October 5, 2021

What Is Sport Climbing? (EVERYTHING You Need to Know)

by Brad

The most typical disciplines of sport climbing are lead climbing and top roping.

A sport climber must have strength, endurance, gymnastic abilities, and technical skills as well.

Due to the increase in climbing walls and gyms, most climbers currently choose to climb indoors over outdoors. 

Indoor climbing techniques are similar to outdoor sport climbing, and so are the equipment used.

This, therefore, suffices for smooth transitioning from indoor to outdoor sport climbing.

Sport climbing is one of the most popular types of climbing.

Rappelling on a natural rock, on the other hand, can be more difficult.

For instance, bolts are frequently set at longer distances.

It results in additional danger concerns such as rockslides, falling into crevices, and other rock formations.

Also, the quality of the bolt and anchoring must all be considered.

Since this bolt and rope arrangement primarily helps to ensure safe climbing, sport climbing concentrates on the pace and complexity of the climbing moves.

Sport climbing consists of three divisions lead climbing, speed climbing, and also bouldering

Sport climbing gained popularity in the mainstream media through the Olympic games.

Many ask what is sport climbing because they want to start their sports climbing journey as soon as possible.

It is not a new sport as people have been competing in the climbing field more many years.

You can learn the rules of sport climbing to start your journey.


Table of Contents
What Is Sport Climbing
What Is Sport Climbing?

What Is Sport Climbing?

Sport climbing is a type of rock climbing. In sport climbing, the climber uses fixed hooks placed on the rocks for extra precaution. A rope is then tied to the climber and clipped into the hooks to stop a fall. 

If you are going for shorter heights, a crash pad will be situated on the surface for protection.

Sport climbing differs from traditional climbing, which requires climbers to put detachable anchors as they ascend. 

Sport climbing is similar to rock climbing in that it is performed using permanent bolts that allow the clipping of ropes to protect the climber from falling.

Unlike traditional climbing, sport climbing does not involve the use of removable protection.

In fact, it encompasses almost four different climbing techniques, such as lead climbing, top-roping free solo, and deep-water solo.

Again, sport climbing doesn’t trail traditional climbing routes where anchors are put on naturally existing cracks.

Instead, it works with straight crags.

The point of not clipping in protection but using already installed protection allows the different styles involved.

Why Is It Called Sport Climbing?

The sport climbing got its name because it is more sporty.

The climber cannot rest on the rope.

Physical strength and technique are crucial for winning.

One cannot climb a wall and name it sport climbing.

You have to follow some rules in this case.

It is essential to use protective equipment during sport climbing.

One person has to work as a belayer.

He has to adjust the movement of the rope to ensure you do not fall.

The belayer will allow the rope movement if the climber needs some space.

In the case of a fall, he will use the device to stop the movement of the rope.

It will protect the climber in sport climbing.

The climber has to fix the rope in quickdraws to enhance safety.

Quickdraws are not fixed loosely to the wall. It is essential to fix them to the wall with bolts.

The presence of bolts will ensure you get maximum safety in sports climbing.

It is also one of the major differences between traditional and sports climbing.

Quickdraws are not attached to the climbing wall with bolts in traditional climbing.

Traditional climbing professionals avoid using bolts during climbing.

The belayer plays a crucial role in sports climbing as climbers are not allowed to rest.

They cannot take support from the bolts on the wall.

The belayer will ensure the climber does not have a tight rope, as it may disqualify him.

The Disciplines of Sport Climbing 

Lead climbing is a team play, with an individual climbing first, and a belayer who manages the rope while the climber ascends.

It is similar to what people see on the indoor recreational wall, but it is more challenging. 

Climbers have 360 seconds to reach the highest point on the 45-meter rock.

Should there be ties, they will be broken based on how quickly one climbs the provided routes. 

On the other hand, in bouldering, there is a sequence of four routes that climbers have to complete in 240 seconds.

There are tons of difficulties, such as when climbers have to climb themselves up on a vertical and inverted wall while griping on bolts that are small and designed for fingertips. 

Again there is a mental challenge.

You are not supposed to see the wall before the competition starts.

So every decision on the route you decide to take has to be quick.

Climbers gain points for getting to each peak and receive half points for reaching other zones further up the walls.

