A BEGINNER’S GUIDE TO TYPES OF CLIMBING

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Bouldering lends itself to powerful climbing by nature of the shorter problems and condensed set of moves. Boulderers tend to execute more difficult moves than climbers in other disciplines. In North America, the difficulty of boulder problems are rated on a V-scale, where V0 is the easiest, and V16 is the confirmed hardest in the world.

SPORT CLIMBING

Sport climbing is the closest outdoor relative to roped climbing in a gym. Sport climbing routes can be extremely variable, from low-angle slabs, to technical vertical lines, to overhanging gymnastic-type routes. Sport routes are established and bolted by route developers, who add permanent bolts into the rock face on which climbers can hang their quickdraws to clip their rope into.

In North America, sport climbing routes are graded using the Yosemite Decimal System (YDS) for 5th class rock climbing where technical gear is recommended. A 5.7 is an example of a less difficult route, compared with a 5.13a which is a much more challenging. It’s important to remember that climbing grades are highly subjective.

TRADITIONAL CLIMBING

Traditional, or “trad”, climbing was the primary form of free climbing before the rise in popularity of bolted sport routes. Trad climbing routes are established in natural weaknesses in the rock and protected by traditional gear (ie. cams and nuts). Trad climbers place their gear on lead and then clean their gear off the rock when they are finished. You may find bolted anchors or the occasional bolt-protected-crux on a trad route, but bolts are typically rare.

Often trad climbs follow vertical crack systems in the rock. In these situations, trad climbers use crack techniques like hand and foot jams to climb the crack.

Trad climbing routes are graded using the YDS.

MULTI-PITCH CLIMBING

Multi-pitch routes ascend tall walls beyond the reach of a single rope length. Multipitch routes can be bolted or can require traditional gear. It’s crucial to always read route topos to ensure you have located the correct route, have brought the appropriate gear, and have a descent plan. Multi-pitch routes can often be rappelled, but sometimes climbers can hike down off the route.

There are many ways to arrange partnership on multi-pitch routes, for example climbing partners might swap leads between belay stations. One partner will lead the first pitch being belayed from the bottom, and then upon reaching the anchor they will top-belay their partner up to meet them. The person who just followed the route will then begin leading the second pitch, and the swapping pattern continues.

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