3 Popular Types of Rock Climbing Explained

You were born fearless.

Having a fear of heights, or acrophobia, affects about 3-5% of the population. This type of phobia is one that humans are naturally born with.

While some people spend their lives running away from heights, rock climbers chase after them. There are around 25 million people in the world, who enjoy participating in different types of rock climbing.

Avid climbers know first hand, how thrilling it can be, to reach the top of the mountain, and look down at the ground below. On top of being exciting, rock climbing also gives you a chance to better yourself.

If you want to make it to the top,?you?ll have to have a lot of focus, patience, and strength. After all, rock climbing is a full body workout.

It’s important you choose a rock climbing style, that you’ll be capable of completing. While certain styles are great for professionals, they aren’t a wise choice for a brand new climber.

What style of climbing will suit your needs? Read on to learn about 3 different rock climbing methods, for both newbies and professionals.

Brief History of Rock Climbing

Before you start exploring the different rock climbing methods, let?s discuss where this exciting sport came from.

Rescue Missions

During the 16th and 17th century, rock climbing wasn?t a sport yet. Instead, it was a way to rescue individuals, who had become lost in the Alpine mountains. Instead of calling it rock climbing, individuals refer to the activity as ?mountaineering?.

Scaling Mont Blanc

It was in 1786 that two men, Michel Gabriel Paccard, and Jacques Balmat, climbed the 15,771 foot tall, Mont Blanc. News of their success spread quickly and inspired others to begin following in their lead. Brave adventurers, we’re excited to try their hand, at scaling the mighty summits all over the Alps.

Cathedral Peak Without Ropes

Fast forwarding to 1869, John Muir, began the Sierra club. Perhaps one of the other things John was so popular for was climbing the Cathedral Peak, in Yosemite. He was able to successfully make the climb, without using any ropes at all.

Making the Impossible a Reality

Luckily, like rock climbing advanced, so did its safety and gear. It was around the 1940s that the new gear really began taking off. By 1958, Warren Harding was able to do what was once thought of as the impossible.

With the help of his new handy gear, he was able to perform a 3,000-foot climb, up to the wall of Nose on El Capitan. It took Warren 45 days to complete the climb back in 1958. Today, you can complete the same climb in less than 3 hours.

3 Types of Rock Climbing

If you?ve never been rock climbing before, you?ll be happy to know there are many different styles you can learn. Here are 3 different types of rock climbing.

  1. Alpine Climbing?
  2. Trad Climbing
  3. Sport Climbing?

When considering what type of rock climbing you want to do, keep in mind the location you?ll be rock climbing?at. Certain locations will be more accommodating than others, for specific styles of climbing

For example, if you plan on going to Mount Rushmore in South Dakota, you?ll have a better opportunity to do sport climbing. Mount Rushmore has domes, and spires, prebolted in place, making sport climbing a possibility.

Yet, if you?ll be traveling to Yosemite Park, in California, the spires aren?t bolted. Individuals traveling to Yosemite would get more out of participating in a multi-day climb, rather than a fast and sporty one.

Alpine Climbing

Alpine climbing, or mountaineering, means you?ll be ascending rock faces, walls, and nooks, to reach the mountain?s summit. This sport involves using a wide range of techniques, and very little gear. In fact, for this type of climb, you?ll be carrying the smallest amount of technical gear as possible.

Instead of relying on your gear, you?ll be tapping into your skill base and critical decision-making skills. Over the years, alpine climbing has been growing in popularity. In certain places, they are even beginning to implement a sport climbing version, of the alpine technique.

Time Is of the essence

Similar to other long climbs, you?ll have to be great at managing your time.

Moving too quickly could cause you to get an injury, yet moving too slowly may mean not being able to complete the ascent. Failing to keep a swift pace, and manage your time, could mean having to surrender your climb to nightfall.

Familiar Terrain

For safety reasons, it?s best to perform an alpine climb on a terrain you?re already familiar with. When you know the area well, you?ll have an easier time, finding the natural geologic features you need to successfully complete your climb.

Who Should Try Alpine?

To try an alpine climb, you need to have the experience and a peak level of physical fitness.?Experienced climbers have a high level of focus and awareness, but new climbers aren’t quite there yet.

If you?re a new climber, you’re still developing the skills you?ll need to safely perform an alpine climb. That?s why most new climbers choose to build up their climbing skills over time by practicing on easy peaks.

2. Traditional Rock Climbing

Traditional rock climbing, or ?trad climbing?, focuses on both physical, and mental challenges. During this type of climb, you?ll be carrying, and using protection, instead of clipping on to bolts that were already there.

Complex Gear Setup

Since you won?t be relying on preplaced bolts, you can expect to be carrying a lot of gear. Trad climbing involves a complex set of gear, that you?ll be using to keep yourself from falling.

The protection gear, you?ll be using during a trad climb, is frequently referred to as ?pro?. As you make your ascent up the rock, you?ll be placing the pro in strategic points. Rock climbers refer to the spots you will be placing the ?pro? in, like cracks or fissures.

Preparing for Overnight Trips

If you?re going to be doing a multi-day trad climb, you?ll have to learn what to pack in an overnight backpack. Remember, you have to carry everything, so overpacking isn?t an option.

Who Should Try Trad?

Trying trad without experience is like trying to kayak without knowing how to paddle. Without being familiar with the techniques, and skills, you?ll have difficulty getting to where you want to be.

In order to be successful at trad climbing, you?ll need to have both the gear, a high level of skill, and experience. If you?re not ready for trad climbing, you could benefit from practicing sport climbing.

3. Sport Climbing

Sport climbing is easier to get started in than traditional rock climbing. Not only is it less expensive, but it?s also easier.

Instant Success

Newcomers especially love sport climbing because of the immediate gratification it offers. Instead of waiting days to complete a single route, a newbie can successfully complete multiple different routes.

Gym climbers also love trying their hand at this type of climbing. Now, they can bring their previously learned gym skills to an outdoor setting.

Uses Less Gear

Sport climbing requires less gear than traditional climbing because you won?t have to carry your protection. Remember, protection, or ?pro?, are the anchors you place in the rock, to clip yourself to as you climb up. With sport climbing, all of the protection is set in place with preplaced bolts.

As you begin your climb up, you?ll find the preplaced bolts and clip into them using a metal hanger. Now instead of planning your next move, it?ll be clearly laid out in front of you.

Sport climbing?relies less on problem-solving, or skill, and more on physical capabilities. As long as you are physically able to lift yourself to the next pro, you?ll be able to take your next step up.

Who Should Try Sport Climbing?

Sport climbing is great for newcomers, who want to have a lot of opportunities to learn. There?s a lot of sport routes you can find, both indoors and outdoors.

Unlike trad climbing, where you try to prevent falling, sport climbing expects it. Yep, that?s right, as you?re discovering how to maneuver a difficult spot, you?ll probably fall several times. Since the anchors are all pre-bolted in, you don?t have to worry about stressing them out as you do in trad climbing.

3 Types of Climbing Shoes

Now that you know more about different types of rock climbing, you can begin gathering your gear. There are 3 main types of climbing shoes, you?ll want to learn about.

  • Neutral Climbing Shoes
  • Moderate Climbing Shoes
  • Aggressive Climbing shoes

It?s crucial you have the right type of shoes, to have a good time, and avoid any injuries. Each shoe type, will have a different, shape, feel, and fit on your foot.

Here at Back Country Gear, we love helping our readers find answers to all of their adventuring questions. Are you thinking about giving rock climbing a try, but aren?t sure what type of shoe you?ll need? Check out our article about how rock climbing shoes should fit, and feel.

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