When I was younger and first heard about rock climbing, I pictured someone scaling the side of the mountain. I didn’t quite grasp that this was just part of it. There are so many different types of rock climbing.
You are probably asking, what are the different types of rock climbing?
Rock climbing ranges from different styles of roped climbing that include Top roped climbing, Traditional, and Sport climbing. Unroped climbing includes Bouldering, Dree Solo Climbing, and Deep Water Climbing. There are also several other styles like Alpine, Ice, and Aided climbing.
As you can see, there are so many options for climbing. All have there benefits and challenges. So let’s dig in a little deeper to explore those.
Free climbing allows you more freedom on the rock face. Climbers are no longer using aiding equipment but instead are the rocks for climbing.
Below are the different types of free rock climbing.
As the name describes, roped rock climbing uses the typical climbing rope.
In some cases, climbers have someone attached to the other side of the rope that can help stop you if you fall. This is also called belaying. This belay will help support you as you climb up the rock surface, and they will be the person that helps lower you down once you have completed your climb.
The belay aspect is the reason that it’s perfect for beginners. It allows the new climber to have a safety net if you run into any issues.
In other cases, the climber does not have a belay. This is called solo climbing. You still have anchored into the rock face that gives you safety, but because they are spaced out in most cases, you will fall a little further since you don’t have a belay to catch you.
This is the type of roped climbing that you also see in indoor rock climbing gyms and is also good for beginners. The rope is already in place at the top of the rock face allowing you not to worry about placing anchors and stringing the rope as you climb.
This can also be done outdoors if you have access to the top of the rock face to set up the rope.
This is a lead type of climbing that you typically see in when someone is climbing a mountain. Instead of having a top rope available like we discussed in aided or top-roping, the climber has to establish the path as they are going.
This means that they will either have to set anchors (cams, nuts and hexes) for the rope as they are climbing, there are pre-mounted anchors available in the rock face.
Here is a good video of someone learning to set anchors for traditional climbing.
Unlike traditional climbing where you have to set your own anchors in the cracks of the rock face. Sport climbing is also a lead climb that uses pre-established anchors for the climb. This allows climbers to not have to worry about that extra step and can focus on the climb itself.
There is a quick video of Sasha DiGiulian a national champion sport climber.
Imagine being 100+ feet off the ground, climbing up the side of the mountain. Without a rope…
That is what unroped climbing is and should be for experts only since you are taking the safety net of the rope away.
This is the style of climbing that is normally done on a shorter surface. Since you don’t go that high off the ground, the falls are much less risky, and a rope isn’t needed.
If you do want to climb a little higher without ropes, climbers will often put down pads or “crash mats.” This extra cushion helps reduce the impact of a fall.
Bouldering can be a fun option if you don’t have time to get a good climb or practice different types of holds and maneuvers. It can also be good for beginners to get comfortable on the side of a rock.
Free Solo Climbing
This is not an option for a beginner, free solo climbing is scaling a rock face without a rope. It’s extremely dangerous and doesn’t give you any safety options like ropes or crash pads.
There are only a few expert climbers out there that have enough experience to try this type of climbing. And even with all that experience, one little mistake could have a devastating impact.
Here is a quick video of the top free solo climbs
Deep Water Soloing
Deep water soloing gives you the freedom of free solo climbing, but a safety net similar to bouldering. In this case, your protection isn’t a pad or crash mate, it’s water. Preferably deep water.
Below is a great example of Deep Water Solo rock climbing.
Aided rock climbing is where you are using equipment that looks like a small ladder to climb up the surface. The climber connects the aid ladder to an anchor and climb that up to the next ledge or aid ladder location.
This type of climbing isn’t used very often, and most people prefer free climbing over this option. But I wanted to include it on the list since it is a legitimate style of rock climbing.
Rock Climbing Types Summary
As you can see, rock climbing isn’t as simple as climb up that mountain. The type of climbing you will do will depend on your skill level, situation, equipment available, and time.
If you are a beginner, you will want to start with top-rope climbing. Then, are you develop your skills, you can start branching into other styles of climbing.
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Need Gear for Your Rock Climbing Trip?
If you are planning a rock climbing adventure, you want to make sure that you have the right gear. Check out our beginners guide for rock climbing equipment.