History of Climbing

Major Milestones in Climbing

First Ever Record of Climbing

400 BCE

The first record of climbing dates back to roughly 400 BCE. Paintings have been found high up in the roofs of caves in China; due to the location of these paintings, it would have been impossible to paint them without first climbing up the cave walls.

The First Documented Climber


Antoine de Ville ascends Mont Inaccessible, Mont Aiguille, a 300-meter rock tower south of Grenoble, France. Under orders from his king, he used the techniques developed for sieging castles to attain an otherwise unreachable summit.

First Ever Ascent of Mont Blanc


Jacques Balmat and doctor Michel Paccard are the first recorded climbers of Mont Blanc. This milestone is considered to be the start of modern day climbing.

First Climbing Club


The Alpine Climbing Club was founded and is recognised as the first ever climbing club.

Climbing is Recognised as a Sport


Climbing was first recognised as a sport in the UK in the late 1880s. The Lake Ddistrict is frequently associated as one of the founding areas of rock climbing as a sport

BMC Founded


British Mountaineers Council is founded. This is still the climbing NGB for Great Britain today.

Highest Grade Ever Climbed by a Woman


Margo Hayes has become the first woman to redpoint a 9a+ (5.15a) by climbing La Rambla at the Spanish crag Siurana, which is considered the hardest sport climb in Spain.

Development in Climbing Technology

First Chest Harness


The invention of the climbing harness has been attributed to Jeanne Immink, a Dutch climber. It is believed that he created the first, basic chest harness to help him climb a difficult route.

Introduction of the Steel Carabiner


The steel carabiner replaced the Maillon as it would be much stronger due to the automatic closing gate.

First 'Piton' Used


A Piton is an early form of trad gear. It would have been driven into the rock face so that a climber can attach their rope to it. This meant that, should they fall, the climber would not hit the floor, but would be stopped by the rope and piton.

First Rubber Soled Climbing Shoe


Prior to the invention of rubber soled shoes, climbers used heavy mountaineering boots. In 1930s, a new style of shoe that used a pattern of rubber studs on the soles. This was developed by Vitale Bramani in Italy. This made dry climbing much easier as climbers would be able to move their feet more to gain a better grip with the rock face.

First Nylon Rope


Climbing company Dupont developed a rope made of polyamide (nylon). This rope was much stronger than the previously used natural fibres such as manila and hemp.

Chalk used to Aid Climbers


Climbers first started to use chalk to help add grip to the rock face when climbing. Some places still do not allow the use of chalk for climbers, however most climbing centres and crags will encourage the use of a chalk based substance to aid climbers.

Invention of 'Swami Belt'


The Swami Belt was a long length of rope wrapped around the climbers waist and fastened. This allowed the climber to attach into a basic belay system so that, should they come off the crag or wall, they would not fall to the floor.

Water Repellent Rope


The first Water Repellent Kernmantle rope was introduced. Thi hugely affected the quality and lifetime of outdoor and ice climbing ropes as they would not absorb any water, allowing the to stretch and compress normally.

Sit Harness Introduced

Approx. 1970

The Whillard Sit Harness was introduced in 1970, and is believed to be the first commercial sit harness.
In the late 1970s, Troll also produced their first sit harness; this is the same style of harness that most modern harnesses are based from.

Cams Introduced


Cams were first introduced into climbing and made available commercially. This revolutionised 'trad' climbing as they were much easier to slot into the rock face and tighten to fit so that they don't come loose.

First Climbing Shoes with a 'Sticky' Rubber Sole


Spanish company Boreal produced the "Firé" style of shoe with a revolutionary sticky rubber sole. This allowed climber to 'smear' against the rock face with ease if tere were no available footholds.

First Gri-Gri


The first Petzl Gri-Gri was produced. This hugely improved the safety of climbing as they included a partial lock-off system, preventing the climber from falling all the way to the floor too quickly if the belayer released the rope.

Development of Competitions and Disciplines

Start of Bouldering


Bouldering is recorded in Fontainebleau, France. This area quickly became a prominant place for bouldering and as a training ground for larger ascents

Free Climbing


Free climbing is climbing without the use of any protective equipment. Although it would have been used before safety equipment was invented, free climbing was seperated from normal climbing in 1914.

Sport Climbing


The first lead climbing competitions were held in Valle Stretta, Italy

First Climbing World Cup


The first international climbing world cup was held. This is now an annual event with multiple competitions held all over the world.

Climbing is in the Olympics

Approx. 2020

Climbing will join the Olympics for Tokyo 2020. Participants will compete in 3 different types of climbing (bouldering, speed, and lead), and will be graded based on their overall ability.