Rock climbing can be a fun way to push oneself to one's physical and mental limits. Climbing also presents an excellent incentive to seek out some of the most beautiful places in the world in search of some fresh rock. By non-climbers it is often considered to be a reckless, dangerous, "thrill-seeking" sport.
This article tries to give some advice for those new to rock climbing, info on climbing destinations and pointers to relevant material. Beginners should not try the sport on their own, but rather take a course and join groups with more experienced climbers.
Rock climbing is different from mountaineering, as the rock climber chooses individual rocks or slopes, and can rest comfortably between the climbs. It overlaps to some extent with caving; some of the skills and equipment that are used to climb in the open can also be used in caves.
The British Mountaineering Council (BMC) is Britain's representative body that exists to protect the freedoms and promote the interests of climbers, hill walkers and mountaineers, including ski-mountaineers. The BMC recognises that climbing, hill walking and mountaineering are activities with a danger of personal injury or death. Participants in these activities should be aware of and accept these risks and be responsible for their own actions.
There are many different forms of climbing that are segmented mostly by the type of equipment used when climbing. The two main categories are aid climbing and free climbing.
- Aid climbing is a style in which equipment, such as pitons, cams, nuts and/or screws, are placed allowing the climber to pull on them and haul himself upward.
- Free climbing, the style typically referred to by the general term "rock climbing," is a style in which the climber moves forward and upward solely by gripping, squeezing, smearing, pinching—with whatever natural strength he can muster—the available natural features of the rock. Ropes and other equipment are used solely for protection in the case of an accidental fall, not to aid in the ascent. Free climbing is further categorized by the type of protection used.
- Trad climbing (short for "traditional") involves the placement of temporary protection such as cams, nuts, and hexes, into the rock's natural features while ascending. This method is appropriate for nearly every type of rock, but requires a significant amount of safety equipment.
- Sport climbing involves the use of pre-set protection, often metal rings (known as bolts) drilled into the rock, while climbing upward. These fixtures are permanent and used when the climber runs his rope through one end of a quickdraw and attaches the other end to the bolt. This method requires less equipment than trad climbing, but requires protection devices already to be set into the route.
- Top roping involves climbing using a rope that is anchored at the top of the route as protection. This method uses the least equipment, but requires the area to have access to the top of the face (for instance, many cliffs have walkable paths to the top) or for a climber to first ascend using some other method, then to set the anchor and lower the rope. This method frees the climber of the need to set protection while climbing, making it the safest and easiest method for beginner and intermediate climbers (provided someone experienced is present to set a proper anchor).
- Free soloing is the act of climbing without any rope or protective equipment. Without a rope, the climber has no need of a partner to "belay" (the act of a partner maintaining the proper tension on the rope to keep the climber safe in the case of a fall). The name can be misleading, however; any of the above climbing methods can be done without a partner with some additional equipment and techniques (simply called "soloing"). (Free soloing is a very high-risk activity and should not be performed except by very experienced climbers.)
- Bouldering is centered around climbing shorter and more difficult routes, known as problems, that are not high enough to require a rope. Bouldering does not use any protection either aside from foam pads known as crash pads, which are usually placed at the bottom to protect against rough landings.
The availability of rock climbing courses depends on your location. Indoor climbing gyms invariably offer courses. If your area includes any natural formations appealing to rock climbers, chances are good there is also a nearby climbing or mountaineering organization that will offer (or know of) opportunities to learn more.
- Rock climbing shoes are made to fit extremely tight. They have rubbery soles which help grip the rock walls and are often curved.
- A harness wraps around the waist and upper thighs of a climber and protects the climber in the event of a fall—assuming he's tied into a properly protected rope. Harnesses usually have several hooks to carry other pieces of gear. Bouldering does not require a harness.
- A helmet is recommended both for climbers and belayers. It is not uncommon for a person climbing to flip or swing during a fall, potentially hitting his/her head on nearby rock. Nor is it impossible for rocks, cams, carabiners, or other objects to be knocked loose from the wall or dropped while climbing, posing a danger to unprotected climbers and belayers below.
