So you want to be a rock climber. You’d like to climb a rock wall or maybe hang off the side of a rock formation somewhere. Well, you’ll have several styles to choose from to do it. It could be pretty easy and safe or you could seriously risk your life. Either way, you’ll need to know exactly what you’re doing. There should be no room for guess work. Rock climbing is climbing to the summit of a natural rock formation or climbing to the summit of a manmade rock wall. It could also be climbing to a designated endpoint on a climbing route. It doesn’t always mean that you’ve got to reach the very top. A sectional climb like this is referred to as a pitch. If you’re climbing several routes consecutively, it would be considered a multi-pitch climb. Rock climbing has been around for nearly a hundred years. Climbers have encountered many kinds of rock formations all around the world. It’s not surprising then that rock climbing has branched into several more distinct styles. Most of the rock climbing done today is considered to be a form of free climbing. This involves using solely one’s own physical ability to climb. Equipment is used but only as a means of protection from falling.
Aid climbing. The safest method of rock climbing is aid climbing. Equipment is used for all handholds and all footholds, meaning that the climber is assisted every step of the way. When rock climbing first began, this method allowed for ascents that were believed impossible. It was this fantastic enabling quality of aid climbing that helped to bring such interest to the sport. Feel free to find more information at Sue Cram
Bouldering. This style of rock climbing involves short climbing routes that are near enough to the ground that a fall should not result in the climber’s death. There is no rope or harness but, preferably, there is a helmet. The only other option for protection is to use a bouldering pad (protective mat). The climbing partner (an absolute necessity) on the ground usually directs the location of this pad, aligning it with the climber’s location. The climbing partner is also the all-seeing eye that warns the climber of hazardous areas.
Top Roping. This is probably the easiest and safest way to free climb. A rope is already secured through an anchor at the top of the climb. A belayer, your climbing partner, holds onto the opposite end of the rope, controlling any give or take while keeping it taut.
Lead Climbing. This involves a lead climber who ascends with one end of a rope tied to his harness. The belayer, the leader’s partner, holds onto the other end of the rope, giving or taking up slack as needed. The lead climber sets up a belay system as she climbs, securing safety anchors for her partner to use, which is also the fail-safe system to catch the lead climber in case she falls. If this is a multi-pitch route, the partner picks up the anchor points on the way up. The climbers then proceed to the next pitch. If it’s a single pitch, the anchor points are cleaned (taken out) on the way down by the last climber. This is a great way to help keep criticisms at bay that rock climbers litter the natural landscape. All climbers should live the creed: Take nothing, leave nothing.
Traditional Climbing and Sport Climbing. These methods of climbing are both styles of lead climbing. The difference is in how the protection is placed. In sport climbing, the anchors are already set. You needn’t worry about placing them or removing them. In traditional climbing, the anchors are placed as the climb progresses and then removed by the last climber.
Free Solo Climbing. This is also called free soloing. It is the most advanced form of rock climbing. The climber uses nothing for protection. No anchor points, no belay, no rope and no harness. If he falls, he falls unencumbered all the way down. It’s quite frightening. Accidents, in this case, are tragic. You’ve got to be fit, skilled and have great emotional and psychological control to do this successfully. Be more than ready. Be extremely more than ready. Your life depends on it. If you decide to free solo, be very weary of the weather. The climbing may be going just fine and then it rains. This could prove fatal to this kind of climber. Dry, sunny days are what you want. Don’t risk your life.
Deep water soloing. The only “safe” method of free soloing is deep water soloing. This is climbing done on sea cliffs over water. While falling into the ocean beneath a cliff face seems better than falling on hard ground, it isn’t particularly safe. You’ve got to be aware of the tides and of prevailing wave action, of submerged boulders or coral islands. Not only that but, if you’re climbing more than 80 feet above the surface of the water, the impact alone could prove fatal. Mind your elevation.
Indoor Climbing. This designation is for all rock climbing done indoors. Climbing is done on man-made rock climbing walls. Any style is permitted, although not free soloing. You’re required to wear and use all safety gear. This would be the safest and most recommended way to learn how to rock climb.