The sun is finally out here in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. People are taking full advantage of the vitamin D and exploring new adventures outside. Rock climbing can be a really unique and challenge way to experience the Cascades as long as you are prepared. Before you tackle some vertical rock face, here is some helpful information regarding rock climbing both indoors and out!
Rock climbing has been around for hundreds of years. Traditional alpine mountaineers used the skill to scale impossible mountain faces that otherwise could not be traversed. What started as a need-based skill quickly evolved into more of a sport in England in the late 1880s and only grew from there. Several different types of rock climbing exist today, ranging from indoor, traditional to outdoor, big wall extreme! Listed below are just a few possibilities:
Big Wall- Think El Capitan in Yosemite. Or Half Dome also in Yosemite Big Wall climbing is exactly what it sounds like: climbing a huge wall, over 1,500 ft. Climbers spend multiple days camping in portaledges that can be attached to the side of the cliff and slept in like a hammock.
Bouldering- This is a style of rock climbing most people can get their hands on. If you are afraid of heights and don’t like the idea of dealing with a lot of gear, bouldering may be the best solution. These routes are normally small and closer to the ground with a crash pad or ‘bouldering mat’ beneath the climber. They normally consist of climbs 3 to 5 meters high to reduce risk of injury from falls. Bouldering requires more powerful, dynamic movements in short bursts, whereas sport climbing or traditional climbing usually requires more endurance. Bouldering is typically graded on a scale of V0 to V16 increasing in difficulty as the number climbs.
Crack- Crack climbing involves the climber ascending long, technical cracks in the rock face using specific techniques. The cracks vary greatly in size and accessibility. Some climbers choose to wear gloves to allow for more friction and less injury to the hand.
Free/Speed- For the more advanced climbers, free climbing is a way to test their skills. Free climbing is performed without the assistance of climbing equipment such as ropes. Speed climbing has been associated with free climber where the climber attempts to scale the wall as quickly as possible. This challenges the climber to make quick decisions and has been described as ‘dancing’ up the wall. Bouldering is a more common form of free climbing.
Indoor Climbing- Indoor climbing has made rock climbing more accessible to the general population. Climbing gyms rent equipment that would otherwise be expensive to buy, and set up designated routes for climbers to solve. Both sport climbing and bouldering can be found at indoor climbing gyms. Sport climbing will require one person to belay which is a system for lowering the person climbing and catching them when they fall. Climbs are graded on a scale of: 5.5-5.14d, although each gym and route is rated slightly different.
Climbers of all levels will often use chalk to gain more friction and help to absorb the sweat as they climb. For most forms of climbing, participants will wear a harness and climbing shoes which are designed to be form fitting and assist with protecting the feet. Specific queues and rope knots must be known before someone can effectively belay a partner during indoor or sport climbing. Once these are mastered, you’ll be scaling walls in no time!
If you are interested in learning more about rock climbing contact Outdoor Recreation Coach Thomas Eagen at firstname.lastname@example.org.