A Beginner’s Guide to Main Types of Climbing

For anyone who is new to climbing, finding the right type of climbing for their physique and requirement is not an easy matter. When they search online, about dozen types pop up with many confusing lingos. What should they choose: indoor or outdoor climbing?  Should they choose a type of climbing with ropes or go without them? What type is suitable for people who prefer going solo? In this article, we will cover some popular types of climbing for your reference.

1. Traditional Rock Climbing

1. Traditional Rock Climbing

Known as Trad climbing for short, this type of climbing can be performed solo or in a group.  The climbers carry ropes and other necessary gear for protection like nuts and hexes. Generally, they will try to go up a rock section by establishing climbing routes with their gear and removing them afterwards. They are not supposed to leave their gear (like nuts or hexes) on the rock surface.

This climbing type requires skills for finding the right routes and placing gear effectively. Self control is also an important skill to possess

2. Sport Climbing

  • Sport climbing is quite similar to trad climbing; however: the climbers make use of anchors (like bolts) that are fixed to the rock and quickdraws instead of removable safety anchors. This means the climbers must master the skill to find climbing routers and fix anchors; plus, they must perform cleaning to remove all the gear so that none will be left behind.
  • Sport climbing tends to be done in group and climbers need to practice belaying skill (basically one climber holds the safety rope for his partner).  When the anchors are fixed properly and belaying skill is done the right way, a climber is prevented from falling to the ground.
  • Unlike the trad climbing, sport climbing focuses on the strength and endurance of the climbers. They must improve their gymnast ability in order to master this sport.


Bouldering is completely different from trad and sport climbing. It is often done at the base of a cliff or large rock face and in a climbing gym where both natural and artificial boulders can be used.

  • For bouldering, climbers do not need the support of rope nor to perform belaying.
  • Generally, they just need minimal gear (sport shoes, chalk, and padded mat).
  • They need to perform series of moved called the boulder problems (routes) over a very modest height.
  • Unlike other types of climbing where the climbers aim to ascend the mountain, in bouldering, the climbers never climb at a high height but just several feet above the ground only and even if they fall, they have the support from the mats for safe landing.

A climber’s strength and techniques are what matter most.

3. Ice Climbing

ice climbing

For those who do not mind climbing on snow or ice, this is the one they definitely try. While there is indoor ice climbing training venues, this form of climbing is mostly performed outdoors. Obviously, it requires specialized equipment to deal with the cold and slipper surface like warm (and waterproof) clothing, mountain boots with good insulation, ice axes, and crampons.  They tend to use ropes also.

It is a must that climbers must learn to ice tool very efficiently or they will have trouble when climbing on difficult surfaces (like vertical ice surfaces).  There are different ice conditions to deal with so they climbers need to be well-prepared, whether the ice is soft or tough.

4. Solo Climbing

This is an ideal type of climbing for those who prefer going solo and enjoy the freedom its bring. Obviously, it is not recommended for beginners due to high risks involved: there is no protection gear and one else to belay or help. Once a climber falls, getting up is basically out of the question. The goal for solo climbers is mostly about reaching the summit, using whatever techniques they have.

5. Mountaineering

Are you the adventurous types and into walking/hiking also? If so, you may prefer mountaineering.  Like with solo climbing, it is not what beginners should jump into right away. Climbers will need to combine walking and climbing.

Lots of skills are required to perform climbing on both rock and snow/ice surface since there are more hazards to take care of.  Since mountaineering is often done in groups and can take days, a climber must know how to perform well individually and in a team. The mountain conditions are generally very extremely so survival skills are also necessary like cooking and applying first aid.

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