Climbing is a thrilling sport with several sub-disciplines. If you want to get started in this activity, the first thing you need to do is to choose from the types of climbing that suits your needs and preferences. Each type will vary in terms of difficulty, technique, and equipment required.
Clueless about the types of rock climbing that are available? Read on and we’ll help you pick the best one you can try.
The Most Common Types of Climbing Explained
Pack your climbing backpacks and brace for an adventure! Here are some of the most popular types of climbing that you are sure to enjoy!
1. Free Climbing
One of the most common types of climbing, a lot of people confuse it with free soloing even if they are two different disciplines. You will be using your hands and feet to locate the holds on the rocks so that you can move up.
With free climbing, there is a rope, but it is used only for safety and not to assist the climber during the ascent. The main purpose of the climbing rope is to assist in case you fall during the climb. It relies on the climber’s power for gaining upward progress.
2. Traditional Climbing
Traditional climbing is a category that falls under free climbing. It is also one of the most technical types of rock climbing, so this is best done only by experienced climbers. Accidents are common, so avoid this if you are not confident.
In traditional climbing, there are no fixed bolts or protection. As the climbers ascend, they place their gears into the rocks, including cams and nuts. You will attach your rope to these tools and remove them once the climb is complete.
More than being adventurous, this is also popular because it has the least impact on the natural rock formations. A lot of people consider this an eco-friendly way to climb.
3. Sport Climbing
Sport climbing is another sub-category of free climbing. It is similar to a roped climb in a gym or an indoor environment. Practiced since the 1980s, it involves the climber using pre-fixed bolts to clip their safety rope.
The pre-protection for this climb is installed by the first ascent party. During the climb, the leader will drill a hole into the rock using a portable power drill or hand drill. The climber will then place a metal bolt into the hole. There is also an attached bolt hanger to hold the carabiner.
4. Free Soloing
Free soloing is one of the types of climbing reserved for those who are already experienced. It involves climbing without relying on any rope or aid. This means that if you fall, no protection waits for you unlike in the case of free climbing.
With free soloing, the gear is kept at a minimum. Among others, one of the most important is to have the right pair of the best climbing shoes, which will be important in maintaining traction. It will allow you to have a good hold on the rocks when there are no ropes. You also need climbing chalks to keep your hands dry and improve your grip. When your hands are too slippery, there is logically a higher chance of slipping.
5. Deep Water Soloing
A form of solo rock climbing, this is the perfect activity if you crave water adventure. The major requirement is to have a body of water that is deep enough to absorb a climber upon falling. In most cases, you will need a boat to access deep water soloing location. Other than that, there is no special equipment required since it is one type of ropeless climbing.
Like other types of climbing, many risks are involved. Most climbers suffer from drowning and trauma. Even good swimmers are at risk, especially when the water conditions are unfavorable.
6. Aid Climbing
With aid climbing, you will enjoy the variety of traditional climbing and a perfect option for beginners. This is easier because you won’t be using ropes to climb to the top of the rock. Instead, there will be daisy chains or a ladder with webbing loops. The aids are fixed in their positions using nuts, cams, hooks, and bolts, among others.
In the early 1900s, vertical wall climbing was initially introduced through the aid climbing technique. In popular wall climbing places like Yosemite, which is considered one of the best hikes in the world, this is the type of climbing that is practiced.
One of the simplest form all the types of rock climbing, the climber does not go high in bouldering, and hence, there is no need for ropes. While a lot of people climb on their way down, it is also possible to jump from the top, although, we don’t recommend this for newbies.
You don’t need advanced climbing gears if you are interested to get into bouldering. Aside from bouldering shoes and chalk, you will also need a crash mat or pad, which will minimize the impact upon landing.
In bouldering, the routes are called problems or blocs. They are lower and shorter compared to the route you will take in traditional rock climbing.
8. Ice Climbing
Ice climbing is very similar to rock climbing, but the major difference is that you will be climbing ice. One of the biggest challenges is the freezing temperature. It can lead to numbness and cramps, which can limit your movement.
Rock climbing shoes will not suffice. Instead, you will need crampons with spikes with an excellent grip on the ice. You also need special climbing pants to handle extreme temperatures. Belay jackets will also help to make the cold environment more manageable.
Another distinct characteristic of ice climbing is that you won’t be using your bare hands. Instead, you will rely on axes or ice picks. You will drive your tool into ice and make sure that it is in a secure position before you go up.
