If you’ve caught the climbing bug then you’ll be more than familiar with the feeling. Every time you pass any kind of vertical surface you’ll feel an irresistible urge to figure out how best to climb it. Every different kind of surface presents a different set of problems and no two can ever really be tackled in exactly the same way. Different rock climbing types and skills are needed for each individual challenge.
While no two climbs are ever the same, the skill sets needed have been loosely grouped to help us understand what holds, equipment and abilities we might need for each surface or challenge. Here’s a quick guide to some of the main rock climbing types you might encounter.
The simplest of all the rock climbing types, bouldering involves smaller climbs that are low enough to the ground to minimise risk. Don’t go thinking it’s easy though as some short boulder climbs can involve incredible strength. A great way to get into the sport.
Single pitch climbing
This involves ascents where the climb can be accomplished with only one rope length. Ideal for beginners, single pitch climbs are usually short and can take pace on natural and man-made surfaces.
Multi pitch climbs
Following on from single pitch, this involves climbing routes with one or more stops at belay stations. The lead climber ascends until they reach the belay station where they can anchor.
The lead climber is strapped at one end of the rope and their partner belays him or her. Routes are secured and the second climber then follows the leader’s route. Used in multi pitch climbing and in mountaineering.
Free climbing is the purest and most dangerous of rock climbing types. It is climbing literally and metaphorically without a safety net. No ropes, no tricams, no nuts, no nothing. This is the real deal and not for the inexperienced or fainthearted.
Deep water soloing
Practised on sea cliffs at high tide, over reservoirs and other deep water areas, this allows more experienced climbers to attempt free climbing with the added protection of water below. It’s still not without its risks though, as you may imagine. It is thought to have originated in the UK in the 60s or 70s.
The clue is in the name for this type of climbing. Rather than ascending rocks your goal is to climb ice, normally in the form of a frozen waterfall. Ice climbing requires specialist equipment such as ice axes and crampons and used different techniques to traditional forms of climbing
Meaning the ‘iron road’, these kinds of climbs involve anchoring to iron railings which mark out the ascent routes. Found in the Alps, this is invigorating climbing with an additional element of safety and allows beginners to take on routes that otherwise might be beyond their abilities.
A combination of a number of climbing skills used in the ascent of a mountain. This goal oriented form of climbing is all about reaching the summit, using climbing skills developed in practice situations. Mountaineering ranges in difficulty with some ascents involving high skill levels and technical knowledge only for experienced climbers and others suitable for virtual beginners with the help of a guide.
This involves the combination of many different climbing and outdoor skills. Make your way down a river path or canyon by hiking, scrambling, jumping, abseiling, swimming or any other means of safely travelling. Canyoning trips often take groups of completely inexperienced climbers paving their way to get into climbing.
Whilst there are many rock climbing types involved in different ascents and in different areas, all climbing is exhilarating and will require strength, stamina, courage, ability and technical knowledge. These are the qualities that never change, no matter what you’re climbing.