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Climbing

People climbing up the Cotopaxi

As an adventure lover, you know that climbing mountains and walls is an amazing experience! While planning a trip abroad, you can organize a rock climbing escape or make your whole trip about it. It’s one of the best activities to really appreciate nature, and the environment in a place you haven’t experienced yet. If you choose  South America you can enjoy mountaineering in the Andes mountains. There’s no doubt that you’ll love the experience.


Rock climbers all over the world are searching for the next adventure. They really search for new emotions, routes, and paths to get to the top of the mountain or canyon. Getting to the top is an incredible feeling. For instance, in Ecuador, you can touch the clouds in the Andes Mountains. The feeling of being on a snowy active volcano surrounded by clouds is something you’ll never forget. However, climbing is a very demanding activity for all climbers. Not only in physical terms, but you also need mental strength. 

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When you Climb you challenge yourself 

To keep them over the edge, climbers need to grow self-reliance and confidence. Climbing offers a possibility of proving you can always push yourself in body and mind further with more complicated routes or different destinations. 

Tourist climbing the snowy Cotopaxi

A tourist descending the Cotopaxi

How climbing sets your mind 

Having a huge wall waiting for you to climb, or waiting for the climate to be good enough to start climbing a mountain is a challenge. Not only a physical but also a mental one. Nevertheless, as you may know, it’s an incredible exercise that has its benefits also. 

Mental strength 

Climbing requires you to have a strong mindset. After all, not all routes are super easy. Navigating routes demands that rock climbers judge their individual abilities, such as reach, strength, energy levels, and planning. Moreover, climbing demands that climbers have a clear and peaceful mind to judge the next move. 

Climbing reduces stress

Rock climbing helps the body to produce norepinephrine, a neurotransmitter in the brain that helps to reduce stress. Climbing outdoors decreases stress levels because of the contact with nature, and exposure to the sun and vitamin D

Climbing helps you to conquer your fears 

One of the greatest obstacles while climbing is fear. One of the most common of them is heights. Therefore, rock climbing is a great way to conquer them. Climbers use harnesses as a safety measure, so if you lose balance or grip you’re not going to fall. Conquering your fears is very empowering! So, once you get to the top of the mountain, you’re going to feel the world is yours! 

How climbing sets your body 

As a very demanding exercise, your body will tone up. So, here’s how your body will change when you start climbing. 

Toned arm muscles

Your arms will become stronger. After all, you’re pulling yourself up a wall. Forearms and shoulders carry the most weight.

Carved back and neck

When you look up, down, and around, as you climb, the neck develops stronger muscles. Because of all the efforts of the upper part of your body, your back curves nicely. 

Quick-witted thigh muscles

While climbing, your legs still work out. They are very important for the balance on the wall. Also, to reach the next point.

Cardio and strength into one single workout

During one session of rock climbing, the body performs a number of physical tests. Including building muscles, boosting heart rate, and developing stamina. 

Increased flexibility

Climbing encourages its enthusiasts to increase their range of motion. It demands flexibility and adaptability as it requires you to reach, leap and climb to handholds and footholds. They are usually far from a comfortable distance. 

Happy guy posing after his climbing Cotopaxi and reaching its summit

A happy tourist posing in the Cotopaxi summit

Tips for climbing abroad 

Most rock climbers can’t settle with their climbing skills in their towns. Therefore, there’s a solution for finding a new challenge! And that would be finding a new climbing location or destination! So, to help you organize better your trip, here are a few tips. 

Pick a location well known for climbing  

If you choose a place known for climbing, you won’t have any problem planning your trip. You’ll have access to experienced guides, amazing routes, and interesting people. It makes it easier to cross barriers like language and culture. You all have the same objective. 

Consider traveling on the fringe of the perfect visiting season 

This is only because you can avoid the crowded and more expensive season. Thanks to Ecuador’s weather conditions, it’s a year-round destination. So, you can come whenever it suits you. And when the tickets aren’t so expensive. Usually, it depends on the destination, if you want to climb the Cotopaxi or the Chimborazo then each mountain has its particular climate. The good thing about this is that you can organize your trip during low seasons. 

Bring your own climbing gear

As rock climbers know, it’s better when you use your own gear since you’re familiar with it. But if your travel consists of moving around, you’ll end up super tired. Pick the unique and most valuable items. For instance, your good old climbing shoes are essential, you’re familiar with them, you won’t get hurt and you know how they perform.

Some of the climbing gear needed

Some of the climbing gear needed

Pick your climbing travel partners wisely 

Traveling can be stressful. Therefore, choose your climbing partner wisely not only because you’re going to be all day long with them. But also, because you have to trust them in the decision-making while climbing. 

