Category: Mountain & Rock Climbing

Where Safety is No Object

Many sports, by definition, incorporate an element of danger. Whilst it is undoubtedly true that the prospect of sustaining serious injury during a game of snooker or a stand-off at the table-tennis table is remote footballers are being sidelined all the time, rugby players are often to be seen leaving the bitch with their heads swathed in a bloodied headband and boxers take very considerable risks in their pursuit of sporting excellence.

Few sports though can leave the participant open to the possibility of serious injury and worse than boxing, and many promising young boxers have paid the price for being inadequately prepared, unfit or badly matched against a superior (or just lucky) opponent.

The sense of danger can in truth be an alluring factor when embarking upon any sporting venture, but nevertheless the sensible sportsperson will do whatever he or she can to minimise the chances of coming to grief.

Equipment, like the climber, needs to be up to the job

So it is with rock climbing and mountaineering, where the threat of a slip or a fall are occupational hazards but the odds of encountering any real danger can be minimised by taking some basic common sense precautions.

Needless to say having strong, sturdy, functional equipment that is up to the task is an essential prerequisite for a safe experience upon the rocks, and this is one area where it would certainly be foolhardy to try to sacrifice quality and functionality in pursuit of economy. Whether we are talking about hooks, ice axes, ropes or any other necessary piece of equipment by far the most important consideration has to be whether or not it actually works; whether it is fit for purpose.

That is not to say of course that rock climbing equipment needs necessarily to be prohibitively expensive, but simply that one is aware of the quality of the product that one is purchasing.

Similarly one’s apparel needs to be fit for purpose and anything bought for use in the field really has to be appropriate for the task ahead. Coats, hats, gloves, trousers and shoes or boots all need to be of sufficient thickness to sustain the climber in times of wet or otherwise inclement weather whilst still allowing the climber the freedom to climb.

The quality of outdoor gear can vary substantially from one product to the next, and it is always helpful to source equipment from a reliable provider and to stick to a brand name that you know you can trust.

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Guest article brought to you by Urban Rock, the UK climbing specialists.

One Very Extreme Sport: Ice Climbing

It might not be the most popular type of sport, but there is no doubt that ice climbing is one of the biggest activities to shed adrenaline. Designed only for those who have nerves of steel, ice climbing is exactly for those people who have no fear and want to experience earth’s greats from ridiculous heights.

Ice climbing is exactly what it says on the tin and involves individuals clambering up icy landscapes. As you may expect, most of the time they are secured by countless safety devices and this means it’s possible to embark up icefalls, waterfalls or simple cliffs.

There are various forms of ice climbing with the main two involving alpine ice and water ice. The former of the two is completely frozen, whereas there is more liquid water prevalent in water ice and this means that it must be approached a lot differently. In general, most experts stipulate that alpine ice is slightly easier to negotiate, but one must possess vast technical knowledge of the sport in order to overcome water ice.

Best places to visit for ice climbing

Unsurprisingly, it’s all of the world’s coldest places that are the best when it comes to ice climbing. Alaska is a known favourite, with the area of Valdez proving popular due to the huge number of climbs that are available. However, America also has plenty of other destinations with California being frequently visited, while Colorado always attracts plenty of visitors. In relation to the latter, the Ouray region is said to be one of the best in the world and this is highlighted as it hosts the Ouray Ice Festival.

The indoor version of the sport

Of course, while the previous paragraph focussed on the US, there are also many destinations that people visit throughout the UK. When the weather is not suitable, some individuals take to indoor centres which are becoming more and more popular. Vertical Chill, in Castleford, is said to be one of the best, while there are others situated in the likes of Kinlochleven and London.

Of course, the indoor version of the sport is nothing like the real thing and some experts would not consider taking up such an experience. Nevertheless, it is safer, while such centres can be accessed all year round if your region doesn’t always receive freezing cold weather.

The ice climbing horror stories

Unfortunately, although perhaps unsurprisingly, there are a huge number of dangers associated with ice climbing. Such dangers have prompted a lot of deaths within the sport and it’s not just the inexperienced that have been affected, with some of the most seasoned experts within the field also falling to their death.

