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25 Interesting Facts About Rock Climbing

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Rock climbing is a vast sport that has existed for years, but it is filled with awe-inspiring records, breathtaking feats, and some pretty wild inventions. From its start, rock climbing has been pushing limits in every way possible. Regardless of if you are a seasoned climber or a newcomer to the sport, we’re sure you’ll learn something new from our list of 25 facts about rock climbing.

A Brief History of Rock ClimbingA Brief History of Rock Climbing

Although people have been climbing up mountains in the name of exploration for as long as we know, rock climbing as a sport didn’t really start until the late 1800s and early 1900s. In 1886 Walter Parry Haskett Smith completed the first known ascent of a route called “Napes Needle.” In doing so, he became the first climber to make the news of doing this new recreational activity of rock climbing.

Rock climbing has only grown in popularity since then, with a massive boom in the late 1900s taking place in Yosemite National Park. Climbers like Royal Robbins, Warren Harding, and Lynn Hill are making a name for themselves and the sport of rock climbing. Following the spike in popularity seen in Yosemite, rock climbing quickly spread across the US and Europe. Nowadays, climbing is on all seven continents and takes place both indoors and outdoors.

In the 21st century, rock climbing gyms have become more prevalent, and more people have gotten into the sport. In fact, rock climbing grew so fast and became so popular that it made its Olympic debut in 2020 at the Tokyo Olympics. The future of rock climbing is bright as routes continue to be developed and climbers continue to push themselves. New technological and training advancements continue to push the sport towards harder and harder climbs.

25 Interesting Facts About Rock Climbing25 Interesting Facts About Rock Climbing

There are lots of rock climbing facts out there, but these are our favorite 25 facts covering everything about rock climbing, from rock climbing statistics to the benefits of rock climbing and everything in between.

History of Rock Climbing

1. The first rock climbing shoe was created in the 1930s by Pierre Allain.

Before this, climbers would climb wearing mountaineering boots, which were big and clunky. That being said, climbing shoes were still pretty clunky until around the 1970s, when they finally started getting more fitted to the climber’s foot.

2. Nylon climbing rope wasn’t invented until the 1940s.

Before this invention, climbing ropes were similar to all other ropes and failed quite frequently. This invention allowed for greater levels of safety when climbing.

3. Bouldering was created in the 1890s in Fontainebleau, France.

With over 35,000 boulder problems, Fontainebleau is still popular amongst boulderers today. The Font scale for rating boulder problems was also developed here.

4. Yvon Chouinard is credited with being the inventor of clean climbing practices.

Clean climbing means limiting the impact on the rock by using gear that could be easily removed. He invented Hexcentrics and Stoppers in the early 70s before starting first Chouinard Equipment Ltd. (which later turned into Black Diamond) and then Patagonia. Both companies are dedicated to environmentalism.

Rock Climbing Records

5. The first ascent of the Nose of El Capitan was done by Warren Harding.

He completed the climb in 1958 and took 42 days to do so.

6. Lynn Hill was the first person, male or female, to free climb the Nose of El Capitan.

She did so in 1993, only to repeat the achievement the following year in under 24 hours. Since then, many people have free-climbed the Nose, but she made headlines for being the first person to achieve something in climbing, not just the first woman to do so.

7. The current speed record on the Nose of El Capitan is held by Alex Honnold and Tommy Caldwell and is under 2 hours.


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A post shared by Alex Honnold (@alexhonnold)

They hold the record at 1 hour, 58 minutes, and 7 seconds and are currently the only team to have completed the 2900-foot tall climb in under 2 hours. The previous record was 2 hours and 19 minutes.

8. The speed climbing record is 5.009 seconds.

It was set in 2022 by Kiromal Katibin at the World Cup in France. This is the current record, but Katibin set and beat his own records five times throughout the world cup.

9. In 2017, Margo Hayes became the first woman to climb 5.15.

She made national news in 2017 with her ascent of La Rambla, which has since been repeated by two other women.

10. Adam Ondra is the strongest climber.

He has won the world cup in both bouldering and lead climbing, as well as winning the world championships in both disciplines. He also has the most climbs rated 5.15 under his belt.

11. The Dawn Wall is the hardest big wall climb in the world.

With a rating of 5.14d, only three people have ever successfully free-climbed the route; Tommy Caldwell, Kevin Jorgeson, and Adam Ondra. The route was documented in the 2017 film The Dawn Wall.

12. Alex Honnold was the first person to free solo the Nose of El Capitan.


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A post shared by Alex Honnold (@alexhonnold)

His climb was documented in the film Free Solo in 2018. The film went on to win an Academy Award, and Alex Honnold became a household name almost overnight.

13. Silence, rated at 5.15d, is currently the hardest climb in the world.

Since the route is so challenging, only Adam Ondra has ever completed it.

14. Burden of Dream, rated at V17, is the hardest boulder problem in the world right now.

It was climbed in 2016 by Nalle Hukkataival and has yet to be repeated.

Rock Climbing Statistics

15. Rock climbing is statistically safer than running, horseback riding, and football, just to name a few.

Only 1 in 320,000 climbers will die, giving the sport a crude death rate of only 0.31. This is lower than tennis (0.86), swimming (1.77), football (0.97), horseback riding (0.57), and even running (1.03). The next time someone tells you that climbing is too dangerous, you can prove them wrong!

16. The richest rock climber is Alex Honnold.

With an estimated net worth of over $3 million, Honnold is easily the world’s richest and best-known rock climber. Although he made a lot of his wealth from starring in a number of climbing films, he now primarily makes his living through sponsored deals.

17. There are over 35 million climbers worldwide.

Given how fast the sport has been growing in recent years, this number is probably a pretty big underestimation.

18. Early studies have indicated that liquid climbing chalk can kill 99% of the Covid-19 virus.

Studies from multiple climbing gyms showed that the alcohol base of liquid chalk killed the virus, and the chalk left behind prevented the virus from settling on that surface even after the alcohol had evaporated.

19. Pacific Pipe in Oakland, CA, is the largest climbing gym in the US.


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A post shared by Pacific Pipe Climbing (@pacificpipe)

With over 46,000 square feet of climbing, Pacific Pipe is massive!

20. There are over 590 rock climbing gyms in the US.

With only 450 gyms a few years ago, the amount of new gyms popping up all over the country is staggering.

Rock Climbing Benefits

21. Rock climbing can increase your physical strength and your cardiovascular fitness.

Studies have shown that rock climbing is great for your physical strength, but it is also good at increasing your cardiovascular fitness.

22. Rock climbing can help decrease symptoms of depression.

In some places, climbing is even being used as a treatment for people with depression.

23. Rock climbing can increase your memory.

One study found that rock climbing can increase your memory capacity by as much as 50%.

24. Anywhere from 400 to 900 calories are burned during one hour of rock climbing.

This makes rock climbing an excellent physical workout.

25. Rock climbing is more effective than general fitness classes at treating anxiety.

When compared to general fitness classes, rock climbing is seen to more effectively treat and help manage anxiety.

Wrapping Things Up: 25 Interesting Facts About Rock Climbing

From super fast speed records to the immense mental and physical benefits of rock climbing, the sport is advancing every day. These might be some pretty amazing facts, but they are by no means the only impressive rock-climbing facts out there. We hope you enjoyed our favorite rock climbing facts and felt inspired to go find more on your own!

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