9. Alpine Climbing
The successful completion of an alpine climb requires a master of a combination of multiple types of climbing, which include ice and multi-pitch climbing.
One of the biggest differences from the other types of climbing is that the ascent is not too steep. It is like mountaineering, so the slope is easier for you to climb.
If you are interested in trying alpine climbing, suffering is an important technique that you will need to learn. It involves learning how to cope with the harsh conditions while using minimal resources. You will need to have your gear as light as possible so that you will find it easier to move.
10. Via Ferrata
If you want to experience exposed mountain edges but dealing with gears is too complicated for you, via Ferrata is one of the best types of climbing you need to try. Via Ferrata is the Latin word for iron way. The protected climbing route has steel cables rails with rings and wires to assist the climber.
With the via Ferrata rail already set, you will need a climbing harness, gloves, and climbing helmet. Ropes and belaying devices are unessential, although, if you want to stay safe, they are recommended.
In a via Ferrata route, there is usually a steel rope that is fixed on the side of the metal steps to assist the climber.
11. Multi-Pitch Climbing
As the name implies, this is one of the types of climbing that includes multiple pitches. A pitch refers to every section of the climb where you will be stopping. This is done in longer routes that cannot be covered by the rope in a single pass.
Multi-pitch climbing involves multiple climbers. In some cases, the leads can change in the middle of the climb depending on the arrangements amongst the participants. One person will be leading the climb. Upon reaching the first pitch, the lead will be belaying the next climber.
12. Top-Rope Climbing
There is an anchor on the top of the route in a fixed position. This creates a safer environment and lesser hazards compared to the other types of rock climbing. It is the usual way by which many people start learning the basics of climbing, especially outdoors.
If you are the climber, you will be tied to one end of the rope. The belayer, meanwhile, will give instructions about the ascend. Genuine true-rope climbing requires the belayer to be at the top. However, it is also common practice for the belayer to be stationed at the ground. Because of the latter, it is also called bottom roping referring to the position of the belayer.
13. Indoor Climbing
As its name implies, this is a type of climbing that you will complete in an indoor environment. There are fixed hand and footholds in an artificial wall. This is also one of the first things that you will need to do if you want to learn the fundamentals of rock climbing.
When practicing indoor climbing, some of the techniques that you will learn include how to belay, how to go down, and how to improve your footwork. You will also be using ropes and carabiners in some indoor climbs, which will make you familiar with the use of the climbing gear that you will also use once you are outdoors.
14. Competition Climbing
Most of the types of climbing mentioned above are for casual participants. They are done as a hobby or for recreational purposes only. Those who are more serious, however, are engaged in competition climbing.
Competition climbing is often done in an indoor environment, which will make it easier to change the routes depending on the demands of the competition. It can be further broken down into three categories – lead, boulder, and speed climbing. These three sports are all parts of the 2020 Olympics. It requires serious training. The rules will differ depending on what is set by the governing body.
Got questions about the types of climbing? Allow us to answer some of them below.
Q: How many types of climbing are there?
Based on the discussions above, there are twelve types of climbing. Although, it is not a conclusive list. There is no single best way to answer the question regarding how many types of climbing are available. This will depend on the technique, equipment, and location, among others.
Q: What is adventure climbing?
Adventure climbing is a collective term that is used to refer to a dangerous type of climbing that is recommended only for the pros. Some of the types of rock climbing that fall under adventure climbing include alpine and ice climbing.
Q: What is free climbing and soloing?
Free climbing is a type of climbing that does not use protection as the climber ascends. However, there are gears available to assist in case of a fall. Soloing is when the climber completes the climb alone and without assistance from a belayer. There is also no rope for protection even if the climber falls.
Q: What is the difference between ice climbing and rock climbing?
Ice climbing is more dangerous and requires more equipment compared to rock climbing. Nonetheless, ice climbing is simpler in theory, which makes rock climbing more complicated. Ice climbing follows the principle that the leader must not fall because it can seriously hurt the rest of the group. This is unlike rock climbing where falling is part of the activity.
Q: Is trad climbing more dangerous?
Yes, traditional climbing is more dangerous compared to sports climbing based on a report from the American Alpine Club. It is one of the most technical types of rock climbing. Bad gear placement is one of the leading causes of danger in trad climbing.
Globo Surf Overview
Put your adrenaline to the test. Now is the time to try the different types of rock climbing, including those that are listed above. From strengthening muscles to preventing chronic coronary diseases, there are countless climbing health benefits, giving you good reasons to finally give climbing a shot!