- Ropes vary in thickness, length, weight, impact force and elongation. A thinner or shorter rope would generally be used when it is necessary to carry less of a load. An example would be multi-pitch climbs where a climber is always bearing the weight of the rope, making it more difficult. The elongation of a rope determines how much it stretches if at all. During a fall, a rope that stretches will absorb much of the impact force caused by the fall. A rope that does not stretch will cause the climber to absorb the fall. This makes the rope weigh less but increases the chances of back injuries
- Webbing and Cords are used in slings, runners, harnesses, anchor extensions and quickdraws.
- Slings are used to set up top ropes and to prevent rope abrasion.
- Carabiners are metal loops with spring-loaded gates (openings), used as connectors to provide protection in many different ways
- Quickdraws are used to attach ropes to bolted anchors for protection
- Cams are devices used for protection when placed in cracks. It acts in a way similar to a bolt and quickdraw using a crack.
The cost of climbing in many cases is free. Some locations charge day rates that are generally associated with the entrance fee and not for the sport of climbing.
The cost of gear vary widely based on quality, brand, purpose and weight:
- Shoes - $40 to $150 pair
- Harness - $50 to $150 each (depending on quality, comfort and technical need)
- Helmets - $40 to $100 each
- Ropes - $160 to $350 each
- Webbing and Cords - $5 to $40(or appx. 32 cents per foot for custom items)
- Slings - $5 to $40 each
- Carabiners - $10 to $30 each
- Quickdraws - $14 to $25 each
- Cams - $70 to $120 each
Great rock climbing can be found worldwide; not surprisingly, you'll often find great places to climb in some of the most beautiful and scenic places on Earth.
- Lady's Slipper. 30km from PE
- Van Stadens Gorge.
- Morgan's Bay - Over 400 routes on sea cliffs approx 60 metres high.
- Tasmania is a lovely island with lots of coastal climbs. Because its so far south, it stays a lot cooler than the mainland.
- Mt Arapiles in Victoria is one of the best crags in the world for traditional climbing. 3–4 hours drive from Melbourne
- Grampians NP in Victoria is very popular
- Blue Mountains mostly sports climbing in NSW near Sydney
- Nowra sports climbing in NSW
- Moonarie in South Australia
- Frog Buttress in Queensland
- Kangaroo Point Everyone knows of this climbing area in Brisbane next to the river, right in the middle of the city.
- Mount Eden Quarry
- Wharepapa South
- Blowhard Bush
- Kawakawa Bay
- Kinloch crags
- Whanganui Bay
- Turakirae Head
- Payne's Ford
- Castle Hill
- Port Hills
- Wye Creek
- Mount Somers
- The Darrans
- Lover's Leap
- This Himalayan kingdom offers numerous sites suitable for rock climbing, but a popular site place near the capital, Thimphu is called 'the Nose'.
- Yangshuo, and more generally the Guilin area, in Guangxi Province, China has extensive karst limestone formations and an active climbing scene. Equipment rental and guides are readily available.
There is also climbing in Tibet and regions bordering it such as Northern Yunnan and Western Sichuan. Much of it is mountain climbing, rather than just rock climbing. See Three Parallel Rivers National Park for one such area; it has several peaks which have never been climbed.
An extreme possibility — definitely only for experts with topnotch equipment and professional guides — would be to climb the North Face of Mount Everest from Qomolangma in Tibet.
- Luang Prabang
- Nong Khiaw is the latest, but not least beautiful place to climb. Stunning mountain walls are waiting for pioneers now coming.
- Vang Vieng
- Rock climbing on Mt Kinabalu located on Borneo Malaysia and the second highest mountain in South East Asia , pristine rock climbing in unspoilt beauty
- Batu Cave - 13 km north of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia — Rai Leh's little brother to the south, Batu Cave features over two hundred bolted limestone routes on powerful overhanging rock that features stalactites and caves.
