Mountain Project Logo

The Complete History of Rock Climbing


Original Post
Jake Harmer · · Tempe, AZ · Joined May 2016 · Points: 65

Hey everyone,
There's not a ton of info out there about the full history of rock climbing. There are bits and pieces here and there with random stories, but not much to back it up. I've been writing an article with a lot more of the complete history, and wanted some feedback from the climbing community. There's way too much to write it all out, but I wanted to hit the main highlights.
Would appreciate it if anyone wants to read through it (especially some of you old guys who lived through most of this!)

https://www.therockulus.com/history-of-rock-climbing/

Many thanks!

Sean Post · · Laguna Beach, CA · Joined Apr 2017 · Points: 24

You misspelled Yvon Chouinard's name. I would also define "free solo" early on, as someone reading this article may not know what it is. Also, you may want to go over the difference between trad climbing and sport climbing in "Traditional and Sport Climbing" section.  

i shore · · London · Joined May 2018 · Points: 0

Very difficult to cover all aspect or countries when writing a history, particularly in a summarized form.
"There was a long period of development as aid climbing became standard, and then as it was largely abandoned in favour of free climbing in the 1970’s." This statement for instance wouldn't have been true for the UK as while aid climbing became more popular after WW2 it could probably never be described as standard, though it did lose popularity in the 1970s as you say, vastly improved protection being an important factor.

karl kvashay · · Phoenix, AZ · Joined Jul 2009 · Points: 225

....will never be written

Rob Dillon · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Mar 2002 · Points: 730

“Bits and pieces here and there with random stories” about sums it up.  

Chris Owen · · Big Bear Lake · Joined Jan 2002 · Points: 11,014

The section on protection techniques is very US-centric (not Hex-centric - sorry) you should mention knot jamming (Saxony) and the British use of pebbles (chocks) inserted into cracks and threaded with a loop, subsequent machine nuts as precursors to modern passive protection, plus perhaps as the source for the popular names of these items (nuts, chocks, runners etc.).

Robert Hall · · North Conway, NH · Joined Aug 2013 · Points: 16,716

Perhaps a change in title from "complete" to "brief" might be in order.

Redyns · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2011 · Points: 60

Quick search and no mention of 8a.nu/Jens.  

Ross Goldberg · · Los Angeles, CA · Joined Oct 2017 · Points: 49

Hasn't free climbing been a thing in slavic countries way before western countries? I remember seeing something about climbs in the Czech area free climbing barefoot in the early 1900s...

Jim Titt · · Germany · Joined Nov 2009 · Points: 490
Rob Dillon wrote: “Bits and pieces here and there with random stories” about sums it up.  

You can add "written by an American".

lloyd · · Unknown Hometown · Joined May 2011 · Points: 0

No offense meant, but your whole site reads like someone who hasn't been climbing very long, but is pretty excited about climbing.

saxonguy · · Unknown Hometown · Joined May 2019 · Points: 0
Walter Parry Haskett Smith spent some time in the Lake District in England, and free soloed the first ascent of the Napes Needle in 1886.  This climb has been known as the birth of rock climbing as its own sport, as it started to draw attention to his, and other’s climbing solo attempts.
Not correct.

In 1848(!) Sebastian Abratzky (sorry, it is in german) climbed the rockwall of a castle in saxony, because he didn't want to pay the entry fee to the castle (there was some festival happening). This was done entirely free and drew some media attention. 1864, a group of gymnasts climbed the Falkenstein (approx. 90m high) for recreational reasons, although they did use aid climbing techniques.

Falkenstein:
 
1874, the first purely athletically motivated and fully free ascent of a tower in the saxon swiss was made, and people have been free climbing in the saxon swiss since that time.

This all happened before your "birth of rock climbing", although i do not know whether people have been free climbing even earlier in other parts of the world.
Tim Lutz · · Colo-Rado Springs · Joined Aug 2012 · Points: 5
Chris Owen · · Big Bear Lake · Joined Jan 2002 · Points: 11,014
saxonguy wrote: Not correct.

