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What are the "rules" of top-roping?


Basically, you're just going from the bottom to the top using the holds on the route.

There are two ways that gyms indicate what holds are "on", i.e. what holds you're permitted to use.

The most common method is to use a strip of colored tape underneath the hold. If you see a series of holds with red tape going up the wall, those holds belong together and will have a corresponding red placard on or near the starting holds that indicates the route's difficulty and the routesetter who created it.

A more modern method, often adopted by newer gyms with bigger budgets, is to only use holds of the same color on the wall.

In either case, begin with both hands on the starting hold(s) and your feet off the ground. Hold a static position and then begin climbing. The top of the route is either the upper lip of the wall, or a marked hold with extensive taping.

It's important to know that volume holds are on route too, even if they're not the same color as the rest of the route. Volumes are large forms that have threaded holes for other holds to bolt to. Ask someone at the gym if you're unsure of what you're allowed to use.


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