How hard is it to climb freely

With this guide you will become a climbing expert

© Corey Rich / Red Bull Content Pool
Red Dot, Flash or Free Solo? All your questions about climbing will be answered here.
Climbing is about style and individual commitment. With the right equipment, almost anyone can climb a rock face. It's less about doing it than HOW to do it.
However, it is often difficult to use the terms of the sporting jargon correctly or to tell them apart. And that's exactly why we have put together a guide for you with which you will be well equipped for any rocky encounter in the future.
That's all a climber uses to climb a wall - whether unsecured or secured.
Free climbing (or free climbing)
Free climbing is often mistakenly confused with the technique of free solo - a completely different and even crazier type of climbing, in which you are without a rope and completely unsecured on the wall.
Free climbing, on the other hand, works with the use of ropes. But only to secure the climber and not to support them.
Aid climbing is the exact opposite of free climbing. Here anything can be used to create a route. From ladders to hand-operated climbing aids.
The technique is mainly used to avoid sections of rock that are impossible to climb without aids.
It is about the type of protection that climbers opt for on the wall. For example, a traditionalist would attach fuses on the way up and then whip them out again. Crazy free solo climbers, on the other hand, ask themselves: Why a rope at all?
In traditional climbing, a route is only equipped with fall protection during the ascent. These fuses can, for example, be metal pins that are wedged into crevices in the rock. After you have completed a pitch, the safety devices are then removed again.
Because you do not visit a route in advance with this style and do not have a fixed rope safety device available, it is extremely technical and requires a higher level of experience and skill. Another characteristic: climbers of the traditional style leave no marks on the wall.
Sport climbing was invented in the mid-1980s. Climbers use pre-attached safety devices where they can hang their rope on the way up instead of having to drive in bolts or screw them on the way up.
Sport climbing is the painting by numbers of the sport of climbing. The routes are often more defined and follow fixed points on the wall all the way up. At the top there are so-called anchor points from where fuses can be installed. It all makes it easier and beginner-friendly. However, the permanent screw connections in the rock disturb many climbers.
In sport climbing, the focus is on flexibility, strength, endurance and speed - very different from traditional climbing.
Traditional climbing with safety devices
Even if that may seem like a contradiction at first glance, routes are also climbed in traditional climbing that are already equipped with safety devices in advance.
The difference is that the safety devices are attached to the lead on the way up and the distances between them are often very long. On sports routes, on the other hand, the bolts, screws or hooks are attached to the wall when abseiling and are therefore usually more structured.
Simul climbing is a form of traditional style, specially designed to tackle a route together as quickly as possible. Two climbers hang in what is known as a lifeline on the same rope, the one in front attaching the safety device and the one behind removing it again.
The absolute supreme discipline. Free Solo is the most extreme type of traditional climbing in which any technical aids or safety devices are dispensed with. You have undoubtedly heard of Alex Honnold and his completely insane ascent to El Capitan - captured in the Oscar-winning documentary "Free Solo".
For some it is the purest form of climbing, for others it is pure madness. Given the number of free solo climbers who are no longer with us - including Brad Gobright and Austin Howell, who both perished in 2019, the latter may be closer to the truth.
Most free solo climbers say they do it not for the thrill, but for the special feeling of freedom.
These are the different variations of the Free Solo style:
  • Urban Solo: Here people climb buildings or towers in urban areas. One of the first was the French Alain Robert, also known as "Spiderman". Today, thanks to the popularity of the selfie stick, more and more people are doing it.
  • Deep Water Solo: Essentially, it's about climbing cliffs. At low heights, the water below is the protection in case of a fall. However, the higher the routes, the higher the risk.
  • Base Solo: Climbers have a parachute on their back that they can open if they fall. Some think it gives them more security and self-confidence to try out even more difficult routes.
When it comes to bouldering, the name says it all. Literally translated, "bouldering" means "boulder" and that is exactly the terrain for this climbing variant. The rocks can be of different sizes and, roughly speaking, vary between a height of 1.5 m and 15 m.
Routes are known as "bouldering problems" and the solutions to these problems are often similar to a game of chess. You practically do not need any equipment or partners for bouldering.
In bouldering areas there are usually numerous different entrances and the boulders are usually low enough that a crash pad is sufficient as a safety measure. In contrast to highball bouldering, where climbers face bouldering problems at daring heights, far above the jump height. That gives the extra kick!
What measures you take to ensure your safety is up to you. From simple top rope to multi-pitch, these are the different options ...
You have a rope from above, which a partner who secures you controls and pulls it taut at all times so that you do not fall far if you should ever lose your footing.
In top rope climbing, the safer is at the top. During bottom-rope climbing, he stands at the bottom with the safety rope, which is led through an anchor system at the very top.
This type of climbing is particularly suitable for beginners and for indoor climbing. It gives you confidence and security on the wall and prepares you optimally to try more difficult routes. However, you are often somewhat limited by the limited length of the ropes.
When leading, at least two climbers always form a rope team, with the one in front wearing a climbing harness that is connected to the rope and thus to all other climbers behind it.
The lead climber leads the rope through the intermediate safety devices, which either stay there permanently (sport climbing) or are removed again (traditional climbing). The lower climber acts as a safety device during the lead climb and constantly feeds the upper climber with enough rope so that a safe ascent can be guaranteed.
A multi-pitch climbing tour is when at least two routes are climbed one after the other. If the rope runs out, they abseil and simply get supplies from below.
This allows climbers to tackle much longer routes and climb up larger rock faces. Tours of this type often last several days. During this time, climbers sleep in special portaledges, directly in the wall.
Ultimately, personal success depends heavily on the attitude with which you approach a climbing route. For many, the goal is very simple: come and climb. With more extreme routes, however, this is usually not enough and everything takes more time.
An extremely hard redpoint can be just as cool as an onsight with a slightly lower rating.
Onsight climbing is one of the most challenging variations in the sport. The most important thing is that the climber does not receive any information about a route and, after a brief look from below, simply starts climbing on it. And ideally non-stop.
Opinions on what constitutes a real onsight vary widely. Some claim that just knowing how difficult a route is, turns an onsight into a flash.
A flash includes preparation (also called "beta" in climbing jargon). This gives the climber an insight into what to expect on the route.
This variant is usually climbed when a route is too demanding to be done as a flash or onsight. The point is to climb a route that has already been practiced.