Lastly, as with speed climbing, the arrangement is straightforward.

Two climbers compete against each other up a 15-meter wall studded with climbing holds.

The first one to get on top becomes the winner. 

Sport Climbing Terms

  • Clipping. There are two actions in this category. Clipping is the term used to fix the rope in the quickdraws. Fixing the quickdraw in the hanger is also known as clipping.
  • Bolt. This term is for the entire piece fixed on the wall to place the rope or quickdraw. The bolt setup consists of a metal rod. Climbers fix it to the climbing wall with glue. Some also fix the bolts using a drilling machine.
  • Beta. A climber has to imagine the route to the top of the climbing wall. Some climbing walls have only one route. The climbers have to think before starting the climb. The planned route to the top of the climbing wall is known as the beta.
  • Hanger. It is the part of the bolt that allows the quickdraw attachment to the bolt setup. This piece protruding from the wall is the hanger, as you can attach the quickdraw. Sometimes a part of the bolt can act as a hanger also when the bolt is fixed to the wall with glue.
  • Flash. It is also known as onsight and redpoint. It is the way you climbed the route. Climbers can use this word to tell others about the excellent climbing skills of another climber.
  • Anchor. Anchoring is an act of making a point using the trad gear or bolts. It is essential, usually to the lower side or belay form.
  • Carabiner. The climbing carabiner is an oval-shaped metal ring with an option to open and attach it to other things. You can also get them with screw-shut options from the market. It has a high strength to avoid breaking.
  • Quickdraw. A climbing quickdraw is a setup of two carabiners attached to a strong rope. One of these carabiners attaches to the hanger. The other attaches to the lower end.

How Does Sport Climbing Differ from Other Forms of Climbing?

Sport climbing is done using permanent anchors fixed on the climbing path, whereas other forms, such as bouldering, do not use fixed anchors.

On the other hand, traditional climbing requires setting the anchors themselves as they move along the climbing route.

Forgoing anchor insertion means that one solely relies on gymnastics and physical abilities rather than a technical approach.

How Is Sport Climbing Different from Traditional Rock Climbing?

Climbers carry all their protection and gear on traditional routes and rig it as they go, rather than following bolted and pre-set routes. 

Additional equipment, technical expertise, and a considerably higher emphasis on technique over sheer talent are required in sport climbing.

Generally, sport climbing is more obsessed with physical difficulties than the mental challenge found in trad climbing.

Sport climbing also forgoes the need to clamp protection along the climbing path as you move.

Additionally, that implies that a sort of climber only follows the track with clipped protection, unlike a trad climber who needs to find his route.

Trad climbing is done outdoors with no bolts, while sport may be done in a climbing gym or outdoors.

What is the Difference between Sports Climbing and Top Roping?

While top-roping, the rope is passed from the mountaineer to an anchorage at the climb’s summit and then returned to the belayer.

The belayer, in this case, has to protect the climber from falling. 

Their harness is equipped with a belay device.

As the rope passes through this apparatus, the belayer belays and locks it either with slack or even tightly.

During a fall, tightening it will protect the climber. Slacking it, on the other hand, allows the climber to move further. 

On the contrary, the rope is not already fixed on anchoring above the summit.

As for lead climbing, the climber uses a rope attached to harnesses.

He hooks it on bolts spaced a few meters on the climbing route. 

A belayer, in this case, will release the slack and allow you to move forward while clipping into protection.

During a fall, the belayer can stop you from falling by locking the belay device.

Sport Climbing vs. Trad Climbing vs. Aid Climbing

Trad and Aid climbing involves a leader and a follower climber.

It takes more time to cover one route through the aid climbing method.

The leader has to place supporting gear on different cracks on the wall.

He can take some rest from the climbing during this time.

The follower climber can use the same support gear to take a rest.

  • Aid Climbing is not like sport climbing because the climber uses a hammer to make holes in the climbing wall. He uses a hammer as a support to climb to the top.
  • The trad climbing does not involve fixed bolts on the wall. Climbers can use temporary support systems on the wall to increase safety.

Lead Climbing vs. Top Roping

Lead climbing depends on one expert climber as he has to climb with many carabiners or quickdraws.