Safety comes first 

Do your research in advance on your destination weather and all conditions that can affect your mountaineering or rock climbing experience. Learn about vaccines that you might need to get there. Also, inform yourself more about your insurance and coverage in foreign countries. At the same time, inform yourself about nearby hospitals of the place where you’re going to climb. 

Find where the local rock climbers hang out 

When you go to the same places that local climbers frequent it’s more likely that you’ll find the most up-to-date information. For instance, climbing areas, routes, weather, and other tips. Climbing areas are constantly growing and changing, since it’s all new here you’ll need the most accurate information.

Have rest days 

Enjoy the whole destination! You need to rest and during those days you can immerse yourself in the country. Do something with the local community, and learn from them and their ways of living. After all, you traveled for the experience of the culture, to get to know other people!

People relaxing on a white sandy beach in Galapagos

People relaxing on a Beach in Galapagos

Embrace being uncomfortable

Scared to try local food, dealing with language barriers, experiencing uncertainty about your next destination? Is all part of the adventure. Try to make a safe decision so you don’t hurt yourself, but enjoy being in a new environment. 

Climbing vs bouldering

Most people ask about the differences between these two disciplines. It’s true that bouldering is a type of rock climbing. However, bouldering refers to a specific type of climbing where you solve shorter routes that are known as problems on smaller rock formations. In bouldering, you’ll stay close to the ground, and you’ll climb without a rope or harness. 

On the other hand, the term rock climbing refers to any style of free climbing and even bouldering. But, to be specific, rock climbing involves climbing up a crag using technical gear like a rope and harness. Here are the major differences between rock climbing vs bouldering.

Gear 

As mentioned above, the main difference between bouldering and rock climbing is the gear involved. For rock climbing, you’ll need climbing shoes, a harness, a chalk bag, a belay device, and so on. Besides depending on the type of rock climbing you might need more gear like cams, quickdraws, and nuts. 

On the other hand, for bouldering, all you need are a pair of shoes, some chalk, and access to a crash pad. If you think about it it is a lot cheaper. But, traveling to another destination is more difficult since you need to carry your crash pad or to make sure that you’ll have access to one. 

Safety 

It’s true that any fall in rock climbing is controlled by all your ropes. On the other hand, in bouldering your only real piece of safety equipment is your crash pad. When you’re bouldering, usually the distance is 10 to 15 ft (3-4.57 m) off the ground. On the contrary in rock climbing, you’re 30 ft high at the top so it’s further to fall if you lose your grip. 

Pro tip: when bouldering if you learn how to fall properly you’re unlikely to cause any major damage. And in rock climbing, you can also reduce major injuries. So, the key is getting proper training and climbing with a clear head no matter what. 

Physical skills 

Many climbers do both, because they require different physical skills and therefore, fulfill different components of your training. All types of rock climbing are good workouts and both sports build a lot of strength. However, rock climbing usually requires a greater degree of endurance because routes are longer. Also, you have to distribute your strength more evenly throughout your body, using your legs, as well as your arms. The climbing routes will have parts that are easier and areas that are more difficult, and you can always rest a little on your harness when needed. 

Meanwhile, bouldering problems are short and focus more on aggressive power. Moves to stay on the rock and complete the problem. While boulderers use their legs too, this sport requires more upper body strength. 

Girl climbing up a rock wall

Girl climbing up a rock wall

Bouldering vs. rock climbing: the verdict

It’s hard to say that one sport is better than the other. But, they complement each other. You can do bouldering when you don’t have the time to do a longer rock climbing route. And it’ll make you a better rock climber since it helps you build more upper body strength. 

Climbing Gear 

Depending on the type of climbing you’re doing, your gear is going to change. For instance, if you prefer boulder climbing your gear is going to be some chalk and your shoes. But if you prefer rock climbing, then most likely you’ll need a good harness, helmet, shoes, rope, carabiners, and so on. On the other hand, if you like mountaineering then you’ll have other types of equipment. So here’s a quick list of the gear you might need. Please keep in mind that all the gear might change depending on the destination, weather conditions, and type of climbing you chose. 

Ropes

Ropes are essential equipment. There are only a couple of circumstances where a rock climber won’t need them. When you’re bouldering or you’re free soloing which only a small fraction of climbers pursue. Otherwise, ropes are very important for every type of climbing. With proper use of your other equipment climbing, ropes will be a lifesaver if you slip or fall off. 

