Climbing in the Olympics

As you may have heard, climbing is now an Olympic sport. A far cry from dirt bags in Yosemite or sketchy barefoot climbing Eastern Europeans.

Climbing will be introduced in 3 forms: sport, bouldering and speed.

One of the more interesting of these forms is speed climbing. It’s interesting because it’s not nearly as frequently practiced recreationally as other forms. Sure, you may hear of the speed record on The Nose. However, The Nose speed record is often set by efficiency of climbing technique, not speed as it will appear in the Olympics.

For those who haven’t seen this type of speed climbing, it looks like this:

As such it may present a stumbling block for many other climbers and that is because competitors in the Olympics will be judged on their success in each of these categories. That’s right, you will not go to the Olympics to compete in Bouldering, but rather compete in all three.

What does this mean? Well, the difficulty is that this isn’t reflective of how most people climb. Most people will excel at one type of climbing. Mastery through specialization. This probably means that we may not see the best boulders, or best sport climbers competing for gold. To us, this is a bit of a shame.

However, we must think of the bigger picture and the bigger picture being painted here is of a fantastic sport that has been given a bit more of a spotlight. Really, it doesn’t matter if the format isn’t perfect – what matters is getting more people to know and love climbing.

Feature image by mike_fleming.


How to Start Climbing (Part 1)

Everyone knows climbing is totally badass. Climbers often describe the process the process of learning to climb as actually just remembering how much fun it is to climb things – we knew it as children.

The process of getting into climbing, however, can be quite daunting: complex gear, many different styles and dealing with heights and falls.

The truth is, today in most places climbing is extremely accessible and you can start with very little gear, knowledge and still be comfortable with your safety.

Really the best advice to start climbing is: just start.

First Things First: The Shoes

A pair of rock shoes are the only piece of gear you actually really need to climb. Just ask Alex Honnold.

Rock shoes are tight-fitting, thin shoe with a smooth rubber sole. Most climbing gyms insist you wear them. Most climbing gyms also usually offer shoe hire, meaning you don’t need to purchase a pair for yourself right away. However, the quality of gym shoes is usually pretty low and you will find climbing much easier if you buy your own.

Indoors Bouldering

A Bouldering Wall
A Bouldering Wall photo by Kumpei Shiraishi

Bouldering is a style of climbing done on low-height walls over a thick padded floor. As such, you do not need a rope or a harness. Bouldering climbs are usually shorter and stronger: they focus on an explosive use of power, as opposed to a long wall climb.

Bouldering can be an excellent way to get into climbing as you don’t need a partner, can spend more time on the wall during a climbing session, requires little gear and bouldering will force you to develop good technique from the start.

Google bouldering gyms in your area and just show up!

Getting on a Rope: Top-Roping

Toproping in a Gym.
Toproping in a Gym. Photo by Peter Stevens

Do you want to get higher? Top-roping is an easy way to learn larger climbs in a gym setting. For this you will need climbing shoes, a climbing harness and (most likely) a carabiner. Again, all these items can usually be hired from a climbing gym.

Top-roping requires a partner to belay you as you climb. Belaying is the process of taking up the slack so if the climber falls, they won’t fall far. The belayer is responsible for catching them. Most gyms introduce friction into the top-ropes, making belaying simple and quite safe. Gyms will usually run an induction session with you if it is your first time. You shouldn’t need to undertake any courses or have any knowledge, prior to going climbing for the first time.

If you don’t have another person to climb with check the gym notice boards, or ask about local facebook groups. Usually, there are many people looking for climbing partners. Also, more and more gyms are introducing auto-belay systems, where you can top-rope without a partner.

The holds and routes on bigger walls are “easier” than those you may find bouldering, but the endurance (mental and physical), and the act of climbing at height make bigger walls just as challenging: just in a different way.

Top-roping and bouldering will give you all the skills you need to have a solid foundation in climbing.

The Bouldering Shirt

Some say the bouldering shirt doesn’t exist – that boulderers are actually shirtless, but these people fail to see the nuances of fashion. So, in this post we examine the pros and cons of the bouldering shirt.

A sport climber rocking the bouldering shirt
A sport climber rocking the bouldering shirt (image by Paul Savala)


-Ultra lightweight
-Get to show off your guns
-Unlimited Range of motion
-Really get in touch with nature

-Body hair getting pinched by rope/biners
-Have to show off your scrawny arms
-Freezing in winter
-Sunburn in summer
-Get too in “touch” with nature – cuts and scrapes everywhere
-Nothing to rip off in manly display of celebrating sending
-Can’t show off your amazing fashion sense

Clearly, we can see cons have it. So, here at Clombing we say go for a shirt (big surprise there, hey?). What do you think?


Feature image by Clark Weber.