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Let's Go Sport Climbing

Skills to Be a Sport Climber


Eric Horst sport climbing at the New River Gorge in West Virginia, one of America's best climbing areas.

Sport climbing is safe, fun, and requires minimal gear.

Photograph © Stewart M. Green

Sport climbing is simply ascending rock faces using only your hands and feet (free climbing) with all of your protection being fixed bolts that are preplaced on a rock face. Sport climbing, like top-rope climbing, is all about the rewards of rock climbing with minimal risks. Sport climbing is about pushing the limits of your climbing ability in a generally safe setting, working on difficult moves, and then finally succeeding on hard routes. Sport climbing makes you a better climber. It’s a heck of a lot of fun too!

Sport Climbing Protection

Sport climbing offers a different challenge than traditional climbing where the lead climber places nuts and cams in cracks for protection when falling. In sport climbing all the protection already exists, placed on the rock face by the first ascent party who drilled holes in the rock, hammered bolts into the holes, and then attached a bolt hanger so a climber could hang a quickdraw and clip a rope into it for protection. This security allows climbers to ascend routes without having to carry and place removable gear. Instead sport climbers can attempt routes harder than their limits, pushing the envelope of the possible.

Needed Skills

After you’ve learned climbing and belaying basics in the gym and then gone outdoors and top-roped a lot of routes, you’re probably ready to try your hand at sport climbing. Out on bolted sport cliffs, you can learn about lead climbing and concentrate on practicing new techniques.

Besides being safe, sport climbing is also very practical.

  • Many bolted crags are close to cities and easily accessed.
  • Hiking approaches to the cliffs tend to be short and quick.
  • The bolt protection is already in place so you don’t have to carry a heavy pack laden with lots of gear.
  • You don’t need to spend a lot of money on gear since all you need is a rope, quickdraws, and your personal climbing gear—rock shoes, harness, belay device, and chalk bag.

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