I jumped onto the sport climbing band-wagon shortly after it started rolling in the mid 80’s and, save for winter/spring bouldering forays and the odd ‘away-day’ on the grit or in the mountains, I’ve been sport climbing ever since. Burning considerable midnight oil in the process, I eventually managed to shoe-horn as many tips and techniques that I’ve not forgotten into two supplements for Climb Magazine at the back end of last year. Published with Climb 33 Part 1: The Basic Skills appeared in November 2007. Part 2: The Next Level came out with Climb 34 in December 2007…




Kurt Albert is credited with inventing sport climbing in Germany back in the late 70’s. Albert and his mates painted a red circle on the rock at the base of the climb when they managed to free-climb all the moves on a route. They then practiced the climb, either on a top-rope or leading; their ultimate aim was to climb the route from the bottom to the top in one go without falling off or weighting the gear. Once they had climbed a route in this way, the red circle was then filled in with red paint and it quite literally became a redpoint!


The practice of redpointing became a cornerstone for the emerging group of German climbers; sport climbing was borne. It grew quickly in Europe, including the UK, and beyond. The moves on sport climbs were so hard, the climbs so sustained and the rock often so blank that natural gear couldn’t be placed to protect the new routes. The solution was to pre-equip routes with expansion bolts which were left in situ for all to use. Whilst it seemed a reasonable practice for the early sport climbers, the traditionalist objected and many disagreements and arguments erupted, especially in the UK and the US, between the two camps. Traditionalists were concerned that existing routes would get bolted and that the advent of bolt-protected sport climbing would signal the death knell for traditional climbing. Eventually, a voluntary agreement was reached that protected traditional crags and yet enabled sport climbing to develop at particular crags.


Now, after more than twenty years in the main-stream, sport climbing happily co-exists alongside numerous other climbing styles. Many join the game each year and face the bewildering world of sport climbing in the flesh for the first time. Whether crossing over from traditional climbing or ventured outside from an indoor climbing wall there’s a considerable learning curve. The skills and subtleties, the methods and madness of sport climbing can be rewarding and frustrating in equal measures. Self-help is readily at hand through various sources including the two supplements from Climb. Part 1, The Basic Skills takes new-comers to the sport through the essentials which are then developed in Part 2: The Next Level.


There’s a brief run-down of the content of the supplements:


Part 1: The Basic Skills

  • Historical background
  • The difference between Trad climbing or Sport climbing
  • Essential gear
  • Essential skill set needed before starting out
  • How to survive your first sport climb
  • What to do at the lower-off
  • How to get the gear out
  • Style
  • Sport climbing grades
  • Destinations (UK and Overseas)
  • Glossary


Part 2: The Next Level

  • Essential gear
  • Warming up
  • On-sighting: The next level
  • Redpointing: The next level
  • How to work a route
  • How to redpointing a route
  • Stripping an overhanging route
  • Warm-downs, active resting, recovery strategies
  • Slick tricks
  • Road map for multi-day redpoints projects
  • Golden rules for redpointing
  • How conditions affect sport climbing
  • How to do a new route
  • Glossary


If you have any comments about the supplements or you are starting out and have a question or two that you want answering, please drop an email to me and I’ll do my best to come back to you with some answers.


Click here to see a gallery of sport climbing images which appeared in the supplements. These were selected to illustrate a specific point rather than to provide a comprehensive coverage of sport climbing venues. The captions will reveal all. The images are all available as prints.