Climbing is going up, or, depending on context, also down. It may refer to aircraft, a land vehicle, and humans and animals. On land, in particular it refers to steep climbs, e.g. on a hill, mountain or stairs, in a pole or tree, etc.

Climbing without a vehicle is often done as a sport or recreation. Often the emphasis is on balance and agility over brute force. Climbing can take place outdoors on real rock faces, or indoors on synthetically constructed climbing walls.

Shorter climbs can often be done with anchors and rope that are placed at the top of the climb before the climbers ascend. This type of climbing is called "top-rope" climbing. Longer climbs are normally done placing safety anchors during the ascent. This method is called "lead" climbing.

To make lead climbing safe, climbers will often climb in pairs. The leader will climb first climbing up and placing protection as they go. When the leader has finished the route the other climber in the pair, the second, will climb and will remove the protection that the leader placed.

Nearly all climbers follow the known climbing routes that are described in guidebookss. The most experienced and adventurous will attempt to establish new routes and make the first ascents of them.

Table of contents
1 Categories by type of terrain
2 Categories by use of protection to ascend
3 Styles of climbing by level or type of protection
4 Competitions
5 Grading
6 See also

Categories by type of terrain

  • Mountaineering is climbing mountains and may sometimes include rock or ice climbs.
  • Rock climbing is vertical or horizontal motion over steep rocky terrain.
  • Bouldering is vertical or horizontal motion over boulders.
  • Indoor climbing is vertical or horizontal movement over artificially constructed walls and grips. Routes are of varying difficulty are often indicated using differently coloured holds.
  • Ice climbing is climbing over frozen water features.
  • Buildering (pun on bouldering) is climbing the outside of buildings. This is often illegal.
  • Recreational tree climbing uses ropes, a saddle and other gear (no spikes or gaffs) to safely scale a tree without causing it harm.

Categories by use of protection to ascend

  • Aid climbing: any means of gettings yourself and your equipment up the rock face is permitted. You can place gear into cracks and features on the rock and pull on the gear or stand in it in order to achieve ascent. Aid climbing may be the only way (yet!) to climb some very steep terrain.
  • Free climbing: the only means of propelling yourself up the rock is your own body. Ropes and other gear are only used to protect the climb, they are not pulled on or weighted in order to actually climb.

Styles of climbing by level or type of protection


Competitions are usually held indoors on purpose built climbing walls. There are two main categories.
  • Rotpunkt: competitors climb the same route one after the other. The highest grip they are able to reach counts. A competition usually consists of 3 routes with ascending difficulty level.
  • Race to the top: on two identical routes, competitors race each other to the top. The first to reach the top wins.
As an additional handicap, a climber may have to climb a route
on sight. This means he is not allowed to see other climbers try to climb the route, and has only a limited amount of time to visually inspect the climb from ground level.


There are different ranking systems for competitive climbers.

Climbers grade the difficulty of the routes they climb. The grading system used varies from country to country (and region) and according to the style of climb. See also grade (bouldering).

See also