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Would You Ever Free Climb?
13 Sep 2016

Yes, we would! In fact, we do. We love free climbing. We free climb at every opportunity. Which often surprises people. What we don’t do is free-solo. Do you know the difference?

Most of the time when people ask if we free climb, they actually mean ‘do you free-solo?’  Free-soloing is climbing up cliffs without a rope. Recently, climbers like Alex Honnold have become household names (in some households!) for their superhuman feats of free-soloing, climbing thousands of metres in a day, without ropes.

Free-soloing is considered by some to be the ultimate in freedom: it’s just you and the rock. No climbing partner, no rope. On the flip side, when you free-solo, there is zero margin for error. If you fall, you will fall all the way to the ground.

Most climbers don’t free-solo, but they do free climb.

Free climbing is climbing up a cliff using the skill, technique, strength and agility of your body. You don’t pull on any equipment to climb up the cliff, you just use your hands, climbing shoes and the rock. However you do have a rope attached to your harness and a belayer to arrest your falls. If you have ever climbed in a climbing gym, you free climb.

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Marty Doolan taking a moment to consider the next move on a free climb in the Blue Mountains

At the other end of the spectrum is aid climbing. When you aid climb, you rely on equipment that you place in the rock (like cams, wires and other equipment), which you pull on to move upwards. While aid climbing is very technical and physical, you are not holding onto the rock, so you are not free climbing.

So next time someone asks if you would ever free climb, you can tell them yes, and ask them to come out with you to check it out.

Alex Honnold on one of the epic free solos that have made him a household name. Half Dome, Yosemite

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