As climbers move up a cliff, they’re constantly struggling against the pull of Earth’s gravity toward the ground. To stay on the rock, they rely on friction, a rubbing force that resists motion. Friction with the rock keeps a climber’s fingers and shoes from sliding off.
Climbers use various techniques for increasing friction. They wear special shoes with soft rubber soles that grip the rock. Climbers also coat their hands in chalk to dry out any sweat. That makes their hands less slippery.
Beck has come up with her own strategies to climb safely. Because her left arm is short, her reach isn’t as long as most climbers’. So Beck has learned to rely on smaller but closer ledges to make her way to larger ones. Since she can’t use her stump to grip the rock, she often wedges it into cracks to push herself upward.
When Beck climbs, she wears a safety rope tied to a harness around her waist. The rope loops through a clip that Beck attaches to bolts screwed into the rock. A person on the ground holds one end of the rope and keeps it stretched tight. If Beck slips, the rope stops her fall.
Falling may sound scary, but it’s key, Beck says. “It’s the only way you can learn in climbing.”