The climber has to clip his quickdraw to the hanger as he climbs to the top.

He has to do it many times as climbing to losing distances without clipping can increase the chances of injury in the case of falling.

This technique has a leading person.

He can fix the bolts in the wall as he goes to the top.

If the bolts are already in place, he can fix the quick draw to the bolts as the climbers below him will use the other ends of the quickdraws to climb to the top safely.

Top roping is another way to climb the wall if you are not in the lead climbing position.

People with less experience always use the top roping position to climb the long walls.

Someone in the lead climbing position will set the rope for you.

You can fix your belt to these carabiners from the quickdraws lead climber set for you.

People try to go to the lead climbing position after getting some experience.

How Does Sport Climbing Differ from Bouldering?

The distance between sport climbing and bouldering is the same from the foot of the climb to the top.

It’s also depicted in the form of protection used.

Bouldering uses no ropes or even crash pads.

While you only climb 13-15 feet when bouldering, in sport climbing, you will have to go more than 30 meters above the ground.

Indoor vs. Outdoor Climbing Differences

Indoor climbing is easier because indoor climbing gyms want to help people climb safely.

You will find quickdraws attached permanently to the bolts on the climbing walls.

There are easy ways to come down from the indoor climbing walls as they have burly carabiners.

It will help you come down to the ground safely.

Some gym owners make wall climbing easy at the lower part to ensure people get some motivation.

You will find something to clip as there are many quickdraws nearby.

It makes indoor climbing easy and safe.

The lead climber has to place the quickdraws on the route for the top roping climbers.

If the lead climber does not have more experience, top roping climbers are at risk.

It is essential to find strong rocks with perfect shapes to place the bolts or quickdraws.

All these parameters can make outdoor climbing harder and more dangerous.

Experienced climbers can make it look easy due to extensive experience in outdoor climbing.

Climbing on the Yosemite wall is one of the difficult types of outdoor climbing.

Is Top Roping Sport Climbing?

Most experts classify top roping as the sport of climbing because it uses the same methods to protect the climbers.

It is easy to do top roping in indoor settings.

Many climbers do the top roping for fun because they can spend more time on the climbing wall.

A person in the lead climbing position will make most of the efforts for the climber in the top climbing position.

People usually related the sport climbing and lead climbing.

Is Speed Climbing Sport Climbing?

We cannot classify speed climbing in the domain of sport climbing.

Speed climbing is a separate field as it is part of the Olympics also.

You will see more speed climbing experts in the Russian area as they use it to challenge each other on the climbing walls.

People also want to make a speed record in the different types of climbing.

Athletes always try to beat other athletes’ records when climbing the Yosemite wall.

When Did Sport Climbing Start?

Sports climbing started in the 1970s.

People who ask what is sport climbing also ask about the starting date of this sport.

Before the 1970s, people were climbing outdoor walls by placing temporary bolts.

Some of them thought it unethical to fix permanent bolts on the routes as it makes it less interesting for the climbers coming in the future.

It changed in the 1970s as people started accepting sport climbing as a major sport.

Repealing also changed the way people came down from the elevation.

More people want to join this sport because it is part of the Olympic games.

Sport Climbing in the Olympics

If a climber wants to win the sport climbing competition in Olympics, he has to score more points in all three disciplines.

There are three games in the Olympics.

These are Bouldering, Speed Climbing, and Lead Climbing.

All these games are part of sport climbing.

When someone asks what is sport climbing, you can tell them about the three disciplines.

The best way to win was to get high points in all parts because judges had to multiply these points to get the results.

Climbing sport is expanding as Olympics 2024 will have different medals for each of these domains.

It is a positive sign for all these sports.

We can consider that more people will come towards sport climbing because top athletes in this field are inspiring many others.

How to Better Understand Sport Climbing? 

Before you can climb a sport route, you have to evaluate if it’s possible to use.

If the route you choose has no bolts in place, you can use a hand drill to install them. 

A good number of sport climbing locations offer single-pitch climbs.

The term “pitch” refers to a long climbing route protected by long, strong rope, typically 65-70 meters.

Multi-pitch sport routes are also popular, particularly in areas with massive cliffs like Yosemite, and require the hiker and belayer to ascend the cliff by a pitch while tethered to the rock.

