Climbing is an activity that is both physically demanding and exciting.
Are you thinking of taking up climbing as a sport? It may not be for everyone, but it will definitely push your endurance to its limits and make you feel like a better person. If you are thinking of taking it up, here is a guide to the different types of climbing.
Types of Climbing
Climbing is not one activity; there are many types and one climb may involve more than one type. There is bouldering, free soloing, sport, traditional (or trad), aid, alpine, and ice climbing. Familiarizing yourself with the various types of climbing will help you choose which you prefer and what type of climbing is right for you.
Bouldering is a form of rock climbing where climbers ascend boulders instead of walls, using different traversing techniques to reach the top.
The only equipment needed for this type of climbing are crash pads to protect you in case you fall. These pads make falls safer because they help cushion the fall and might catch you if things get hectic. Sometimes a spotter is used who can move a pad if a climber falls; in essence catching the falling climber.
Unlike other types of climbs, there are no ropes, harnesses or other gear involved (except climbing chalk and regular climbing shoes). However, because of the lack of climbing (safety) gear, this type of climbing may have some risks involved, as you are not protected by a rope in case of a fall.
Bouldering is probably the most accessible form of climbing, as it can be done in almost any type of terrain or location. The popularity of bouldering has exploded the last few years and there are many commercial climbing gyms especially designed for boulderers.
You can read more about bouldering in our detailed Everything you need to Know About Bouldering article!
Free soloing is a type of climbing that is often considered to be riskier than other types because it requires little use of equipment and safety gear. Since it is done alone with often no one around, there is the danger of getting injured and not quickly receiving any first aid.
This type of climbing requires a higher level of strength and skill as it requires more stamina and agility to climb with just the help of one’s hands than it does to use the gear for assistance.
While all types of climbing are strenuous, free soloing is classified as one of the most difficult because it requires little use of equipment and safety gear.
Most instructors discourage this activity for climbers who are not experts in the sport; free soloing can also lead to accidents or serious injury when done without the proper experience or precautions.
Rock climbing involves both traditional methods of climbing and a collection of gear, called “The Rack“. A climber’s rack includes a set of equipment one uses to climb, consisting primarily of ropes, harnesses, and protection.
Rock climbing is often done on routes established by other climbers, where one relies mainly on pre-set anchors like bolts and pitons for getting to the top.
The way these anchors are used determines the type of rock climbing; there’s trad (traditional) climbing and aid climbing.
In trad climbing, this gear is used solely as protection against falling. This type of climbing requires a higher level of skill and strength, as the ropes are not used to pull a climber up or offer any type of physical support.
With aid climbing, on the other hand, the rack is instead used by tapping it for assistance in scaling vertical climbs. Especially when vertical climbing up a rock face with no holds, an aid climber will clip his/her rope to the protection to pull on, or use as holds.
Rock climbing can usually be accomplished on multiple different terrains, especially with the use of artificial climbing walls.
The last type of climbing we will discuss here is alpine or ice climbing.
Climbing on ice is an intense experience. Alpine climbing often requires an expert level of skill and preparation in order to complete the type of climb. This type of type of climbing also typically requires time away from civilization and enduring extreme weather conditions, which could be difficult for some people. For those who enjoy the outdoors and being in nature, this type of climbing may be the best choice for them. Alpine climbers will often go high into the mountains, with likely conditions that are extreme in nature and anything could happen at any time.
Instead of using ropes and bolts on vertical surfaces or cracks to assist when they climb, ice climbers use ice axes and crampons to assist in their climbing efforts.
This type of climbing is definitely not for those who are intimidated by heights or do not possess the right type of skill set to handle this type of intense activity. However, ice climbers will often times be encouraged to join with other climbers who have a similar type of skill level so they can learn from one another.
For most people, ice climbing is the ultimate challenge they can’t wait to take on!
Ready to get Started With Climbing?
Climbing is fairly beginner-friendly, and you can very easily get started by joining a local climbing gym!
Below are a few helpful resources and websites to help you find a(n) (indoor) climbing wall:
- www.ukclimbing.com/listings/ – This directory contains over 4,300 indoor climbing walls, climbing clubs, gear shops, campsites, club huts, climbing instructors and gear manufacturers from all over the UK and Europe.
- www.mountainproject.com/gyms – A climbing gym directory including 1,200 US locations and 670 international locations.
- www.climbingbusinessjournal.com/directory/map/ – This map includes commercial climbing gyms in the USA and Canada, in which indoor climbing is a primary focus of the facility.