A Rock Climbing Resource Guide

A sport for thrill-seekers, rock climbing has become a very popular activity. Climbers enjoy the mind and body tests brought on by the intensity of the sport. If you’re thinking about taking up rock climbing, it’s important to understand the basics before starting out. There are many different types of climbing and subsequent climbing techniques that you’ll need to learn. A number of checks and balances have been designed to keep climbers safe and arrive back on solid ground unharmed after their excursions, so it’s important to pay attention to them. New rock climbers should seek lessons from experienced professionals, so they can receive a proper introduction to the sport prior to starting out.

Learning the Basics

Rock climbing is a physically and mentally challenging sport, demanding great amounts of physical strength and endurance. Climbers ascend various types of mountains, hills, and walls, typically using ropes or other types of protective equipment. Rock climbing can be done either indoors or outdoors, the latter typically viewed as the most challenging. Before attempting to rock climb, it is advisable to seek lessons from experienced climbers, to learn the proper techniques.

Types of Climbing

There are many different types of rock climbing, intended to satisfy varying surfaces, levels of experience, interests, and more. Traditional climbing, the simplest form, occurs when the lead climber places their own protection in the cracks in the rocks as they ascend. Free climbing, a form of traditional climbing occurs when the leader doesn’t use any form of protection to assist in getting to their end point. Aid climbing is when the leader must use their protection to support themselves when crossing blank or trying rock faces. Sport climbing occurs when the traditional gear cannot be used, because the rock has no cracks, so fixed bolts must be used for protection. Bouldering occurs when using a rope to climb a short boulder. Free-Soloing, the most dangerous form is when the climber doesn’t use a rope or any protection, and a fall would cause serious injuries or death.

Climbing Techniques

There are many diverse climbing techniques used to ascend different types of rocks, mountains, and other structures. Some of the most common types including face climbing, simul climbing, and crack climbing. Face climbing occurs when you ascend a cliff by using the irregularities and features of the rock to ascend it. Simul-climbing is a technique used when two climbers move together with their gear placed between them with the first person being the lead and the second being the follower. The follower is normally the more experienced of the two with this type of climb. Crack climbing is a method used by climbers in which they ascend cracks using specialized climbing techniques.

What You’ll Need

Before embarking on a rock climbing adventure, it’s important to have the necessary supplies and equipment. Your needs will vary according to the location of your climb and the amount of time it will take you to complete your journey. Always wear comfortable clothing, as you’ll need to be able to move your arms and legs freely. You’ll also likely need a harness, rubber-soled climbing shoes, chalk and a chalk bag, a helmet, rope, a carabiner, rope, tape slings, and descenders and belay plates. Bring lots of water and food that can be carried easily, doesn’t smell bad, so you can wait to dispose of at a convenient time, and can be prepared easily.

Learning the Lingo

If you’re going to be a rock climber, you have to know how to “talk the talk.” Climbers have their own terms that you’ll need to learn, so you can understand what they’re talking about. For example, the term “bootie,” is code for gear left behind by another party, and “brain bucket,” is a common phrase used for helmet. Take the time to memorize the lingo, so you don’t look like an amateur among seasoned rock climbers.


Rock climbing is a dangerous activity, so it’s important to take proper safety precautions prior to your climb. Always make sure your equipment is in good condition, wear a helmet, and never climb alone. It’s also important to know what to do in the event of unforeseen circumstances, like the sudden onset of a storm or a run-in with poison oak. Plan your route ahead of time and pay close attention to the point scale, to gauge whether it’s appropriate for your skill set or too difficult to attempt at this time. The U.S. Rock climbing rating system ranks climbs on a point scale of a Grade I (the easiest), to a Grade VII (the most difficult). Pay close attention to these rankings, as they were designed with your safety in mind.

Famous Rock Climbers

The best rock climbers in the world have become an inspiration to others in the sport, as they have set records that fellow climbers admire and dream of meeting, or beating someday. Climber Chris Sharma became a bouldering champion at the age of 14, and completed a 5.14c climb one year later, setting the record for the highest rated climb in North America during the time period. Steve House’s extremely successful climbs have made the “alpine style” of climbing popular. Alex Honnold stood on a ledge 1700 feet above ground on the Northwest Face of Half Dome, and someone captured an image of him, which has since become quite famous. These climbers have all developed a combination of skill and bravery that have catapulted them to rock climber celebrity status.