Some of the earliest rock climbing methods involved carving steps into the rocks. Others made ladders using rope or steel. Equipment and techniques have evolved over the years as climbing became a popular hobby or sport.

Free Climbing
When initially learning the method, climbers may or may not use a harness and rope for safety. However, many free climbers continue using safety gear. The gear is not used to advance during the climb. Otherwise, the dangerous sport entails using only the hands and feet to step on or into slight outcroppings or crevices to reach the top of a summit. When climbing crevices, the body, hands, and feet are used for support as the climber inches their way to the top.

Top Rope Climbing
The method is most often used when learning indoor climbing. However, the technique is also used outdoors. The lead climber finds a quick path to reach the summit and attaches the rope to a tree or other stationary natural object. The rope is then lowered to the climbers below who belay or attach the rope to a harness.

Traditional Climbing
As the lead climber scales the wall, they insert hooks, wedges, or other devices into the rock cracks that serve as anchor points. The points may then be used to attach a webbed type of step ladder known as an etrier. Each time the climber steps up, they insert another etrier until making it to the top. The last climber often removes the devices as they work their way to the summit.

Sport Climbing
The method was developed in Europe during the 1970s. Routes are planned in advance. Using power drills, climbers scale the summit while inserting permanent devices into the side of the rock. In this way, sport climbers need merely use their ropes, etriers, or other devices attached to the fixtures while scaling the wall. The technique is especially useful for enabling climbers to navigate particularly perilous areas of the climb.

Bouldering is similar to free climbing in that crash pads are the only form of safety gear used. The sport takes place indoors or outdoors and entails traversing up and across artificial or natural boulders that are typically lower in height. Some use the technique to climb the base of massive natural formations.