A Brief Look into the History of Rock Climbing

Worldwide, 25 million people climb on a regular basis. Rock climbing is fun, and it’s great exercise.

Are you a rock climber? Are you interested but haven’t started yet? Rock climbing’s not a modern invention. The history of rock climbing goes back a long way.

The Story

Rock Climbing

Rock climbing wasn’t always a sport like it is now. Rock climbing takes strength and endurance. It works almost every muscle in the body. It’s a sport that’s not for the faint of heart.

The rock climber climbs natural steep rock formations or man-made rock climbing walls. The sport takes not only physical strength but mental strength as well.

Ancient History

There are Chinese watercolors depicting rock climbers as early as 400 BC.

In the 10th to 12th century, Puebloans in Colorado built cliff dwellings requiring drilled post holds and carved steps.

The Frenchman, Antoine de Ville, climbed Mont Aiguille on June 26, 1492. His feat was not repeated until 1834. Mont Aiguille stands 6,800 feet and is south of Grenoble. The climb was done at the behest of Charles VIII.

Antoine de Ville was the king’s chamberlain and military engineer. He had ten companions with ropes and ladders on the climb.

Rock climbing wasn’t a sport at the time. De Ville was the first “grimpeur,” or climbing specialist.

Early Climbing

In the Alpine mountains of the 16th and 17th centuries, rock climbing was for rescue operations. Toward the end of the 18th century, Mont Blanc was climbed. Mont Blanc is the highest mountain in Europe at 15,777 feet.

John Muir was a famous conservationist and the first president of the Sierra Club. In 1869 he was in Yosemite and tried his hand at climbing Cathedral Peak. By today’s standards, that’s a Class 4 out of 5.

He climbed it without ropes!

The Modern Era

The 1940s brought improved gear and more climbers. In 1958, Warren Harding ascended The Nose on El Capitan. It’s a 3,000-foot climb up a sheer wall once considered impossible.

The arduous climb took 45 days. Climbers now take less than 3 hours!

Rock climbing was popular in Germany, and the Germans were the first to embrace the sport.

England saw its share of climbers in the 1900s as well. There were lots of climbs centered on complicated rock formations.

Although there were no climbing clubs like there are today, people met on an informal basis to discuss techniques and experiences.

Not to be left out, the Italians started climbing the Dolomite Mountains. But this was only after a young German from Munich made the climb solo.

A Brief History of Rock Climbing

Rock climbing went from mountaineering and rescue operations to a full-blown modern sport. It takes fitness and grit, but like many challenging sports, it’s rewarding.

Now you can learn to climb without even going outside! With the advent of climbing gyms, there are all sorts of options for climbing. If you don’t have access to the mountains, try a gym.

Looking for some gear to get started? Shop for climbing shoes here.

Climbing Literacy: How to Read a Rock Climbing Route

Climbing, like any sport, takes a specific development of skills and training. You engage physically with your limitations before you hit the wall or rock.

You wouldn’t approach a surface if your hand was numb and you shouldn’t if your mind is blank either. While freestyling and climb-as-you-go are good ways to have fun, a serious climber needs serious mental focus.

Learning how to read a rock climbing route involves picking up some techniques and some jargon. You don’t need to spout technical jargon or quote the Yosemite Decimal System, but you want to be understood.

This guide will get you the basics to practice so you can build your techniques and shorthand.

Route Lexicon

Like most activities, breaking down a task makes it easier to understand to do. Knowing how to walk through all the steps helps you see the whole picture. This becomes doubly important when working with a partner.

Route Scouting

The skills needed at a climbing wall and a rock face differs only slightly. While the holds in a rock climbing gym may be easier to see, seeing the best ones for your level is something else.

On a rock face, you will need to separate good useful rock from a lousy rock. So in both cases, you take what looks similar and make decisions on what works for you.

You want to consider the starting point and the end point and draw a mental line between them. This line will not be the shortest but the one that best fits your climbing skill.

Hand and Foot

Next, you identify your two main holds: hand or foot.

A handhold will be more massive and have some ability to hook or grasp. Round surfaces don’t work well with human gripping capacity.

Footholds can be smaller and rounder. Feet are better at supporting a lot of weight on small surfaces because the rest of the body has mechanisms that help this.

