Climbing or the gentle art of falling up at first glance seems to fit nearly into that category of ‘what the f*$k’ or alternatively ‘hey lookie at that fun!!’, depending of course on your level of personal chutzpah (Defined as the quality of a person who can murder both parents then plead for mercy , because their an orphan). Simply put the answer is that climbers are different; special people with special needs and drives that other mere mortals can barely comprehend much less appreciate.
All that aside climbing of course doesn’t and couldn’t appeal to everyone some people can just never see the point or upon trying it discover that it just doesn’t do anything for them. For those however that catch the climbing bug, it tends to become a lifestyle more than anything. You can generally pick climbers in the club by just watching how they touch walls, or window frames, and stand in the middle of rooms moving their arms almost like a mime artist as they work out in their minds how this or that could be climbed.
Can I climb ?
Of course you can, there’s all different flavors of climbers big, small, tall, fat, thin, male, female and ambiguous. Of course it does help to be a little on the fit side, and a minuscule amount of flexibility but hey, its mostly mental anyway so who cares what your body thinks, just pretend you’re the little red and think you can (This being the little red engine that thought he could and did). Think hard enough and you can even drown out other people’s laughter derisive or otherwise.
Types of climbing
Soloing, the most basic and purest of the climbing forms, one doesn’t even need a rope because of course there’s no need to hang oneself. One itty bitty slip and well let’s just agree it’s going to HURT!, a lot. Soloing involves climbing without any kind of protective gear at all, shoes are advisable but not compulsory. To solo one must have a high chutzpah index and more than a little self confidence mixed with just a dash of INSANITY (stupidity really but insanity sounds so much more user friendly).
Top roping, this is where most of YOU come into the glorious sport of rock climbing, all the hard work is taken out and all that is required from you is a little effort to haul your rounded ass to the top. This is the mainstay of indoor climbing and introductory outdoor climbing. For the most part top roping is safe.
Lead climbing, the only way to truly claim a climb at the grade given is if one leads it. Leading is FUN!, remember that when your 40m off the deck, legs shaking and a light drizzle has just started, your last piece is 5m’s down, (Being 5m above your last piece of gear equates to a 10m fall - the equivalent of a 3 story building (included for educational purposes only) a dodgy cam, and over and over in your head the word f#%k! is being repeated.
Lead climbing is climbing whilst placing one’s own protection, as much or as little as the person climbing believes they need. The protection consist of little metal thingies called wires or rocks or nuts, which are basically metal wedges that hopefully when you fall jam (wedge) into the crack you put them in. In addition to wires the other staples or protection consist of slings wrapped around things and cams, high tech devices, (this is where that derisive laughter comes in) that are great fun to play with.
Bouldering, there’s some contention over whether this activity is climbing or not. Bouldering is a form of climbing where the objective is generally either to go up or across using a given sequence of moves that is generally HARD to link together. Problems are usually less than 3m in height and can be any horizontal length. No rope is involved, and as the difficulty increases the nasty fall index increases. A big rubber mat is recommended, if not a good friend to fall on.
Note: this article originally appeared in Autumn 99 Crapon and then in the Autumn 02 Crapon. No changes except fixes to grammar and spelling.