Climbing is the activity of using one's hands, feet, or other parts of the body to ascend a steep topographical object that can range from the world's tallest mountains (e.g. the eight thousanders) to small boulders. Climbing is done for locomotion, for sporting recreation, for competition, and is also done in trades that rely on ascension; such as rescue and military operations. Climbing is done indoors and outdoors, on natural surfaces (e.g. rock climbing and ice climbing), and on artificial surfaces (e.g. climbing walls).
Rock climbing can trace its origins to the late 19th-century, and has since developed into a number of main sub-disciplines (single-pitch, multi-pitch/big wall, bouldering, and competition), which in themselves can be conducted in varying manners (aid, sport, traditional and free solo):
Single pitch climbing means ascending climbs that are a single rope-length (up to 50-metres) while big wall climbing (and multi-pitch climbing) means ascending routes that are many rope-lengths (can be up to 1,000-metres). These two rock climbing sub-disciplines can be conducted in one of a number of ways:
Aid climbing is a form of rock climbing that uses artificial aids such as ladders, pitons, and other mechanical devices to assist in ascending a route. Much of rock climbing began as aid climbing, and even up until the 1970s, many big wall route required aid climbing techniques.
Sport climbing is a form of rock climbing that uses no artificial aids (which is known as free climbing), but does rely on permanent fixed bolts (or other mechanical anchors), for use as protection while climbing (but not as aid); was started in the 1980s in France.
Traditional climbing is a form of rock climbing that uses no artificial aids (and is thus free climbing) but unlike sport climbing, the climbers place removable protection such as camming devices and nuts, while ascending the route, which is then removed by the second climber.
Free soloing is a form of rock climbing that uses no artificial aids (and is thus free climbing) and where the climber uses no protection (neither sport nor traditional); thus any fall while free soloing could be fatal; deep-water soloing is a form of free soloing where a fall will result in landing into safe water.
Top rope climbing is a form of rock climbing that uses no artificial aids but as the sole form of protection, uses a pre-fixed rope secured to the top of the route (i.e. is used on single-pitches), and thus should the climber fall, they simply hang off the rope with no risk of any injury; it is not regarded as free climbing.
Bouldering: means ascending boulders or small outcrops with no artificial aids (it is free climbing) and due to the lower height, with no protection (i.e. bouldering is a form of free soloing); very tall boulders where a fall could be serious (i.e. up to 10-metres) are known as highball bouldering.
Competition climbing: A formal, competitive sport of recent origins from the 1980s, normally practiced as indoor climbing on artificial climbing walls that resemble natural formations. The International Federation of Sport Climbing (IFSC) is the official governing body for competition rock climbing worldwide and is recognized by the IOC and GAISF and is a member of the International World Games Association (IWGA). The UIAA is the official governing body for competition ice climbing worldwide. Competition rock climbing has three major disciplines: Lead climbing (performed as sport climbing), Bouldering, and Speed climbing (performed as top roping)
Ice climbing: Ascending ice or hard snow using equipment such as ice axes and crampons, but also equipment from rock climbing such as ropes.