Since Alex Honnold’s fantastic movie Free Solo is currently in theaters, our extreme sport for November is rock climbing. People have been climbing mountains and cliffs since the beginning of time, yet rock climbing became a serious “sport” in the late 1900’s when many adventure seekers began ascending America’s largest peaks. Rock climbing has some interesting connotations: some think of the seemingly reckless stupidity of Alex Honnold’s climbs or the poor, live-in-a-van style of most climbers. Rock climbing can be, and is, both of those, yet it can be enjoyed in less of an extreme way. There are numerous ways you can enjoy this adrenaline pumping sport. The main disciplines are:
Lead—Lead climbing is the most diverse and probably the most popular form of the sport. The rope is only attached to you on your harness and your belayer on his belay device. As you climb, you hook the rope into the “pro” or protection clips on the wall. This can be done both on real rock or indoors in a gym. These problems extend only as high as the length of your rope.
Boulder—Another wildly popular form of the sport. Bouldering is climbing without any safety gear on smaller routes or “problems” only extending ten to fifteen feet. It is very much like free-soloing—climbing massive routes with no safety gear—only you are not climbing very high. It is a very social form of climbing and popular among all skill levels.
Big Wall—Big wall climbing is the most endurance-based discipline within the sport. Some of these climbs take days to complete. The climber climbs for most of the day and then tows up his gear that he left at the base of the wall. Very few climbers participate in this type of climbing because it is not only hard, but difficult to get the opportunity, permission, or time.
Top Rope—Top rope is a very simple form of climbing. Most beginners start this way. The rope is looped over a bar at the top of the climb with one end tied to your harness and one end to your belayer.
What are some of the benefits of climbing? As an avid climber myself, I can say from experience that the climbing community is hands-down the most welcoming, affirming and encouraging group of athletes I have ever met. There will always be climbers better than you, however, they are quick to help you with a climb or just give some much needed expertise. Furthermore, climbing is a full body workout that is incredibly fun. Most think of climbing as a workout only for your arms. However, climbing targets your hands, ankles, calves, feet, thigh, back, and most importantly your core. Having a strong core is non-negotiable in many, if not all, sports. Climbing is a fun and effective way to gain that. Furthermore, it develops skills and ideas that you will carry with you for your whole life like courage, full body control, problem solving abilities, hard work, body awareness, etc.
I hope this brief introduction causes at least some of you to go out and try rock climbing. Let me know down in the comments if you have gone climbing or plan to in the future!