Pakistan has thousands of beautiful and extreme routes & rocks but unfortunately they are unexplored. A few location are given below.
- Trango Towers - This is considered to be the most difficult and dangerous Rock climb in the world there are thousands of routes just in this huge rock mountain. Location: Baltistan, Pakistan.
- Naran & Kaghan- Huge rocky Mountains with a lot of new unexplored beauty.
- Chillas After crossing Rai Qote Bridge (the rocky track to fairy meadows) one can see an ocean of Boulders from small to really huge and even over hanging rocks.
- Khanpur Near Khanpur Dam one will will find the most beautiful rocks from easy of extreme level. The rocks are cool and are opposite to the sun which makes in very pleasant in all seasons.
- Rai Leh and neighbouring Ton Sai - Krabi province — the preeminent location for rock climbing in Asia and possibly the world. Easy access to superb limestone climbing, beautiful scenery and ground level activities are good reasons why this area is so popular. Climbing is possible all year but November - April is the driest and least humid. Koh Tao in the Gulf of Thailand has an up-and-coming climbing scene with huge granite boulders dotting the island.
- Those looking for cooler temperatures, a different backdrop, or just another destination for superb, steep, limestone climbing are increasingly heading north to Crazy Horse Buttress, located just 35 kilometers east of downtown Chiang Mai. Boasting more than 130 bolted routes between (French system) 5 and 8a, with some up to three pitches high, Crazy Horse is the perfect destination for experienced and novice climbers alike.
- Rovinj - has a huge climbing area nearby and is a great starting point for journeys to other climbing areas in the region.
- Paklenica - a national park with bolted routes up to 350 m high at Croatian coast.
- Split -There are over 400 bolted routes in and around Split
- Ceuse, SE France
- Buoux, SE France
- Fontainebleau - Fontainebleau is a world famous bouldering spot. Boulder problems are linked by 'circuits' making the problems continuous from boulder to boulder.
- Verdon Gorge, SE France
- Chamonix, SE France - A lifetime of multi-pitch sport, limestone + endless alpine Granite for trad work.
- Kalymnos — the scene of frenetic climbing activity over the past five years. Kalymnos is a popular climbing destination not just because of its island location but because of the walls and walls of featured limestone that feature over one thousand bolted routes. Everything from slabby technical routes to overhanging tuffa and stalactite routes can be found within walking distance of your ocean front accommodation. Climbing is possible year round but the best times to visit are spring (March–May) and fall (September–November)
- Arco (Northern Italy) - One of the most popular climbing spots in Europe.
- Sardinia — offers a splendid variety of climbing: from limestone to granite, sport to trad, beach-side to inland, bouldering to long multipitch; Sardinia has something to offer the beginner to the expert climbing and everyone in between. Check out Cala Gonone, Isili and Dumosnovas among the hundred areas to climb on the island.
- Castelbianco - A new and developing area with hundreds of graded routes in the beautiful maritime Alps
- Finale Ligure - famous climbing area with over 2000 routes in a small area, most with stunning views of the Mediterranean.
- Romsdalen - Famous for the Trollveggen (aid climbing). You can find all types of climbing here.
- Lofoten - Straght from the water, spectacular view! Granite.
- Hell - Near Trondheim. Conglomerate, not very tall (10–20 m), but will give anyone a real challenge.
- Innerdalen - Norway's most beautiful valley. Mostly trad ~10 pitch. May-Oct.
- Poios , Redinha , Buracas - near Coimbra maybe the best place in Portugal and for sure the biggest, all kind of routes and a beautiful place
- Jelasnica - a gorge located near Nis,it is one of the most popular climbing places in Serbia
- Grdoba - (Valjevo) Really nice rock in forest with bautiful nature. About 80 routes , small holds , overhanging and kind of difficult routes. If you are climbing between 7b and 8b you will enjoy it a lot.