The dangers posed with ice climbing were highlighted at the start of 2012, after one of the most revered athletes in the sport died in a 60ft fall in Colorado. 58-year-old Jack Roberts was the individual in question and despite winning various awards for his climbing in the past, he died of a heart attack following the tragic fall.

Unfortunately, that is not the only case and a climbing instructor was the victim of such a fall back in 2010. Dave Church did not survive after falling 75ft in Cumbria and his case was not aided by the fact that his climbing partner was unable to obtain any sort of help due to their precarious location.

Bearing these tragedies in mind, it’s clear to see that there are so many dangers linked with the sport and if you do happen to suffer an accident, you have a lot of variables working against you.

A summary on ice climbing

Ice climbing is regarded as one of the most adrenaline filled sports on the planet and this is why it attracts so many keen athletes. Of course, while the sport can be breath-taking, there are an incredible number of risks associated with it and one should plan their excursion very carefully before embarking on a serious ice climbing expedition.

Liam is a keen sports writer who blogs on many sports including rugby, boxing and martial arts, all extreme sports in their own way. He also likes to recommend the odd betting offer as a wager on a football match makes it that bit more exciting.

Extreme Solutions for Extreme Conditions

When undertaking “normal” activity, that is in essence what we would describe as everyday life, our instinct is usually to travel as lightly as possible. Generally speaking heavy clothing will make us slower, more tired and less agile. This is why most sports involve some form of “kit” which is appropriate to the activity in question. At the light end we swim wearing one solitary item of clothing and play field sports often wearing shorts and a short sleeved shirt.

Climbing however, in its various forms, is not a normal sport in the sense that the objective is to complete an assignment successfully whilst remaining safe at all times. It is seldom a race, and even when time is a factor it is never placed ahead of safety. Making the wrong choices could result in serious trouble and, in extreme instances, even death. Being properly equipped is not a choice, it is an obligation.

Outdoor Research

One company manufacturing various items of climbing gear is Outdoor Research, which describes itself as “an outdoor gear company focused on creating functional solutions for human powered adventure”.

“Functional solutions” in this instance refers to heavy duty balaclavas, gaiters, fleece beanies, cold weather suits and ski gloves. The challenge is to employ modern materials and designs in making products which are as light as is possible without compromising on their ability to successfully discharge their role. For instance balaclavas worn when climbing are not merely the light woollen items protecting the ears that we see some children wearing to school on cold days, but rather a carefully constructed solution involving maximum face coverage and neck gaiter with warm synthetic material for ultimate protection even in sometimes perilous conditions.

Keep a Warm Head

Retaining warmth to the head is one of the most important factors in adventure sports, and as well as being small and light headwear is so easy to adjust, add or discard according to circumstances and to individual preference.

Similarly gloves for climbing need to be so much more than a simple means of keeping the fingers warm. Instead they strike a calculated balance between insulation and dexterity, with ample nylon lining and a waterproof insert.

Outdoor Research’s ultimate warmth-giver is a one-piece, all in one winter Saturn suit that is often worn underneath more standard outdoor gear for climbing. Made from nylon and Lycra it is highly breathable in spite of its heavy appearance, and is ambitiously guaranteed by the manufacturer to last forever.

Article brought to you by David, a keen rock climbing enthusiast.

10 Terrific Rock Climbing Gyms in the USA

What if you lived near one of the top rock climbing gyms in the entire United States and didn’t even know it?

If you’re a rock climber, you’ll likely go into full-blown panic mode. How could I be so ignorant of basic cartography?, you’ll think.

But even if you’re not a rock climber, the prospect of living near a top rock climbing gym is a little enticing, isn’t it? After all, if living near one of the top rock climbing gyms in the USA made you feel a little like taking up rock climbing, maybe it’s a hobby worth exploring further.

Is one of these top rock climbing gyms near you?

1. Climbmax. Climbers not only built this, but they designed it as well, right here in Tempe, AZ. Being family people, they have a children’s area, to boot. Upstairs bouldering features cracks, dihedrals, aretes, and caves. A super bouldering cave is two stories high and it has fifteen thousands square feet of climbing area along with extreme rope climbing.