If you hit a popular rock in the wild, it will likely have the same markings as a climbing wall. The hand holds will have some chalk residue and the footholds scuffs from shoes.

Key Holds

Next, you want to plan your key holds. These will be places you need to hit for specific purposes.

You need to spot places you can rest and areas where more significant moves are required. Ideally, you want to find rests before big moves.

Even on a small climb resting can be essential to discourage muscle pain.

Beta Ready

Once you have the route planned, you go over the information and confirm that it is possible. Many climbers refer to this as the ‘beta’ stage where you have enough information to make a trial run.

This stage gives you the ability to convey the information to others and to replan in case of a failure.

Join the Fun

If you have a passing interest in climbing as exercise or a drive to be a renowned climber, you have to start practicing. Learning how to put together a rock climbing route is only one step.

For other steps, consider scheduling a class to up your climbing acumen.

Why Rock Climbing is a Great Way to Stay Fit

All across the country, in big open warehouses and repurposed manufacturing facilities, rock climbing gyms are popping up fast. If you haven’t been to one, you might be shocked to see how massive some of the facilities are. If you’re new to the number of rock climbing benefits that can contribute to your health and fitness, you’ll be bowled over by the number of ways it’s good for you.

Here are some of the best reasons why you should consider rock climbing as your new way to stay in shape

1. It’s Total Cardio

If you’ve never been rock climbing before, you might think that it’s all a bunch of upper body strength exercises. You might have no clue just how many muscle groups it takes to climb from one hold to another.

While there are climbers who speed up a wall as fast as possible, others will take their time. More experienced climbers will go up challenging walls and cliffs. The longer and slower you climb, the more intense your workout will be.

If you’re looking for a high-intensity cardio session, rock climbing is perfect for you. You could easily burn more than 700 calories while you’re climbing for just an hour.

2. Climbing is Good For the Soul

When you’re in a good mood, it’s easy to stay fit, and when you’re in good shape, it’s easy to be happy. That’s one of the great things about rock climbing. It’s a very social activity where people often meet new friends and start new relationships.

Since it’s not very safe to go climbing alone, many climbers will take turns helping one another out while they climb. Since you have to put so much trust into one another, friendships will form fast.

Rock climbers can be very supportive of one another and will be invested in your life if that’s what you’re looking for. When you feel like you’re part of a community, you’ll be more excited about the workout.

3. Work Your Core

Along with the cardiovascular workout that you get from climbing, you’re going to have a really powerful core. As you climb up a wall or a cliff, you’re using your arms and upper body of course. However, this action doesn’t stop and start at your shoulders.

You’ll be doing lots of muscular contractions all throughout your core to help support your arms and legs. This full-body support system will give you a comprehensive workout to engage a broad range of muscles.

It’s always important to engage your core when you’re doing any exercise, and one of the benefits of climbing is that you’ll be doing that nonstop.

Rock Climbing Benefits are Huge

If you’ve never been rocking climbing before, the rock climbing benefits to your health might be a massive surprise to you. With friends, fitness, and the mental challenges that come with a steep climb, you’ll always be working on becoming a better person.

5 Rock Climbing Safety Tips To Keep In Mind At All Times

 5 Rock Climbing Safety Tips

An estimated 25 million people enjoy the rush of rock climbing around the globe every single year.

 And why not? Rock climbing is a sport that not only challenges your body physically but works you mentally and will satiate your burning need for adventure!

 While rock climbing is a safe activity when appropriately trained and practiced correctly, the average climber will still experience about one injury per 1000 hours of climbing.

 That ratio is excellent in comparison to many other sports but still, many of the injuries, especially the fatal ones, can be avoided by exercising proper climbing safety.

 Are you ready for your next climbing adventure? These tips can save your life and help you avoid getting stuck during your trip.

 

 Five Safety Tips to Always Remember

 

 1. Wear a Helmet

 

If you’re a “trad climber” you’re probably accustomed to wearing a helmet. For whatever reason though, sports climbers are substantially less likely to strap on a helmet consistently.

 Why? We’re not sure.

 Sports climbers still run the same risk of slamming against a rock face, flipping upside down or encountering the occasional loose rock. Therefore, no matter what kind of climber you are, always make it a point to protect your head.

