Sarah LeifeldCorbettNovember 17, 2011AP Literature7th period Does the thrill of an extreme sport outweigh the inevitable risk that itaccompanies? Rock climbing sculpts both the mind and the body as it works to achieve abalance between these incongruent aspects of the sport. With the use of focusedtechnique and certified equipment, the inherent danger can be minimized and theexcitement of rock climbing maximized. The origins of sport climbing can be traced over a hundred years. Although thepractice of rock climbing is seen across history, its transformation from necessity to sporthas not been distinctly defined. However, most historians agree that sport climbing arosesometime during the late 19th century in various parts of Europe. According to “Originsof Bouldering” the first documentation of bouldering was recorded in a diary entry thatread, “During hiking trips … [they] discovered for themselves the magic of thesesandstone boulders. As they fell under the forests spell, they realized bouldering wouldbe an excellent way to prepare for their future alpine expeditions” (Gill).A Frenchman,Emmanuel Ratouis, authored this entry in 1874 about his excursion to Fontainebleau withthe hiking group, Club Alpin Francais. With this and other groups, such as Rochier andGroupe de Haute Montagne,rock climbing quickly gained popularity in Europe. Despitethis it was not until 1916 that the sport took root in America. Bouldering in the UnitedStates surfaces through a discovery of avid hiker, Frank Mason. A magazine, YankeeRock and Ice, states “Frank Mason had beenreading the Badminton Library of Sports and
Leifeld 2Pastimes, …in which a treatise on rock climbing attracted his attention. To give theexotic sport a try.… [by 1916] Mason had established a small group of friends whojoined him regularly on Bostons suburban rockpiles” (Gill). While his climbing may nothave mirrored the extremity of the today’s rock climbing, Mason’s contribution to thesport is inarguably significant. Mason’s “small group of friends” inherently built thefoundation for modern rock climbing. With the development of equipment for aidclimbing in the 1920’s, the possibility for greater heights became actualized. Resultantlypeople began to flood the industry, and the idea of sport climbing became fully accepted.As time has passed and technique been perfected, rock climbing gradually has evolvedinto what it is today. The art of sport climbing, though diverse in many aspects, encompasses aunique terminology. According to dictionary.com, rock climbing can be defined as,“the sport of climbing sheer rocky surfaces on the sides of mountains, often with the aidof special equipment” (dictionary.com) Despite the fact that conceptually climbing isself-explanatory, the denotation of “rock climbing” has been used to oversimplify a sport,which in reality has grown to encompass an extremely distinct range of activities. Thesedifferences range from location, form, equipment, and even to the rock itself. Forinstance, the technique of ice climbing, or scaling frozen waterfalls, contrasts greatly tothe methodology required in bouldering, a practice of climbing lesser heights without aharness (Rock Climbing Technique). However, a general knowledge of basic vocabularyis necessary for a climber in any arena. When a person is climbing great heights, he mustwear a harness in order to catch the climber if he were to lose his grip. A belay is a devicethrough which a rope passes between the climber’s harness and the harness of the person
Leifeld 3who is on the ground. This apparatus increases the friction of the passing rope, and, as aresult, increases the security of the climber. To join the rope to both the climber and theone who is spotting, a carabiner acts as a connector and will lock in place (RockClimbing Terminology). Ensuring that every component of this mechanism has beencorrectly assembled is crucial to the climber’s safety. While these terms are universal inthe rock-climbing world, others exist in each specialization of the pastime. Rock climbing has variety of very different modes, working to add depth andindividuality to the sport. According to rcokclimbing.com, “Climbing styles come inmany flavors.”On the most basic level, sport climbing can be divided into five basicforms. The first among these is bouldering. Bouldering involves short height climbingwithout any form of belay or harness. Though this method is not practiced at locationswhere a fall would be particularly dangerous, climbers bring a cushioned bouldering padto protect against such instances. Typically, a bouldering route is comprised of five to tendifficult