After deciding to spend her freshman summer of college living out of a tent to work and climb in the Red River Gorge, Kentucky, her life changed forever. She found her way to El Potrero Chico, Mexico in the winters, where she fell in love with travel and community. Post-graduation, she drove from Florida to Alaska to experience its world-class backpacking, then worked her way back south to explore climbing spots throughout the western U.S.

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Sport climbing requires a gym or an established route on a rock wall. Trad climbing can be done almost anywhere there is a rock face. Trad climbers often focus far more on mental skills than sport climbers. This doesn’t mean that sport climbing isn’t mentally challenging, just in different ways.

You may start at the bottom immediately or first go to the top by foot, set up the anchor, go back to the bottom and start climbing by top roping. In any case, it’s strongly recommended that you ask an gabriola recreation society experienced climber to come with you to show you the rope in sport climbing. Basically, top roping can be done on either sport or trad routes. If you want to be very technical when describing the above scenario, you can say that you are top roping on sport routes rather than generalizing that you are sport climbing. The lead climber will clip into bolts along the route and then build an anchor at the top, while belayed from the ground.

What Is Sport Climbing?

To connect to the safe point the climber generally uses some equipment called a quickdraw. On a typical sport climb you can usually expect to find bolts placed at around every ten to fifteen feet along the climb. Once you finally reach the top of the route, you’ll usually find an anchor made up of two to three bolts with which you can construct your anchor. Like a sport rack, the harnesses are often a bit more affordable than trad harnesses. Most climbers will rack 6-12 quickdraws, and a few lockers and slings. It’s a bunch of carabiners hanging from a harness, and there is little room for variation of the basic design.

Where Will You Climb?

There are two really important skills for sport climbers to have. The first is the ability to lead belay so that your lead climber can safely get themselves and the rope to the anchors. In sport climbing, climbers need to affix their quickdraw to each bolt as they move up the wall.

When climbers began bolting routes like this in the 1980s, it opened up a whole new universe of climbable rock. In trad climbing, a leader places various types of gear into natural features in the rock. If they fall, their belayer locks the rope, and the gear keeps the rope and climber secured to the wall. The last climber to follow this leader removes the gear as they ascend, leaving no evidence of the party’s passing. In sport climbing, the route is already bolted into the wall for you and you usually don’t even have to build an anchor, so it must be easier, right?

From there, you can either be lowered by your belayer or you can clean the route and rappel down on your own. Climbing routes are designated as sport, trad, and/or top rope (or bouldering, but that’s really a separate pursuit). If a route is labeled as top rope, that means that you can probably walk around the back of the route and set up a top rope without having to first lead climb the route. Generally you will need to lead a climb first, whether that’s by sport or trad climbing. A route also might be sport and top rope, which means that it’s bolted so you can sport climb it if you want, but you can also walk up the back and set up a top rope.

Speed is also a common component of sport climbing, as it was in the Toyoko Olympics. Safety is much more important than speed for trad climbers. The next difference is very much so a result of the differences in protection. Sport climbing is safer than trad climbing with few exceptions. Because your anchors are drilled into a wall or a rock they are much less likely to get pulled loose if you fall. Before we dive into the differences between trad vs sport climbing, it should be noted that most other types of a climbing fall into one of these two categories.