2. Paradise Rock Gym. With a name like “Paradise,” it’d better live up to the billing. This rock gym in Denver, Colorado not only features reasonable day-pass rates, but offers almost 10,000 square feet of terrain for you to get the most of your dollar.

3. Hangar 18. Actually a series of gyms in Southern California – locations include Upland, Riverside, and Southbay – Hangar 18 clocks in at an astounding 37,000 square feet of bouldering, making it a roomy place to enjoy your rock climbing with some degree of indoor privacy. That is, of course, unless the secret’s out.

4. Solid Rock Gym. Solid Rock is the Hangar 18 of San Diego, which still technically makes it southern California but deserves a listing of its own. With three large lead areas and four bouldering areas, the Solid Rock Gym series offer a number of great locations for kicking some rock.

5. Planet Granite. San Francisco’s contribution to the list is a most worthy addition particularly because it’s so serious about the sport. Though the name of the gym might fool you, this is a great place even for the pros.

6. Planet Rock. We couldn’t leave out the Midwest; Ann Arbor’s Planet Rock offers self-belay routes and climbs, which is great for someone who wants a more private experience.

7. Rocksport. Kentucky might be more famous for its horses than its rock climbing, but you can’t deny the impact of the Rocksport Indoor Climbing Gym.

8. Climb Time. Not far from Rocksports in Louisville, Cincinatti, Ohio’s Climb Time is a well-reviewed rock climbing gym that rivals anything else you’ll see in the area.

9. Red Rock Climbing Center. You think Las Vegas wasn’t going to be on this list? Though it might be hard to reach unless you have your own car, the Red Rock is a great western climbing experience.

10. Brooklyn Boulders. Finally, there is a way to go rock climbing even if you live in Metropolis – and Brooklyn Boulders, hands down, is it.

Meg Jones works with a Phoenix, AZ locksmith company by the name of Phoenix Lock Master. Rapid service at competetive prices and always there when you need them. She loves the Arizona skies and beautifully picturesque landscapes.

From Bouldering To Mountaineering: Disciplines Within Rock Climbing

Rock climbing is one of the fastest-growing sports on the globe. There is a good chance that it’ll be included in the 2020 Olympics and both indoor and outdoor climbing have never been more popular. Nor has it ever been this easy to get started- there are college climbing clubs, adventure schools, and indoor climbing centers popping up all over the place.

Novices soon start to see that there is more to the sport than simply climbing. It’s not like baseball where there are one set of basic rules and everyone plays more or less the same game. Here’s a quick introduction to the most common disciplines that exist within outdoor climbing, starting with the one that stays closest to the ground:

-Bouldering. As the name suggests, bouldering is the art of climbing short problems on boulders and underneath larger cliffs. The problems are usually less than 20 or 30 feet in height and falls are cushioned with foam crash pads. There are no ropes involved. In general, bouldering requires short bursts of power or quite gymnastic moves.

-Sport or sports climbing. This is roped climbing with a very special feature. Bolts are pre-placed in the rock, so climbers can clip the rope in as they make their way up the rock. Although sports climbing is considered relatively safe, the routes in question can be hundreds of meters long (like trad climbs they can be divided into multiple pitches or sections) and they vary widely in difficulty.

-Trad or traditional climbing. Here there are no handy bolts to clip into. Instead, climbers take a variety of devices with them. The simplest amount to little more than a piece of aluminium alloy on a wire. These are jammed into cracks and crannies in the rock and the rope clipped to them. Should the climber fall, the gear will (hopefully) stay where it is and arrest their fall.

The goal in both sport and trad climbing is to make a ‘free ascent’, without falling or supporting yourself on anything that isn’t rock. In some areas there is controversy surrounding the sport/trad divide. Most experienced climbers do both but many have strong feelings that natural cliffs and crags shouldn’t be bolted, while others prefer to push their limits on well-protected sports routes.

