The great thing about hobbies is that they come in all shapes and sizes. Rock climbing is perhaps one of my favorite things to participate in because it reminds me of my childhood. Let’s just say that I am that kid down the street that was constantly climbing trees, fences, and pretty much anything that was in anyway climbable. For me, I fell in love with rock climbing on a purely amateur level because it allowed my inner child to burst free for an hour or so. There really anything cooler than scaling a vertical wall as fast as you can only to repel back down it as fast as your partner will let you. Sure there are some aspects that will discourage a lot of people from joining the hobby, the physical aspects appear to be especially daunting, but for those that are physically able, rock climbing is a great way to stay fit and stay active. The best part is that with a pretty limited amount of equipment and a lot of motivation, you can have a really great time with friends and family. There is also a lot of competition in the outdoor industry related with rock climbing, which adds to its popular image. Rock climbing is a challenging sport that involves tons of motivation, dedication, and perseverance. With all of these aspects, rock climbing is within reach of most people, and although it looks tough at times, it is a great hobby to get into.
What is Rock Climbing?
In its most basic form, Rock climbing is essentially nothing more than climbing rock walls. Rock climbing is a sport in which participants climb up or across natural rock formations or artificial rock walls. It seems almost silly to mention, but the goal of rock climbing is to reach the summit of a formation, or the endpoint of a pre-defined route. Rock climbing competitions have objectives of completing the route in the quickest possible time or the farthest along an ever increasingly harder route. Rock climbing is similar to scrambling, another activity involving the scaling of hills and similar formations, but climbing is generally differentiated because of the use of hands to support the climber`s weight as well as to provide balance.
Rock climbing is a very physically and mentally demanding sport, and one that often tests a climber`s strength, endurance, agility, and balance along with his mental control. The sad fact about this sport is that perfect is a key because if you slip while climbing in the wild, most falls will be fatal. Since it can be a very dangerous sport, the knowledge of proper climbing techniques and usage of specialized climbing equipment is crucial for the safe completion of routes and practice. While not an Olympic event, rock climbing is recognized by the International Olympic Committee as a sport. But just because it is a nationally accepted sport doesn’t mean that it isn’t something that can just be done for fun in your home town. Most cities will have indoor artificial walls that climbers of all ability levels can practice and have fun on. Plus it is one sport that is so much fun once you start going that you’ll forget that it is also a great physical and mental workout.
Required Rock Climbing Equipment
Although it is quite possible to go rock climbing without any equipment at all, it is by no means recommended to do so. Rock climbing equipment isn’t designed to just make you look cool, but it is actually designed to keep you as safe as possible in case an accident occurs. Although there are many things you can purchase, the necessities are climbing shoes, rope, general-purpose devices for connecting things, nylon cord, harnesses for connecting climbers to things, devices for applying friction to the rope, and devices for wedging into the rock. These are items that are required for outdoor rock climbing, and even though they are the same items needed for indoor climbing, most establishments will provide the necessary equipment, teach you how to use the equipment, and they will more often than not go through a quick safety orientation prior to letting you climb in their facility. The most important part of any physically challenging hobby or spot is to stay safe.
The most useful piece of climbing equipment is a pair of climbing shoes. This seems like a strange addition for most people new to the hobby because most people who try rock climbing for the first few times just wear normal running shoes. After they try climbing with a proper pair of climbing shoes, there simply is no turning back, with many improvements in shoe design alone, these shoes have allowed climbers to climb many things previously unclimbable. The modern climbing shoe has a stiff, smooth rubber sole that protects the foot from sharp, rough rock, and provides more friction than a bare foot. Climbing shoes fit tightly to prevent the foot from sliding around within the shoe, which makes them uncomfortable at first, but the improved friction and control they afford far outweigh the discomfort. A pair of these shoes cost between $100 and $150, which is about the same cost of a regular pair of running shoes.
