Rock climbing and mountain climbing are two terms that we use interchangeably when it comes to outdoor adventures. On the surface, both may seem to convey the same meaning but if you dig deeper, there is a wide difference between the two!
Their Main Distinction
Let us examine each term individually so you will get a good grasp on their difference. Rock climbing is simply the activity of scaling vertical cliffs with the use of hands and feet. The goal is not necessarily the top; it might be an anchor point indicating the end of your route.
Mountain climbing, or in technical terms, mountaineering is a much more general sport as you need to reach the top or summit using different climbing and hiking methods. In other words, rock climbing is a specific activity that is just a part of the broader sport of mountain climbing.
In terms of environment, both sports are usually done in mountainous areas. With this, you can also enjoy being immersed in nature. The gears used in rock climbing and mountain climbing are similar in many aspects but the latter has a wider toolset. Clothing, packs, and safety equipment are more or less the same.
Since mountain climbing entails a broader set of activities, you might also need an extra set of tools like mountaineering boots, warm clothing, ice axe, avalanche gear, and crampons.
The same goes for the skill set. Aside from rock climbing, you will also have to be adept in ice climbing, scrambling, snow traveling, and skiing.
The danger involved in mountaineering is far greater than rock climbing. In rock climbing, you only have to worry about falls but for mountaineering, there is the risk of hypothermia, avalanches, and altitude sickness.
What is Best for Me?
Both sports are equally amazing and they all depend on what you want to do. However, these four factors might help you decide:
Rock climbing is more accessible as you can just visit any gym near you. For mountain climbing, you need to set out to the mountains, which are usually more distant. If you have much time to spare, the mountains are perfect for your adventure but if you have limited time, better settle for rock climbing.
Again, rock climbing is the easy winner because it is much cheaper. You only need to secure the gym pass at a relatively minimal fee while for mountain climbing you have to secure the necessary gears for a safe and successful climb. Since mountain climbing requires more gears, you also have to pay more.
As discussed previously, mountain climbing involves greater risk because you will be exposed to greater hazards associated with the terrain and weather.
This is the part that will balance everything out. Although this is subjective, you have to think long hard which of the two sports will be most rewarding and satisfying for yourself.
Whether it is rock climbing or mountain climbing, it will not matter as long as you are enjoying every climb. Even if you go solo, with a friend, or a few companions the adventure itself is sure to be worthwhile.