5 Climbing & Rope Sports You May (or May Not) Want to Try
For those with a love of adventure and a penchant for adrenaline, climbing and rope sports deliver a wide range of options. From seriously extreme sports such as free soloing, to controlled thrills such as rappelling, there are options to suit a range of abilities – and nerves!
An adventure sport based on fun and aesthetics, canyoning – as the name suggests – involves travelling through canyons using a variety of techniques. Depending on the canyon, this sport often involves abseiling/rappelling, technical jumping/climbing and swimming. In some cases, it also includes jumping into the fast-flowing water and allowing oneself to be carried downstream at high speed – obviously, this isn’t without risk.
Often carried out in remote settings, canyoning frequently requires sound navigation and wilderness skills. The primary hazard when canyoning is flash flooding; heavy rainfall can result in large volumes of water flooding the canyon in a short space of time.
The appeal of canyoning lies largely with the scenery, as the canyons themselves are typically very picturesque. In Australia, a popular place to go canyoning is the Blue Mountains (approximately 50 kilometres west of Sydney’s metropolitan area).
Canyoning usually involves getting wet!
Bouldering is a form of rock climbing – minus the ropes. Generally, bouldering courses are kept to a maximum height of 6 metres in order to reduce the chance of injury. No harnesses or ropes are used; however, climbers often wear specialised climbing shoes and chalk on their hands to prevent slipping, as well as bouldering mats to help reduce injury in the event of a fall.
Bouldering can take place inside on indoor rock climbing walls, as well as outside on natural boulders. Originally used as a method of training for mountaineering and rope climbs, bouldering is a now a sport in its own right. In recent times, bouldering has become a popular competitive sport where climbers compete based on speed and the number of manoeuvrers it takes to complete a set course.
Artificial rock climbing walls with padded floors are commonly used for practising bouldering.
Another term to describe the sport of mountain climbing, mountaineering involves a wide range of techniques – including abseiling/rappelling, hiking, climbing and even skiing when traversing snow-capped mountains.
Generally, the aim of this sport is to reach the highest point of a mountain, and the ascent may involve terrain such as rocks, snow and/or ice. Mountaineering can be as simple as scrambling over rocks on a difficult uphill hike, through to climbing Mount Everest. Therefore, difficulty levels vary greatly; on expert-level climbs participants often have to negotiate terrain that includes glaciers, steep slopes and crevasses; risks that come with advanced mountaineering include falling ice, rocks and avalanches.
Advanced mountaineering often involves steep, icy climbs.
Free soloing (free solo climbing)
Perhaps one of the most dangerous climbing sports, free soloing is similar to bouldering in that participants climb unaided by ropes, harnesses or other people. However, unlike bouldering that is generally practised at a safe height with protective mats, free soloing often involves climbing to unsafe heights. A fall is likely to result in serious injury or death, thus it’s a sport for those with exceptional climbing ability – and nerves of steel!
So why do people choose to climb cliff faces void of any safety measures? Apart from the adrenaline rush, climbers are able to complete the ascent quicker. Generally, climbers only attempt free solo climbing when the climb is well within their level of ability and they have completed the course safely before while using ropes.
However, loose rocks and changes in the weather are not always predictable; free soloing is certainly a dangerous sport and many people have died whilst attempting climbs.
Free soloing involves climbing without ropes or harnesses.
Rappelling involves the controlled descent of a vertical drop, using ropes and a harness. Rappelling/abseiling is a sport in its own right, however, this technique of descent is commonly used as part of sports such canyoning and mountaineering.
Although generally performed backwards (i.e. facing the vertical), rappelling can also be performed facing forward. This type of descent has been coined as ‘Rap Jumping’; participants leap from the top of the vertical and essentially run down the face after a short period of a free-falling.
Abseiling, rappelling and rap jumping are all leisure activities enjoyed by beginners and advanced climbers alike. These rope activities offer a great introduction to rope sports, as they can be performed in a very safe, controlled environment.
Rap jumping is a forward-facing version of abseiling / rappelling.
While extreme sports such as free solo climbing aren’t recommended for the average person, rap jumping is a great way to get used to heights and feel that rush of adrenaline.
If you are interested in taking part in a rap jumping session in the heart of Melbourne, Rap Jumping offers backwards abseiling for those who are a little apprehensive – as well as forward-facing rappelling for those who really want to get their adrenaline pumping!