"Good judgement is the result of experience. Experience is the result of bad judgement."


IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER: Trusting your life solely to something you read on the internet is just plain stupid. Get corroboration from a more reliable source, use your common sense, don't get yourself killed, and don't come crying to me (or the people I've quoted) if you do.



Forms of climbing

Climbing comes in different forms. These do vary quite a bit in regards to what is required from the climber (both in regards of the necessary skills and equipment). Usually at least the following forms of climbing are distinguished:

  • Indoor climbing
  • Rock climbing. Rock climbing is very commonly subdivided into sport climbing and trad climbing based on whether bolts are used for protection or not.
  • Ice climbing
  • Mountaineering/Alpine climbing

Where one form of climbing starts and where it ends is anything but hard cut. This is especially true in distinguishing rock climbing and ice climbing from alpine climbing.

There are also several styles of climbing. Mostly this affects rock climbing, but to some extent same differentation applies to other forms of climbing as well.

  • bouldering
  • free climbing
  • aid climbing

How rope is used distinguishes toproping and lead climbing. Toproping is only feasible on single-pitch climbs. It is normally done by novices and when training, whether it be learning the new route or pushing the physical or technical boundaries of climbers ability. Climb is not considered properly done (sent) unless it was lead.

There are also numerous styles within lead climbing, depending on

  • amount of prior knowledge of the route
  • whether gear was placed during the lead or if it was preplaced

Free climbing the route from ground up, with no previous attemps on the route and placing the gear on lead (whether it be clipping quickdraws to bolts, placing trad gear or ice protection) is considered the purest form of climbing.

Climbing vocabulary

Understanding climbing vocabulary is often paramount to understanding articles in climbing magazines. Sometimes it may be crucial part to route planning and safety as well.

Understanding guidebooks

Climbing guidebooks (sometimes refered to as topos although strictly speaking topo is route sketch or photo) typically consist of some general information as well as information about the routes. What information is available varies a great deal between different guidebooks. Generally guidevbooks have a lot of ropos and/or photos accompanied with route descriptions. Rock climbing topos often rely mostly on pictures with very little textual information. Fior each route usually the following information is available:

  • Name
  • Grade expressed in the grading system of choice by the author
  • Length. Expressed most commonly either as length in meters and/or pitches. For alpine routes often also length as time is may be given, although this is highly subjective
  • First ascent information
  • Description consisting of various levels of detail. Usually at least approach from the road end or other common starting point and some indication about the most favourable means of descent is described. Sometimes descriptions can be highly detailed and very helpful, sometimes info may be scarce. On some rock topos information about the necessary gear may be given.

As maps work poorly in the vertical world, climbers use route drawings called topo to communicate how the route goes. These are commonly either drawn sketches or photos with route lines and possibly additional information overlaid on top of it. Depending of topo, different set of symbols may be used, but often drawn topos follow the set of symbols recommended by UIAA. Since topos are often rich with topos it also makes foreign language toposmore or less accessible to climbers with no knowledge of the used language.


Climbing world is full of different systems, with which it is possible to evaluate the difficulty and seriousness of a given route. This document aims to ease figuring out how hard is a given grade in a given system. With all those fancy grades, it is quite possible to become grade-obsessed, picking routes primarily because of the grade. This is by no means the purpose of this document and is strongly discouraged. Climbers choosing to do so only have themselves to blame for missing many very enjoyable climbs. No grading system is capable of measuring the quality of climbing or how enjoyable and the climbs are. There are many other more rewarding ways to choose climbs. <<more>>.

Reading topo

Climbing technique

Climbing basics




Self rescue

Essential skill for all climbers aspiring to climb multipitch or alpine routes, as self rescue is the only kind of rescue climbers can realistically rely on in many situations. Yet neglegted by many (most?) climbers. Reading a good book self rescue techniques, then training at least most commonly needed techniques is highly recommended. Seld rescue covers various techniques depending on the scenario, but at least the following are common:

  • Escaping the belay
  • Ascending the rope
  • Hauling
  • Lowering
  • Assisted rappell
  • First aid

Some of the techniques are exactly the same than those used in crevasse rescue. Hauling and rope ascending techniques in their turn are commonly used in aid/big wall climbing as well.