 

2. Check your Knots and Belay

 

When belaying, you always need to check and double check that your rope is threaded through your belay device correctly. Also, you’ll want to make sure your carabiners are locked.

 When climbing, you’ll want to double check that your knot is secure, tied right, and is as tight as possible. You’ll also want to make sure it’s threaded through your harness correctly.

 Getting into the habit of double checking everything is a must if you want to stay safe.

 

3. Don’t Overestimate Your Skill Level

 

Climbing can give you a rush that makes you feel like you can conquer the world. While we love the world of rock climbing for that reason, that sense of confidence also leads to a lot of climbing safety issues.

 Always be conservative with your abilities and never push yourself beyond safety limits.

 

4. Communicate Before Ascending

 

When you’re climbing with a partner, your both being on the same page before you leave the ground is crucial to maintaining climbing safety. For example, you should know if you’re lowering off draws, planning to rappel, etc. before you get up to your anchors.

 Also, have contingency plans in place should common climbing issues arise during your ascent.

 Not communicating and then having difficulty communicating when your voices are drowned out by a noisy highway or body of water can be disastrous.

 

5. Watch Out for Falling Rocks and Debris

 

If you’re climbing during rainy seasons, there’s good chance water will loosen rocks and create conditions where rocks and debris will fall to the ground. Because of this, it’s crucial that you always locate your belay spots in sheltered areas when possible.

 Also, orient your hangout spots away from slab-like or vertical cliffs.

 

Wrapping Up Tips to Ensure your Climbing Safety

 

Rock climbing, contrary to many people’s assumptions, is an extraordinarily safe activity. That being said, like all activities, climbing has safety concerns you need to stay mindful of.

 To get started ensuring your climbing safety, consider the tips we’ve listed above. Each of them will help you circumvent deadly mistakes while climbing.

 For more of the best tips on climbing and to get the best climbing gear, dive deeper into Butora.

 At Butora, we have combined decades of climbing experience into making industry standard climbing shoes and other gear that will make your next climb safer and more comfortable!

 Browse our catalog or check out our local retailers and start taking your climbing passion to the next level with Butora gear today.

A Climber’s Reading List

Climber's Reading List

If you are interested in learning more about climbing, reading can be a fantastic way to get started. A cursory google search will provide you with hundreds of books concerning the sport and related climbing knowledge like rope work, anchor systems, strength training, and elements of mountaineering. There are also some books detailing the exploits of fabled mountaineers as they made their way up some of the world’s most dangerous and challenging climbing routes.

The List to Get You to the Top

Here is a list of must-read books that will benefit climbers of all skill levels, whether you’re a novice looking to jump-start your familiarity on your new hobby or an advanced climber trying to solidify your mastery. If you’re looking to understand climbing systems and the basics of mountaineering, learn how to build “bomber” anchors, improve your long-term conditioning programs, and get inspired by legendary mountaineers, the following reading list is worth checking out:

Mountaineering: The Freedom of the Hills

by The Mountaineers of Seattle, Washington

Originally published in 1960, this instruction manual has long been considered the bible of mountaineering. Currently, in its 9th edition (2017), Mountaineering is the ultimate book for new mountaineers. If you had to pick one instruction manual for learning everything you need to know about safely and effectively traversing across mountain ranges, this should be it. This incredibly comprehensive book covers all mountaineering topics including nutrition for mountaineering, navigation, dressing appropriately, and ice and rock climbing systems and techniques. Many professional climbers (including Conrad Anker and Mark Twight, for example) cite Mountaineering as the source for their understanding of rock climbing in their early days.

Toproping

by Bob Gaines

Most new climbers heading out into the mountains on their own for the first time are usually in search of some single-pitch cragging and toproping adventures. If this sounds like you, Topropingis the perfect book for preparing for a day of toproping. If you’re in need of a technical manual to keep with you before your first steps into outdoor rock climbing, this is an excellent choice. For more advanced climbers that might already be participating in multi-pitch adventures, this book will still provide a wealth of information regarding necessary climbing skills making it worth reviewing.

Climbers interested in leading groups of untrained individuals into their first toprope climb will want to read more on this topic. Thay can also consider looking at The AMGA Single Pitch Manual, which is designed for leaders guiding groups out into the mountains.