Sport climbing is quite a straightforward process.

The rope between the two climbers is only a few meters long.

The climber and belayer join their ropes together. 

The climber ascends the route by clipping into bolts scattered sporadically up the wall that anchors for fall prevention.

With the help of belay gear, the belayer can physically stop a climber from falling.

Which Equipment Should You Have for Sport Climbing? 

As a sport climber, you should be aware of the equipment required for your sport.

There are many types of climbing, and each has its own gear.

Some climbers use only their hands and feet to reach the top of a rock while others will use both their hands and feet to reach the top.

Sport climbing is a very challenging and demanding sport.

However, it doesn’t require any specialized equipment.

If you’re set on taking up the sport of climbing, then there are a few pieces of equipment that you will need to purchase before the first time you hit the rocks.

1. Rope

There are two varieties of climbing ropes, dry-treated and non-dry.

The more costly dry-treated rope will resist water absorption when stuck in a downpour or even climbing during the snow. 

Again, it has to be dynamic and not static.

As such, it has to stretch whenever it’s weighted. 

2. Harnesses 

Sport climbing harnesses are usually lightweight and sleek as well, yet they contain cushioning to cushion repetitive falls. 

To accommodate the weight and enhance movement, the design is generally slimmer, with fewer gear rings.

3. Climbing Shoes

Since sport climbs are typically short and challenging, climbers frequently choose aggressive shoes with a downturned form and thin, adhesive soles that offer the legs a great feel. 

Downturn forms position the feet in a powerful and forcing stance, albeit at the expense of a bit of comfort, for stepping on tiny holds. 

If you are a beginner climber, you could choose neutral climbing shoes that are easy to put on and take off.

For instance, hook-and-loop strap footwear is popular among sport climbers for easy entry and exit during and after climbing. 

If you are an experienced climber, you can take a look at our sport climbing shoe collection.

4. Quickdraws

Quickdraws are pre-attached carabiners and sling sets.

They usually feature a two-gate carabiner, one that’s bent and one that’s straight.

The latter is used to clip the bolt, but the bent gate makes it simpler to clip in the rope.

Read our guide on how to choose the right rock climbing quickdraws and how many quickdraws do you need for sport climbing.

5. Climbing helmet

If you are doing outdoor sport climbing, you must wear a helmet.

Not only will it protect your head from falling rock and debris, but it will also cushion your head should you fall.

Helmets will not be used at a climbing gym as it is a controlled setting.

A helmet has to fit your head comfortably.

It should not be tight, and it has to lay flat on your head.

Helmets feature a rugged, long-lasting protective shell and an internal strapping system comprised of the harness, headpiece, and chin straps.

To safeguard your head against top and side blows, all helmets purported for climbing must be in line with the Union Internationale des Associations d’Alpinisme and European Committee for Standardization requirements. 

6. Belay device

You must understand belaying fundamentals, such as using a simple latching carabiner and an ATC device

Combining these gears effectively ensures that the belayer will be practical in stopping the climber during falls.

Consider upgrading to an auto-locking belay device after mastering the basic belay arrangement. 

7. Belay gloves and glasses

Use rappelling gloves to keep your hands safe from rope burns when belaying.

You can buy sophisticated, costly belay gloves, but a strict set of leather gloves will suffice. 

Belay glasses will help you avoid neck strains from gazing up at the mountaineer.

It functions as a car side mirror and directs your sight upwards. 

Is Sport Climbing Single-pitched or Multi-pitched?

The majority of people associate sport climbing with single-pitch routes with sport climbing routes.

Sport climbing routes typically consist of one pitch – depending on the route, climbers ascend to fixed anchors using natural grips on the wall.

And they are belayed from the ground by a partner. 

Even though traditional multi-pitch routes are associated with traditional climbing, multi-pitched bolted sport climbing routes are still used in bouldering. 

Can You Do Sport Climbing Solo?

It is feasible to sport climb solo, but it is neither safe nor straightforward. 

You must be reasonably skilled and have a few essential pieces of equipment and the expertise to utilize them effectively.

If you are just getting started, it gets risky.

How Do I Begin with Sport Climbing?

Sport climbing, unlike traditional climbing, requires the climber to have a good and proper mastery of climbing knowledge. 

