The thought of rock climbing may evoke images of adventure seekers battling the elements while scaling the slopes of Mount Everest. In actuality, the sport takes place both indoors and out. Rock climbing can be a chance to commune and compete with nature or a race up the climbing wall at your local gym.

If you do climb competitively, you will likely work within the USA Climbing organization, which oversees competitive climbing in the United States. USA Climbing competitions encompass three disciplines: bouldering, sport and speed climbing. The American Bouldering Series (ABS) oversees bouldering, and the Sport Climbing Series (SCS) oversees sport and speed [source: USA Climbing].

Bouldering is often done outdoors and involves athletes climbing over and around overhangs or other rock formations. Bouldering is also the simplest kind of rock climbing equipment-wise. All you will need are your climbing shoes, a crash pad and chalk bags to keep your hands dry -- bouldering does not require ropes [source: Eiselt].

Climbers do use ropes in sport and speed climbing. If you give competitive sport climbing a try, you will follow pre-marked routes up a slope or climbing wall, and whoever gets to the finish in the shortest amount of time wins. Sport climbing is often done indoors on man-made climbing walls and often calls for some complex, physically challenging moves as well as speed [source: REI].

No matter what type of climbing you try, you will learn that many of the same basic skills and methods apply. For example, from a spectator's perspective, it may look like climbers are pulling themselves up a wall or over a boulder. What they are really doing is pushing themselves up from their feet, placing the burden their legs, which are much more powerful than the arms [source: Antaya].

Joining USA Climbing can provide you with many informational resources about the sport, as well as a climbing community. For information on how to become a member, keep reading.