This page is intended as an overview of the most often asked questions
when one considers getting started in the sport of climbing.
Climbing refers to the act of climbing WITH a partner, utilizing safety harnesses, climbing rope, and belay gear.
Bouldering refers to the act of climbing alone OR with a partner, but NOT using safety harnesses or ropes, and WITHOUT a belay. That is NOT to say, ‘bouldering’ is an unsafe practice. Bouldering is low-level climbing [generally not exceeding 10 to 12 feet above ground level for your head and shoulders], that involves traversing [moving sideways] and working on problems that top-out at around 12 feet.
A problem is a series of moves [think 1 through 20, or a to z] that have a start point, a finish point, and any number of moves in between. Your problem is to work out the moves that enable you to get to the final point [climbing hold] in the most energy efficient way possible. Working out problems helps one develop technique, footwork, strength, stamina, power, and climbing skills. Some boulderers climb, some climbers boulder, many do only one or the other, but think of bouldering as away to enhance your climbing skills without the constraints of a partner. Bouldering is also an easy way to get introduced to the sport of climbing without the need of specialized testing or instruction.
A route is similar to a problem. It involves any number of moves upward from start to finish [a to z, 1 – 25] but always indicates climbing with a partner while wearing harnesses, tied into a rope, and on belay. You climb a route and you boulder a problem.
Since climbing always refers to using safety gear, a climber needs to understand how to properly put on a climbing harness, tie into the climbing rope, and safely belay his/her partner as well as safely interact with other climbers, and use the gym effectively. At Thrillseekers Climbing Gym we pride ourselves in teaching and testing each climber/belayer to a high standard. IF you already know the basic skills of climbing/belaying you may come in and test anytime on a walk-in basis. IF you don’t know the basics, it’s OK if a friend teaches you, OR you may schedule one of our Introductory Lessons, but you will have to pass a belay proficiency test BEFORE you belay another climber.
An auto belay is a mechanical device used to belay a climber without the need for a partner. Auto belay equipment is generally attached at the top of a climbing wall, and utilize a clutch that should engage in the event of a fall. They are not fool proof and have been known to fail. We choose not to use auto belay equipment at our gym. When asked, “Do you know how to tie in and belay?”, the question refers to the specific skills explained under the climbing heading above. Having climbed on an auto belay does not qualify you tie in and belay.
AUTO BRAKE [ABC]
An auto brake is a misnomer. There are many belay devices on the retail market with “assisted braking capability” [from here on referred to as an ‘ABC‘]. They are similar to an auto belay [described above] with the primary difference of being attached to the belayer’s harness as opposed to the climbing wall. Common brands of ABC’s are the Petzl GriGri, Faders Sum, and Edelrid Eddy, just to name a few. ABC’s are a friction belay devices that should engage when the rope moves suddenly through it’s interior [as in the event of a climber’s fall]. The most common error [injury potential] in the use of an ABC comes from the user’s over reliance on the equipment. Many serious injuries have occurred when a climber is being belayed by an inexperienced belayer relying on the ‘fail safe’ of an ABC. Here at Thrillseekers Climbing Gym we treat all ABC’s as an advanced belay device. One may ‘graduate’ to the use of an ABC after demonstrating high proficiency in the use of any standard ATC style belay device. However a belayer that is new to the sport, or is taking their first belay test at our facility may NOT use an ABC for the test.
ATC [style] BELAY DEVICE
An ATC is a tube style belay device first invented by the incredible designers at Black Diamond Equipment. It’s design became so mainstream that eventually most if not all climbing equipment manufacturers copied the design and used a different name to describe their knockoff of the ATC. Much like ‘Kleenex’, a name so familiar everyone refers to any facial tissue as ‘Kleenex’, the ATC became the go-to nomenclature for any tube style belay device. There are dozens of tube style belay devices available today consisting of a metal tube with two holes for a climbing/rappelling rope, and a retainer loop to keep it attached to the belay carabiner. Virtually all climbers refer to their own tube style belay device as an ATC even if it’s been manufactured by a competitor climbing equipment manufacturer.
MORE TO COME…