Activities The Great Outdoors Learn to Rock Climb on Bolted Sport Routes Essential Skills to Be a Sport Climber Share PINTEREST Email Print PeopleImages.com / Getty Images The Great Outdoors Climbing Basics Gear Health & Safety Highest Mountains Hiking Skiing Snowboarding Surfing Paddling Fishing Sailing Scuba Diving & Snorkeling Learn More By Stewart Green Stewart M. Green is a lifelong climber from Colorado who has written more than 20 books about hiking and rock climbing. our editorial process Stewart Green Updated September 22, 2017 Sport climbing is simply ascending rock faces using only your hands and feet (free climbing) with all of your protection being fixed bolts that are preplaced on a rock face and left permanently attached to the rock for other climbers. Sports climbing, like top-rope climbing, is all about the rewards of rock climbing with minimal risks and dangers. Sports climbing is about pushing the limits of your climbing ability in a generally safe setting, working on difficult climbing moves, and then finally succeeding on hard climbing routes. Sports climbing is often done on shorter routes and can have an emphasis on the physical aspects of climbing instead of the goal of getting to the top or to a destination. Sports climbing not only makes you a better rock climber but it’s a heck of a lot of fun too! Sports Climbing Protection Sports climbing offers a different challenge than traditional climbing where the lead climber places nuts and cams in cracks for protection when falling. In sport climbing all the protection already exists, placed on the rock face by the first ascent party who drilled holes in the rock, hammered bolts into the holes, and then attached a bolt hanger so a climber could hang a quickdraw and clip a climbing rope into it for protection. This security allows climbers to ascend routes without having to carry and place removable gear like nuts and cams. Instead, sports climbers can attempt routes harder than their limits, pushing the envelope of the possible and concentrate on climbing movements rather than placing protection for safety. Essential Sport Climbing Skills Sports climbing requires a solid base in skills and experience. First, you need to learn all of the basics of rock climbing, like belaying, lowering, using handholds, and footwork. These are easiest to learn in an indoor climbing gym. Then, you'll go outdoors and top-rope a lot of routes at your local crag with more experienced climbers or a guide. Once you've mastered those skills and gained experience, you’re probably ready to try your hand at sports climbing. Out on bolted sports cliffs like those at the New River Gorge, Joshua Tree National Park, and Shelf Road, you can learn about lead climbing and concentrate on practicing new techniques. The Yosemite Decimal Rating System is often used to classify climbing difficulty on sports climbs. They range from an easy rating of 5.0 to a very difficult rating of 5.15. Sports Climbing is a Practical Way to Learn Besides being safe, sports climbing is also very practical. Here are some of the reasons why: Many bolted sport climbing crags are close to cities and easily accessed. Hiking approaches to sport climbing cliffs tend to be short and quick. The bolt protection is already established and in place, so you don’t have to carry a heavy pack laden with lots of gear. You don’t need to spend a lot of money on climbing equipment since all you need is a rope, quickdraws, and your personal climbing gear, including rock shoes, harness, belay device, and chalk bag.