What is Rock Climbing?

Intro

Rock climbing is defined as the activity of climbing rock faces, especially with the aid of ropes and special equipment. The goal is to reach an endpoint, or a summit, of a rock face or structure. Depending on the level of difficulty or severity of the climb routes are defined and rated. This also decides the kind of equipment that needs to be used for a certain rock climbing activity.

Rock climbing
Rock climbing

Benefits of Rock Climbing

Strengthens Your Muscles: Rock climbing uses virtually every major muscle group in your body, making it a great whole-body workout. Rock climbing is a low-impact exercise, which means it is easier on your body, particularly your joints, while still being a great full-body workout.

It Combats Chronic Disease: REsearch has proven that 20 minutes or longer of any high intensity activity significantly reduces risk of developing chronic conditions such as hypertension, type 2 diabetes etc.  Rock climbing has been shown to be an effective way to battle chronic stress, thus reducing chances of developing stress related ailments. 

It Improves Your Flexibility: The range of motion involved in a climbing route demands flexibility as it requires climbers to reach, leap and climb to handholds and footholds usually far from a comfortable distance.

Improves stamina and endurance: Although the movements in climbing are relatively low impact but its the combination of the sheer mental focus, muscle strength and risk taking abilities that make a climber hold on longer, tighter than they ever expect to. This increases stamina and builds endurance because when your life depends on it, you push yourself to that out of reach hold. 

Low impact on your body: Like any other extreme adventure climbing possesses inherent risks of bodily injuries. The body movements in climbing are rarely repetitive and all the movements that do happen are relatively low impact. There may be the occasional aggressive moves; but those don’t happen often so the impact on the body is negligible.

Rock climbing
Rock climbing

Relieves stress: Climbing is one of those sports that require extreme mental focus so it is natural that it is an excellent stress reliever and even meditative. The physical exertion also does wonders at getting the endorphins going, making us feel better, and thus reducing our stress levels.

Increases the ability to take calculated risks and sense of ambition: It can be addictive in the sense that it presents different challenges each time even if it’s a route you have conquered before. It provides you with a measurable sense of achievement thus propelling your sense of ambition to achieve more. 

Improves problem solving abilities: Climbing involves a ton of problem solving. Most climbing routes present more than one way to tackle it, so by doing them repetitively you’ll solve the problems of which foot to put where and when and how much weight to shift up using which parts of your body.

Promotes Trust: The more you climb, the easier handing over your life into someone else’s hands becomes. Initially it can be unnerving to trust a stranger to belay you, but over a period of time you will learn to trust your climbing buddies. 
Is a weather agnostic sport: Most often than not, climbing is a sport that can be done all year round. If not the outdoors, then you can always climb indoors at an indoor rock climbing gym.

History

The earliest evidence of rock climbing dates back to 200 B.C found through paintings made by a group of Chinese climbers. Although the exact origins are unclear, we know that the sport was an important part of Victorian mountaineering in the Alps, it is generally believed that it was a recreational activity in France, Italy and England at the end of the 19th century. Sport climbing spread throughout Europe as part of mountaineering, but it was not until 1880 that rock climbing became a sport as such. One of the first confirmed mountaineers in the historical record was Antoine de Ville, a servant in the court of France’s Charles VIII, who conquered Mount Aiguille in the French Prealps in 1492. It was a technically complex climb, involving ropes and ladders, and is generally considered the starting point of what would become known as mountaineering. Rock climbing gradually developed and evolved from an alpine necessity to a specialised and athletic sport in its own right.

A man named Walter Parry Haskett Smith is often thought of as the father of rock climbing, as distinct from mountaineering. Born in 1859 and hailing from a privileged, Etonian background, he came of age well after the Victorian alpining boom, but was more interested in the discipline of climbing itself. His most iconic achievement came in 1886, when he clambered up Napes Needle, a piercing rocky outcrop on the Great Gable mountain in the Lake District. 

Recreational rock climbing blossomed in the early 20th century but really came into its own in the middle of the 20th century. A range of developments emerged as it became more popular as a sport. For example, various grading systems were created to rate the difficulty levels of different climbs. Climbing styles were developed based on conditions like the terrain, the use (or lack thereof) of equipment and whether the climbing was done indoors or outdoors.

Over the past several years, this unique sport has experienced a surge in popularity. This popularity has inspired the opening of a number of indoor rock climbing gyms and many specialized groups such as BASCOOL that teach people the skills and techniques required in specialized sports such as mountaineering, rock climbing and canyoneering. 

Risks

As with any adventure sport, rock climbing carries with it an inherent risk. Understanding how to properly use safety equipment and learning the skills can help minimize risk and make it a healthy workout routine. The primary risks include injury during a fall or landing, injury caused due to use of improper equipment, wrong belaying techniques, lack of skills and lack of knowledge of the terrain.

Gear / Equipments for Rock Climbing
Woman standing with climbing equipment and helmet outdoor, front view. Face is not visible

Equipments

Depending on the difficulty level and technical level, various equipments are required. Some of them are listed here and a more detailed explanation of the equipments can be found in this dedicated page: Equipments Required.

  • Belay System
  • Chalk
  • Climbing Shoes
  • Crampons
  • Climbing Harness
  • Helmet
  • Ice Axes
  • Nuts and Camming Devices
  • Rope(s)
  • Slings
  • Quick Draws

Types of rock climbing

There are a variety of rock climbing styles that are being practiced. Bouldering, Top-roping, Lead climbing etc.
Please visit this page to read about the various types of rock climbing like Bouldering, Top-roping, free climbing, trad climbing, sport Climbing etc.

Rock Climbing Rating System

How to start?
Related Pages

  1. Rock Climbing in India – Regions of Interest
  2. Difference between Bouldering, Top roping, Lead climbing, Free Climbing, Trad and sport climbing
  3. Equipments required for Rock Climbing
  4. Rock Climbing Courses and Events by BASCOOL

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