moves, which tend to focus on technique and form. Bouldering, though mostoften outdoors, can also be done at indoor gyms (Climbing Technique). Indoor climbingbecame popularized in the late eighties, and it continues to be widely practiced today.Indoor gyms consist of artificial rock walls with various designed routes that work toimprove skill in a safe environment. Free climbing, contrary to the security offeredindoors, is defined as, “a type of rock climbing in which the climber uses only hands, feetand other parts of the body to ascend, employing ropes and forms of climbing protectionto prevent falls only” (Qlimbing Quotes). While safety precautions have been placed, thisform relies highly on the individual skill of the climber. The route for free climbing isequipped with posts pre-drilled into the rock and carabineers. The next form of climbing
Leifeld 4is known as Trad Climbing. Trad climbing allows only methods that will not bedamaging to the rock, thus using devices that are made to fit into existing crevices orholes. As the personal risk is much higher in this Trad climbing, it is reserved for onlyadvanced climbers. Very similar to Trad climbing, is Aid climbing. In Aid climbing mosttechniques remain the same, however, climbers will stay on the rock for a multiple dayclimb.Rockclimbing.com names solo climbing, “[the] most dangerous game and reservedfor the truly skilled only.” In solo climbing, the climber uses nothing other than himselfto achieve his feat. Because no real safety measures are taken, falling would bedetrimental (Physiology of Climbing). These contrasting methods of climbing mirror thediversity of individual style and technique. The type of hold used greatly alters the intensity of the route. While there arehandholds and footholds, these can be further specified based on form. Probably themost easily accessible hold is denoted as a jug. A jug, by definition, is “a large hold.”Best for beginners, this hold is a type of incut hold in which the incut is extremely deepand simple to grip. Contrasting to jugs, Slopers, are very difficult to grasp. Beingrelatively smooth, these holds offer no incut and little overall support. In order tooptimize the use of slopers, while pushing against the rock with an open hand, theclimber leans his body away from the hold. Similar in difficulty are pockets. Pockets are“holds that have a small opening, only allowing the climber to hold them with one tothree finger.” Though the incut presents what appears to be a safe hold, its size preventsmuch weight from being supported. In addition, many climbers find that pockets causesevere strain on hand and arm tendons. Pinches and crimps are considered the mostdifficult holds on a route. Pinches require the entire hand to pinch onto the hold’s two
Leifeld 5opposite sides, while a crimp is merely more than a slight edge on the rockformation(Rock Climbing Terminology).The development of varying holds has becomecentral in the fluidity and overall movement of the climber. The diverse maneuvers of sport climbing can typically be cast into one of twocategories: static and dynamic movements. A static movement is one in which the bodynever completely loses contact with the wall. The fluidity of the move is“controlled bymuscle movement, rather than by momentum” (Allred). The climber will remain close tothe wall and draw strength in order to change both hand and foot holds. An experiencedclimber knows that to achieve a successful static move, he must first plant his extremities,and then shift his weight, ensuring that each action is deliberate and planned. This givesthe climber both greater control and balance. Dynamic movements, on the hand, allowthe climber to reach holds that cannot be obtained through direct static movement. Insuch instances, “the hold is grabbed at the apex of upward motion.” In essence, adynamic move simply means jumping from one hold to another. This movementminimizes muscle strain while significantly increasing the climber’s overall reach(Ashcroft). Though static and dynamic movements will greatly contrast one another inpurpose and technique, becoming practiced in both is vital to build a competent climber. Rock climbing offers the opportunity for a person to test, not only his physicalaptitude, but also his balance between mind and body. Requiring more than just brutestrength, climbers must be equipped with an innate focus and mental capacity to embodya controlled form. Rationalized thought and educated technique offer the greatest safetyprecautions to a climber. With care excised, the thrill of rock climbing surpasses thegravity of the inevitable danger.