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.
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.
Para 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 belay 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.
Single 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.
Visual 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
An ascender is a mechanical device that lets you climb the rope without letting you slip back down.
The person climbing should always be clipped into a safety line. At 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.
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.
Seat, chest, or full body harnesses are worn by the climber to help balance and stabilize him or her while climbing.
A static line is a low stretch rope, one usually stretches no more than 3 to 4 percent working elongation. The static line also wears better against the teeth of the ascender.
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.
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.