Rock climbing is an interesting pastime in that a hundred years ago, no one would ever have dreamed of doing it for fun. Historically, the feat of scaling a crag or mountain has only been completed in conjunction with exploration. Oh, perhaps a few mountain climbers decided to scale a few mountains “because they were there,” but most people would never have considered it. Today, however, it is a completely different story. Rock climbing is one of those hobbies that, if you tell people you are into it, you are immediately considered “cool.” The social coup associated with being a rock climber is possibly a tacit acknowledgment of the innate danger involved in climbing vertical faces to dizzying heights. Rock climbing is, after, all, an essentially a hazardous pastime. Fortunately, most rock climbers tend to be smart about their chosen hobby, and they usually use as many pieces of equipment and safety devices as necessary.
Ropes are the most obvious gear associated with rock climbing. The routes used in this hobby consist of a core of long, twisted fibers and an outer sheath of woven, colored fibers. The core gives the rope a dramatically increased tensile strength, while the sheath provides a durable layer of protection for the core. There are two types of rope used in rock climbing: dynamic and static. The first type is usually used for belaying; when a climber falls, a dynamic rope will stretch at the lowest point of the fall, providing a cushioning effect. The second type of rope, static, does not stretch and is typically used in anchoring systems.
Carabiners are the metal loops with spring-loaded openings that climbers used to connect routes to themselves and their surroundings. Most carabiners for recreational climbing are made from aluminum alloy. Some are locking, meaning that the openings can be secured shut, and these are usually used for important connections. It is interesting to note that due to the cultural popularity of rock climbing, many young people have taken to using carabiners in everyday life. For example, may college students use these devices to fasten their water bottles to their backpacks. Such use of a carabiner is basically a silent way of saying “I’m a bad ass.”
Harnesses, as even a novice might guess, are used to attach a rope or paths to a climber. Most harnesses are designed to be worn around the pelvic area. Within this parameter, a variety of harness styles exist. Some have padded waist belts and leg loops, some are comparatively lightweight and some are minimalistic. Full-body harnesses are often used for children.
Belay devices are mechanical friction brake devices designed to be used while belaying, which is the process of protecting another climber from falling. The central purpose of a belay device is to allow the protector to lock off the other climber’s rope with minimal effort. There exists a wide variety of belay devices, each designed for use in a specific situation. Some models may also be used to control descent while rappelling.