In this article, you will go on a journey through the colorful world of climbing. You will learn what this activity is all about, where and how to climb and what types of climbing are there. Then we will visit the world’s hardest routes and also some popular destinations where you could try it out. So brace yourself, because there are some rocky paths up ahead!
What is climbing?
If you speak of climbing today, then it is either about children who play out their natural urge to move and discover play or about modern climbing as a recreational activity. The news often feature dramatic articles with keywords such as Free Climber, Extreme Climber or Free Solo. Very often they are misunderstood and lead to public confusion. What is “extreme” for someone, can turn out to be popular and largely safe sport for others. For many people, climbing is a holistic lifestyle with which they identify themselves. These include extensive travel to breathtaking locations, a natural and environmentally friendly lifestyle, a lot of coffee of the highest quality at any time of day or night, upgraded buses, hats and much more. A very beautiful and eccentric scene between dropout and competitive sports.
Who can climb?
Absolutely anyone who feels like it. Whether 8 or 88+ years. Most popular are sport climbing with rope in the hall and on the rock and bouldering at low altitude over soft mats. There are a lot of halls for both disciplines. These offer all taster lessons, beginner courses and much more for the first vertical walk. One should use these offers, because of the existing danger potential with wrong use of the security possibilities.
Where can you climb?
Originally the mountains were the object of desire in climbing sports. Over time, climbing has become a discipline on the shorter routes, which were actually just training. In a further step, the interest in the very small rocks has grown for which you do not need any security, except possibly mats, more – the so-called bouldering.
So today there are three major disciplines:
- Alpine climbing on high walls
- Sport climbing (usually up to a height of 30-40m)
- Bouldering at bounce height
Since the 90s, climbing on artificial walls with plastic handles has continued to develop. In recent years, sports climbing in the hall has received more and more popularity. The whole big boom, however, is taking place in bouldering. With good reason, because bouldering is just fun! Similarly, there are schools in the larger climbing areas, with the help of which one can make their first experience on the rock. By the way, fear of heights is not a big problem. With a positive attitude you can handle this usually fast. However if you are not interested in the high altitudes, you can start with bouldering. The trend discipline is so popular that many athletes boulder exclusively and never climb the rope.
How do you climb?
The early twentieth century was characterized mainly by the time of the conquering alpinism. The summit of high walls and mountains was the goal and people developed a lot of tools for help. The technical progress reached a point where climbing anything with only enough tools was possible. Currently you can easily acquire all the climbing gear you need online. Since about the 1970s, a new generation and mindset of climbers took the lead in climbing. They were hungry for adventure and wanted to set themselves apart from the old generation.
Types of (free) climbing
Here is a small overview of the main types of free climbing:
Sport climbing is the most common form of climbing. Routes are prepared with bolts, where express sets are hung to cling the rope when reaching a hook. The climber only falls as far as the last clipped hook. Known sports climbing destinations are for example Smith Rock—Terrebonne in Oregon (USA), Siurana in Spain, the Frankenjura in Germany.
Bouldering is a rock-climbing and an independent discipline. It also has another variation in a hall, which is also booming as a holistic and fun alternative to the gym. No ropes, no equipment, just fun with friends over a thick soft floor mat. The popularity of bouldering is growing at a very steady pace in recent times.
Another name is Clean Climbing or simply Trad. It is exactly like sport climbing, however, only mobile belay devices, such as slips and so-called Friends are mounted in the rock for hedging. Trad climbers are special breed that like to think themselves to be at the top of the climbing food chain. However, the toughest tours of Trad routes usually come from sport climbers looking for a new and more exciting discipline. Its special attraction is the responsibility for your own life far away from cemented hooks. The whole thing is very exciting and a prerequisite for bigger ventures in the mountains and the big walls of the world. The first self-secured routes are clearly more than scary until you learn to trust your skills.
Deep Water Soloing
Free climbing over deep water as a hedge. A fall ends refreshingly at the foot of the wall in the water. Deep Water Soloing is about courage, sun and the joy of climbing itself.
Naturally, this discipline is associated with the great walls of the Alps in German-speaking countries. However, multi-pitch climbing takes place wherever the wall height exceeds a length of 30-40 meters. Especially in Spain and France there are also pitches of up to 70 meters. However, this requires extra-long ropes or special rapelling maneuvers. Usually you climb high walls in several pitches. This is because typical ropes are between 60 and 70 meters in length. So if you climb over 35 meters, it will be difficult to get that way down with the same rope. So you climb up to a fixed stand in the wall, you secure your partner to this point and then start from there in the next pitch. This process is repeated until you have reached the summit and then rappel all the way down or you go back down on foot.
Ice and mixed climbing
Ice and mixed climbing are the winter disciplines of climbing. You climb over frozen waterfalls and mixed ice and rock routes with the help of pointed ice axes and crampons. In the process, ice screws are put into the ice to protect them, while in mixed routes drilling bolts often exist, as well as opportunities for self-protection with wedges and Friends. The whole thing is there in all heights and difficulties as multipitch and smaller adventures.
The hardest and most famous routes
The most difficult route in the world at the moment is called “Silence” in difficulty 9c. It is located in Flatanger, Norway and was first attained by Adam Ondra. Here you can see the official video:
Some of the most famous routes in the world include:
- “Action directe” – 9a difficulty, the first route worldwide in this level of difficulty. It is located in Frankenjura, Germany.
- “The Dawn Wall” – 9a difficulty, the heaviest multi-pitch route in the world. It is located in Yosemite National Park, California, USA.
- “La Dura Dura” – 9b+ difficulty, the second hardest in the world. It is located in Oliana, Spain.