You also have to know how to use them, and how they work with other apparatus. Most centers offer tutorials so you can get to grips with them. If you’re wanting to buy your own rope, then there are some factors to consider: 

  • Rope type 
  • Diameter
  • Length 
  • Rope features 
  • Safety ratings

Harness

In order to buy a good harness, then you have to consider two things, how much you want to spend, and what type of climbing you intend to do. If you’re into trad, sport, winter, or indoor climbing, then versatility and comfort should be your priority. Also, it’s going to serve you in multiple disciplines. It’s recommended that you own the gear that you’re going to use regularly. But, if you need something more specific then you can rent it

Ideally, the harness should work perfectly with your clothing so you can have a full range of motion. Some key features to look for are padding, extra-wide webbing, ventilation, and moisture transport. Since the purpose of the harness is to keep you safe, then you need to examine it for defects or damage when you’re buying one or, when you’re hiring one. Also, you have to have a perfect fit in your harness. 

Climbing gear

Climbing gear

Belay device  

This is one of the first pieces you’re going to buy if you do rock climbing, trad, or sport climber. It’s a mechanical friction brake used to protect climbers from falls or lower them from an ascent. The belay provides multiple friction points meaning the belayer doesn’t have to hold the climbers’ full weight as they ascend. It’s recommended to practice in a controlled environment first with the help of a climbing instructor. Learn more about the right belay devices. 

Carabiners

They’re basically climbing clips. It’s a device in which you can attach things without risking them becoming detached. So, in climbing they are used for all sorts of purposes. For example, connecting ropes with other pieces of equipment like nuts, camming devices, and bolts. Carabiners, ropes, and harnesses are crucial gear for rock climbers and their safety. Thus, you should invest in carabiners with a long-standing reputation for quality strength. When choosing them, you have to choose the shape, gate type, size, weight, and strength. 

Quickdraws 

The quickdraws are made from two carabiners connected by a textile sling. Their main purpose is to attach one end to a bolt hanger on a route and the other to the rock climbers’ rope. This gives climbers a slack on the rope by allowing the rope to move around while remaining attached to the bolt hanger. 

Climbing helmets 

One of the hazards of rock climbing is that occasionally rock faces and mountains fracture, thus stones, rocks or boulders tumble down below. Therefore, a good helmet is a key piece for practicing climbing. Some helmets are also designed to protect climbers in the event of a fall. Helmets should fit snugly and sit flat on your head but not feel too tight. You can consult with experts about the fitting. Besides, a climbing helmet shouldn’t obstruct your line of sight up the wall. 

Shoes 

Climbing shoes are an essential part of this sport. Climbing shoes are known for their tight fit, thin material, rubber soles, and outer edge. This design gives your foot the best grip on the wall you stand on and holds you wouldn’t be able to with other shoes or barefoot. Since they’re so important, choosing the right ones for you is like a science. It is not like the best on the market nor the most expensive could be the best ones for you.

Some girl tying her climbing shoes

Climbing shoes should fit perfectly

Other gear 

Chalk and chalk bags are super important because they give your hands the grip you need. At the same time, they keep your hands dry from sweat and moisture. Some climbers prefer different types of chalk-like blocks, loose, or liquid. All that counts when choosing chalk is your personal preferences. 

When choosing clothes 

There’s no guide referring to what to wear when you go climbing. But, there are a few things to keep in mind when choosing them. 

  • Flexibility. You’ll need a full extension of arms and legs so you can reach far-flung feet and handholds. 
  • Lightwear fabrics and abrasion resistance. If you go rock climbing you need some type of fabric that can resist hard rock faces. 
  • Slim fit. Avoid baggy clothes that can interfere with your movement or that could get caught up in the rope. Also, think about your harness and choose clothes that can fit easily under your harness and protect your skin. 

Mountaineering gear 

If you’re into mountaineering, then you’ll have to be prepared for other conditions and circumstances. Also, the trip is going to be different. For example, maybe the mountain you’re going to need a day or some time of climatization, so you’ll need camping gear. If the mountain is snowy then you’ll need the right clothing. So, here’s a small list of mountaineering equipment, or you can see a more detailed list of mountaineering gear. 

Mountaineering boots

They are very important. They give you traction and stability for traveling on rocky terrain, also they keep you warm and have to attach crampons for climbing snow and glaciers. There are different characteristics to consider when choosing the right mountaineering boots, like the flexibility of the sole, insulation for frigid temperatures, and other features. As mentioned before, choose wisely

Two persons climbing up a mountain

Mountaineers climbing up

Crampons 

About this gear, you can choose the ones made out of steel or aluminum. Although steel crampons are heavier they are strong and durable which is why most mountaineers chose them. On contrary to aluminum, crampons are much lighter but also less durable. And don’t forget that they have different binding types. You have to make sure that they suit you well. 

Climbing helmets for mountaineering 

Most standard rock climbing helmets are suitable for mountain climbers. But the one thing you have to take into account is that they have clips for attaching a headlamp. 

