What are the different types of climbing?

Climbing is one of the most versatile sports disciplines, offering options ranging from the simplest to the most complex. A wide variety that makes it easy to learn new climbing techniques and evolve with the terrain and according to our preferences and physical capacity.

For most of us, when we think about what climbing is, the traditional image of athletes armed with ropes and climbing walls of all kinds often comes to mind. However, there are options beyond the more traditional mountain climbing. And there are numerous versions of this sport, adapted to different levels of climbing with respect to its demand, as well as the terrain and techniques required to carry out the activity.

This question also influences the things necessary to climb, ranging from the minimum equipment of free climbing to food, sleeping bag and hanging tent carried by those who climb huge walls in several days. A task in which having the best glutamine also helps, to repair the damage caused by that extreme exercise.

To make it easier for you to expand this information, we leave you with some of the basic characteristics that serve to qualify climbing, making it easier for you to see which modality may be more interesting, whether yours is sport climbing or the more traditional one.

Types of surface climbing

The first element that will help us to classify climbing is the surface on which we are going to move. The most common is rock climbing, which is done on all kinds of mountains and natural spaces.

In case the surrounding temperatures are very low, then we speak of ice climbing. It is obvious that the material to climb on this surface is very different, due to the specific needs of the terrain. Some areas where climbing spikes and crampons are vital. If we put these two terrains together, we have mixed climbing, which requires experience in both terrains and considerable strength to move safely.

More relaxed is artificial climbing, which is done in climbing walls. These artificial walls have a smooth design and different shapes, with various handles placed on the wall that help you move comfortably. This artificial rock is a good alternative for climbing without a rope, although always using all the necessary safety measures in this regard.

Types of climbing by style

The second great classification of climbing is carried out according to the different existing disciplines due to its style. Some of them can be applied on all surfaces, while others are limited by the characteristics of the terrain.

In this classification, the most popular modality is free climbing. It is one of the best known ways of climbing and has the advantage of not requiring much material, beyond gloves or climbing shoes. This style requires great physical strength, as well as a technique that allows adequate progress in these conditions. 

Here too we would have classic climbing, which does respond to the iconic image of ropes and grips. It is another of the most common techniques when it comes to moving around the mountain.

The following categories are already among the most complex climbing levels and far removed from traditional climbing. Among them, we have the Big Wall, which consists of multi-day routes in which huge walls are climbed. For its part, Bouldering involves climbing natural walls of low height, but without ropes or any element, beyond a mattress to shelter us in the event of a possible fall. If this discipline is performed on water, it is called psicobloc, serving the liquid element as a security “mattress”.

Types of climbing according to the route

Another useful element to classify climbing modalities are the types of routes used in the discipline. For the uninitiated, climbing routes are the routes through which the activity is usually carried out. This route corresponds to the available rope, in those modalities that use it.

For reference, a standard rope is about 50 to 80 meters long in total, although more modern options can be up to 100 meters long. This rope size is what establishes the extent of the climb. When it is a single length, the extension is half the rope, to allow the climber to descend, if necessary.

However, it is possible to tie several ropes or use the same one in several areas, so that we would have multipitch or multipitch climbs. In this case, it is necessary to place and retract the insurances and the rope as necessary, it being usual that if the route is carried out by two people, they rotate in the assembly and disassembly of the line in each of these sections. This is one of the most common forms in traditional climbing.

Types of climbing by degrees

As the last element to qualify the different types of climbing, within those that we have selected, it is time to talk about the degrees of climbing. This rating is similar to the colors of a ski slope, clearly indicating the degree of exposure to risk of each of the routes that we are evaluating.

These degrees range from I to VI and are sequential, so the higher the number, the higher the level of risk. As an example, a grade I climb would be short in length, free of hazards, and with an easy descent. A grade III requires a day to complete, with different dangers and objectives on the ascent and a somewhat delicate descent. Finally, level VI would be of extreme risk and maximum complexity.

All these qualifications are carried out following a series of standards, so that the subjective nature of the evaluator is separated when granting one or another qualification. Therefore, they are a good proposal when it comes to knowing the real degree of complexity of the route.

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