the next section or pitch.
Sport Climbing – Climbing using permanent anchors that have been placed on the wall, usually by power tools. There are ethics around whether this may or may not be acceptable.
Solo- Is broken down into a few sections but is essentially where the climber climbs alone without any assistance. Within these sections you will have free solo where the climber uses no protection at all, and should the climber fall will result in injury or death. Deepwater solo, which is the same as free solo but done over deep water and roped soloing where, essentially the climber is doing the belaying and the climbing instead of climbing with a partner.
Traditional- is when the climber places their own protection against falls onto the wall whilst they are climbing and then removes them once the climb is complete.
Top Belaying- Belaying another climber from the top of the route.
Top Rope- When the climber is being belayed from the ground via a pully for the rope at the top of the climb.
Via Ferrata- Protected climbing routes built with a steel cable fixed to a rock and contains metal steps zip wires and suspension bridges along the route.
So this covers the basics of the many different types of climbing. Join us next week for our guide on how to start climbing.