So you have heard of climbing, seen some movies and know the names of a few mountains. What you want to know is ‘what is climbing’ and ‘how do I get into it’.
In this article we will explain briefly the different types of climbing and what your starting point could be. Each of these headings have links to more detailed articles on each different discipline if you want to as much information as possible.
From the Mid-70’s there have been indoor walls but they have only really started to kick off in the early 2000’s. Originally designed to replicate the feel of climbing outdoors without the travel and weather these walls now make their own style of climbing that can be quite different to what came before.
Climbing without a rope owing to having only small falls. Generally these have more technical moves strung together to create the challenge and is the most popular form of climbing in the UK today due to ease of getting into it- All you need are some shoes, chalk, chalk bag and away you go.
This where a rope is already attached to the wall. You need to tie the rope to your harness while your friend ‘belays’ you with a belay device taking in the slack rope as you climb. They will also lower you off once you reach the top. For many this is the next step after indoor bouldering and adds the height and fear factors that you get in more traditional climbing.
Similar to top rope except instead of having the rope already in place you tie into the rope and take it up with you. To make yourself safe you clip the rope into a quickdraw that you then attach to pre-placed bolts in the wall until you reach the top. Your belayer will give out rope to climb with instead on taking it in like before. This is essentially indoor Sport climbing and mimics the outdoor styles the closest.
Instead of having a friend or instructor belay you you make use of an auto-belay device as that is the only thing that can keep you with the speed at which you climb. The aim is to get to the top as fast as possible, typically the only type of move that you use is a ‘dyno’- where you use your momentum to make large dynamic moves that would look reckless to most casual observers.
Where it all began. Outdoor climbing covers everything from the highest mountains to the small of cliffs with each one having its own techniques and skills to master.
Originally used as warm up exercises before the main climb it now is considered a discipline all by itself. Like indoor bouldering these are short routes but highly technical. Unlike indoors nothing is colour coded for you.
Traditional, or Trad as its is affectionately known involves climbing up a cliff and placing your own protection into the rock to clip the rope into as you go. The most popular and ‘pure’ type of outdoor climbing in the UK.
Like Lead climbing bolts are pre-placed into the rock for you to clip the rope in to. Often these routes can be more technical than Trad routes as there is no need to place your own gear; in fact it is often the case that there is nowhere to place the gear so you need those bolts to make yourself safe.
This is where hiking meets climbing. Less technical than climbing requiring little use of hands to make progress but requiring skills than simply walking over rugged terrain. Ironically these can be less safe than many climbing routes as they are longer and higher.
A vaguely defined term but generally considered significantly harder than a hike or trek but without always having to use lots of dedicated climbing gear. Almost like an extreme scramble. The gear you carry will be different to your typical climbing day out with different clothing and footwear; sometimes needing ice axes and crampons as well.
Like mountaineering but dialled up to 11. The mountains you climb will be higher, more extreme weather and temperature along with greater objective dangers. These mountains take from one week to two months to climb typically using a guide company.
Another extreme of the climbing disciplines; where everyone else has retreated to the indoor walls you gets your mountaineering gear on and take frozen waterfalls, snow gullies and climbs that used to just be rock in summer but now add ice and snow into the mix as well.
How do I join in?
These days the easiest way to get into climbing is to go to an indoor wall with friends and start bouldering, after you have read and watched all the safety information. Going with people who already climb can be a big help as they can show you the ropes. If you don’t know anyone who fits that description you can always join an outdoor club or hire a guide/instructor for your first few times.