I started rock climbing 8 years ago, but haven't been actively pursuing the sport for the last few years. There are different rating systems. In the United States, climbs are rated from 5.1 to 5.14d, with 5.1 being the easiest. In fact, 5.1 to 5.4 are all pretty simple. I always climbed with a rope, and because I started rock climbing in Ohio, we often used a top-rope since we could walk up the back of a small cliff and secure a rope. If you take up rock climbing as a hobby, it would be best to take classes. It is very important to be safe. My brother and I took a class at Grand Teton National Park with Exum. Also, pick a climbing partner you trust. They, literally, have your life in their hands.
Besides just climbing a rock face, this sport also includes rappelling(you have to get down the rock somehow), belaying, knot-tying, and other stuff. Do your research or else you're just trying to kill yourself and ruin the sport for others.

Update/Clarification: 5.1 to 5.4 is pretty simple, meaning that you probably don't need a rope. However, even an easy climb can seem scary when you're out on a ledge.
5.5 to 5.9 is an intermediate level. I definitely needed a rope, and 5.9 was about as well as I could climb. I definitely could not lead a 5.9. (to lead a 5.9 you should be able to easily climb 5.9)
the double digit classifications are really hard, and I'm not quite sure how they determine it. (The letter part only goes from a-d)

Update to cilice, with all due respect, the ratings at "fifth class rock" start at 5.0, not 5.1, though anybody would be hard pressed to determine the difference. Where things get "hard" is a personal perception, but the jump from 5.8 to 5.9 is quite large, from 5.9 to 5.10, larger still, and it grows exponentially from there.

There are also additional ratings that sometimes help qualify a climb, like "R" or "X", which have a relationship to what chance you have of actually dieing on the climb (via a Grounder, for example.

Adapted from a short talk I had to do for that pesky GCSE English which I did in about a month... (after I decided that the climate of Australia was greatly superceeded by that of pommie land)...

(shhh, im hardlinking it now...)

“I Burlied onto the dicey sloper, I was slipping from the jib, my only chance now was to smear up and campus to that pro jugi could barely see in the distance, but time was running out, I had to do somthing fast or I'd barn door out and take a whipper, lose the onsite! Only a bit of beta could've warned me about this, Redpoint Crux I was at, but there was no time to think of that, or the crufty cam I clicked into what seemed like miles ago. I wanted to beat this crag, hit the chains, else I'd look like nothing but a Gumby to the others, and I didnt want that. Nobody does!“

Rock climbing offers a rigorous physical and mental challenge for the climber. Essentially, it is the art of ascending up a rock face or cliff, or indeed a manmade ‘wall’ of some sort. Using nothing but sheer skill and strength to defeat this lifeless opponent. Little or no aid is obtained from the ropes, which strictly speaking are there for safety purposes only.

Rock climbing comes in two broad flavours, indoor and outdoor.

Indoor climbing consists usually climbing a manmade wall of some description, which despite the name, may be either indoors or out. There is usually an array of removable plastic holds, which are moved around often. They have been tested as they are rearranged, and different colours equate to different levels of difficulty, so you can see how good you really are. Each time you visit there will always be new things to try; new tests to take. In this way indoor seems pretty appealing.

But of course outdoor climbing is the real thing! Indoor climbing is simply for beginners, or practice and maintaining fitness in more experienced climbers. When conditions or other obstacles get in the way, indoor climbing will always be there. But indoor climbing is not quite the real thing, the satisfaction, unpredictability, and the great views, of climbing a real rockface is what the sport is all about! You never forget the moment you conquer your first big climb, the moment when you make it to the top and then glance over your shoulder to see the breathtaking view before you.

More and more people are escaping today’s urban life with activities like rock climbing. Youths gravitate towards rock climbing as an alternative to traditional team sports. Still others pursue rock climbing as a full-time passion, building their lives around the sport. And dedicating every spare moment to it. There are yet others, which typically also fall into this last category, however they leave their safety at home, and take on the challenge of scaling landmarks and whatnot without the safety of ropes and hernesses. this is very dangerous, and most dedicated climbers agree that it is not in the spirit of traditional climbing, and indeed foolish – as well as illegal.

Whatever the circumstances, rock climbing has always been renound for the intense test it puts the climbers to, indoor and out, wether youre climbing a home made wall on the side of your house, or Mt. Everest, climbing will always give you an unmatched workout both physically and mentally...

For MST3k fans, rock climbing describes one of the most painful scenes in film history. During episode #208 Lost Continent, there is an unprecidented 50 minutes filmed of rock climbing.
Joel: "Lost Continent? I once lost my keys, but that is ridiculous!"

Ever since that early episode, Dr. Forrester and TV's Frank would make references to terrible scenes in movies, and compare their "nastiness" to rock climbing.

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