The goal of the climber is not reaching a certain mountain top, but climbing up to the most difficult point on a natural or artificial rock. The term free climbing is often associated with climbing without any equipment. However, that is far from true. Free climbers use the equipment for their own insurance, but not for assistance when climbing. They may only use handrails of either natural or artificial rock.
Of course, in the beginning, only natural rocks were climbed, but with the development of this sport, artificial rocks were made, which are mostly used today. The artificial rock allowed climbers to train indoors regardless of the season.
The equipment used by climbers is not so numerous and diverse, but one thing’s for sure: it must be of high quality. It is understandable that the climbing belt, special sneakers – climbers, dynamic ropes, carabiners, slings, eights, etc. must be made out of the best material because the life of a climber depends on them. Maintenance of climbing holds is also essential, as the artificial materials get worn and can become slippery, loose, and start spinning.
In case you’re using your gym’s climbing wall, the best thing you can do is to inform the trainers or owners about the potential risk everyone’s facing. It’s their job to provide you with a safe rock for practice. If the wall’s in your backyard, you can use different types of tightening torques to secure loose holds.
Providing a safe environment for the practice of this sport is of utmost importance. Here you’ll find some other info concerning the safety of climbers.
Table of Contents
- 1 About free-climbing
- 2 Basic elements of a free climbing wall
- 3 First aid for rotating climbing holds
- 4 A conclusion
In the Alpine countries of Europe, during the mid-90s, climbers specializing in free climbing began to develop a new discipline that was soon called sport climbing. The characteristic of this sport is that the use of climbing equipment is not allowed for advancing, but only serves as insurance in the event of a fall. In fact, the appearance of sport climbing was caused by a change in the purpose of the sport. Instead of conquering mountains and rock peaks, sport climbers, with daily training of strength, flexibility, and concentration, mastered extremely difficult details in rocks.
The world’s best climbers, climbing more and more difficult parts of the rocks, i.e. climbing directions on the rocks, soon began to push the long-existing limit by climbing even further, constantly moving and raising the borders of the possible.
Types of climbing
The climbing methods differ in how the rope is secured and the degree to which the climber is familiar with the details of the direction. Depending on the method of insurance, there are four variants of climbing:
- Solo ascent – in simplest terms: climbing a route without a rope, without insurance.
- Top rope climb with insurance – the rope is passed through the anchorage at the top of the direction so that a climber is tied to one end, and the other is at the insurer. This way of climbing is completely safe because the length of the fall is very small. Therefore, it is most acceptable for beginners, until they gain enough knowledge, experience, and safety to climb first. Also, this way of climbing is suitable for getting to know, “recording” and training the direction before the climber decides to free-climb first.
- Climbing in the lead – the climber pulls the rope behind him and inserts it into the carabiners that he sets himself, or the ones that were placed in advance along the direction. This makes climbing harder than top-rope climbing. In addition, the drops are much longer and depend on the distance between the sets.
- Climbing on-sight – the climber climbs the direction from the first time, and does not have any information in advance about the way and mastering that direction.
The physical impact of climbing on the body?
By climbing every day and pushing their own limits further, sport climbers combine maximum adrenaline experience, exceptional psychological stability, full participation of all muscles, and the beauty of soft, graceful climbing.
It can be specially pointed out that due to the specific position of the climber when climbing (the head and spine are quite bent backward), the spinal column is straightened and the body is held correctly. In addition, it has been calculated that sport climbing (in addition to running up the stairs) is one of the sports that has the highest caloric expenditure per unit time.
When compared to other activities, free climbing is healthy but demanding, and highly recommended instead of trying too many different gadgets in the gym. Rock climbing has a physical toll and is said to be better than weightlifting (at least to some extent). In climbing, there is no rivalry between the opposing clubs, shouting, clamor, opposing intolerance, because the climber fights with himself and the rock in natural environments such as various natural rocks, canyons, lakes, mountains, and rocky shores at sea.
