What is Speed Climbing?: Speed climbing is a form of rock climbing that focuses on ascending a route as quickly as possible. It differs from traditional free climbing, which relies more on strength and technique.
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While the sport has only been around for about 25 years or so, it has seen exponential growth in popularity in recent years and continues to gain new adherents all the time.
In this article, I’ll cover what exactly speed climbing is (and what it isn’t), as well as its rules, and even some of the records set by individuals in the sport.
What is Speed Climbing?
Speed climbing is a competitive form of rock climbing where climbers attempt to scale a wall as quickly as possible. The sport has its roots in France and Italy, where climbers would race each other to the top of local cliffs. In the 1990s, speed climbing began to gain popularity as a competitive sport, with the first official Speed Climbing World Cup being held in 1996.
Speed climbing requires a different strategy and approach than traditional rock climbing. For one, speed climbers use pre-set routes that are specifically designed for fast ascents. These routes typically follow a straight line up the wall, with few if any deviations. This allows climbers to move quickly and efficiently without having to stop and think about route-finding.
In addition, speed climbers use a different style of climbing called dyno climbing. Dyno climbing is a method whereby climbers use their momentum to propel themselves up the wall, rather than relying solely on their upper body strength. This technique can be used to cover large distances quickly, but it requires precision and timing to execute correctly.
Speed climbing is a relatively new sport, but it has already gained a significant following worldwide. In 2014, the first Speed Climbing World Championships were held in China, and the event continues to grow in popularity. With its fast-paced action and unique challenges, speed climbing is sure to continue to captivate climbers and spectators alike for years to come.
What Speed Climbing Isn’t…
Climbing outside on big routes for the fastest time is definitely a thing, but it has little to do with speed climbing as a sport.
Speed climbing is done in a specific setting on a specific route (yes all speed climb routes are the same no matter which gym you go to) and the race is usually over in a matter of seconds.
People ‘speed climb’ large routes at Yosemite National Park or El Cap for fun, and this has nothing to do with the Speed Climbing sport, although this sort of thing is still definitely respectable.
When Did Speed Rock Climbing Start?
Speed rock climbing is a relatively new form of climbing that has only been around since the late 1980s. It is a discipline that focuses on ascending a route as quickly as possible and has become increasingly popular in recent years.
Many competitive climbers now specialize in speed climbing, and the sport has been included in the World Cup circuit since 2002.
How Tall is the Speed Climbing Wall?
The speed climbing wall is 15 meters or 49 feet tall. Indoor climbing walls are usually around this height, plus or minus a few centimeters. There are two lanes on the wall, each three meters wide.
This speed wall climbing route is moderately difficult with an overhang (leans back) of 5 degrees, making it somewhat more difficult than a completely straight line. This is only a little overhang and prevents climbers from striking holds on the ascent or descent.
What are Autobelays in Speed Climbing?
Autobelays are devices that are used to automatically stop a climber if they fall. They are commonly used in indoor climbing gyms as a safety measure, but they can also be used in speed climbing competitions.
In a competition setting, autobelays are typically placed at the top of the route to catch climbers if they fall during their ascent. This ensures that climbers can safely push themselves to their limits without having to worry about falling and injuring themselves.
Autobelays are an important part of the speed climbing competition environment and help to make the sport safe and accessible for all.
Why Do People Speed Climb?
People speed climb for many different reasons. Some people enjoy the challenge of trying to ascend a route as quickly as possible, while others see it as a way to improve their overall climbing skills.
Additionally, people who lead climb or boulder typically enjoy speed claiming as the fundamentals are similar; you’re planning and developing the best way to get around the rock climbing problem.
Sure you’re climbing at much faster speeds, but this is a secondary thing to many climbers who simply enjoy the task of figuring out how to ‘beat’ a climb.
Can Anyone Speed Climb?
Yes, anyone can try this type of sport climb! All you need to do is find a gym with the specific climbing sport route (not necessary since you’re probably going to be doing this for fun the first time round but it would be neat to do the same route the pro’s do) and you need the gym to have an auto belay system in place so you can be safe while you climb.
Is Speed Climbing in The Olympics?
Yes! Speed Climbing was a demonstration sport at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta and was officially added to the program for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.
The sport made its debut at the Tokyo Games with both men’s and women’s events. Additionally, there was a team event that will seen countries sending two climbers each to compete.
What Are The Speed Climbing Rules?
Speed climbing is typically done in a head-to-head format, with two climbers racing each other up the same route.
The first climber to reach the top of the furthest point on the route within a certain time limit is declared the winner. In some cases, climbers may be allowed to use their hands to assist in their ascent, but this is typically not allowed in competitive speed climbing.
There are also some differences in the rules between indoor and outdoor speed climbing. Indoor speed climbing is typically done on a 15-meter (49-foot) wall with standardized routes, while outdoor speed climbing can be done on any type of rock face.
As mentioned earlier, ‘outdoor speed climbing’ is largely done for fun – although as I said, it is still respectable.
The International Federation of Sport Climbing (IFSC) is the governing body for competitive speed climbing. The IFSC sets the rules and regulations for speed climbing competitions around the world.
What is the Speed Climbing World Record?
The current climb speed world record holder for Men’s Speed Climbing is Kiromal Katibin who completed the standardized route in 5.00 seconds, beating his own previous record in this climbing sport competition by 0.04 seconds. This speed-climbing world record was achieved at the IFSC World Cup In Chamonix, France on the 8th of July 2022.
Kiromal consistently sets records after records and is one of the fastest rock climbers the sport has seen.
The current world record holder for Woman’s Speed Climbing is Aleksandra Miroslaw who achieved the world record speed climbing on the standardized route in 6.53 seconds, beating her own previous record by 0.11 seconds. This rock climbing racing record was achieved at the IFSC World Cup in Salt Lake City, Utah, USA on the 27th of May 2022.
Just like Kiromal, Aleksandra remains to be the fastest climber in her category, constantly breaking her records in every competition she competes in.
How Fast Can People Speed Climb?
The current record for climbing the standardized route is 5.00 seconds for Men and 6.53 for Women.
Is Speed Climbing Always The Same Route?
Yes, the wall for Speed Climbing remains consistent for Olympic climbers and pros alike. Everyone can use the same holds in the same positions and know that they’ll be competing on the same route. That’s how it’s been since the first time a speed climbing route was established.
The sport began in the United States, where there were several different speed climbing routes speed climbers could solve.
However, because there wasn’t much of an organized body for speed climbing, the different routes were unified.
Since speed climbing is now being taken more seriously, since its introduction to the Olympics, I wouldn’t be surprised if the route begins to change after every Olympics appearance to ‘spice’ things up a bit and really test the climbers.
Who Set The Speed Climbing Route?
The Speed Climbing Route was set by the IFSC (International Federation of Sport Climbing). They are the body that governs competitive climbing around the world. The current route was established in 2007 by Jacky Godoffe.
What is Speed Climbing? – Summary
There you have it! Everything you need to know about Speed Climbing. It’s an intense and exhilarating sport that is sure to get your heart racing. Whether you’re a climber yourself or just a fan of the sport, be sure to check out a speed climbing competition the next time you get the chance!