What is the essence of sport climbing? :)


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Big Wall climber
Terrapin Station
Sep 5, 2013 - 12:25pm PT
What are you talking about? Rules? We are talking about freaking CLIMBING!

V, everyone from the previous "era" knew there were rules. It put some limitations on development for sure, but it wasn't ALL bad either.

I guess a free for all of do exactly whatever the hell you want, no holds barred suits some people.

Trad climber
Lander, WY
Sep 5, 2013 - 12:25pm PT
My attitude toward sport climbing goes back and forth, I think depending on how successful I am at it. I'm certainly one of the usual suspects around Lander for putting up a lot of sport climbs in the Sinks (around 80 or so)but having a long trad background, I sometimes start looking down my nose at it as a practice for a bunch of punks that are too chicken to get more than 4' out from a bolt that would hold a medium sized SUV.

I still subscribe to the idea that getting out there and committed on the lead or failing ugly is when you really learn to climb: the whole package of mental and emotional control as well as good technique and talent all come to a point and I still think that is the all time experience I look for in climbing, though, getting on in my 60s, I'm not as bold and crazy as I think I used to be.

The advantage of sport climbing, for me, is that I can work on technique at the limit of my ability and not worry much about smacking the ground because the pieces pull. I think it has helped improve my technical ability on trad. So it's been valuable and fun, but I feel it's sort of like eating M&Ms, you never seem to get enough of something that makes it feel complete. So I get out and trad climb, alpine climb, water ice in the winter, and get that completion.

It seems to work fine as the main pursuit for a lot of people and I say, great. You're all concentrated at Wild Iris and the Sinks and Rifle and not in the mountains, so us strange gear placers and runners users can have that to ourselves.

Trad climber
The state of confusion
Sep 5, 2013 - 12:37pm PT

'sport climbing' is neither. . .

Social climber
Joshua Tree
Sep 5, 2013 - 12:47pm PT
More climbing, less fiddling with toys.

Trad climber
South Pasadena, CA
Sep 5, 2013 - 12:52pm PT
For me, the essence of sport climbing is you can try your hardest, and you're not at all worried you're going to die.
Dingus Milktoast

Gym climber
And every fool knows, a dog needs a home, and...
Topic Author's Reply - Sep 5, 2013 - 01:06pm PT
Fitness, endurance, climbing movement, puzzle-solving, exposure, self-testing, fun, companionship, new-routing... i.e. climbing.

For me the essence of sport climbing has a large % in common with the other climbing styles I still pursue.



The Granite State.
Sep 5, 2013 - 01:26pm PT

I grew up climbing at Rumney, it's pretty compact schist that doesn't lend itself to climbing on gear for the most part.

Were it not for bolts, the climbing there would be very limited.

Sport clipping is fun, you can safely climb very steep things.
selfish man

Gym climber
Austin, TX
Sep 5, 2013 - 01:46pm PT
read the most recent ANAM. Sport climbing accidents on every page. Most common causes are the same: falling while clipping overhead, too much slack in the belay etc. That sport climbing (in its most commonly practiced form also known as sport clipping) is safe is a myth. Top roping, on the other hand, is pretty safe and really is all about ultimate movement

Sep 5, 2013 - 02:00pm PT
Try toproping a 25m, 40 degree overhanging route at your limit. Gud luck!

Trad climber
Nothing creative to say
Sep 5, 2013 - 02:04pm PT
The question is one of "essence" aka "essential" aspect which has a singular connotation, not plural.

So answers that provide multiple aspects are not following the call of the question.

But also the call of the question is flawed in asking for a singular aspect.

To try and narrow it down to a bit, sport to me, means that a climb requires well protected climbing. (avoiding the debate over tactics and strategy of establishing for the moment)

In most climbing circles, that also usually means bolt protected. (avoiding the idea that bolts can horrible at times and thus really dangerous)

When a climb is well protected (&bolt protected) I can push to my hardest difficulty without fear of hurting myself too much. There is always risk.

I can also do that on toprope, to an infinite length with proper cord and traxion, so what is the difference between those?

The difference is the lead. So some fear of flight and falling is inherent in a sport lead, otherwise we could just TR.

So in essence, sport climbing is regulated fear and regulated danger.

Which is a hell of a lot of fun.


