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Rock Climbing

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Rock climbing today is recognized more as a sport than something that might be necessary to do. In times past, there were people who climbed rocks in search of shelter, in search of food, and to carve their name on Independence Rock on their way west to show not only their name but the date they passed here in search of a new life on the frontier. One of the earliest historical evidence of rock climbing was a Chinese watercolor that depicts men climbing rocks in four hundred BC. Rock climbing was not recognized as a sporting activity until the nineteenth century.

Today, rock climbing does not mean just climbing outdoors, but it is also an indoor sport as well with the invention of rock climbing walls in 1964 in the United Kingdom. The indoor climbing wall did not make its way to the United States until 1987. Today rock climbing walls are a popular attraction at many carnivals and festivals. There are even some schools that use an indoor rock climbing wall as part of their physical education programs.

Equipment Needed For Rock Climbing

Before you decide that you are going rock climbing there are some essential things that you need to have, even if you are just going rock climbing occasionally as a weekend hobby.

  • Ropes—you can purchase them at most sports stores. The single ropes will suit many conditions and will give the climber added safety. The type of rope you need depends on what style of climbing you are going to do.
  • Carabiners Carabiners are metal clips that have a spring and are very strong. The ones most preferred are the aluminum ones because they are lightweight. They also come in various sizes. They allow your rope to pass through the center and lock the rope into place so it does not slip out while climbing
  • Climbing harnesses—these can be found in a variety of styles such as the sit harness, which is worn at your hip area and gives added security. There is also a chest harness that used with other types of harnesses give extra support. To help a climber stay upright there is the full-body harness.
  • Belay devices—these are used to protect you if you fall and holds the ropes of the climber. It also allows you to stop or control the release of the rope.
  • Helmets—make sure that you choose one that is appropriate for the style of rock climbing you are going to be doing. The helmet will protect your head from any falling objects like rocks, weather-related dangers like icicles, and the impact should you fall.
  • Footwear—choosing the right footwear can assist in your performance and make your climb safer. Edging shoes will give more support when you find yourself putting more of your body weight on one toe. On thin footholds there are special shoes with a thin sole. Make sure that the shoe fits right in order to have a strong grip on any surface. Many of the shoes are padded with a vulcanized rubber sole so you can grip the rocks better.
  • Clothing—you want to make sure that your clothing is not only comfortable, but durable plus they do need to be more form fitting so they do not get in the way when you are climbing. Because you will be reaching and stretching they should be stretchy so you can move freely. You will also need belaying gloves, which will allow you to keep a tight hold on the rope and help prevent rope burn.

Styles of Rock Climbing

  • Conventional—this is the type where two pairs of climbers are connected with a rope and are climbing a vertical rock face putting in the protective gear like wedges as they go. Their rope is tied to these protective gears so if you should lose your footing the rock will prevent you from falling.
  • Sport rock—this is like conventional rock climbing, but with this type the protective gear like wedges are fixed permanently to the rock so the climbers do not have to take all that gear along and fix the protective gear into the rocks along the way.
  • Boulder—instead of climbing up cliffs you are climbing up boulders approximately ten feet or higher. This type of climb is done usually without ropes because the climb is not that high.
  • Ice—as the name implies you will be climbing frozen waterfalls and glaciers.
  • Free solo—it is like regular rock climbing, but you have no protective rope so if you should fall, you could have grievous injuries or even die.

Rock Climbing Techniques

If you are a novice rock climber it is advisable that you get some training and experience from a rock climbing school or an experienced climber. Almost anyone can enjoy the experience of rock climbing whether you are young, old, or middle age. In order for beginners to gain confidence, get experience and practice before they tackle the real thing is to start with indoor climbing walls.

When you are ready for your first climb, you should make sure that you do some warm up exercises because you do not want to get half way up the rock face and have cramps in your calves, or anywhere else. You should do some stretching exercises to limber up your arms and legs especially. Warm up exercises will also improve your flexibility and improve circulation so spend at least thirty minutes warming up.

A great skill that rock climbers should develop is to be able to look at the rock patch you plan to climb and visualize the route you are going to be taking. It can be a big help if you can identify the different toe and hand holds in the rocks. Take into consideration your weight, balance, reach, and strength when planning your moves for the climb.

You also need to have the ability to grip things with your fingers and toes. You do not want to find yourself holding tighter or squeezing more than you need to. Your forearms will tire out quickly if you are over gripping. Make sure that you are checking your grip every time you reach a spot. You also want to make sure that you have good balance because many times you will find yourself in awkward positions such as having your legs and feet far apart. When you make a climbing move be aware of your center of gravity. You should make sure that you are keeping your body as close to the wall as possible while using your arms for balance and your legs for carrying your weight.