Climbing Anchors

by Bob Gaines and John Long

This book is for climbers that already understand basic rope systems and belaying but are looking to make the move into traditional climbing and proper gear placements. All trad leaders, novice or advanced, should definitely have this piece of literature on their shelf. It’s simply written and easy to read, and its most useful feature is the excellent picture examples of the “Do’s” and “Don’ts” regarding the placement of traditional gear.

This manual provides great images to show how to properly place all commonly-used traditional climbing gear (nuts, cams, hexes, etc.) and clearly outlines the most common mistakes that climbers make while placing gear. Furthermore, thereare many “advanced” placements that intermediate and experienced climbers should work on mastering. This book is also a must-read before your first trad lead.

Training for the New Alpinism: A Manual for the Climber as Athlete

by Steve House, Scott Johnston, Mark Twight

It took many years for climbers to get on board the “athlete” train, in the sense that climbers were slow to adopt the training approaches commonly employed by other professional athletes. In the early days, most climbers “trained” by just climbing (and maybe adding in the occasional run). That has since changed dramatically and, more than ever before, climbers are practicing like professional athletes with long-term training plans.

Whether you’re a recreational climber that mostly hangs out in the gym, or an advanced one hoping to be sponsored by Butora one day, this book can help provide an excellent overview of how to train like a pro. In this book, a thorough understanding of exercise physiology has been applied to specifically benefit mountain athletes. If you’re looking to improve your bouldering strength at the gym or summit Denali on your next expedition, this book might make you rethink your fitness.

The Push

by Tommy Caldwell

This is by no means a technical manual, but it is an excellent autobiography about an incredible mountain athlete. If you haven’t heard of Tommy Caldwell, he’s a world-renowned rock climber who recently (with Alex Honnold) reset the speed-record on El Cap. Some climber autobiographies are worth reading, but Caldwell delivers his story in a way that is both inspiring (and chilling) for climbers of all skills levels. And if you’re looking for a book to share with non-climbers, either to get them interested in the sport or just so they understand why you do what you do, this is your best bet at getting them curios.

Pick Up That Book

The short reading list is by no means an all-encompassing directory for what to read, it’s merely a nice progression for enhancing your understanding of climbing basics. If you want to learn more about climbing keep visiting the blog for new articles.

Athletic Diet: Everything Rock Climbers Need to Know About Nutrition

Athletic Diet

Are you a rock climbing enthusiast looking for the proper diet for your hobby? Or, maybe you’re a beginner who’d like to know what the best meal to have while training?

Eating the right food in the right amount can do wonders for your strength and endurance.

Keep reading to discover what you should eat and how to maintain a nutrient-packed diet to fuel your adventures.

 

Athletic Diet for Rock Climbers: The Essentials

Rock climbing is a strenuous activity and requires a high level of mental and physical preparation. Regular training and a healthy diet play equal roles in keeping you fit.

Wonder what athletes should eat?

 

Here are the basics you need to know about maintaining a healthy athletic diet:

 

Embrace the Complex Carbohydrates

The best diet for athletes in training, including rock climbers, must include at least 40% of complex carbohydrates.

They’re a significant source of long-lasting energy that helps your body maintain strength and brain power.

Some of the best complex carbs for your diet are:

  • Wholemeal bread and pastries
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Brown rice
  • Quinoa
  • Fruits (blueberries, bananas)
  • Green veggies (spinach, kale, broccoli)
  • Starchy veggies (regular and sweet potatoes, green peas)

Stay on Track with the Protein

Every diet and nutrition for athletes and rock climbers must be made of at least 30% protein. Protein is a building block for your muscles and a source of fuel for your body.

The best high-protein foods to implement in your diet are:

  • Lean meat (poultry, fish, lean red meat)
  • Eggs
  • Legumes
  • Low-fat cheese
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Peanut butter
  • Chickpeas
  • Chia seeds

Keep the Fat in Check

When creating a sports diet, athletes shouldn’t consume too much fat. Though healthy fats are a vital source of energy, their primary role is to slow down the process of digestion.

When you eat a particular athlete’s diet, your goal is to accumulate long-lasting energy. If complex carbs are your primary energy source, fats may prevent them from digesting thoroughly. This will cut down ontheir efficacy, and you’ll need to make up with more calories.

