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Your UCP: National August 25, 2003
Sports & Leisure

Recreation & Leisure


Climbing is an indoor or outdoor recreational activity that provides the thrill of ascending a wall or cliff and reaching the top. Climbing has become more popular recently due to the increase in the number of indoor facilities providing climbing opportunities. Indoor facilities provide a safe climbing experience for beginning climbers and an environment to learn the basic techniques. Climbing is indeed a risky activity. When done incorrectly, it can be very dangerous. However, with good instruction and by adhering to fundamental rules, climbing can be a very safe and enjoyable activity.

Climbing Techniques
The climbing technique an individual uses is dependent upon his or her abilities. By no means are these techniques set in stone. Each climber must base the technique they use on their individual abilities. Each of the techniques mentioned are commonly referred to as top rope techniques.

Photo of person demonstrating para-pullup climbing techniquePara Pull-up (pictured left): This technique is well suited for someone with little or no use of their legs. The basic climbing motion is done not on the face of the wall but on a static rope. Not only is the climber attached to a Photo of modified climbing ascender with bar attachmentbelay but also to an ascender which is attached to the chest harness of the climber. A second, modified ascender with a bar fastened to it, is attached to the static rope.

With each pull-up on the bar, the chest ascender is moved up the static rope, moving the climber six inches with each pull-up. A general side orientation to the wall face is used in this technique. This is to avoid skin abrasions on the knee area. Dependent upon the face that is to be climbed, protective gear should be worn to protect areas which may come into contact with the wall face.

Photo of person with right leg amputation climbing on a climbing wallSingle Amputee: A single amputee, be it upper or lower extremity, uses the same technique. Climbing for any individual should be done primarily using the legs. The key is to carefully execute each move to gain a firm foot hold.

Photo illustrating clock-face reference system for indicating hand-holds to a visually impaired climberVisual Impairments: Climbing is actually very well suited for individuals with visual impairments. A sighted climber's vision is pressed to only 6 inches and quite often a hand hold is done on feel alone. The only adaptation needed for the visually impaired climber is an understanding of the positions of the numbers on a clock and the climbing partner using the numbers as audio cues to point out hand and foot holds.

Climbing Terms and Equipment

Photo of ascenderAscender
An ascender is a mechanical device that lets you climb the rope without letting you slip back down.

Belay Device
The person climbing should always be clipped into a safety line. Photo of belay deviceAt the other end of that safety line is a person controlling the tension in the safety rope. If the climber falls, the person belaying uses a mechanical device to stop the climber from falling. This is called "belaying", and the device the person uses is called a belay device. A belay device enables a single person to hold more than his or her weight by the tips of their fingers.

Photo of carabinerCarabiner
Oval, pear, or D-shaped piece of aluminum, steel, or titanium stock that has a spring-loaded gate which allows rapid attachment to the rope, a harness, or to gear. Harness: Seat, chest, or full body harnesses are used to balance and stabilize the climber while climbing.

Photo of harnessHarness
Seat, chest, or full body harnesses are worn by the climber to help balance and stabilize him or her while climbing.

Static Line
A static line is a low stretch rope, one usually stretches Photo of static lineno more than 3 to 4 percent working elongation. The static line also wears better against the teeth of the ascender.

Top rope
Top rope technique involves either the belayer sitting on a ledge and belaying the person climbing below or the top rope runs from the belayer up through a carabiner and back down to the climber.

Flat - This webbing is called "flat" because of how the material is constructed. Examples of flat webbing can be seen in car seat belts and the straps that are found on most backpacks. Tubular webbing also derives its name from the way in which it is constructed. Tubular webbing is like placing one piece of flat webbing on top of another, with the sides connected and the center hollow.

Equipment Suppliers
Black Diamond (carabiners, harnesses, etc.), (801) 278-0233

Misty Mountain (harnesses, etc.), (828) 963-6688

REI (helmets, ascenders, etc.), (800) 426-4840

Petzl (belay device, harness, etc.), (877) 807-3805

Videos Beyond the Barriers Courageous Climbers No Barriers, 530-582-1135

Climbing Structures Entre Prises, (800) 580-5463

Edge Climbing Wall System, (877) 984-6840

PME Climbing Walls, +44 (0) 1538 308043

For Further Information
(Additional information may be available in the NCPAD database. Try searching it using keywords: climbing, climbing equipment, climbing programs, climbing videos)

DSUSA, (301) 217-0960

No Limits, (530) 582-1135

Outward Bound, (888) 88-BOUND

Wilderness Inquiry, (800) 728-0719

The information provided here is offered as a service only. The National Center on Physical Activity and Disability, University of Illinois at Chicago, the National Center on Accessibility, and the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago do not formally recommend or endorse the equipment listed. As with any products or services, consumers should investigate and determine on their own which equipment best fits their needs and budget.

Source: NCPAD

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