top of page
Image by Clay Banks

Trad or Aid Climbing

Updated: Nov 28, 2021

TRAD (Traditional) rock Climbing is difficult. I know that is a relative statement, but to me, it is difficult because no matter how much safety gear you have or how good your Belayer is, you still have to climb...up. Take a look at the picture on the right. 

The climber in this photo is navigating a 5.12 vertical rock face. Every foot she ascends will be on her own strength. She is probably 200 feet up on that rock, and she's climbing barefoot! The climber's name is Abbey Dione and she is the 1st and probably the only African American owner of an indoor rock climbing gym in the US. Her gym, Coral Cliffs, is located in Fort Lauderdale, FL.

I looked up the definition of Trad Climbing in Wikipedia and noticed that the definition of Trad Climbing is defined by comparison phrases to free climbing meaning the faulty definition tries to tell you what it is by telling you what it isn't. The comparison between the two styles seems to somehow diminish the skill, practice, focus, and strength it takes to climb up a rock that is at a 90-degree angle from the ground even if you're doing it with ropes.  But because I'm a novice climber, and I have NEVER been on a rock face like that, I will defer to the Wikipedia definition which says...Nah, you could look that up yourself if you really wanted to know. This post is more about the art of rock climbing and not so much about the technical stuff. The Art of rock climbing refers to its culture, its growing popularity. The exploration of concepts like fear, inner balance, focus, and calm is what I find interesting about rock climbing. I also find it interesting that rock climbing, even at the competitive level different than most other competitive sports. Most professional rock climbers are more interested in challenging themselves rather than who the best climber in the world is. I actually Googled "best rock climber in the world several times and I still can't get a clear idea who that is. Of course, everyone knows the great Alex Honnold who famously climbed the 3000 ft granite monolith, El-Capitan in record time without using a rope. However, you didn't see a string of copy-cats trying to do it after he did it. The writers over at The Cauldron put it this way.

"Self-challenge over competition is why groups of climbers with extremely disparate skill levels of skill can easily and enjoyably climb together. Ultimately, climbing is a social activity. Most of the time climbers are required to work together with a partner in order to create a system of mutual safety — it’s the trust-fall exercise taken to extremes, and a highly effective bonding experience.

The climbing subculture has its own set of celebrities, legends, achievements, habits, and slang which provide common ground for climbing partners from radically different backgrounds. Even partners who do not share a spoken language can still communicate through physical imitation and examples of moves — body language is universal. Because it is difficult to climb without a partner, climbing with strangers is a normal part of the sport and, thanks to the natural social bonding aspects of the activity, strangers often quickly become friends."

In his book, Training for Climbing Eric Horst explains that the skills of climbing are split almost exactly equally between strength, technique, and psychology. This means that there is a remarkable amount of flexibility in terms of what a “strong” climber looks like. I have personally been on rocks where I knew if I had more confidence, or could focus better, I could execute the move required to move up the rock. But my fear would not let me do it. My mind got in the way.