A rock climber’s diet should consist of 25-30 % fat at the most, depending on your activities.

The best foods with healthy fats are:

  • Avocados
  • Coconut and its products
  • Olive oil and olives
  • Grass-fed butter
  • Nuts
  • Ground flaxseed
  • Raw cacao nibs and dark chocolates
  • Fatty fish (tuna, mackerel, salmon)

Stay Hydrated

Healthy eating for athletes is just one side of the coin. Staying hydrated throughout your training and climbing is the other.

Rock climbing isn’t easy, no matter how experienced you are. Whenever you lose water through sweating and physical strain, your body loses electrolytes. You have to replenish them as soon as possible to prevent muscle cramps, fatigue, and dehydration.

Aside from water, you can stay hydrated with coconut water, chia lemon water, green smoothies, and milk.

Keep Your Body and Mind Healthy and Prepared for Rock Climbing

Climbing is your passion and each time you want to show up better than the next. These tips will help you follow an athletic diet and adapt it to your rock-climbing lifestyle.

Ready for a new pair of climbing shoes? Check out our collection and choose the perfect fit for your needs.

Have questions? Contact us today and let us know how we can help.

When Should You Start Lead Climbing?

Lead climbing is climbing up the rock with your rope directly attached to the belayer. As you climb, you set your own protection or clip quickdraws into bolts. Setting your protection is called Traditional Climbing (or trad climbing), and you’ll need specific pieces to place. The trad gear list includes cams, nuts, quickdraws, carabiners, cordelette, a rope and a nut tool to remove the pieces after your climb.

The other form of lead climbing is called Sport Climbing. This form of climbing has protection set for you in the form of bolts. The gear list for Sport Climbing is much shorter than that of Traditional Climbing. You will need quickdraws, carabiners, and a rope. Depending on your anchors at the top, you may need cordelette as well.

The above gear lists for Traditional and Sport Climbing are referring only to the gear you’ll need for the actual climb. You’ll also need equipment for you and your belayer such as harnesses, helmets and a positive attitude.

Lead climbing requires more skill and focus than top rope climbing. It also needs more from your mental game. The falls taken during lead climbing have the potential to be longer and harder than top rope falls.

There is no magical formula for when you should start lead climbing. However, ask yourself the following questions, and you will better understand when lead climbing could be right for you.

1. What grade can you comfortably climb at?

If you can comfortably climb at a 5.9 grade, you are ready to start playing in the lead climbing pool. You should be able to top out on some 5.10s, but if you are projecting 5.10s, that’s okay too. If you are not climbing at a 5.9 yet, keep working on technique. It’s less about the brute strength and more about how to position your body to get up the wall. Experiment with balance, holding the rocks in different ways and observing people that climb differently from you.

2. How is your mental game?

If you are on a top rope climb and 5 feet up in the air just trying to figure out how to breathe, lead climbing is not for you yet. You should feel comfortable enough with your gear at this point to trust it. The only way you’ll get more comfortable with heights is to climb and know your gear. If you feel comfortable with top rope climbing and the height factor, you may be ready.

3. Have you practiced indoors?

The culture of climbing is growing at such a fast pace that indoor gyms are popping up all across the United States. The fantastic thing about indoor gyms is that you can train all-year-round. You can also take lead climbing clinics and train indoors where there is a padded floor for nice cloud-like landings.

4. Do you know the crew?

It’s just a fact. Climbing is a social sport. For you to learn how to lead climb, you’re going to need some friends. Ideally, friends that already know how to lead climb. Watching them climb, asking questions and then learning how to clip and climb yourself is a great way to begin.

5. Jump in the currents and swim, baby!

Be honest about where your climbing level is at. If you are comfortably climbing at a 5.9 level (pushing 5.10), trusting your gear and hanging out with other lead climbers that are willing to help you… get out there and start lead climbing! If you need some inspiration or encouragement, our team is here to help. If you’d like some more dirty deets on climbing, visit our Beta Blog. And finally, make sure you’ve got the correct gear to get out there.

If you are not quite ready for lead climbing, your assignment is simple: keep climbing. You’ll get there one day.

