When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more here.

Sport vs Traditional Climbing: What’s The Difference

If you’re just getting into climbing, then you might be thinking that both of these are just about climbing up a rock, right?

And at core, all climbing is about scaling up to the top. 

But there is a distinct difference between sport and trad climbing.

The quick answer is that traditional climbing is a bit like mountaineering with careful, slow progression. But sport climbing is more about hard moves and gymnastic skills. And pre-bolted routes are used in sport climbing.

If you’re interested in learning more details about how these two types of climbing compare, then keep reading.

What’s Trad Climbing?

view from climber

Traditional, aka trad, climbing is also about safe climbing. Trad climbers carry all sorts of gear on them that end up getting placed in the cracks and crevices of the rock wall.

Since rock climbing is dangerous, trad climbing is about slow, intentional moves that focus on safety. This isn’t the type of rock climbing that you start off with as a noob. 

It takes a lot of climbing knowledge to do trad climbing, and you should always let someone who is experienced teach you how to do it correctly and how to properly use all that trad climbing gear.

Trad climbing is your old school rock climbing – where climbing gets its roots. And in case you’re wondering – What does Trad mean in climbing? It means traditional.

Is trad climbing more dangerous? Yes it is. Plenty of trad climbers get injured or die each year.

Trad climbing takes a lot of work to get good at, and if you don’t know what you’re doing then it can be very dangerous. It can be dangerous even for really experienced climbers.

What’s Sport Climbing?

Sport climbing is basically the new kid on the block because it grew out of trad climbing. So, you had people who were doing trad climbing but had their sights set on bigger climbs that they couldn’t really do with trad climbing.

Then the expansion bolt was invented, which lets climbers bolt into a rock even where there’s not a crack or crevice like is traditionally used by climbers.

Sport climbers use pre-bolted climbing routes.

So, when you see someone climbing up a rock face that has zero cracks or crevices, then you’re seeing someone who is sport climbing. Cause expansion bolts means that you can climb virtually anything.

Sport climbing is when people are climbing blank rock faces that have pre-bolted routes to follow.

Sounds kinda crazy, right? Well, to some people it is but adrenaline junkies are all about sport climbs.

What’s interesting about sport climbing is that you don’t need as much gear on you as when you’re doing trad climbing.

This is because there’s already bolts in the rocks for you – just take your quickdraws and you’re ready to climb.

Quickdraws are the clips that climbers use to attach their rope to the bolts as they climb up the rock.

Key Differences Between Trad Climbing And Sport Climbing

Here’s a quick look at the key differences between these two types of rock climbing.

  • The traditional climber has to find their own routes, whereas a sport climber follows the bolts up a particular route.
  • Trad climbing involves carrying and placing protection (chocks, camming devices and so on) rather than clipping into pre-placed bolts.
  • Sport climbing doesn’t require all that gear cause you’re just clipping into bolts that are already on the route.
  • Sport climbing is almost exclusively a physical challenge, while trad climbing involves more mental challenges.
  • Sport climbers don’t need much knowledge of climbing equipment, whereas trad climbers need a lot of techinical knowledge about gear and climbing anchors.
  • Sport climbing is often done inside a climbing gym, while trad climbing is always outside. 
  • Trad climbers focus on safety and not falling, while sport climbers aren’t afraid to fall and try the move again.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, though both of these are types of climbing they do have distinct differences. 

Sport climbing is bette for people who are new to the sport of climbing, while trad climbing is better for the more seasoned experts.

image credit

Sharing is caring!