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Rock climbing involves climbing up flat rock faces, large boulders, or ice. Alpine climbing involves a combination of rock and glacier, while ascending a mountain. "Mountaineering" involves all types of climbing. All can be learned in rock climbing programs or at a climbing gym.
Climbers often use professional guiding services such as the Colorado Mountain School (CMS), to keep trips as safe as possible. Professional climbers at CMS teach student climbers all they know as they join them in rock, ice, or alpine climbing. CMS offers special programs that run from one to several days, or students can map out their own trip. Climbers can also elect to take special CMS guided trips through mountain ranges in different parts of the world.
The Climbing Community
Athletes with disabilities represent a strong presence in the rock climbing community. The scenic hills and mountains of the world are open to all. In Australia, one climber became a bilateral amputee after a boulder accident, but his peers still describe him as a great climber. He now uses prosthetic limbs. Another paraplegic Aussie uses ascenders by doing pull-ups. He has actually climbed Half Dome in Yosemite National Park—one of the great walls. When an approach becomes too difficult in a wheelchair, he rides on his partner's back. Now that's "roughing it!"
National Sports Center for the Disabled's Paul Di Bello, a bilateral amputee, teaches adapted rock climbing to persons with blindness and visual impairments. Di Bello says that rock climbing is a great vehicle for self-esteem because of the buddy system involved, known as "belaying." Belaying is an anchoring system performed by two people with anchoring ropes. Each partner is essential to the other, communicating through verbal cues. The sport builds confidence and develops personal growth. As with Tim Ashwood, blind athletes develop "fear control" as they conquer climbing.
Another, inspiring undertaking is the Annual Denver Post Ride the Rockies, sponsored by the Adaptive Sports Center and Adaptive Adventures. Each year numerous hand-cyclists join up with approximately 2000 other cyclists to tour 432 miles through the Colorado's Rocky Mountains! Support vehicles ride along to keep the six-day trip safe while experiencing uplifting, beautiful scenery.
Mark Wellman, a world-renown Paralympian, has been a mountaineer since the age of 12. Wellman has ascended over 50 Sierra Nevada peaks and the French Alps. Along with his climbing partner, Mike Corbett, Wellman conquered Half Dome and El Capitan in Yosemite National Park. A freak accident on his descent of the Seven Gables in the John Muir Wilderness left him paralyzed from the waist down in 1982, but it doesn't stop him from making his ascent with only the strength of his arms and upper torso. Wellman is also known for his extreme downhill skiing and white water kayaking adventures. On dry land, Wellman conducts motivational speaking throughout the U.S.
Rock climbers use ropes, rope ladders, repelling devices, anchors, and chalk for hands. Mechanical devices called ascenders, allow ropes to move in a single direction. For ice climbing, mountaineers use plastic boots with warm inner linings, ice axes, and crampons which are metal spikes that attach to boots for gripping. Climbers must make many decisions about equipment as they make their way; they must match the appropriate equipment with terrain. It's a good idea in the beginning for newcomers to rent gear, before investing in their own. That way, they can learn what's involved and decide whether to make climbing a regular sport.
Therapeutic sports and recreation for all ages, Winter Park, CO
Inspirational article about rock climbing as amputees
Bi-montly climbing opportunities, Boulder CO
Crested Butte, CO
Summer programs include rock climbing
Climbing information with a worldwide view.
Website from Mark Wellman, author, filmmaker and motivational speaker. Also carries adaptive climbing equipment.
Salt Lake City, Utah
Outdoor adventures for all abilities.
Climbing news, photos, stories, events, resources and the Rock and Ice Magazine.