Escaping the belay

Escaping the belay is the first step in any rescue situation, should be managed every climber and absolutely essential to anyone climbing multi-pitch routes.

Ascending the rope

There are several ways of ascending the rope. The choice of ascending device naturally has some impact on what's the most feasible way, but the basic principle is always pretty much the same. In big wall climbing where loads of rope ascending is to be expected, mechanical ascenders and etriers are the preferred weapons of choice. In other climbing situations bringing those along is mostly not feasible, therefore you have to make do with less ideal gear.

  1. Attach the ascending device (mechanical ascender or friction knot) to a rope
  2. Extend the ascending device so that you can stand on it (using slings, etriers, prussiks with leg loops or even climbing rope wrapped few times around the foot)
  3. Attach yourself to ascending device (using sling or daisy chain)


Hauling techniques involved in self-rescue are the very same that are also employed in big wall climbing to haul a bag and in crevasse rescue.

Rock climbing


Trad protection

Aid climbing

Alpinism & ice climbing


"Finally, sort your gear carefully into three piles consisting of absolute essentials, important items and could live without stuff and only bring the “essentials."

Black Diamond

While the most important piece of climbing equipment is the knowledge how to climb and how to use standard gear, having the right gear for the job certainly makes a difference.

Articles, tips & tricks

Rock gear
Ice & Alpine

Gear lists






Avalanche awareness

Medical aspects


Licensed under: Public Domain.

Graydon, Don; Cox, Steven M. & Fulsaas, Kris: Mountaineering - The Freedom of the Hills, 7th edition. Isbn: 1904057276. Mountaineers Books, 2003.

Since publication of the first edition in 1961, Mountaineering: The Freedom of the Hills has endured as the classic mountaineering text. Novice climbers use it as a primer; veterans use it to review their skills. Translated into five languages, it has instructed and inspired more than half a million climbers from all over the world. The fully updated seventh edition maintains the same high standard for complete, authoritative instruction in an easy-to-use format.From choosing equipment to how to tie a particular knot, from basic rappelling technique to planning an expedition, it's all here in this essential mountaineering reference. Continued evolution of the sport ensures that climbers who own previous editions will need to "upgrade" to the new seventh edition. The chapter on aid climbing, for example, has been substantially rewritten to include new aid techniques and equipment. A new chapter has been added to meet the rising popularity of waterfall ice and mixed climbing.The more than thirty contributors to Freedom 7 are all active climbers who regularly use and teach the skills about which they write. This book is the resource trusted by climbers the world over.


  • Graydon, Don; Cox, Steven M. & Fulsaas, Kris: Mountaineering - The Freedom of the Hills, 7th edition. Isbn: 1904057276. Mountaineers Books, 2003.
  • Houston, Mark & Cosley, Kathy: Alpine Climbing - Techniques to Take You Higher (Mountaineers Outdoor Expert). Isbn: 0898867495. Mountaineers Books, 2004.

Further information

  • Twight, Mark & Martin, James: Extreme Alpinism - Climbing Light, Fast, and High, 1st edition. Isbn: 0898866545. Mountaineers Books, 1999.
  • Gadd, Will & Thurman, Paula: Ice & Mixed Climbing - Modern Technique (Mountaineers Outdoor Expert), 1st edition. Isbn: 0-89886-769-X. Mountaineers Books, 2003.
  • Long, John: More Climbing Anchors. Isbn: 1575400006. Chockstone Press, 1998.
  • Houston, Charles: Going Higher - Oxygen Man and Mountains. Isbn: 0898865808. Mountaineers Books, 1998.
  • Selters, Andrew & Selters, Andy: Glacier Travel & Crevasse Rescue - Reading Glaciers, Team Travel, Crevasse Rescue Techniques, Routefinding, Expedition Skills 2nd Edition, 2nd edition. Isbn: 0898866588. Mountaineers Books, 2006.
  • Daffern, Tony: Avalanche Safety - For Skiers & Climbers. Isbn: 0898866472. Mountaineers Books, 1999.
  • Fasulo, David: Self-Rescue - How to Rock Climb Series. Isbn: 0934641978. Chockstone Press, 1997.
  • Wilkerson, James: Medicine for Mountaineering & Other Wilderness Activities. Isbn: 0898863317. Mountaineers Books, 1993.

Other recommended readings are introduced here.

Online books