In 1848(!) Sebastian Abratzky (sorry, it is in german) climbed the rockwall of a castle in saxony, because he didn't want to pay the entry fee to the castle (there was some festival happening). This was done entirely free and drew some media attention. 1864, a group of gymnasts climbed the Falkenstein (approx. 90m high) for recreational reasons, although they did use aid climbing techniques.

Falkenstein:
 
1874, the first purely athletically motivated and fully free ascent of a tower in the saxon swiss was made, and people have been free climbing in the saxon swiss since that time.

This all happened before your "birth of rock climbing", although i do not know whether people have been free climbing even earlier in other parts of the world.

Not to start a debate but Hasket-Smith's climb of Napes Needle, even though it wasn't the first climb (even in Britain) is recognized there as the traditional first one to satisfy the requirements of doing a rock climb just for the modern reasons of doing a rock climb - because it's there basically. 

Roots · · Redmond. OR · Joined Dec 2010 · Points: 20

Jake, you really need to work on your site if you expect to be a definitive resource and use such absolute titles. (Lots of history not even mentioned) To achieve what you are trying to do, it would be an impossible solo project. Therefore, reach out to historians in our tribe. They will help you.

Best of luck!

saxonguy · · Unknown Hometown · Joined May 2019 · Points: 0
Chris Owen wrote:

Not to start a debate but Hasket-Smith's climb of Napes Needle, even though it wasn't the first climb (even in Britain) is recognized there as the traditional first one to satisfy the requirements of doing a rock climb just for the modern reasons of doing a rock climb - because it's there basically. 

That is very well, but over here in saxony the ascent of the Falkenstein in 1864 is considered the "first one to satisfy the requirements of doing a rock climb just for the modern reasons of doing a rock climb - because it's there basically" whereas i had never heard of Hasket-Smith before in my live.  And as i said, i don't know whether this was the first such ascent, there may have been earlier ones i don't know about, but (not to start a debate) it happened 22 years before Hasket-Smith's climb.

Don P. Morris · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Nov 2009 · Points: 0

I was introduced to climbing in 1957 by a guy who had learned in Yosemite as a membeer of the Stanford Alpine Club.  At that time the YDS had not yet progressed to decimals.  Fifth class was "easy", "moderate'." or "hard".  The decimals came along shortly, say early 1960s, but went to 5.9, at which point you entered the sixth class.  In a bit climbers realized that there were moves beyond 5.9 and 5.10 came along,  It is marvelous how technical proficiency has progressed over time.  Those o us rom that era were literally climbing in the Stone Age.

Jim Titt · · Germany · Joined Nov 2009 · Points: 490

Well yeah, the stupid French were bouldering in Font in the early 1870's but they don't speak English so don't count. And boudering isn't real climbing even now.

Thomas Koellner · · Santa Barbara · Joined Jun 2017 · Points: 46

You should look up the history of Dolomites climbing and its first ascents. E.g. Paul Grohman did Langkofel in 1869 en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Langk…, which I would still consider as a challenging climb. And Grohmann did more of this stuff.

  Also check-out this list (seilwurf.de/hirsch/classic/…) which gives some important first ascent of the Saxony Swiss. You have to convert from the Saxony grades into YDS, e.g. Saxony 7c is YDS 5.10a, which was done in 1906 at the Teufelturm (Devils Tower)! 

mike1 · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jan 2006 · Points: 10

Hello,
For american climbing I would access the american alpine club journals/meeting notes, then the climbing mag publications for later periods. I would look for old climbing journals in other countries as well. The American Indian heritage of climbing/living in cliffs would be an interesting topic. might be the first climbers in america ? 

Mark Pilate · · MN · Joined Jun 2013 · Points: 10

As someone said, change the title.  Just like a congressional bill, one read of the title and you know that whatever it is, you know it’s not that....

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

General Climbing
Post a Reply to "The Complete History of Rock Climbing"

Log In to Reply