Rock Climbing Exercises

The best exercises to help to choose are the ones that will help to increase your endurance, flexibility, and strength along with targeting the groups of muscles that are the key to this sport such as the muscles in your hands and legs. You need to make sure that you have enough strength to propel your body up the face of the mountains or cliffs. Your flexibility exercises need to include arms, legs, toes, and fingers exercises because these are the parts of your body that need to be the most flexible.

Two ways that you can increase your strength is to include resistance and weight training. Since your upper body is a major part of rock climbing you should include push ups, front raises, overhead presses, and chest presses. You can also include squats, lunges, and crunches. You can use running to help build up your endurance. Do dead lifts and chin ups to improve your grip strength. Flexibility exercises include any type of stretching exercises, including yoga.

Rock Climbing Safety

When you go rock climbing you want to make sure that you are doing it safely, especially if others are depending on you to keep them safe.

  • Make sure that the equipment you are using is in good working order and that it is of good quality. Check everything before putting it on. This includes your ropes, belay devices, and harnesses.
  • Have the right clothing, shoes, and helmet.
  • You should always have someone to go with you that has similar experience as you. The reason that you should not go alone is that if you fall you have no one to help you or call for help if you cannot.
  • Warm up before beginning your climb.
  • Pay attention to everything and everyone around you when you are climbing or belaying. Being inattentive could cause a serious accident, even death.
  • Have a cell phone in case of emergency.
  • Make sure that you have plenty of water because it is important to stay hydrated. You can also take some protein bars along if you become hungry especially if you are a diabetic.
  • Before you begin your climb let someone know where you are climbing.
  • Check the weather before you go.
  • Watch for any snakes, poisonous spiders, scorpions, or rodents that might like to reside in the crevices. If you encounter any do not provoke them, but stay calm and move away if possible.

Challenging Mountains For Rock Climbing Worldwide

These are the mountains for rock climbers who are very experienced in this sport. Many want to climb these mountains because they are not only very challenging, but can also be dangerous to climb. The difficulty level takes in factors such as the location, the terrain, the climate, etc. Some rock climbers train for many years in order to be able to climb the highest and most dangerous mountain peaks in the world.

The Top Five Most Challenging Mountains Worldwide For Rock Climbing

  • Mount Everest—this is the highest peak on Earth and is regarded as one of the most difficult and dangerous peaks to climb. There have been approximately two hundred deaths ranging from avalanches, ice collapsing, exposure, etc. There are two routes to climb this mountain peak, which include the north ridge from Tibet and the southeast ridge from Nepal, which is the easiest route. The height of this mountain peak is almost nine thousand meters
  • Annapurna—this is the first peak over eight thousand meters to be scaled and it was done in 1950. It also has the most deadly summits in the world and the death ratio is thirty-four percent compared to four percent for Mount Everest. Glacial architecture is why it is a challenging climb because the routes to the peaks have big ice cliffs.
  • Baintha Brakk—this mountain is also known as “The Ogre” because it is one of the toughest mountains to ascend. It has a lethal combination of steepness, its height above the local terrain, and the high altitude. It has a height of over seven thousand two hundred meters.
  • The Eiger—this is the most visible massif of the Bernese Alps and has a height of almost four thousand meters. The north face is the most difficult part to climb because of the diminishing ice fields, the risk of avalanches, and crumbling rocks. Rock climbers like to climb this mountain in the winter because the crumbling rock is strengthened by the freezing of the ice on it. Approximately sixty-four climbers have died since 1935. In German the north wall is referred to as “Mordwand” which means “murderous wall.”
  • K2—it also goes by the name “Mt. Godwin-Austin” and is the most technically difficult peak to scale and is the second highest peak in the world. It can be dangerous and deadly even if you take the simple route because you have to cross steep sections of rock, cross a glacier and seracs which can collapse at any time. It has a height of over eight thousand six hundred meters. In addition to the frozen composition of this peak the unpredictable weather is also a threat to the climbers.

In the United States, Mount McKinley came in at number ten and is the highest mountain in North America. It is considered a challenging and dangerous mountain because of its elevation, glaciers, avalanches, and location plus the fact that it has the greatest relief that rises approximately eighteen thousand feet above the plain that surrounds it. The mountain itself is only a little over six thousand meters.

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