What are Climbing Holds?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Climbing holds are various shapes cast in resin or plastic which are designed for installation on rock climbing walls. They are designed to mimic the feel and sometimes the look of climbing outdoors, and are made in varying levels of difficulty. Numerous companies supply climbing holds and it is also possible to make your own with casting kits. For people who want to pursue rock climbing year round without having to worry about weather conditions, climbing holds are an important part of training.

Man without a shirt
Man without a shirt

A climbing wall is a heavily reinforced wall equipped with holes to which climbing holds can be bolted. A short wall is usually called a bouldering wall, in a reference to bouldering, a less extreme climbing sport. Taller climbing walls are equipped with belays and other safety equipment, as well as mats in case climbers fall. The climbing holds are attached with bolts, making the climbing wall totally reconfigurable. Often, specific routes will be marked out, requiring climbers to use a set array of climbing holds to get to the top of the wall.

In order to climb a low wall, all a climber really needs is strong hands and chalk. Chalk helps climbers get a good grip on climbing holds, by absorbing the sweat that would otherwise make hands slippery. Some climbers use gloves instead, especially for outdoor climbing on materials which may be sharp or painful. The climber grips climbing holds with fingers and toes in specialized climbing shoes, and hauls him or herself up the wall.

For taller walls, it is important to use safety equipment. Even a short fall can be damaging, and most gyms require climbers to wear harnesses and clip into belay gear, located at the top of the wall. Free climbing, climbing without safety equipment, is usually frowned upon. Belay gear does not make climbing any easier, as the climber still needs to use climbing holds to scale the wall, but it does make it much more safe. Falls can happen when climbing holds fail, the climber's hand slips, or the climber is distracted, and they happen at all levels of climbing skill.

Simple climbing holds are designed with large, clear gripping areas, making them very easy to use. Harder holds tend to be smaller, more slippery, and with less clearly defined areas to grab on to. Climbers can choose to follow a route of challenging climbing holds to work up a wall if they are advanced, or they can start out with easy holds so that they can achieve a sense of completion. Climbing tends to be more fun with a partner who can look out for your safety, point out new and interesting routes, and challenge you. If you are interested in using a climbing wall, use your favorite search engine to look for climbing gyms near you.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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