Climbing is one sport which can feel totally out of reach if you are a newcomer (aside from hiking!). Feeling like that, in the beginning, is very normal but with proper guidance, it is not very hard to get a grip(pun intended) on the basics of rock climbing and then work on it to achieve mastery in the sport.
If you’ve always wanted to go rock climbing but have no idea where to start except for camping ideas, then I am here to help you out. This article will teach you the basics of climbing styles, jargons, and techniques. I hope this will help you get rid of some confusion regarding climbing that you may have and get you started.
Before you get started with rock climbing, you would first want to build your strength and get acquainted with the basic techniques. For this reason, you would want to start with Gym Climbing first and move on to further training steps.
1. Gym Climbing
You can find an indoor climbing gym at a local gymnasium, or you could even find a gym entirely dedicated to climbing if you’re lucky enough. These gyms recreate the real-life outdoor climbing experience indoors with the help of artificial walls, footholds, and handholds.
There are different routes, like hiking trails with hiking poles, that one can take which are all set at varying levels of difficulty in order to climb these walls. Some can be pretty basic and easy while others might pose some serious challenges. Each route has a different color code, and the level of difficulty is marked with numbers. Higher the number, more difficult the route.
Now this indoor climbing has three distinct disciplines, namely, Bouldering, top roping and lead climbing. Each one of these has varying techniques but the end objective is the same, that is, to get to the top. I highly recommend starting with Gym Climbing to grasp the basics of rock climbing.
The primary distinction between bouldering and the other forms of climbing is that in bouldering, ropes and harnesses are not used. Instead, the climbers rely on thick matted crash pads to protect their bodies in case they fall.
And the routes, also known as problems, are usually not more than 20 feet tall. Spotting is a crucial skill required in bouldering. I highly recommended having a partner although it is not necessary.
Bouldering route difficulty levels are measured on the V-Scale wherein V0 is the easiest while V16 is the toughest course. Indoor courses can be of varying difficulties depending on the spacing, shape and hold size. Bouldering is often the point of entry into climbing for newcomers as this form of climbing makes minimal use of climbing gear and requires little training. So, in my opinion, bouldering is a great starting point for you if you wish to learn rock climbing.
3. Top Roping
Top roping is the type of climbing wherein you are protected by ropes which are anchored from above. Top roping is physically much less demanding as compared to the other types of climbing such as Bouldering and Lead climbing and is, therefore, the most popular form of indoor roped climbing.
Similar to bouldering, Top roping routes also have their difficulties and names marked in plastic cards at the start of the route, and there is color-coded holds as well in Top Roping. The routes are usually graded by the Yosemite Decimal System ranging from 5.0 to 5.15 on the scale.
4. Sport (Lead) Climbing
This type of indoor climbing involves the use of fixed bolts for protection along with predefined routes. There is one lead climber who goes up the path with a rope tied to his harness which is clipped into each bolt or quickdraw to protect against a fall – and trust us, falling is painful in any form of outdoor activities, even hiking, so just imagine doing so while rock climbing. That’s why you always need equipment that will help prevent falls in both climbing, as well as trekking. These quick-draws are pre-placed on the bolts enabling the lead climber to clip the rope in while ascending the route.
Lead climbing requires much greater physical effort and commitment as compared to Top roping and also carries the risk of making a drastic fall.
Once you are well acquainted with the basics of rock climbing by practicing in indoor gyms, you can finally try your hand in actual outdoor climbing.
5. Outdoor Climbing
While indoor climbing facilities provide a safe and controlled enjoinment for you to practice and get better in, outdoor climbing is where the real fun and experience of climbing begins to start. Outdoor climbing comes with its own risks and safety issues, and climbers should tread carefully while on these routes. Carrying proper and necessary gear such as carabiners is a must both for climbing as well as hiking up to the spot.
Outdoor climbing and gym climbing uses pretty much the same equipment and skills and thus if you’re comfortable and well acquainted with climbing indoors then I’m sure outdoor climbing will not be a problem for you.
6. Trad Climbing
Trad Climbing which is short for traditional climbing is a form of outdoor climbing where the lead or the main climber places removable protection gear along the entire route of the climb to protect from falls. This protective equipment is removed from the path as the last climber ascends the route.
Trad Climbing does not involve any predetermined routes and emphasizes exploration. This is the most adventurous form of climbing and has no boundaries. This kind of climbing also has a comparatively greater risk as compared to the others.
7. Free Climbing
This type of climbing involves making upward progress on a rock using only the natural features of the rock instead of climbing devices attached to the rocks. Some ropes are connected to protect from a fall and other equipment to provide a belay. Most of the rock climbing is considered free climbing. I personally believe this is the most adventurous form of rock climbing and provides the true thrill of the sport.
8. Route Length
The length of a route is determined by the number of pitches in most cases. A steep section of rock requiring a rope between the belays is known as a part. The length of a pitch is measured by the duration of the rope, and the length of the pitch must be less than half of the length of the rope to be laid. In a lot of cases, the length is determined merely judging by the eyes. It is imperative to ascertain the duration of a route in order to determine the difficulty of climbing it.