The history of modern day climbing dates back to the first mountaineers who developed techniques of climbing across rock and ice in order to reach the summits of the largest mountains in the world. In the early days of this exploratory climbing, equipment was basic and climbers had to look for the easiest route to mountain summits. Since then, equipment has improved and climbers have found more challenging routes by which to conquer the world’s highest peaks. Climbing in the UK came to the fore when Sir Edmund Hillary became the first man to conquer Everest in 1953. This was followed by another remarkable feat in 1975, when Sir Chris Bonnington led the first team of climbers up Everest’s south-west face. Even today, the two men stand as Britain’s most iconic climbing figures.
As a means to train and improve their technique, mountaineers began to develop routes up rock faces and crags all over the UK, with rock being an easier and more accessible surface to climb on than ice and snow. As time went on, however, climbing on rock became a sport in itself and, in recent years, climbing has become less about conquering treacherous mountain routes and more about the enjoyment of scaling a variety of natural and man-made surfaces.
Following on from this point, competitive ‘sport climbing’ has been practiced since the 1970s, when climbers in France began to place bolts all the way up a section of a difficult rock face, creating the first man-made climbing routes. As more routes were created, climbers realised they could be timed on their ascent and climbing became an official competitive activity.
Today, climbing is a popular sport in the UK, with thousands of recorded routes and indoor centres all over the country. Interest in climbing has also piqued thanks to popular cinema with films such as ‘Touching the Void,’ ‘Cliff Hanger’ and the ‘Eiger Section’ bringing the sport into the limelight.