Ice axes for mountain climbing 

When choosing an ax, you need to consider the size and activity in order to compare the lengths, weights, and shapes. The most popular way to find the correct length of the ax is to hold the ax at your side with your hand and the shaft pointing down while standing relaxed. The spike of the ax should reach your ankle bone when you stand fully upright with your arms at your sides. You can always learn more about how to choose the right ax

Climbing axe on the top of a snowy mountain

Choosing the right climbing axe is important

Climbing sites in Ecuador 

There are different places where you can go climbing in Ecuador, and depending on your preferences you can try different styles also in the Andes Mountains. For example, the Chimborazo volcano is the closest mountain to the sun. Ecuador also has the Cotopaxi volcano which is active. When you book a tour with Rebecca Adventure Travel, you can choose where to go, and get a tailor-made trip. You won’t have to worry about the equipment, getting in contact with a professional guide, or any other logistics matters.  

Cotopaxi volcano

Having 19,347 ft (5,897m) the Cotopaxi is the second highest mountain in Ecuador’s Andes Mountains. And, is one of the highest active volcanoes in the world. Thousands of mountaineers come to Ecuador to reach its summit. Cotopaxi is located on the “Avenue of Volcanoes” named by the German Naturalist Alexander von Humboldt in the XIX century. This climb is one of the most popular because of its views of the crater. Although it is not very technical, because of its height you need to be in good physical shape. The best months to climb are from December to April. As for the conditions here, the Cotopaxi is crevassed all the way up to the summit. The crevasses are spectacularly large and easy to avoid, but be aware of snow bridges. 

View of Cotopaxi volcano

Cotopaxi volcano

Chimborazo volcano 

Chimborazo is the highest volcano in Ecuador at 20,565 ft (6,268.2 m). Also, is the closest point to the sun thanks to its location in the equatorial line. If climbers have good weather they will be rewarded with an incredible view of other peaks of the Andes Mountains, such as Cotopaxi, El Altar, and Sangay. It’s recommended to climbers spend some time at high altitudes to acclimate their bodies. Chimborazo is climbable all year round. However, the best climbing months are June, July, and December through early January. February to May is known for bad weather, especially in April. There are many routes to get to the summit, each one of them with its particularities and difficulties. 

Climbers reaching the Chimborazo summit

Climbers reaching the Chimborazo summit

Cayambe volcano 

Cayambe is a huge glaciated extinct volcano part of the Andes Mountains. Also, it has the third highest peak in Ecuador at 18,996 ft (5,790m). Even though it is not really difficult to climb, it’s dangerous because of active glaciers, crevasses, and avalanches. Snowstorms and high winds are more frequent on Cayambe than on other peaks in the Andes Mountains of Ecuador. It can be climbed all year round, but it’s said that the best months are October through January. Weather conditions here change very rapidly. Some of its Glaciers are very active with many seracs and extremely crevassed which are hidden with fresh snow, therefore, is very dangerous. 

View of Cayambe

View of Cayambe

5 Rock climbing sites in Ecuador 

If what you like is rock climbing, then you have to try at least one of these places

1. Cuyuja 

Located in Napo Province, close to Quito there are rock climbing routes with heights up to 246 ft (74.98m). This route is high-level meaning you need a certain level of preparation and resistance. 

2. La Rinconada

La Rinconada is located in Imbabura province. It’s one of the most visited sites by rock climbers. It has different routes that go from medium to high difficulty up to 98.5 ft (30m). This incredible site is surrounded by incredible vegetation and views.

View of Ibarra, the capital of Imbabura province with the mountain on the horizon

Imbabura province has amazing rock climbing sites

3. Cocha Uma

This rock wall is part of the Illinizas Ecological Reserve. In Cocha Uma there are more than 30 routes to enjoy the adventure of the Andes mountains. The best climbing season here goes from March to September, then is ideal for summertime activities. Sudden weather changes are very usual here so bring proper gear and clothing. 

4. Cojitambo 

This is one of the three sacred mountains for the Cañari people. Here are more than 60 climbing tracks designed for different difficulty levels. There are walls up to 525 ft (160m) that you can climb in the southern Andes Mountains in Ecuador. 

Small river on the side of a mountain in Cañar province

Cañar province also has incredible rock climbing spots

5. Tangan columns

In Cotopaxi province, there is not only the Cotopaxi volcano. But also the column Tangan that has 1,312 ft (399.89 m) in height. It’s a magnetic and mystic area, currently one of the best places to practice fissure climbing. When you touch them you can feel the heart of the Earth pumping. It’s a reminder of a long-ago extinct volcano that formed a crescent moon shape.

 

No matter what type of climbing you chose, you’re definitely going to enjoy the route, the Andes Mountains, and the views. 

 

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