The moment you dip your toes into the climbing world – say, in the gym – you will end up wanting more. One of the first steps when moving from being a gym-bound trainee to an outdoor veteran is learning how to sport climb.
Featuring an often-competitive and fun atmosphere, combined with the gratification of completing numerous routes in a single outing, sport climbing is an ideal option for everyone. In this article, we will focus on answering the question “what is sport climbing?” and showing you what you need to do to become the best sport climber.
What is Sport Climbing?
Sport climbing is a type of climbing where the climber is usually protected by permanent gear. This generally means bolts drilled into the rock, although it is not uncommon for climbers to come across a piton or two.
Sport climbing usually involves high-intensity climbing on relatively short climbing routes. Instead of emphasizing on the summit or destination, sport climbing puts more emphasis on the physical aspect of the climb.
Sport Climbing vs. Trad Climbing
To better understand what is sport climbing, you need to learn the main difference existing between sport climbing and trad climbing. The 2 common types of climbing differ mainly in terms of gear needed, accessibility, and falling:
Sport climbing requires less gear. Since the emphasis is on the moves, the sport climbers do not place their protection – they clip into the preplaced bolts with metal hangers. This allows the lead sport climber to progress upward without hassle and worry of carrying a climbing backpack filled with climbing gear and placing protection like he/she would when trad climbing.
You can find sport climbing routes indoors or out, on accessible rock crags, or the artificial walls often found in the gyms or a competition arena. When sport climbing, climbers can enjoy leading the climb without knowing how to place the camming devices and chocks. Trad climbing routes are less accessible compared to the sport climbing routes.
When sport climbing, falling is normal and expected – falls usually happen when working out difficult moves. When trad climbing, you have to use all the necessary climbing safety tips to avoid falling – this is because falling will stress the anchors you place while moving up.
Sport Climbing Routes Ratings
When learning how to sport climb, most beginning rock climbers aren’t familiar with the ratings for different sport climbing routes. Understanding the different ratings should help you choose an ideal route.
In the United States, most sport climbs use the Yosemite Decimal Rating System to classify the difficulty. All sport climbing routes range from the easiest rating of 5.0 to the toughest rating of 5.15.
Easy: 5.0 to 5.4
A steep section that features large footholds and handholds. If you recently purchased rock climbing shoes and climbing shorts and would like to try sport climbing for the first time, this route should be ideal for you.
Intermediate: 5.5 to 5.8
This route features small handholds and footholds. The terrain ranges from low-angle to vertical. You will need beginner to intermediate rock climbing skills.
Hard: 5.9 to 5.10
This route is generally vertical and technical and may feature overhangs. Your skills should exceed the intermediate level to climb the hard routes.
Hard to Difficult: 5.11 to 5.12
Vertical and technical, and may feature overhangs with small holds. To reach this level, you will need a lot of practice.
Very Difficult: 5.13 to 5.15
Strenuous climbing that is vertical and technical, and may feature overhangs with small holds. These routes are for expert rock climbers who have a lot of natural ability and train regularly.
How to Sport Climb – Step by Step Guide
At this point, you are familiar with what is sport climbing. We will go ahead and show you how to explore sporting climbing routes.
Step 1: Get Sport Climbing Gear
Gear for sport climbing is streamlined, light, and usually aimed at efficiency and speed. Below we have a breakdown of the gear you will need:
Invest in a well-made and comfortable climbing harness. Look for something that won’t cut off blood circulation while you belay a friend or dangle from the face of your climb.
Select a pair of shoes that fit your foot and are comfortable. Avoid aggressively tight shoes – these will make the climbing unbearable.
Go for durability with the first climbing rope. A safe bet is a rope featuring a length of 70 meters and a diameter of 9.7 to 10 mm.
Quickdraws are made up of 2 non-locking carabiners attached by webbing. This is the device you will clip the rope into while climbing up. It also allows for extra distance between the rock climbing anchor and your rope to reduce drag.
When climbing outdoors, you must wear a climbing helmet. The helmet will protect your head from falling debris and rocks, as well as help you avoid head injuries in the case of a fall.
Chalk and Chalk Bag
When sport climbing, it is crucial that you keep your hands dry for the dicey moves featuring tenuous holds. Climbing chalk will allow you to keep the hands dry. To ensure that you always have the chalk with you when climbing, bring a chalk bag.
Step 2: Choose the Right Sport Climbing Route
If you are just starting, the logical first step will be to take some time and learn how to sport climb in your gym. The gym is safe, the bolts are usually closely spaced, and there are people everywhere to help you out.
Once you are ready to get outside, choose the easiest climb – say, featuring a rating of 5.0 to 5.4. As your skills grow, you can move on to an intermediate route before upgrading to the difficult routes.
Step 3: Get Climbing
Most sport climbers prefer to climb in pairs, with one person leading the climb while the other acts as a belayer. The process of sport climbing is relatively simple. The lead climber and the belayer will tie into one end of the single rope, allowing a few meters of rope between them.
As the lead climber ascends the route, he/she will clip into the carabiners spaced intermittently up the rock, each acting as an anchor to keep him or her from falling. As the lead climber continues to climb, the belayer will feed him/her with slack in the rope. The belayer will also be responsible for breaking any falls with the aid of the belay device.
Q: What Is the Difference Between Sport and Traditional Climbing?
In sport climbing, the climbers do not place their own protection. Instead, they clip into the pre-placed bolts with metal hangers. In traditional climbing, climbers have to carry and place their own protection as they move up.
Q: What Type of Sport is Climbing?
Climbing is usually classified under athletic sports. This is because the sport depends on fitness, skill, and stamina. Often involving climbing rocks and walls, climbing can be divided into bouldering, traditional climbing, and sport climbing.
Q: How Do You Climb A Sport?
To sport climb, you will simply need to attach a quickdraw to each bolt you come across while moving up and then clip your rope through the hanging end of your quickdraw. The belayer should feed you slack as you move up.
Q: How Dangerous Is Sport Climbing?
The major sport climbing injuries arise from falls. If a climber falls from an incredibly high height and he/she is attached to an improperly clipped rope, this could result in fatal injuries or even death. Being careful when clipping your rope is the best way to avoid sport climbing dangers.
Globo Surf Overview
If you have been wondering what is sport climbing, this article answers your question. We have also shown you how to sport climb. Combining the tips offered in this article with regular practice should help you become a better sport climber.