Roped Climbing or There Are Other Ways to Climb Besides Bouldering
I’m diverging from bouldering for the next couple of articles. Shocker, I know. I’ll be covering roped climbing because there are more ways to climb in addition to bouldering. Besides, roped climbing is just as fun. Many techniques seen in bouldering are used for it too. The main differences are how much gear you need and you’re climbing higher routes too.
But the other reason I want to discuss this topic is because this weekend I will be attending an introduction to outdoor climbing class. The class is offered by Climb UP, the climbing gym I have regular sessions at. We’ll be at Mt. Scott in the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge in southwest Oklahoma. Contrary to popular belief, Oklahoma does have mountains. I am super excited to be attending the class and try outdoor climbing.
Now on to the good stuff, some of the types of roped climbing I’m talking about are:
I will be giving a brief overview of both types. Now, I know I am missing traditional climbing on my list. Trad is a big part of the climbing sport. However, when researching the subject, there’s so much information about it and would be incredibly hard to condense it all into one article. So, if you would like to learn more about any of these types, let me know and I can write a more in-depth article in the future.
Toproping is the most common type of climbing people will learn first, especially if starting in a gym. In Learning to Climb Indoors, by Eric J. Hörst, toprope refers to the rigging of a safety line that runs from the floor up through an anchor atop the climb, then back to the bottom. The climber hooks the rope onto his/her harness. This requires having someone belay you on the other end while you’re on the wall and having a Grigri or Air Traffic Controller (ATC) as a breaking device.
When I started climbing at Climb UP, I was taught to toprope first. You can read more about my learning experience with toproping from my article Learning the Ropes Part 2.
Out of the roped types, toproping is considered the safest one. What’s nice about toproping is your belayer is there to help stop your fall if you do. And you don’t have to worry too much about dropping very far (unless your belayer isn’t paying attention) unlike the other types.
Another thing about toprope I like is being anchored to the ground. I’m usually the lightest out of my climbing partners. Which means if I’m not hooked up to the anchor and the climber falls, gravity kicks in and I go up. Belaying for lead climbing makes this very interesting for me because I can’t be anchored. I’ll get to why that is soon.
From what I understand, the term “lead climbing” is an umbrella term for both sport and trad climbing. According to the Alpine Institute, lead climbing can used to gain the top without using a rope from above. The leader still uses a rope for protection, but she trails it behind her. This happens in sport and trad.
Sport climbing is when a climber ascends a route on a face that has been pre-equipped with bolts anchored into the rock or gym wall off the Types of Climbing webpage from Rock and Ice Magazine. While climbing, you clip a rope into a quickdraw for protection. Luckily, you do have a belayer at the bottom of the rope. The goal is to reach the top without falling or resting on any bolts, which makes sense.
Keep Your Head Up
A crucial point to make is if climbing sport, if you fall, the rope will catch at the last quickdraw you clipped in. So, if you do fall, it’s from a distance. Your belayer will stop you but the drop can be scary. It’s one of many things to be aware of with sport climbing.
Another point that’s related to falling is your belayer isn’t anchored during sport climbing. When climbing outside, there is no anchor. So, it’s the belayer’s job to be conscience of what’s going on with the climber in case he/she needs to brace themselves against the wall or rock face if there’s a fall. Gravity takes its effect on both the climber and the belayer in this situation. Both hopefully won’t knock into each other but the possibility’s there.
Gravity Works (So I Found Out)
I’ve learned this the hard way multiple times when belaying my friend Mack for lead climbing. Mack weighs a more than I do. So… I need to make sure when I’m belaying him, my feet are braced up against the wall so when I lower him, I don’t go up. If not, I will.
There was one session at Climb UP where I was belaying Mack and he was climbing an overhang route. He clipped in then went up a little. He warns me to watch him, so I do and brace myself. Because of the overhang, I can’t see him clearly. I honestly didn’t realize he wasn’t right at the quickdraw where he clipped. He falls and drops; the force shoots me upward.
I screamed so loud it sounded like bloody murder. Luckily, we didn’t collide before we finally stopped moving. Once I got my wits about me, I burst out laughing because of the ridiculousness of what happened. I gently released my death grip on the break and lowered myself to the mat. Then finally got Mack down too.
Note to self: it doesn’t matter if the route is a straight vertical or overhang, expect gravity to work on you and your partner in the case of a fall.
Wrapping It Up
To sum things up, I hope you enjoyed this switch to roped climbing. In my next article, I’ll express my expectations, hopes, and fears about the outdoor class. Until next time, happy bouldering!