Table of Contents
- 16 Common Terms Used in Rock Climbing That You Need to Know
- What Are the Different Types of Rock Climbing?
- Three Popular Types of Rock Climbing You Should Try
- Find a Local Rock Gym to Try Rock Climbing No Matter Where You Live
Humanity has long had a love affair with climbing on top of things. It’s a wonder that it took the International Olympic Committee until August 2016 to designated rock climbing as an Olympic sport.
Rock climbing has been around as a recreational sport since the 1800s with records of human climbing dating as far back as 400 BC. As a sport, climbing offers enthusiasts a rewarding challenge in nature or a gym.
So, what are the different types of rock climbing, and why should you try them? Find out everything you need to know here.
Rock climbing is a very technical sport that requires unique equipment to keep you from falling. Beginners should know what they need for equipment and what to wear when rock climbing before they learn the different climbing types.
Here are 16 common terms to know:
An attachment point between the climbing rope and the rock made of bolts, chains, runners, slings, or, sometimes, the rope itself. Generally, climbers attach anchors to the top of the route, near the bottom to anchor the belayer, or while mid-climb as a protection piece.
The route climbers take to reach the base of a climb. It may involve walking, hiking, or taking a craft over water.
When a climber accidentally swings away from the rock. Usually, due to feeling unbalanced.
The method of preventing a climber from falling a long distance through the use of friction on the rope. A belay system requires an anchor, rope, belay device, and a belayer.
A climber can also belay down from the top of a climb, meaning to gradually return to the ground with the help of friction, gravity, and a belayer.
A specially designed metal mechanism used to catch a climber in case of a fall. As the climber falls, the pull on the rope in the belay device triggers a lock to keep the rope in place. This stops the climber from falling too far.
The belayer controls the rope and the belay device from the ground. They use their body weight to hold up the fallen climber after the belay device locks the rope into place.
The belayer can then unlock the rope after the climber finds their place or help them to slowly and carefully return to the ground.
A bolt is a strong, closed metal ring drilled into the rock as a protection piece on lead/sport climbing routes.
Bolts expand into the rock to create a secure hold and have a quickdraw clipped on.
A camming device (cam) is a curved piece of aluminum featuring three or four lobes. The curved cam lobes attach to a spring-loaded trigger wire that causes them to contract when you pull the trigger.
Climbers pull the trigger to insert a cam into a crack to create a protection piece to attach the rope or use as a foot or handhold. Cams fit in difficult places other equipment does not fit.
A D-shaped, pear-shaped, or oval loop of metal with a spring-loaded clasp/gate on one side. A carabiner connects various pieces of climbing gear together.
A crag is the outdoor space or rock/cliff face where climbers may climb. There may be signs designating the area as a climbing space or not.
A figure 8 knot is one of the important types of rock climbing knots you need to know. It secures a climber to the climbing harness because the knot’s shape causes it to tighten when loaded with weight.
One of the most common types of rock climbing holds you need to know. It refers to a smaller crack in the rock where you can fit your hand, but not your whole fist or body.
A strong, webbed belt with leg loops and a secure front buckle to attach a rope. Climbers use a harness to attach their bodies to the rope with a figure 8 knot. Belayers also wear a harness with the belay device attached.
A small, wedge-shaped piece of metal with a wire attached to the end. Traditional climbers use nuts as pieces of protection by jamming them into cracks on their route.
A device or piece of climbing equipment that directly attaches to the rock to make a secure hold. This includes cams, bolts, nuts, etc.
A quickdraw refers to two non-locking metal carabiners attached to one another by a piece of reinforced webbing. Climbers use quickdraws to attach ropes to a piece of protection like a bolt.
Over the last 300 years, rock climbing evolved to encompass several different methods of climbing.
Climbers differentiate between these climbing types based on the form of protection each method uses to prevent a fall. The main two categories of climbing are aid climbing and free climbing.
Aid climbing refers to when the rock surface has no cracks or holds for climbers to grab. They must use removable or permanent gear to move up the rock’s smooth surface.
Often that includes the use of an aider. An aider is a webbed ladder made of strong material and a metal protection piece. Permanent protection pieces like a metal piton damage the rock, so most climbers now use removable protection like nuts, cams, etc.
Regulated aid climbing areas may also have permanent bolts already drilled into the rock for climbers. The organization regulating the area should perform periodic safety checks.
All of the other different types of climbing fall under the second category, free climbing. Free climbing uses no aiders and refers to climbers only using their hands and feet to navigate up a rock face’s natural features. Free climbers do use gear to keep them from falling, but nothing to help them move upwards.
Free climbing splits into two more categories: unroped and roped. The unroped category includes bouldering and free climbing. While roped free climbing includes top-rope climbing and two kinds of lead climbing.
Not sure what are the different types of rock climbing appropriate for a beginner? Try one of these three popular styles to get started:
Bouldering is a type of unroped climbing where climbers do not use ropes for protection. They rely on thick pads placed below the rock in case of a fall. It dates back to the early 1900s in France and Great Britain.
Climbers practicing bouldering focus on short, but demanding sequences with great consideration given to the climber’s dynamic movement.
The nature of bouldering means it doesn’t take climbers too high off the ground, usually no more than 12 to 15 feet high. Since bouldering requires no equipment, it makes it one of the most accessible forms of rock climbing for newbies to try.
Climbers will find more indoor climbing gyms have a bouldering area since it is the most common form of indoor climbing. You can also boulder outdoors on natural rock faces.
Outdoor bouldering “problems,” the path or part of the rock that you climb, take place on large boulders or low cliffs.
Sport climbing first emerged in the 1980s as an alternative form to traditional climbing. Still a form of free climbing, sport climbing uses pre-drilled bolts and anchors rather than climbers carrying their own.
Sport climbers tend to care more about the physical aspects of the climb and choose shorter routes of higher intensity. They want to get to the top as fast and efficiently as possible without caring about choosing their route and placing protections.
Sometimes a lead person will pick a route and place protections so that others may follow the same route. They will then remove the protections after everyone finishes climbing.
Sport climbers do not need to place their own protection pieces, so they need to carry far less equipment.
Inexperienced climbers can still lead a sport climb when they follow a route with pre-drilled bolts.
Sport climbers do not need to worry about falling as much as traditional climbers since they rely on permanent protections drilled into the rock.
Traditional climbing is the original style of popularized recreational climbing. It was known simply as climbing until the advent of sport climbing in the 1980s.
A form of free climbing, traditional climbers carry and insert their own protection pieces into the rock instead of clipping onto pre-drilled bolts. Climbers choose their routes up the rock face.
Traditional climbing requires a multitude of unique tools to do safely. It also requires experience and more technical knowledge since you place your own equipment.
Almost all traditional climbing takes place outdoors on real rock faces with no pre-drilled bolts or anchors.
Traditional climbers do not want to put their removable equipment to the test more often than absolutely necessary. They avoid falling and always keep in mind where they would need to land in case of equipment failure.
Does all this information making you want to try rock climbing even more now? Chances are there is an indoor rock gym near you, so you can give it a try even if you live far away from any cliffs or boulders.
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