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Traditional Climbing

Traditional or trad climbing is all about adventure, about climbing from the bottom to the top of a cliff and using only what the rock gives. Learn about trad climbing skills, including gear, how to place cams, leading trad routes, climbing strategies, climbing safety, and how to climb cracks and big walls.

Traditional Climbing is Adventure Climbing
Traditional or trad climbing is all about adventure. Trad climbing is starting at the base of a cliff and climbing to the top, placing your own equipment for protection, creating belay anchors, finding the best route, and having a great adventure. Learn more about traditional climbing skills and how it differs from sport climbing

Your Personal Trad Climbing Gear
Here's all the personal equipment that you need to go trad climbing with a buddy, including rock shoes, climbing harness, belay device, locking carabiners, personal anchor system, and a climbing helmet. Also shop and buy all the guide-recommended climbing gear you need.

Your Basic Trad Gear Rack
What do you need to buy to build a basic rack of equipment for traditional climbing? Here are my suggestions for starting to build your trad rack, including cams, nuts, slings, and carabiners.

Racking Gear for Trad Routes
Once you've decided what climbing equipment you're going to carry on a route, you need to organize it so that the gear is easy to reach and in a systematic order. Learn here how to properly rack climbing gear on a gear sling for trad climbing.

Rack Equipment on Harness Gear Loops
It's easier to rack your climbing equipment, including cams, nuts, and quickdraws, on the gear loops on your harness rather than on a gear sling carried over your shoulder. Learn here why it's easier much of the time to rack gear loops and how to efficiently rack your cams and nuts so you can quickly grab the right piece when lead climbing.

Rack Cams & Carabiners to Save Weight
How you rack your cams on your gear sling depends on the type of route you're climbing. Learn here if you should rack cams on their own carabiners or double them up and how to save weight on big racks of cams by using ultralight carabiners. Go light or go on a diet!

All About Nuts, Chocks, Wired Nuts, and Micro Nuts
Nuts, also called wired nuts, chocks, artificial chockstones, and micro nuts, are essential pieces of climbing equipment. Nuts are simply small pieces of metal that are wedged and slotted into cracks. A climber then attaches a rope or a knot to the nut with a carabiner, creating a solid and secure anchor. Find out all about nuts, what they are,...

All About Spring-Loaded Camming Devices
Spring-loaded camming devices (SLCDs) are essential pieces of climbing equipment for your rock adventures. Cams are placed in cracks for protection while you're leading or for belay anchors. Find out more about cams, what they are, how they work, why they're easy to place, and which ones you should buy.

10 Tips to Place Cams
Spring-loaded camming devices or SLCDs are an important part of your rack of climbing gear. While cams are easy to place, they are only safe and secure if you place them correctly. Learn how to place camming units; which cracks are best for cams; why you use quickdraws on cams; why cams aren't great for top-rope anchors; and how to remove stuck...

How to Remove Stuck Camming Devices
Spring-loaded camming devices or cams are expensive pieces of climbing gear that can get stuck in cracks on routes. Learn tips and tricks and how to remove stuck cams, including using a nut tool and wired nuts, how to analyze the cam placement, and the reasons that cams get stuck in cracks.

10 Tips to Place Better Nuts
Nuts, pieces of metal wedged into cracks, are an essential piece of climbing gear that protect you while leading a route or creating belay anchors. While nuts are easy to place, you need to learn to find the right crack, evaluate the placement, and set the nut by jerking it. Learn how to place great nuts by following these 10 important nut tips.

Routefinding: An Important Climbing Skill
One of the most important climbing skills is routefinding, the ability to find your way up a cliff by following features including cracks, corners, and slabs as well as bolts and fixed belay stations. Learn why routefinding is important and how to find a route on the cliff before you start climbing.

Big Wall Climbing and Training Tips
You want to climb a big wall in Yosemite or Zion? Here's everything you need to know to prepare yourself for the hardest but best climb of your climbing career, including how to get in shape, improve your aid and crack climbing skills, learn to create anchors and haul the pig, how to ascend ropes and clean pitches, and how to prepare yourself...

Use Climbing Hand Signals to Communicate
Voice or verbal climbing commands can be difficult in bad weather, wind, or above roaring rivers. Use line-of-sight to easily communicate with your climbing partner and use hand signals instead of words as climbing commands. Learn more here about climbing hand signals.

Six Rock Scrambling Skills
If you climb mountains then you have to learn basic rock climbing moves when you're scrambling over exposed rocky sections without a rope. Use six basic climbing skills to improve your scrambling and to stay safe in the mountains.