- Bled - Kupljenik, located only 200m away from Dolinar-Krainer, best climbing rocks, excellent for training, grades 6-8
- El Chorro - Southern Spain, near Malaga
- Siurana - Northern Spain, near Barcelona
- Montserrat - Situated 35 km north west of Barcelona, Montserrat quite simply offers some of the best multi-pitch sports climbing in Spain
- Batzola - Northern Spain
- Costa Blanca - A region on the East coast of Spain with many fine limestone cliffs.
- Costa Dorada - Northern Spain
- Los Mallos
- Albarracin - Situated to the east of Madrid. Great bouldering.
- Mallorca - famous for deep water soloing.
- Kjugekull - Kjugekull is a beautiful nature reserve offering hundreds of very good boulder problems.
- Kullen - A wonderful small peninsula with seacliffs all over. Mostly trad climbing. Also good for diving!
- Göteborg Loads of good climbing only a short drive from the city center.
- Sanetsch - famous spot between Bern and Valais.
- Grimsel - 450 m high granite slabs above a green mountain lake.
- Ponte Brolla - fun sport climbing in a beautiful area near Locarno.
- Basel Jura - loads of single pitch sports climbs on good quality limstone.
- Ballıkayalar, near Tavşanlı east of Gebze — a beautiful canyon popular with rock climbers from nearby Istanbul
- Squamish, BC - Multipitch traditional (gear) climbing on bullet-proof granite cracks, flakes and slab. May through October is a fine time for climbing. July through early October are your best chances for superb dry and warm days.
- Whistler, BC - Predominantly single pitch sport routes on solid featured rock that is mostly vertical or slightly overhanging. Late May through early October is your best bet for good weather. Access to the local crags is by car and the approaches are usually short and easy (2 – 20 minutes).
- Skaha - Penticton, BC - Primarily single pitch climbing on gneiss stone featuring small edges and crimps. The routes are divided almost evenly between traditional and sport climbing on everything from overhanging jug-fests to vertical cracks to delicate less-than-vertical routes. Climbing is possible during a good portion of the year (April - October) though the summer months (July & August) can become uncomfortably hot requiring you to climb in the available shade.
- Kamloops, BC - Kamloops has enough climbing to keep you busy for a weekend. As the area can become extremely hot in the summer, spring and fall are the best times to visit to check out the vertical climbing on solid featured rock.
- Canmore, Alberta - Canmore offers a wide range of limestone sport routes and is considered by some to be the best sport climbing area in Canada. Some of Canada's most difficult routes are located here, and most of the climbing is within 10 minutes of downtown. Canmore features lots of single pitch climbing, and a few long multipitch climbs; including Sisyphus Summits on the North face of Ha Ling peak which at 25 pitches is Canada's longest sport route. Climb between May and September.
- Val David, Quebec - More than 500 routes within the Dufresne Regional Park have been listed and rated. Great climbing challenges are close at hand for all comers, from beginners to experts.
- California, Los Angeles, Chatsworth - Stony Point
- Joshua Tree National Park, California
- Garden of the Gods - Colorado Springs, Colorado
- Rifle, Colorado
- Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, Colorado - A steep, narrow gorge for only the most experienced climbers.
- Boulder Canyon and Flatirons Boulder, Colorado
- Yosemite National Park - Yosemite, California
- Mount Lemmon - Tucson, Arizona — the massive variation in elevation makes this area climbable all year around. Scorching summer temperatures in the city valley can be escaped by moving out of the cactus and into the forest.
- Red Rock Canyon - Las Vegas, Nevada - Practically limitless climbs. Great for climbers looking to explore sandstone cliffs. A great variety of sport and trad climbs of all levels including bouldering and multi-pitch (and multi-day) climbs.
