What is Rock Climbing?

rock climbing

Rock climbing is a sport in which the participants of the sport attempt to ascend cliff faces. There are many different types of rock climbing. Some types of rock climbing are aided, meaning that you have equipment to help prevent a loss of progress if you fall, while other types of rock climbing are unaided. Rock climbing is a dangerous sport that can involve personal injury or harm, but fosters a sense of wonder in its participants.


rock climbing History

The sport derives its origins from mountaineering. Mountaineering is a practice that arose from the need of crossing mountain ranges such as the Alps or the Rockies.. Rock climbing as a sport originated in this practice, but became the sport it is today from Western European rock climbers.

Playing Surface

Rock Climbing Playing Surface

The playing surface in question can be a couple different things. Rock climbing outdoors is done on actual large boulders and cliff faces. Indoor rock climbing in a gym is done on an artificial wall with artificial holds. The indoor climbing holds are fluorescent and each route is color coded, so climbing indoor versus outdoor there are some differences. Outdoor climbing has the added difficulty of climbing around the weather and the conditions present in the environment.

Rock Climbing Equipment

Rock Climbing Equipment

Rock climbing is a sport that requires very specialized equipment. From harnesses and rope all the way down to the shoes that are worn. Shoes specifically have a variety of designs and uses so research into what type of climbing is being done is necessary. Additionally, safety equipment is also a wide and varied category of equipment. Safety equipment such as harnesses, ropes, helmets, accessory cord, and carabiners need to be used as they are intended otherwise serious injury can occur.

Here is the essential Rock Climbing equipment you should have:

  • Accessory Cord
  • Carabiners
  • Harnesses
  • Helmet
  • Rope
  • Shoes
  • Slings


Rock climbing competitions occur indoors with a specific set of objectives. Outdoor rock climbing follows the same rules, but outdoor climbing is not judged and competitions occur indoors on artificial walls. In the next couple sections, we will focus on the indoor climbing competitions due to this.

The goal of a rock climbing competition is to climb the hardest grade climb you can, as fast as you can. Each climb will have a difficulty and a point value associated with it. Each climber will have three attempts on any climb, but if you fail three times then you are not allowed to compete any longer. The main objective of rock climbing is to garner as many points as possible, and if it comes down to time then how fast climbers have climbed is also judged.

Rules and Regulations

Climbing competitions in the United States are governed by USA climbing. Climbing rules limit the number of attempts that individuals can make on certain climbs. Age categories are placed on climbers, and there are difficulty classes that climbers register for. Specific rules involve how the climb must be done: Climbers must start with no momentum, the climber must finish with their hands on the end hold for two seconds, a fall is considered a failure.

Here are the most important Rock Climbing rules you should know:

  • Three Strikes Rule
  • No Momentum
  • Hold the end for two seconds
  • Communicate with your belayer (if applicable)
  • Only climb the route you are on


Preparation strategy for rock climbing involves climbing a lot as functional training, but also training the back, grip strength, and legs in preparation. Strategies to be used during a climb are ensuring that the climber does not over grip the holds, planning and preparing for the next moves. Here are the most important Rock Climbing strategies you should know:

  • Pace Yourself
  • Grip Strength
  • Plan The route
  • Train Hard
  • Communicate with the Belayer


rock climbing lingo

Here is the common lingo and slang in Rock Climbing:

  • Crimp: A crimp is a small hold that the climber can only get their fingertips on.
  • Sloper: A sloper is a climbing hold that is round on top and prevents the climber from gripping it.
  • Bucket: A bucket is a hold where the climber can stick their hand in like a bucket and grip the lip.
  • Arete: An arete is a corner of the wall where the face changes direction.
  • Belay/Belayer: Belaying is the act of taking rope slack out as a climber ascends. A belayer is the person who does this.
  • Clipping: Clipping is placing the rope through a quickdraw while leading
  • Leading: Lead climbing, or leading, is ascending a rock face first with the quickdraws being placed on the wall. The rope travels through these quickdraws instead of through an anchor. The lead climber will set up an anchor at the end of the climb.
  • QuickDraw: Quick draws are two carabiners bound with nylon, a sling, or a harder material.
  • Bouldering: Bouldering is climbing without a harness. Bouldering specifically stops at a specific height in a gym and is very dangerous outdoors.
  • Pump: Being pumped is the feeling of fatigue in the forearms specifcally after several climbs.
  • Topping out: Topping out is climbing to the top of a route and then climbing over the cliff face.
  • Send it: Sending it is a term and phrase used to describe getting on a route and climbing it.

Rock Climbers

Rock Climbers

Rock climbing is a sport in which progress and pioneering the world is still prevalent. The act of climbing routes no one has ever done, or doing routes in a new way, breeds fame. Climbers such as Adam Ondra who climbed the perfecto mundo, or Alex Honnold who crushed several different records on El Cap are some such pioneers. Other famous climbers, such as Nonaka Miho, are world renown and genius athletes.

Here are the most famous Rock Climbers you should know:

  • Adam Ondra
  • Alex Honnold
  • John Muir
  • Nonaka Miho
  • Alex Megos

Events and Competitions

Rock Climbing Events and Competitions

Rock Climbing in the United States has several levels of competitions with one main governing body. Different gyms can hold competitions among the gym, but recognized competitions are done through USA climbing. Different competitions are held at the local, regional, and national levels. Nationally recognized climbers have the opportunity to join the USA climbing team. Another huge competition in recent years is the olympics! As of 2020 Rock climbing is now in the olympics.

Here are the most popular tournaments in Rock Climbing:

  • Olympics: The olympics are a worldwide series of competitions among competing nations. Rock climbing in the olympics involves climbers competing on speed climbing, leading, and bouldering.
  • Local: Local tournaments are held at climbing gyms around the country and at collegiate climbing gyms. Smaller scale competitions that qualify the climber for regional tournaments.
  • Regional: Regional tournaments are held periodically and winners qualify for national.
  • National: National level tournaments are the highest available climbing tournaments in the US aside from the olympics.

Olympic Rock Climbing

Rock climbing became an olympic sport in 2020. The proposed structure for the first year that climbing was in the olympics was that competitors for each country were supposed to climb across three disciplines: Speed climbing, lead climbing, and bouldering. In future years, each country would have athletes for individual disciplines of climbing.