There are several different kinds of rock climbing that people engage in for sport. Rock climbing first began to be recognized as a sport when it was independently developed from the rock climbing techniques of Victorian era mountaineering in the late eighteen hundreds. Over the years since then, a lot of specialized safety equipment and proven techniques for staying safe and making a secure, controlled ascent have been developed. However, the sport of rock climbing can still be split into two major divisions: free climbing and aid climbing. Free climbing uses only the natural features of the rock face being climbed, and is significantly more dangerous than climbing with the assistance of safety gear.
Even when safety gear is being used, however, many climbers try to follow the ethic that their climbing activities should not damage or change the surface of the rock face any more than is absolutely necessary. For some kinds of short distance rock climbing, such as bouldering, purists believe in free climbing assisted by some kind of pad on the ground to catch them if they fall. This allows them to climb without leaving marks in the rock. Cams are also a good way to climb without leaving too much of a mark on the surface, while driving spikes into the rock to use as handholds and places to tie rope lines is one of the more invasive ways of climbing.
Lead climbing is one of the most common types of rock climbing, where climbers go up in pairs and the lead (or topmost climber) is attached to the lower climber, or second, by a length of rope. Whoever is lowest at the moment is the second, and is in charge of belaying the rope, keeping the belaying system secured attached to the rock, and stopping the rope to keep the other climber from harm in case of a fall. While lead climbing, safety devices will usually be left on the mountain at regular intervals. For traditional lead climbing, these safety devices installed by the lead climber, will usually be removed by the second during the ascent. This leaves the climbing surface close to the way in which it was found, and leaves the same level of challenge and enjoyment for future climbers.
Top rope climbing is a variant on the two person climbing system where the one in charge of belaying the rope and keeping the system secure is at the top. The person at the top will place an anchor and help to hold the rope steady while the other climber makes his or her way upwards.
Not all rock climbing takes place outdoors ‘ indoor rock climbing is increasingly popular and is the way that many people start to get involved in the sport. Rock climbing walls with regular handholds can be built inside of a building to teach people climbing techniques and this style of climbing with holds on a wall is also sometimes used in sporting competitions and is a lot of fun in its own right.