- Red Rock Open Space - Colorado Springs, Colorado
- Mission Gorge and Mount Woodson San Diego, California
- Maple Canyon - Central Utah — sport climbing heaven on cobble stone routes. Ideal climbing conditions are late spring through early fall. When the summer heat consumes Utah, the canyon remains cool and the routes steep and pumpy.
- Logan - Northern Utah
- Austin, Texas - This city has tons of limestone sport climbing routes in and around, including deepwater soloing at a nearby lake, as well as limestone bouldering and pink granite at Enchanted Rock two hours to the west.
- Enchanted Rock (E-Rock) - Fredericksberg, Texas - Two giant domes with various rock climbing area around. Great for beginners looking for rock climbing lessons. Rock material is granite.
- Hueco Tanks - El Paso, Texas - Great bouldering, with hundreds of bouldering problems of all levels.
- City of Rocks National Reserve - Southern Idaho — Gear and sport climbing on massive piles of granite scattered about a scenic valley. Climbing is best in the late spring through early fall.
- Smith Rock - Bend, Oregon — the birthplace of American sport climbing. Best climbed in the spring and fall.
- Frenchman Coulee - Central Washington — features row after row of 30 m basalt columns hosting over 400 sport and gear routes. Ideal climbing conditions are in the spring (March - May) and fall (September - November) as summers tend to be hot and windy.
- Sinks Canyon - Lander, Wyoming - hundreds if not thousands of incredible limestone, sandstone, and granite sport climbs for every ability; all within a ~3-5 mile canyon. Incredible boulder band offering easy to the most challenging boulder moves, especially at the sandstone buttress. Great weather pattern makes climbing available throughout most of the year. There can be snow on one side of the half mile wide canyon and be 20 degrees warmer on the other side. A necessary destination for every climber.
- Shawangunks - New Paltz, New York - the best trad climbing on the East Coast. 1.5 hours north of New York City. Hundreds of long multi pitch routes including many roofs, horizontal crack lines and bouldering areas.
- Seneca Rocks- Monongahela National Forest - great trad climbing in the Northeast US. Routes range from 5.2 to 5.13.
- New River Gorge - West Virginia - months of climbs, nice variety of grades, excellent views of the gorge! Currently seeing lots of new development of routes.
- Acadia - Bar Harbor, Maine
- Rumney New Hampshire (sport climbing)
- Red River Gorge - Kentucky - many well-traveled North American climbers state that the Red is the best crag on the continent. A nice mix of traditional cracks, and power endurance relentlessly overhanging sport routes on bullet-proof sandstone. Can be very humid in the summer months.
- Chontacoatlan - TAXCO, Guerrero
- Potrero Chico - Monterrey, Nuevo León
- Cañón de la Huasteca - Monterrey, Nuevo León
- El Salto - Monterrey, Nuevo León
- Jilotepec - Estado de México
- Aculco - Estado de México, Estado de México
- Belo Horizonte area, Minas Gerais - Brazil's capital for limestone sport climbing, with more than 800 routes within 200km from the city.
- Pedra da Riscada - São José do Divino, Minas Gerais - One of the tallest granite monoliths in world along with El Capitan and the Trango Tower. Home of the hardest bigwall free climb in Brazil, the route "A Place of Hapiness".
- Rio de Janeiro (city) - There are hundreds of multi-pitch routes spread across the city in mountains like Pão de Açúcar, Corcovado, Cantagalo, Morro da Urca.
- Cochamó Valley - Chile's premier climbing destination, known as the Yosemite of South America, with a variety of granite big walls and crags. Summits include breath-taking views from peaks. Climbers from all parts of the world are continually establishing new routes amongst its endless potential of walls.
- Las Chilcas - sport climbing on conglomerate
- Socaire - (sport climbing, few cracks)
- Any kind of climbing using ropes is a common exclusion from travel insurance policies. Read your policy; if you would like to be insured for medical treatment or other costs associated with rock climbing injuries while traveling internationally, you may need to take out a second insurance policy (or rider) from a company specializing in adventure or sporting insurance.