ES.255 | Spring 2006 | Undergraduate
Physics of Rock Climbing


Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 1 session / week, 2 hours / session


Students are expected to attend class, read a little, do some back of the envelope calculations, engage in a research project, present twice, write a brief research proposal (3 pages), and write a research report (5 pages).

Research Projects

Research projects are open ended and students are encouraged to determine their own project. Projects are clearly limited by the scope of the seminar (6 units) and the availability of resources and funding. Nonetheless, there are many options: modeling of climbing systems (spread sheet, analytical models, finite element models), climber/physics education and curriculum development, simple experiments, climber psychology and habits survey, new equipment design/equipment improvement, and instrumentation for measurement of climbing systems. Students may work together or independently on projects according to the project scope and student inclination.


This is the planned schedule of events, and may not accurately reflect what actually happened in each session.

SES # Topics


Games Climbers Play (context), Brief Movie/Video About Climbing, Performance Levels, Safety Systems, What Drives the Climbing Market and How Physics Fits in


Begin Survey of Open Questions

Lecture and Discussion Driven by the Instructor; When Possible, a Hands-on Demo or Exercise will be Included

Topics Might Include:

- Mechanics: Fall Arrest, Force and Energy, The Wexler Equation, Equipment Ratings, Next Steps: EAS, Belay Devices, Better Models of Rope Performance 
- Material Properties: Ice, Corrosion, Fatigue 
- Innovation: Cam Development, Geometry and Implications 
- Human Factors and Safety Systems Analysis 
- Physiology: My Background in this Topic is Weak, But Students May have the Expertise to Address this Topic 
- Standardization: Landscape, Effects, Next Steps

4 Project Identification

Further Survey of Open Questions Continues to be Instructor Driven

Students are Defining Projects and Doing Background Research

Written Proposal Due

7-8 Student Presentations Based on Project Background, Projects in Full Swing
9-11 Student Presentation of Project Results
12 Report Writing Workshop
13 Wrap-up, Party, Evaluation, Report Due

Course Info
As Taught In
Spring 2006
Learning Resource Types
notes Lecture Notes
group_work Projects with Examples