There are likely to be climbing gyms in your area that offer taster sport climbing sessions and guidance.

This is the perfect starting point as you will be in a controlled setting with other competent teachers who can guide you well.

Start by mastering the basics of top-roping, and then work on your abilities.

After a couple of days, you can commence lead climbing, which your gym climbing instructor can also train you. 

And If you’re heading outside for the first time, obtaining a guide or going to a gym outdoors session will suffice.

If you are curious to learn more about rock climbing, we recommend reading our guide about deadpoint climbing.

What are the Dangers of Sport Climbing?

  • Ankle breakages. If you fall improperly while climbing, you may twist your ankle or break it or sprain it.
  • Falling wrong can cause bone breaks, muscles to pull, tendons to snap, and ligaments to tear or stretch.
  • Back injuries. Back injuries, too, are a result of improper falling.
  • Being fallen on by someone above can cause severe or minor injuries. 
  • Torn ligaments. When climbing, lots of pressure is put on your fingers. This may end up tearing your ligaments or tendons.
  • The equipment is not doing its job.
  • Hitting the wall with your head can cause a concussion or bruise.
  • Death. Silly mistakes may be fatal, especially when climbing outdoors. It occurs when you fail to check the strength of the anchors. Given that they detach from the rock, the rope won’t do you any good.

Is There a Risk of Injury with Sport Climbing?

Should you fail to land as needed, you may end up breaking your bones, tearing your ligaments, or, to a minor extent, getting muscle pulls.

If you topple off from a high vantage point and the anchors fail to secure you, severe injuries may be in order.

There is also a likelihood of your equipment failing to do its job.

Suppose a carabiner snaps. The results can be fatal.

What are the Techniques Used in Sport Climbing?

  • Edging. Use the rubber edge on your shoe to step on a hold. You rely on the big toe for stability.
  • Smearing. You have no foothold but depend on the contact between the rubber shoes and the rock.
  • Flagging. You counterbalance yourself by using one limb to redirect your weight. It shifts your body away from the rock and stacks it to one side.
  • Side Pull. These are simply held sideways. You balance yourself on these holds by shifting your weight and applying a counterforce.
  • Gaston. Gastons are the inverse of side pulls. Your grasp in a side pull is angled such that you draw inwards towards you. The Gaston is geared for a lateral force, but it necessitates a push-out rather than a draw-in. It looks like you are reaching out and opening an elevator door with your elbow extended and fingers pointed outward. Since all energy originates from the shoulders, Gastons can feel unsteady. However, adding this technique to your arsenal will help you break through the barricade.

What are Some of the Benefits of Sport Climbing?

  • Enhances your adaptability. There are a bunch of techniques involved in sport climbing. When mastered properly, they can help you adapt to any situation.
  • It puts your cardiovascular system to the test. Sport climbing is strenuous, so your pulse rate will be elevated the instant you set foot on the first foothold until you reach the summit. It can allow you to gain strength, lose fat, and improve the health of your cardiovascular system.
  • It has the potential to improve coordination. Since you must plan to reach the summit, sport climbing can improve your hand-eye coordination and enhance depth perception. Furthermore, since you must solve puzzles to reach the summit, sport climbing helps you improve your analytical and logical thinking skills, which can be applied to your daily life.

What are Some Safety Measures that Can be Taken to Minimize Risk in Sport Climbing?

  • Consistently ensure the carabiner is wholly inserted into the bolt’s hanger and not trapped on the front. A carabiner’s nose is insufficient to stop a fallen climber.
  • Attach the draw on the ropes to side the carabiner away from the route’s direction. Instead of facing into the wall, the gate will now face outwards. A gate facing the wall could theoretically open when pressed against the rock.
  • Ensure the rope isn’t back-clipped or Z-Clipped. When two routes are bolted close together, you clip the rope from one to the other by taking it from below the previous fast draw. A rope ascends to a bolt, then descends and climbs again. As a result, there may be more friction and competing forces in the system, leading to the center draw coming undone.

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About the author 

Brad

Brad is a professional climber in the discipline of traditional climbing. He often jokes that he can get a book to read during the long climbs. Of course, it always goes well with a good cup of coffee. Drinking coffee is his safer hobby.

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