4 Ways to Descend Cliffs and Mountains
Once you climb to the top of a mountain or cliff, you need to get back down safely and efficiently. Climbers descend off cliffs and mountains in four different ways--hiking down, downclimbing, rappelling, and lowering. Learn more about the four types of descents and how to evaluate terrain for the proper descent.

5 Ways to Die Climbing
Climbing is a dangerous activity. The good news, however, is that most climbing accidents and deaths are preventable since they are caused by human errors. Learn about the 5 ways that most climbers die--lead climbing falls, loose rock and rockfall, solo climbing without a rope, rappelling, and in bad weather and lightning--and how to prevent becoming a climbing statistic by following basic safety tips and using good judgment.

All About Rappelling
Rappelling is a climbing technique that allows you to do a controlled descent down a rope from a cliff or mountain. Learn here all about rappelling and the essential climbing skills you need to learn to safely rappel.

Learn to Crack Climb
Crack climbing is the basic technique used by rock climbers to ascend or jam cracks in cliff faces. Learn what crack climbing and jamming is all about; types of cracks; and how to learn how to jam cracks.

Learn How to Hand Jam
Learn how to climb hand cracks (cracks the width of your hand) by using hand jams and good footwork. Hand cracks are the best cracks to learn how to crack climb since they offer tbe easiest and most secure jams.

Cracks Form Natural Climbing Routes
Cracks form natural weaknesses in rock faces that rock climbers ascend by jamming or wedging their hands, fingers, and bodies in the cracks. Learn about all the different sizes of cracks, how the difficulty ratings of crack climbs are body-size dependent, and how crack climbs are rated.

6 Tips for Better Climbing Footwork
How you move and place your feet and rock shoes while you're climbing is important to your climbing success. Efficiently foot placement, including watching you foot, placing your foot softly and quietly, and taking small steps is paramount to climbing well. Learn 6 tips about climbing footwork and you'll be climbing harder and higher.

How to Bivouac in Comfort
When you are climbing long routes in the mountains, there is often a good chance you will have to make either a planned or unplanned bivouac or primitive camp on your climb or on the descent. Learn what to carry for a planned bivouac so you can sleep in comfort and what to bring for an unplanned bivouac so you can survive the night.

Drink Liquids for Climbing Performance
It's important to stay properly hydrated when you're rock climbing, especially when it's hot outside. Learn how much you need to drink to stay hydrated and how to determine how much water to bring for a day of rock climbing.

Emergency Info Planner Card
Before you go climbing, fill out an Emergency Info Planner card and leave it with a family member or friend so that they know your climbing plans and when they should call search-and-rescue services if you're overdue home.

Illegal Climbing Bolts at the Garden of the Gods
A climber with a power drill placed 4 new bolts on a route at the Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs, setting off a fire storm among local climbers. The renegade bolts were chopped or removed and the holes filled in. Read more about illegal bolting and the ethical and environmental responsibilities that rock climbers have to preserve climbing freedoms at sensitive American climbing areas.

Aid Climbing Ratings
How do you rate aid climbs? Aid routes and aid climbing placements are rated differently than free climbing ratings. Learn all about the aid climbing and clean aid climbing rating system from A0 to the mythical A6 grade.

Learn How to Lead Climb
Lead climbing is when the first climber "leads" the way up a cliff, placing protection, finding the route, and establishing secure belay stances. Lead climbing is dangerous and risky but also challenging, rewarding, and lots of fun. Learn what lead climbing is; what skills are required for lead climbing, how to learn to lead routes; and why you need to step down in grades while learning to lead.

How to Pull Your Rappel Ropes Down
How to pull your rappel ropes after descending from a rock climbing route.

How to Safely Retreat from a Climbing Pitch
Learn how to safely retreat from a climbing route by lowering down from fixed equipment.

Carry 2 Climbing Ropes for Retreating Off Cliffs
It's best to bring 2 ropes--a thick lead rope and a thin trail rope--when you climb long routes and big walls. If you have to retreat off a route, it's easier to rappel down 2 ropes rather than single-rope rappel down. Read more about using ropes of different diameters for rappelling and retreating from rock climbing routes.

Climbing at the Garden of the Gods in 1914-Style
Early 20th-century rock climbers like Albert Ellingwood did scrambling routes, using natural protection and rudimentary belays. The North Ridge of Gray Rock at Garden of the Gods is a perfect old-style route that you can climb 100 years later like it's still 1914.

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