BB's guide to Boulderspeak - part 5 |


Other kinds of climbing

Highball climbing

Highballing lives in the grey area between solo climbing and bouldering. A "highball" boulder problem is generally high enough (around 7 metres or more) that taking a fall could be quite serious, but mats are often still used to try and reduce the risks of injury. Not for the faint hearted (or those unsure if they're going to make it to the top...)

Sport climbing

Sport climbers use ropes and harnesses, combined with fixed bolts on the wall, to protect climbers. These bolts are often drilled and cemented into rock faces where natural protection (i.e. the cracks that trad climbers would use) are not available, thus opening out new areas for climbing which would otherwise be too difficult to protect. This style of climbing is very popular in mainland Europe and the USA, and is analogous to the sort of climbing on fixed bolts that is often seen in indoor climbing centres. Chris Sharma and Adam Ondra have been vying for the hardest sport climbing routes over the past few years.

Trad climbing

Trad ("traditional") climbing involves using ropes and harnesses to protect climbers as they ascend. Rather than using fixed bolts on the wall to clip the ropes into, trad climbers carry with them a range of metal "nuts", "cams", and other types of gear which they place into natural cracks in the rock face. They clip the ropes into these so that when they fall, they only fall a short distance. They then take these pieces of protection with them afterwards, leaving no mark on the mountain.

Solo climbing

Often confused with "free climbing", solo climbing (or free solo climbing, or simply soloing) is the practice of climbing without ropes, harnesses, mats or any other form of protection. At very low heights this could be called bouldering, but solo climbers have been known to climb some immense routes, hundreds of metres above the ground, with barely a pair of rock shoes for company. Failure is simply not an option. Alex Honnold is one of the leading figures in solo climbing, and climbs some unbelievable things. Makes my palms sweat just thinking about it.

Free climbing

Free climbing, often confused with "solo climbing", is simply the practice of rock climbing without using any artificial aids to gain height. Ropes and harnesses are still allowed when free climbing, but only if you don't put any weight on the rope while you're climbing - pulling yourself over a hard move by grabbing a rope above you, for example, is not allowed. Free climbing a route is the ultimate aim of most climbers, although "aid climbing", where using artificial gear to pull yourself higher is central to the activity, is popular in some places around the world including the USA.