Clutching at some minute piece of rock 60 feet up inevitably brings up the question of why the hell one would do this. For some, climbing is all about the thrill of the sport, the exhilaration of making what was impossible possible. For others, it’s about testing yourself, pushing yourself to the brink and then past it to find out just who you are. Still others just enjoy the fun of moving up above or the community, but whatever draws one to climbing, it is surely a sport that will not disappoint.
Climbing is generally recognized as being one big monolithic thing, yet it’s a multifaceted sport with many variations. Both indoor and outdoor climbing, the various forms, styles and difficulties all make this a sport that has something for everyone.
In climbing, the goal is, yes, to go up, but just how you go about that and how far makes all of the difference in the world. There are about five or so main variations of climbing that people recognize (two that we practice at SMCM), and each variant is differentiated by how safe it is and how you are protected. Many of you have seen the ropes that hang down from the climbing wall, and in this type of climbing, called “top-roping,” you are literally tied in to one side of the rope and your belay partner (the one who will catch you when you fall) on the other end. Your rope is attached to an anchor above you at the “top” of the climb, thus giving top-roping its name. Most climbs are between 20 and 130 feet high. It’s one of the safest avenues for the sport, as each fall you take is never a ground fall; you simply are caught on what could be described as a bungee.
“Bouldering” on the other hand is a sport sans rope. Every fall you take, you hit the ground, requiring the use of thick foam mats for protection. Bouldering usually only takes place up to about 15 feet for this reason, but the freedom of movement and the lack of gear makes it a favorite, if albeit more risky type, of climbing.
The difficulty of the climb is rated on a system based a range of criteria: the movement, how dangerous it is, how tough the holds are, how long, etc. The grading scale for bouldering is V-0 to V-16, where V-0 is the easiest and V-16 is basically impossible. For Top-roping there is a similar scale of 5.0 to 5.16 with 5.0 being the easiest and 5.16 being nigh- impossible.
For climbers, it’s not just about how hard a climb is. It is also about the environment and the community. As part of the climbing club, we do local crag clean-ups to help maintain our favorite outdoor climbing spots, as well as give back to the community. In that vein we have also started up a Junior Rock Climbing Club, once again aiming at giving kids a hand at climbing and helping to broaden their horizons and get their blood flowing. We also sponsor our own climbing competitions, such as the upcoming “Friction Festival,” as well as attend national and regional climbing competitions. Between that, climbing movie nights, trips outdoors to places like the New River Gorge and just “climbing,” we create a dynamic yet inviting community where you can come climb just one time, or make it a lifelong passion.