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Big Wall Climbing
Great adventure cruising information, ideas, and photos, written by adventure cruising experts.
Climbing info, ideas, and photos
Climbing is the art and technique of moving up the faces, ridges, and slopes of mountains, cliffs, boulders, glaciers, and artificial walls.
While much climbing is done using ropes and gear to protect from long fall, certain genres of climbing, including bouldering and free-soloing, eschew conventions of using ropes for the freedom and challenge of climbing without gear.
Different disciplines of climbing have evolved, including the following:
Mountaineering or Alpine Climbing (mostly interchangeable): Climbing on mountains as opposed to crags, usually involving and ice ax and crampons. Mountaineering can be done either with ropes or without, and in the case of climbing on snow, is often more safely done un-roped.
Trad Climbing or Free Climbing (interchangeable): Climbing with the use of protection including pitons, and later cams, nuts from which the climber does not hang, but only relies on in case of a fall.
Aid Climbing: Climbing with the use of artificial protection from which the climber actually hangs, including, pitons, etriers, jumars, bashies, and bolts, and more recently removable nuts and cams.
Big Wall Climbing: Climbing on grade V and VI rock climbs, which often take a strong climber more than a day to complete, usually necessitating a bivouac.
Ice Climbing: Climbing on inclined, vertical, or even overhanging frozen waterfall or glacier ice.
Sport Climbing: Climbing with reliance on pre-drilled or placed protection. Sport climbers often rappel a route and place expansion bolts and other protection, sometimes using battery operated drills, before even attempting it.
Free Soloing: Climbing on crags and big walls without ropes.
Speed Climbing: Climbing in which climbers climb routes, often big walls, in record time using techniques like simul-climbing.
Bouldering: Climbing without ropes on large boulders.
Mixed Climbing: Climbing in which ice climbers use their ice tools and crampons on both rock and ice
Mountaineering: Climbing on mountains as opposed to cliffs or crags or boulders.
Rock Climbing: Climbing on rock in one of several possible contexts, sport, trad, or bouldering, for example.
Indoor Climbing: Climbing indoors in gyms.
Alpine Style Climbing: Climbers move their camp as they climb, rather than rely on a series of stocked camps to which they can retreat.
Climbing is an activity as old as time, but progress in the modern era of climbing has consistently been through technical innovations.
In the 1860's, the advent of relatively light braided ropes and crude ice axes gave climbers in Europe the courage to tackle some of the most prominent peaks on the continent. In 1863 the climbing rivalry between British and Italian teams vying to summit the Matterhorn led to the world's first climbing disaster. After achieving the summit, a member of the roped British Team fell on the descent, leaving the group leader, Edward Whymper as the lone survivor of the first ascent. All of Europe was transfixed by the story.
While, early climbing in the Alps was largely scrambling up low angle ridges and snow couloirs on the peaks, pitons, carabiners, and other newly-developed hardware helped teams to pioneer routes on the sheer cliff faces of the Alps. The most famous climb of the 1930's was the ascent of the notorious North Face of the Eiger, which claimed the lives of 9 before a team of Germans and Austrians pushed through to the top, making world headlines.
In 1953, after defeating climbing attempts for nearly 40 years, a New Zealander, Edmund Hillary, and a Nepali, Tenzing Norgay, summitted Mount Everest with the aid of supplemental oxygen and help of crampons, which allowed for secure footing on ice. Around this same time, groups of climbers in the U.S. began climbing the sheer rock walls of Yosemite, in CA, which culminated with the 47-day first ascent of the Nose Route on El Capitan in 1958 by a group led by Warren Harding, relying heavily on aid climbing techniques.
In the 1970's, while climbers would still climb big walls with long stretches of artificial aid, climbers increasingly climbed more difficult crags free, using removable nuts and camming devices which are quickly placed and don't scar the rock. Climbing also advanced through materials with alumninum ice axes, allowing ice climbers to venture out onto vertical waterfall ice for the first time.
In the 1980's, sport climbing developed. While this caused massive uproar with traditional or "Trad" climber, sport climbing allowed climbers to push their technique to the limit with less fear. The logical extension of this was the brilliant first free ascent of the El Capitan's Nose Route by Lynn Hill in 1993.
Climbing rapidly developed in the 1990's, splintering into even more forms of rock expression, including free soling, speed climbing, bouldering, mixed climbing, artificial wall climbing, and alpine style climbing.
Also, during the 1990's and beyond, the era of national expeditions "conquering" mountains out of patriotism gave way to pure capitalism, as climbing guides began leading commercial groups to the summit of Everest. The 1996 "Everest Tragedy" documented in Jon Krakauer's book Into Thin Air claimed 8 lives in one day. Most of the deaths were on commercially-guided trips.
The future? Bigger. Lighter. Higher. Bolder. Faster.
Climbing is a gravity sport. The less weight you're carrying, the better you'll often climb. It's sad to say but many climbers find themselves in a very real battle with anorexia. Check out this article on Climbing and Anorexia in the Indpendent.
Into Thin Air - John Krakauer
Mountain Project - The Premier Resource for the Climbing and Mountaineering Community
All you need to know about: rock climbing - The Guardian
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