October 5, 2021

What Is Sport Climbing and What Gear Do You Need for Sport Climbing

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by Brad

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 cushion will be situated on the surface for protection. Sport climbing differs from traditional climbing, which requires climbers to put detachable anchors as they ascend. 

The most typical facets of sport climbing are lead climbing and top roping. However, free solo climbs without protection) are formidable. 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

Table of Contents
How to do Multi-Pitch Climbing

Facets of Sport Climbing 

Lead climbing is a team play, 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, bouldering 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 stanchions. The first one to get on top becomes the winner. 

Rock Climbing When Did it Started

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.

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.

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.

Edging in Climbing

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, hikers frequently choose vital to 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 beginning 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 shoes collection.

4) Quickdraws

Quickdraws are pre-attached carabiner 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 gear 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 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. 

Find a Climbing Partner

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 Sport Climb by 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 is Sport Climbing?

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.

How is Sport Climbing Different from Traditional Rock 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.

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.

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, 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.
  • 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 for 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.

When Did Sport Climbing Emerge as a Sport?

In the early 80s, Allen came up with a sort of climbing that involved top-down tactics, bolts, and hang-dogging equipment on physically demanding paths. The combinations amounted to sport climbing. As of September 2015, it was grouped in the same category as softball, surfing, and karate and was considered a sport for the 2020 Summer Olympics by the International Olympic Committee.

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.

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 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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