Professional rock climber and five-time U.S. national champion Alex Johnson says in reference to rock climbing that the No. 1 most important thing for beginners to keep in mind is to not get intimidated. “It’s easy to get discouraged it happens to everyone but the best way to improve is keep trying.” He also says “Climbing is a very welcoming and accessible sport for beginners.”
There are several different types of rock climbing you can try from rope climbing to bouldering and traditional (clad) climbing to sport climbing.
- Rope Climbing
This was an Olympic gymnastics event at one time but was removed after the 1932 games. In the United States, competitive climbing on both 20 ft and 25 ft, 1.5-inch-diameter (38 mm) natural fiber ropes was sanctioned by both the AAU and the NCAA until the early 1960s, when these organizations dropped the events. As a result, intercollegiate competition in the U.S. disappeared at this time. In Olympic games held in the U.S., competitors climbed a 25 ft (7.62m) rope, but when post-1896 games were held in Europe, an 8 m (26.3 ft) rope was used. In almost all contests, athletes climbed for speed, starting from a seated position on the floor and using only the hands and arms. Kicking the legs in a kind of “stride” was normally permitted. However, at the 1896 Olympic games, competitors were ranked by both time and style (holding an L-position) on a rope so long (15 meters) that some climbers did not reach the top and were therefore excluded. In all succeeding Olympics through the 1932 games, competitors were judged strictly by time of ascent on a shorter rope.
Bouldering is a form of rock climbing that is performed on large boulders, small rock formations or artificial rock walls, without the use of ropes or harnesses. While it can be done without any equipment whatsoever, most climbers use climbing shoes to help secure footholds, chalk to keep their hands dry and provide a firmer grip, and bouldering mats to prevent injuries from falls. Unlike free solo climbing, which is also performed without ropes, bouldering problems (the path that a climber takes in order to complete the climb) are usually less than 6 meters (20 ft.) tall. Artificial climbing walls allow boulderers to train indoors in areas without natural boulders. Bouldering competitions, which employ a variety of formats, take place in both indoor and outdoor settings.
The sport originated as a method of training for roped climbs and mountaineering. Bouldering enabled climbers to practice specific moves at a safe distance from the ground. Additionally, the sport served to build stamina and increase finger strength. Throughout the 1900s, bouldering evolved into a separate discipline.
Individual problems are assigned ratings based on their difficulty. There have been many different rating systems used throughout the history of the sport, but modern problems usually use either the V-scale or the Fontainebleau scale.
- Traditional or Clad Climbing
Traditional climbing, or trad climbing, is a style of rock climbing in which a climber or group of climbers place all gear required to protect against falls, and remove it when a pitch is complete. Traditional bolted face climbing means the bolts were placed on lead and/or with hand drills. The bolts tend to be much farther apart than sport climbs. For example, a trad bolted routes may have bolts from 15–75 feet apart. A sport route may have bolts from 3–10 feet apart, similar to a rock climbing gym. The term seems to be coined by Tom Higgins in the piece “Tricksters and Traditionalists” in 1984. A trad climber is called a traditionalist.
Characterizing climbing as traditional distinguishes it from bolted climbing-either trad bolted or sport climbing (in which all protection and anchor points are permanently installed prior to the climb – typically installed while rappelling) and “free solo climbing” (which does not use ropes or gear of any kind). However, protection bolts, pitons, and pegs installed while lead climbing are also considered “traditional” as they were placed during the act of climbing from the ground-up rather than on rappel, especially in the context of granite slab climbing.
- Sport Climbing
Sport climbing is a form of rock climbing that relies on permanent anchors fixed to the rock for protection. This is in contrast to traditional climbing where climbers must place removable protection as they climb.
Sport climbing emphasizes strength, endurance, gymnastic ability, and technique, over adventure, risk and self-sufficiency. For the majority of sport climbers, sport climbing offers an easier, more convenient experience which requires less equipment, less in the way of technical skills required to be safe during the climb, and lower levels of mental stress than traditional climbing.
With increased accessibility to climbing walls and gyms, more climbers now enter the sport through indoor climbing than outdoor climbing. The transition from indoor climbing to sport climbing is not difficult because the techniques and equipment used for indoor climbing are nearly sufficient for sport climbing. Whereas the transition from indoor climbing to traditional climbing is hard because traditional climbing requires significantly more in terms of techniques, experience, and equipment.
While sport climbing is common in many areas worldwide, it is heavily restricted in some places where it is considered ethically unacceptable to bolt climbs. This is largely due to the local climbing traditions, and to the type of rock, for instance, it is often considered reasonable to bolt limestone or slate quarries in the UK, especially if these are otherwise unprotectable, but it is considered completely unacceptable to bolt gritstone regardless as to how dangerous a climbing path might be. Debates over bolting in the climbing communities are often fierce. Bolting without a consensus in favor of bolting generally leads to the destruction, or removal, of the bolts by activists against bolting.
So take your pick which of these you’d like to get into or try them all. Remember not to be intimidated and enjoy the journey.
To build upper body strength. A great pull-up routine will help!
*Sources esn-helga.com wikipedia and financialtribune.com