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rock climbing
2009 HowStuffWorks
Rock climbing can be done indoors or outdoors. See more extreme sports pictures.

Rock climbing involves strength, control and finesse. Using the muscles in your arms and legs to pull yourself up a sheer rock face takes strength­ and control. Using your brain to place your hands and feet so that your muscles can do their job -- that's finesse.

Rock climbing is a little like skydiving. Both rock climbing and skydiving have an element of danger. Both are sports where people participate mostly for their own personal satisfaction -- these sports do not offer much for spectators­. And both are sports where potential participants either "get it" or they don't. In skydiving, either you are excited about leaping out of a plane into the abyss, or you aren't. In rock climbing, either you are excited about scaling a vertical piece of stone, or you aren't.

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The basic premise behind rock climbing is extremely simple. You are trying to climb from the bottom to the top of something. If that was all there were to it, then you would need nothing but your body and a good pair of climbing shoes. The other part of the sport comes if you slip anywhere along the way. Because of the possibility of falling, rock climbing involves a great deal of highly specialized equipment to catch you when you fall. When you're rock climbing outdoors on "traditional" routes, learning to use and properly place this equipment is at least half of the sport!

In this article, we will look at different types of rock climbing and you will learn about the equipment and skills that climbers use to scale rock faces that can rise for thousands of feet.