-Ice climbing. Replace the rock with solid ice and the protective gear with spikes that can be hammered or screwed into it, and you’ve got ice climbing. Ice axes and crampons are used to gain traction and move upwards. If some sections are bare rock, it becomes what is known as ‘mixed climbing’.

-Alpine climbing. An Alpine goal is usually a high mountain summit, although not necessarily in the Alps. The idea is to travel fast and take the minimum of equipment. Rock and ice sections may be encountered.

-Mountaineering. There is a cross-over between mountaineering and Alpine climbing. The difference is largely tactical. Mountaineers may establish several camps on their way up to a high summit and have porters to help carry the equipment. ‘Siege tactics’ are still commonly used to surmount 8000m peaks in the Himalaya, for example, but elite climbers are increasingly beginning to tackle even the toughest peaks in a fast and light ‘Alpine style’.

-Aid climbing. Rather than counting ‘pulling on the gear’ as a failure, aid routes are intended to be climbed this way. The climber places something in a crack and pulls on this to make progress. Foot loops can be used too. Aid climbing is one of the rarer climbing disciplines except in places like Yosemite Valley, where multi-day ‘big walls’ are often climbed with aid gear.

-Solo climbing. Leave the rope behind and get on long routes anyway. The solo climber’s philosophy is simple and soloing can be regarded as the purest form of climbing. A fall doesn’t necessarily mean hitting the ground. ‘Deep Water Solo’ or DWS routes run above water (this by no means guarantees safety) and these days a few people climb solo with a BASE jumping rig or a wingsuit on. Again, such measures are far from foolproof!

 

Jess writes for Appalachian Outdoors, a popular climbing, hiking, and camping gear retailer.  

Mountain Climbing in South America

Some of the most popular mountain destinations for British mountaineers are in Europe, Africa and Asia. If you can branch out across the Atlantic towards South America, however, you’ll witness some of the most spectacular and diverse mountains this planet has to offer.

Corcovado– mountain wonder of the world

This mountain, regularly confused with the nearby Sugarloaf Mountain, may only be 710m high but it offers absolutely stunning views of Brazil’s Rio de Janeiro on a clear day. While the majority of tourists will take a cable car to reach the summit and the unmissable photo opportunity that is the world-famous Cristo Redentor statue, one of the modern wonders of the world, there are also 54 rock-climbing routes available for the mountaineering types.

Monte Fitz Roy – the mountain that got away

It’s fair to say that this mountaineering challenge in the Patagonian village of El Chaltén will bee too much of a challenge for you. While around 100 people reach the summit of Everest every day, in any given year only 1 successful ascent of Monte Fitz Roy will be made. This is thanks to its sheer granite faces and treacherous weather. The dramatic views of this mountain alone are worth seeing, however, and there are plenty of other nearby mountains that you are more likely to successfully tackle.

Auyantepui – the mountain and the waterfall

This mountain in the Guiana Highlands of Venezuela reaches a peak of 2,535m but the real attraction of this Tepui (table top mountain) is Angel Falls. This is the world’s highest waterfall and drops from a cleft not far from the summit providing a truly awe-inspiring sight. With a fall just shy of a kilometre, Auyantepui offers a mountaineering experience not available anywhere else.

Anconcagua – 7 summit mountain

This Argentinian mountain has the highest peak on the continent, giving it membership of the exclusive Seven Summits club. Although this mountain reaches a height of 6,962m (that’s higher than anything outside of Asia, by the way), the Anconcagua is actually a fairly easy mountain to climb, especially when tackled from the northern route. Despite not needing any equipment to climb, mountaineers shouldn’t disregard the risks associated with cold weather and sudden elevation. Those looking for even more of a challenge can make their ascent from the south.

Machu Picchu – lost mountain

This Peruvian World Heritage Site is known as the Lost City of the Incas and is particularly special because it was undiscovered by Spanish settlers, making it a relatively preserved cultural site. Built during the 15th century it is a magnificent archaeological site that attracts visitors from across the world. Whether you choose to visit the citadel itself or just want to climb the mountains that surround it you’ll feel privileged to have seen something of such beauty.

This post was written by Brian Jenson – a climbing enthusiast from Rat Race Adventure Sports in the UK.