What makes a climb?

So, what characteristics of an outing constitute calling it a climb? This is a question I frequently entertain (or torment, depending on your view!) my hiking/climbing partners with, and have yet to come to any consensus. Several requirements have been suggested, and I'd be curious to hear from anyone else reading this as to what their requisites are (leave me email by clicking the link at the bottom of this page). One suggestion was that the route had to have 5th class rock on it. While I'd agree that any route with a 5th class section would be a climb, this would eliminate most of the routes up Mt. Rainier (as well as many other strato-volcanos), and most people agree that Rainier is a climb (although some of my die hard buddies steadfastly refer to it as a hike). Another suggestion was that any route that required a rope was a climb. Does this mean that if I rope up for Little Si, it's a climb? Who gets to decide it the rope is "required"? If I free solo (not in my life!) Outer Space than it's not a climb? I don't think this requirement quite works either.

Personally, I can usually tell after I've done a route whether or not I think it was a climb, but trying to quantify the characteristics has proven difficult. One point that does seem obvious is that the outing must include a summit - if there isn't a summit, then it really can't be a climb, at least not a successful one. But, if there's a trail all the way to a summit, is it a climb, or is it a hike? Does it depend on steepness? Distance? What if there's a short 3rd class section? I guess I have more questions than anwers!

My current working definition of a climb is that the route must reach a summit, and in order to reach the summit safely the route requires either specialized knowledge, skills or gear. (Hmmm - this would seem to allow a scuba dive to the top of a sea mount, or a skydive to a summit to qualify as a climb! Maybe I'd better add that there must be a net elevation gain once the non-human powered portion of the trip begins!) What do you think?


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