With the explosion of the popularity of rock climbing, it would be difficult to imagine that this sport only got its official beginning less than a century ago.
The new-age climber may find himself cragging or indulging in indoor climbing, but the ancient trailblazers who led the way for us may never have fathomed how it has developed by leaps and bounds from a humble rock climbing origin.
Tracing the Earliest Beginning in Ancient History
If you dig into the history of rock climbing and details about who invented rock climbing, the first instance you will come across is a Chinese painting depicting ken climbing rocks dating back to 400BC. But such images are not found on the internet, and you cannot really rely on them.
Later in the 327BC, the troops of Alexander the Great deployed basic mountaineering techniques in the Sogdian Rock Conquest. He promised a reward to the person who was able to scale the summit with tent stakes along with flaxen cords for pitons. Read our guide on titanium vs. aluminum tent stakes.
While 32 out of 300 people who attempted the ascent died, the complete story is very remarkable and impressive. You can find records of the ascent in the history of Alexander the Great’s conquest by Arrian.
Preliminary Instances of Rock Climbing
People from across the globe have been climbing mountains and other high places for food safety and resources for centuries now.
Though settlements and planned villages at high altitudes can be found across countless locations and a large share of the population has always trudged their way to the hills and mountain tops, technical rock climbing, as we call it today, is a relatively modern phenomenon.
The earliest document of rock climbing dates back to 1492, but it was neither for fun nor for fame. And it was meant to fulfill a royal command. King Charles VIII of France ordered Antoine de Ville to climb a 300m high rocky tower situated at Mont Aiguille in France, known as Mont Inaccessible.
He employed techniques that were developed for sieging castles during the war. He deployed ropes and ladders to reach the summit and stayed there for six days, and built 3 Crosses as evidence of his ascent. And this feat was not repeated till 1834.
Even though such climbing has no value today, de Ville’s ascent has a significant place in the origin of rock climbing not only as a physical ascent but also as a paradigm shift in contemporary concepts centering on mountains.
One interesting fact related to rock climbing is that ice is considered rock in some of its forms.
Rock Climbing Starting to Take Form
It is quite obvious that the rudimentary efforts of mountaineering will eventually take the shape of modern sport. Since the sport involves the scaling of rock edifices, it also led to the development of the mountaineering faction. The similarities and differences between mountaineering and rock climbing are outlined in this guide.
According to the experts, it first took shape in the fag end of the 19th century as climbers started paying more attention to reaching the summit and focusing on the journey itself.
Scientific advances have also played an important role in the paradigm shift of attitudes towards recreational and sport rock climbing. It has now been considered an incredible form of self-entertainment, and researchers are paying close attention to the invention and evolution of new rock climbing equipment.
With the waning of the 19th century, various types of bolts and rocks ensured rock climbing safety. And mountaineers across the European countries geared up towards a new origin of rock climbing. Some of the notable areas regarded as the native land to rock climbing include:
- Great Britain: Many consider Great Britain the official birthplace of rock climbing as a sport since W. P. Haskett Smith is called the Father of Rock Climbing. He became a national marvel for his ascent to the Napes Needle in 1886. The achievements of Haskett Smith soon became a national marvel.
- Italy: In 1887, Georg Winkler received international acclaim for bringing the sport of rock climbing to Italy by scaling the Dolomites in Saxony. This action sparked the interest of the local people in the sport and aided its growth and development across Italy.
Mont Blanc was scaled for the first time in the late 1700s and is often called the birthplace of modern mountaineering. This summit has paved the way for some debate over the first few ascents, and it still sparks controversies today.
Climbing to the Roof of the World
Today, anyone knows that Mount Everest is the highest mountain in the world. Rising up to 8848m from the sea level, the magnificent mountain surges out of the Khumbu region of Nepal.
Although the evidence of region centering the mountain has been inhabited since 800BCE, the first records of the actual height of the mountain didn’t come out until 1715, when the Qing Dynasty of China commissioned a survey.
But the tallest peak of the world was quite unknown to the world for decades since the beginning of the British Great Trigonometric Survey of India held in 1802.
Presently, the smaller peaks around Mt. Everest are relatively unknown to the commoners around the globe. But various historical events on these peaks have succeeded in bringing the climbers to their edges and ultimately set up the stage for what has now become the hunger for reaching the top of the world.
And when it comes to who invented rock climbing in the Himalayas, George Mallory deserves special attention. Even though he never succeeded in making it to the summit, his disappearance on the mountain has shaped the legend for most of the last century.
Final Thoughts on the Origin of Rock Climbing
With more than 450 commercial climbing stations located in the United States and more opening across the world, rock climbing has its unique place among popular outdoor activities.
The recent growth of this sport has also led to the exertion of pressure on several outdoor zones along with land-access problems.
Even though one cannot just set out to discover another Everest, much of rock climbing focuses on the vast areas of the world that have not yet been systematically explored.
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Last Updated on February 27, 2023 by Roger