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Rock Climbing

There are many techniques to be mastered before rock climbing.

Rock climbing can be done indoors on man-made structures. [©Jupiter Images, 2010]
©Jupiter Images, 2010
Rock climbing can be done indoors on man-made structures.

Rock Climbing

Rock climbing is a challenging and rewarding sport that offers climbers an intense physical workout, excitement and a chance to experience the wonders of nature. Although it can be risky and requires great physical endurance, rock climbing is growing in popularity around the world. Those interested in becoming a rock climber should become familiar with the different types of rock climbing, the necessary equipment and climbing techniques.

Overview

Rock climbers can engage in several types of rock climbing depending on their personal taste and interests:

  • Bouldering. Individuals climb short groups of rocks or boulders that are only a few feet high. Because of the limited space, bouldering often requires great technique. Typically, climbers attempting bouldering don't use ropes since they're never more than a few feet off the ground.
  • Free climbing. Individuals climb without using any gear or equipment. Climbers can only use their hands, arms, legs and feet to scale the rock with their equipment offering only safety, rather than assistance.
  • Indoor climbing. With this type of rock climbing, climbers scale plastic, man-made structures at an indoor climbing facility. Indoor climbing gyms are a great place for novice climbers to learn rope-tying techniques and work on general climbing skills.
  • Trad climbing. Climbers use their own gear and place their own protection in the rock's crevices as they climb. This type of climbing is very technical and typically for more advanced climbers.
  • Aid climbing. A climber has to rely strictly on pulling on his or her gear to move upward. Due to the difficult nature of these climbs, they often take several days and are only for very advanced climbers.

 

Equipment

Rock climbing is a wonderful source of exercise, but it can be very dangerous. To avoid accidents, climbers must know the types of safety equipment required for a climb. Knowing what each piece of equipment does, as well as the proper way to use it, is crucial for the safety and success of any climber:

  • Climbing rope. Climbing rope obviously plays a very important role in rock climbing, but it is important to use the proper type of rope for each climb. Single ropes are the most common type of rope used for climbing and can be used in most situations. Single ropes are also much easier to handle than twin ropes, which are used in pairs and clipped together. Twin ropes offer increased safety and are best suited for Alpine climbing. Double, or half, ropes are two ropes that aren't clipped together but run through separate protection points to reduce friction.
  • Climbing harness. A basic climbing harness contains loops for the climber's legs that are connected to a waist belt to form a sit harness. Climbing harnesses also feature gear loops to hold any additional pieces of gear needed for the climb, belay loops to ease clipping into anchors and padding for a climber's comfort.
  • Belay devices. Belay devices are mechanical devices that allow a belayer, a person assisting, to control the movement of the rope to protect the climber. Belay devices apply enough friction to the rope that if a climber were to slip, the belayer could hold the fall and prevent serious injury.
  • Carabiners. Carabiners are small metal loops, often made of aluminum, with a spring-loaded gate that are used to fasten a rope to an anchor or connect two ropes together.
  • Climbing helmets. Climbing helmets protect climbers from head injuries from falling rocks or debris and dangerous impacts.
  • Climbing shoes. Rock climbers need to wear specially designed shoes to help them maintain traction and enhance their overall performance. Climbing shoes are available based on a climber's skill level and the type of climbing.

 

Techniques

A novice climber should learn the following climbing techniques before attempting to climb on his or her own:

  • Tying in. A person leading a climb or belaying must tie in. According to the ABC-of-Rock Climbing.com, the most common knot used for tying in is the figure eight follow through.
  • Belaying. Belaying is required to ensure the safety of a climber. Belayers need to create a single or multi-point equalized anchor. They then must tie the rope end into their climbing harness to create a belay loop. Belayers attach themselves to an anchor before attaching a belay device into their belay loop.
  • Lowering. Lowering is a technique used to descend from a climb. The climber and belayer must work together for a successful lowering. The belayer should slowly let out the rope as the climber descends the rock. A belay device is required to control the speed of the descent.
  • Leading. When a climber is leading, he or she is responsible for heading up first and placing extenders and securing the rope through them. The climber leading should stay calm and focused, and place extenders as soon as possible at intervals of no more than 1.5 meters.
  • Rappelling/abseiling. Rappelling, or abseiling, is the act of descending very steep rock. This can be extremely dangerous and should only be attempted by very experienced climbers.

 

Top U.S. Spots for Climbing

Rock climbing places are abundant throughout the United States. Nearly every major city offers indoor climbing gyms where climbers can go year round to improve their skill and learn basic techniques. Once they have mastered the art of indoor rock climbing, they are ready to begin climbing outdoors. Several of the most popular climbing spots are in the Western United States, such as the Santa Cruz Mountains in California, Mount Hood in Oregon and Mount Adams in Washington. Climbing spots also exist in the Rocky Mountains in Colorado, in the deserts in Arizona and throughout New York and New England. Climbing magazine compiled a list of classic climbs throughout the United States. ABC-of-Rock Climbing.com also gives detailed information about climbing spots in the United States.

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