Choose Ben’s Next Adventure

Ben Hanna Rock Climbing

Climbing Magazine released an article on Butora Ambassador Ben Hanna this month. The story made us think about the many aspects of climbing that Ben is involved in, and what our community is most drawn to. It talks about his incredible flashes of routes like ‘Proper Soul’ 5.14a, ‘The Racist’ 5.13b, and his redpoint of ‘Coal Train’ 5.14a, after a 30-minute pre-viewing the day before.

It also mentions his redpoint of climbs like ‘Everything is Karate’ 5.14 c/d, and the hardest climb is his home state of New Mexico, ‘Helsinki’ 5.14 d.

Also, Ben spent some time with Brad Gobright putting up the epic 10-pitch trad lineDreefee’ 5.13d in an intense intro to placing gear!

While Ben certainly gets the job done outside sending sport routes, developing trad lines, and doing his fair share of route development from North Carolina to New Mexico in sport climbing, he also makes sure he is pushing himself in competition climbing.

Last year, he participated in USA Climbing’s Inaugural Bouldering National Cup Series, both Sport and Bouldering Open National events, the World Cup in Vail, and is heading to Europe this Summer to send some sport climbs and compete in more World Cup events.

Check out his full list of comps for the past year:

Vail World Cup – 67th

Come and Send It Fest– 3rd

Tuck Fest – 2nd

USA Boulder National – 8th

Lead Revival – 4th

Southern Grit – 4th

Yank N Yard – 3rd

Portland Boulder Rally

Youth World Championships – 36th

Arco – 57th

Psicobloc – 2nd

Battle for the Fort – 2nd

Ben Hanna Rock Climbing

What part of Ben’s climbing is most impressive? What is our climbing community most drawn to—is it flashing an epic climb in the footsteps of other greats like Chris Sharma? Is it redpointing a difficult climb in short order? Is it moving outside of your comfort zone into trad climbing working with another great climber like Brad Gobright? Or maybe it’s competing on the national circuit and developing lasting relationships with climbers like Nathaniel Coleman, Kyra Condie, and Zach Galla? Perhaps it is developing and sending the hardest climb in his home state of New Mexico?

Maybe it’s the combination of all of these?

We need your help! Let us know what most interests you in the comment below or submit an idea for your own adventure. Then help us decide where to send Ben next. The person who comes up with the best idea will WIN the opportunity to join Ben and 1 additional soon-to-be-named Butora Ambassador on their next adventure!!


As mentioned, Ben is now headed to Europe to team up with Kerry Scott who is already taking down climb after climb in the Ceuse mornings before the rains chase her back into town. To keep up with these climbers and their adventures this summer, please follow and share stories from these Instagram accounts: @hanna_smash, @kerryscott123 and @gajdaphotography.

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Ambassador Spotlight | Tyler Weiss

Hometown: Raleigh, NC

Q: What’s your climbing style?
A: Crimps, lock-offs, static movement/tension blocs, and I have most my success on walls up to 60 degrees.

Q: What is your proudest accomplishment in climbing, and outside of climbing?
A: Becoming the lead setter for Triangle Rock Club. Climbing Kill onsight V12 at the Happies in Bishop, CA. Becoming an ambassador for Butora climbing.

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Ambassador Spotlight | Mercadi Carlson

Hometown: Salt Lake City, UT

Q: What’s your climbing style?
A: Trad Climber!

Q: What is your proudest accomplishment in climbing, and outside of climbing?
A: My proudest accomplishments in climbing have been pretty recent. I started out the beginning of the year, not being able to build anchors or place anything but cams. Going on a little road trip to some of the greatest climbing areas in the world, I’ve had to learn how to protect myself and my partner. I learned how to place nuts correctly, and to have confidence with that protection while running it out on the face (I am terrified of face climbing). I also learned how to build anchors, safely and efficiently, which I am very excited and proud to have obtained that skill.
I really don’t have a lot of accomplishments outside of climbing, since climbing has kind of taken over my life and all of my previous hobbies; but I recently became WFR certified, and plan on getting my SPI certification next so I can start guiding people in the beautiful place that I reside in. Taking both of those courses has taught me so much about protecting yourself and your partner from possible risks, and how to get out of tricky, scary situations and I am very proud to have obtained that knowledge.

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