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People who say folks in Boulder are “climbers” sometimes aren’t talking about the social ladder but something much more physical.

For those who know nothing about climbing, or just enough to be really dangerous (like me!) I decided to educate myself with the help of online references. I’m sure there are lots of folks in the community far more versed in this technology than I am, so please feel free to comment below or on our contact form.

Here’s what Wikipedia has under Free Climbing:

(From Wikipedia) Free climbing is a type of rock climbing in which the climber uses only hands, feet and other parts of the body to ascend, employing ropes and forms of climbing protection to prevent falls only.

In contrast, free soloing uses no aids of any kind for protection or ascent while aid climbing employs ropes, protection, and direct aids to pull or stand upon, such as jumars to make upward progress on extremely sheer vertical surfaces.

Used as an umbrella term, “free climbing” spans four subsets of climbing styles: traditional, sport, free soloing and bouldering.

WOW. It sounds like free soloing is not for the faint of heart or poorly insured! Not to mention very strenuous…

At the end of the entry is this:

Common misunderstandings of the term

While clear in its contrast to aid climbing, the term free climbing is nonetheless prone to misunderstanding and misuse.

The two most common errors are:

  • Confusing free climbing with its subset free soloing, a willfully risk-taking endeavor involving climbing with just one’s hands, feet, and body without any rope or protective equipment
  • Conflating soloing a free climb with free soloing, “soloing” alone meaning merely to climb with no partner, which, depending on the difficulty of the route, can be done safely using any of a number of self-belaying systems.

OK, that was helpful. I find Wikipedia to be a fair starting point; usually the basics are there so I have the “worthy questions.” I noticed in the “further reading” section only one entry:

And what an entry!! Clearly this guy deserves his celebrity! His list of noted climbs is a geological who’s who. I was struck by this bit:

“…helped establish bouldering in general, and “High Balling” (high bouldering sans rope) in particular, as a valid and extreme expression of traditional climbing.”

Ah. There’s the crazy I suspected was in there somewhere! I’m kidding — crazy people clearly wouldn’t last long doing that. But it does bring up a ton of questions about fitness, training and equipment.

Well, on to other topics – if you’ve got a story about climbing – whatever flavor! – send it to us! You might find the Boulder Bubble helps you “rise above” the other climbers!

Free Climbing Vs Free Solo Guide
by Lydia Yang
Rock Climber/ Storyteller | LydiaScapes

Lydia Yang
Rock Climber/Storyteller

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