Basic elements of a free climbing wall
Artificial rocks are complexes built for training maintenance, as well as free climbing competition. Their primary purpose is to simulate a natural rock, substituting it during preparations for rock climbing outdoors. There are two main types of free climbing rocks:
- Outdoor free climbing walls
- Indoor free climbing walls.
Unlike natural rocks, artificial ones are privately owned, and are followed by permits, whether public or internal, and can sometimes cause a true legislative nightmare.
Artificial rocks are made of various materials, among which the most common are polyester boards and waterproof plywood. Grips (equipment) are made of polyester resins and fillings, or of wood and natural stone, as well as some other suitable materials. In addition to the formwork of the rock, behind which there is a construction (which we do not see), what we first notice when we inspect the rock are the handrails and “tiles”, as well as the anchorage.
First aid for rotating climbing holds
Depending on where the climbing wall is located (is it privately owned or in the gym) there are a few things that can be done for loose holds that rotate. First of all, it is important to understand why this happens.
Climbing walls are easily attachable and detachable, which is why it is important to take into account what type of texture the wall has. For example, if the base is made only from smooth plywood there is a greater chance that the climbing holds will start to spin, as the screws will loosen the pressure in the wood.
A good first aid option is to prepare some textured paint, which can easily be made by mixing paint with simple sand. Adding it to the wall and the holds will help stop the latter from spinning so frequently. However, be prepared that this added texture will wear out your shoes on the training wall slightly faster. But, there is no point in having shoes that are looking pretty, but rather the ones that serve the purpose. Equipment wears out, which means that you are actively using it.
Tightening torque for climbing holds
A tightening torque used for climbing should prevent the hold from rotating. Depending on the size of the hold, the torque can tighten it only to some extent. Larger climbing holds require Spinner Screws or Stopper Holds for this action.
Spinner Screws are screw locations that are molded in the climbing hold. Now, if the hold does not have a ‘factory made’ location set, it is not advisable for you to add your own. If you do, you will disrupt the weight balance of the hold, making it more prone to damage, and less resilient.
Stopper Holds are screw-on holds that get attached to the wall touching the main hold. The purpose is to prevent grip rotation (which is usually counterclockwise) and the main hold will stop once it touches the Stopper hold.
Unlike these specialized holds, torques should not be too big because the climbing hold can break and damage the fixing points in the climbing structure. Creating additional stress can impact quality and permanently damage the hold.
Using an Impact Driver versus a T-Wrench
We already know that the T-wrench requires some hand power, while the Impact Driver does the same action, only much faster and automatically. The noise of the hammering action, several times in a second is the noise of attaching a climbing hold. There are a few differences when it comes to their performance and efficiency:
- Impact drivers are fast and efficient, and because of their automated performance, this tool is great for unskilled users. The cross-threaded bolt/t-nut can be combined very quickly.
- The T-wrench is much slower, but the lessened speed allows more accuracy where the bolt will engage with the t-nut threads.
Climbing holds tightening torque
Newton-meters (Nm) are used to measure the torque, with an alternative measurement of lb-ft (pounds-feet). Depending on the size of the torque, here is a recommended measure for tightening:
- The small climbing hold should be tightened 25 -30 Nm or 18-22 lbs./feet.
- The medium climbing hold should be tightened 30-35 Nm or 22-26 lbs./feet.
- The large climbing hold should be tightened 30-40 Nm or 22-29 lbs./feet.
- The extra-large climbing hold should be tightened 40-50 Nm or 29-37 lbs./feet.
- XXL climbing hold should be tightened 50 Nm or 37 lbs./feet.
That’s about it. Now you know what to do to ensure you and your fellow climbers are safe (don’t forget to clean the climbing rope). Being secure needs to be your top priority, and tightening loose holds is a must if you agree with the mentioned fact (which, of course, you absolutely should).