What types of climbing are there?


There are quite a few types of climbing out there and sometimes it can be a bit confusing trying to understand it all. Hopefully this will explain some of it for you.

Indoor bouldering: plastic holds are put on the walls. People climb without ropes or harnesses. It’s just your shoes, chalk and a mat to land on. Grades vary between bouldering walls (they’ll have different colours for different grades routes - either tags on the starting holds or will use different coloured holds) uses grades VB - V15.

Outdoor bouldering: there’s a boulder. You climb it. Same rules: no ropes, no harness. Just shoes, chalk, a mat (but this time you move it to where it’s needed), and spotters. Probably worth mentioning what font is (and font grades) -uses V grades or more often “font” grades named after a popular outdoor bouldering location in France called Fontainbleau.

Indoor sport: Similar to indoor bouldering with plastic holds on the walls but the routes are longer and there are bolts on the walls. You can top rope (a rope is already in place) or lead a route (leading is putting the rope up as you go). What you need: Ropes, harnesses, shoes, chalk, belayer. Uses sport grades 1 - 9b+ (see grade conversion chart at the end of this blog).

Outdoor sport: This is the most common type of outdoor climbing in european countries like france and spain. Bolts are put into the rock. You climb it with ropes, harness, shoes, chalk, belayer (same as indoor sport but outdoors). Uses the same grades as indoor sport.

Trad (or traditional) climbing: This is outdoor climbing with no bolts, you go up placing your own gear (also called protection) and ropes. The leader belays from the top and the belayer (often called the second) goes up second (hence the name) and takes out the gear that was put in. Uses descriptive grades that were once based on a victorian walk in hobnail boots.

Alpine climbing: we don’t do this as a club but some people in the club have dabbled in it. It involves the same climbing equipment as trad but also involves SNOW, crampons, iceaxes and icescrews. This type of climbing comes with its own grading system too.

DWS (deep water soloing): again, we don’t do this as a club but some people in the club have dabbled in it. It’s outdoor climbing without ropes or harness but above the deep water. There are extra considerations to take when doing this such as tides, season, water temperature, and hidden rocks. This uses sport grades but often has S grades which tell you how safe the climb is depending on the tides.

To attempt to give some kind of comparison between grades, Rockfax have made these grade conversion tables which might help.