A modern climbing rope is the key piece of safety equipment. These modern ropes are made of kernmantle construction, consisting of continuous braided nylon fibers, the kern, surrounded by a continuous braided nylon outer sheath, the mantle. Such construction is superior to the more traditional laid rope, three large strands twisted together, because the outer sheath protects the inner core, where most of the strength lies, from the elements. Climbing rope is dynamic, and by this I mean that it is able to stretch a bit under tension because the rope must stop falling climbers. If the rope did not stretch, a falling climber would be jerked suddenly as the rope stops him, which can be quite painful. With a dynamic rope, the rope slows the climber’s fall more gently. Climbing ropes are usually ten to eleven millimeters in diameter and fifty meters (about 165 feet) long. These ropes typically cost between $100 and $180.
Carabiners, used all the time in climbing, are rings of solid aluminum with a spring-loaded gate that allows them to be opened while climbing. Normally, the spring holds the gate closed, but the gate can be opened to admit a rope. Carabiners are inexpensive, typically ranging from between $5 and $20, strong, most are rated to hold at least 20 kN, about 2.2 tons, and extremely versatile. It is safe to say that virtually every climbing technique uses carabiners. A carabiner is safe until its gate opens. To increase security, two carabiners can be used in tandem with their gates reversed, which would make it far less likely that something would cause both gates to open at once.
To attach herself to a rope, a climber uses a sewn harness, which may be the most important safety device used in rock climbing. A typical harness has a wide nylon belt for the waist and a pair of leg loops for the thighs. When a climber is supported by such a harness, most of her weight is placed on her legs, rather than her waist or back, making it fairly comfortable to hang in. Many variations are available from various manufacturers. More expensive harnesses have more padding and are typically well worth the little bit of extra cash. Adjustable-diameter leg loops are another option that is popular amongst those within the hobby. Sewn harnesses will often cost between $30 and $80.
A belayer`s is another very important piece of equipment whose job is to hold the rope to stop a falling climber, which is difficult without the aid of a belay device, an object capable of stopping the rope or passing it through smoothly. There are many such belay devices, and are all easy to use, making them very safe. One common belay device is the figure-eight: two metal rings about an inch in diameter joined in the shape of an 8. A loop of rope is passed through one of the rings, then around and under the other. The ring without the rope is clipped to the belayer`s harness with a locking carabiner. When pulled tight, the rope is bent into four ninety degree angles in the space of a few inches, making it very difficult to move. A figure-eight costs between $15 and $20, and is worth every penny. A disadvantage of the figure-eight is its tendency to twist the rope as it passes through. Another style of belay device, typified by the ATC (Air Traffic Controller), avoids this problem by twisting the rope less. These devices typically have two holes just large enough to pass a loop of rope through. The loop of rope is attached to a carabiner such that when one end of the rope is pulled, the belay device approaches the carabiner and pinches the rope. This provides highly variable rope friction, ranging from very little to enough to support a falling climber.
Rock climbing is simply one of my favorite hobbies to take part in because it is unique, challenging, and quite simply a great time. The best thing about the hobby is that it has grown to the point where nearly every city will have at least one climbing wall somewhere to learn from. The great thing is that there are usually multiple sections of walls in these facilities that allow for beginners and advanced members to practice their hobby at the same location. There is quite frankly no better way to learn how to rock climb then from someone already within the hobby. You will quickly learn the ins and outs of the spot in a hands on manner, and you will realize how fun it actually is. With the sport’s popularity, there are many books and web sites available for beginners, but there really isn’t any better way to learn then from someone within the hobby. At first the walls will be a challenge, but as you progress through the different difficulty levels, it will only be a matter of time before you are scaling real walls in an outdoor setting. Even if you are not in the best shape, or if you aren’t the most muscular man or woman around, rock climbing is still a very accessible sport for you to take part in. With great endurance, dedication, and perseverance, anyone is capable of joining this hobby, and there is no time like today.