Trad climber
Nevada City
Sep 5, 2013 - 02:12pm PT
^^ good points. i like the way gary put it up thread. your NOT gonna die. ( but you could get hurt? )
Vitaliy M.

Mountain climber
San Francisco
Sep 5, 2013 - 02:23pm PT
V, everyone from the previous "era" knew there were rules. It put some limitations on development for sure, but it wasn't ALL bad either.

I didn’t mean to say some rules are not necessary. But it is silly to impose strict rules on an activity that is described by some as anarchy. I like that old quote; “climbing is anarchy.” It suits what I like to do. Some days I feel like ice climbing, some days I top rope in the gym, climb trad, sport, boulder, lay in the meadow looking up at a cliff. It could all be fun. People usually agree on no retro bolting, and no rap bolting in areas where established climbs were done ground up. However, I do not see a problem with someone rap bolting a 5.12-13 climb in a GU area (unless it is a squeeze job) if they cleaned the line, TRd it and picked the right amount of bolts. Reason why I have no problem with it is because there are other people who put up aid routes GU which is a total cluster of bolts, rivets, enhanced edges for hook moves and so on. If that sh#t is acceptable than I do not see any point in any rules at all. Maybe I do not understand something but if you guys take it so seriously you should chop all the bolt ladders through blank rock – many of them in Yosemite!

Sport climber
Sep 5, 2013 - 02:29pm PT
"Some mountaineers are proud of having done all their climbs without bivouac. How much they have missed ! And the same applies to those who enjoy only rock climbing, or only the ice climbs, only the ridges or faces. We should refuse none of the thousands and one joys that the mountains offer us at every turn. We should brush nothing aside, set no restrictions. We should experience hunger and thirst, be able to go fast, but also to go slowly and to contemplate."

Gaston Rebuffat

"I consider mountain climbing an absolutely egocentric activity; I could therefore never understand why one would want to set up rules for it. "In the mountains, freedom rules" is an old poacher's saying. Whether and how I use artificial means is my business. To climb in the cleanest and smoothest way possible - that was my desire. How others climb is their business, and nobody else has the right to interfere. Most people abide by rules because they want to be accepted. I was only truly content when I succeeded in completing a climb the way I had envisioned it. Naturally, there is satisfaction when a climb is acclaimed by the experts, but basically, this was not as important to me as the recognition by my friends."

Anderl Heckmair

Social climber
Moorpark, CA.
Sep 5, 2013 - 02:46pm PT
Kaholatingtong and Vitality.... well said.

I do go back to when it was just CLIMBING.

No need to devide into segments intill Ice Climbing showed up...

But to me Sport Climbing is FUN climbing, to go all out and see how hard I can climb is what climbing has become, for me.

For you guys who wish to remain "pure" please do so and don't come out and embarrass yourself.

Good topic Dingus


El Presidio San Augustin del Tucson
Sep 5, 2013 - 02:47pm PT
Bob D'A

Trad climber
Taos, NM
Sep 5, 2013 - 02:49pm PT
So funny to hear some remarks from the old trad climbers who are stuck in some weird ass time warp.

A few shots from yesterday sport climbing outing in Upper Dream Canyon. Mark Hudon and Lynn Hill enjoy clipping bolts, maybe the neanderthals should just shut up or move on.

Credit: Bob D'A

Credit: Bob D'A
Vitaliy M.

Mountain climber
San Francisco
Sep 5, 2013 - 02:52pm PT
I wonder why we don't really hear women climbers arguing/moaning/bickering about bolting/methods of climbing/etc?

They have own forums where they mainly post shirtless Burchy photos. No time for arguments. ;)

Trad climber
who gave up and just goes sailing now!
Sep 5, 2013 - 03:04pm PT
A bunch of us old tradsters love to sport climb. That is not to say that I don't still enjoy getting all scared on Tuolumne runout slab but it is damn fun to go do clip-ups too and it what I do most of the time anymore as do most of my friends who are also just either side of 60 year old.

Boulder climber
Sep 5, 2013 - 03:13pm PT
To the general public, sport climbing = rock climbing. A glimpse into the future.

Big Wall climber
Terrapin Station
Sep 5, 2013 - 03:14pm PT
So funny to hear some remarks from the old trad climbers who are stuck in some weird ass time warp.

Let's go, just bolt up the whole thing, 6 inches apart, clips everywhere.

There are no limits, max it out.
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