sport vs traditional climbing

What’s The Difference Between Sport Climbing And Traditional Climbing

So you have some free time on hand and intend to pick up rock climbing. However, after taking a quick look at the activity, you have a hard time making your mind between 2 styles: sport climbing and traditional climbing. One relies on permanent anchors fixed to the rock for protection while the other involves manually placing/ removing safety gears. For someone that is new to rock climbing, it’s hard to decide which style is best for you. Sport vs. traditional climbing, just what are their differences anyway? 


Comparisons Of The Styles

There are various articles that cover rock climbing. But if you want to make a wise choice while picking the style, you have to grasp the fundamentals first. 

Sport Climbing

sport climbing
Sport climbing involves high-intensity climbing on relatively short routes.
  • What Is Sport Climbing 

To put it plainly, sport climbing is a form of rock climbing for people that like to conquer challenging route without having to place removable protection (cams and nuts) as they progress and like the safety that permanent anchors offer. In sport climbing, climbers don’t have to go through spots where they could place gears so sport climbing paths tend to be more straightforward than their traditional climbing counterparts. The nature of sport climbing places heavy emphasis on endurance, strength, technique and gymnastic abilities. 

  • Required Equipment 

It’s possible to conduct sport climbing with only a few items which let people focus on the difficulty of the moves instead of placing protection. Generally speaking, the standard set of equipment for sport climbing include climbing harnesses, quickdraws, a dynamic rope, a belay device and of course, a good pair of climbing shoes. Considering the similarities in equipment and techniques, you could transit from indoor climbing to sport climbing without experiencing significant difficulty. 

  • What To Expert In A Typical Course 

On a usual sport climb these kinds of days, you would find bolts placed at every 10 – 15 feet along the path. At the top, you are going to see an anchor made of 2 – 3 bolts with which you could build an anchor for your own personal use. 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 experienced climber to come with you to show you the rope in sport climbing. 

Traditional Climbing

traditional climbing
Traditional climbing involves carrying and placing protection rather than clipping into preplaced bolts.
  • What Is Trad Climbing

In direct contract with sport climbing, traditional climbing (or trad climbing) requires people to place safety gears by themselves to protect against fall. Needless to say, this style of rock climbing demands substantial time and efforts to master in most cases. Actually, many climbers around the globe think of traditional climbing as the purest form of rock climbing as it leaves no traces on the rocks. Unfortunately, gears of traditional climbing need cracks, holes and areas that accept them so certain cliff faces might prove unclimbable.  

  • Required Equipment 

Because climbers that practice traditional climbing have to install their protection, they have to carry along a lot of items. Overall, traditional climbing often involves the use of nuts, chocks, slings, cams and alike in addition to the usual stuff like shoes, harnesses, chalk bag… Obviously, to use the equipment efficiently and effectively in traditional climbing, you need to receive training from veteran trad. climbers. Since you would be primarily responsible for your own safety, minor mistakes may lead to catastrophic results in an instant.       

  • What To Expert In A Typical Course 

For novice climber, it’s widely advised to have an adept leader in the first traditional climb just in case. Technically, the leader shall place protections every 5 – 15 feet but on the field, the conditions of the rocks dictate the distance. While ascending, the last climber retrieves the safety gears of the leader which restore the rocks to their original state. At the top, trad climbers sometimes have to assemble an anchor using whatever spots available. Still, a couple of courses do prepare bolts for climbers to use as an anchor.   

Read more: How Far Would You Have To Fall To Die?

Sport or Trad Climbing: Which is right for you?

sport vs. trad climbing
The difference between trad and sport climbing!

A brief summary of differences between sport and trad climbing:

  • While sport climbing places heavy emphasis on physical strength, trad climbing involve mental challenges as well. 
  • Sport climbing relies mostly on preplaced bolts. On the other hand, trad climbing requires a wide variety of accessories as well as protection.
  • Sport climbers follow predefined routes while trad climbers must find their own routes
  • Traditional climbing demands extensive knowledge from the climbers. In contrast, sport climbing only require climbers to have some basic understandings.  
  • In sport climbing, climbers don’t have to worry too much about failing. In the case of trad climbing, climbers need to be careful so as not to fall on the anchors they place. 

It’s hard to say for certain which one is better when it comes to sport vs. traditional climbing as each style deliver unique experiences. If you want to get to know rock climbing then sport climbing should be the ideal start in most cases. Once you are able to conquer the majority of sport climbs with ease and want something more challenging then you may switch to traditional climbing. All things considered, it’s up to you to determine who come out on top regarding sport vs. traditional climbing.

Last Updated on July 17, 2019

Rate this post

Leave a Reply