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Topos Klettern

Climbing topos

Especially for alpine climbing, it's essential to have detailed information about the route in advance. Topos, whether online or in climbing guides, provide a maximum level of information in a compressed format. With the help of symbols and icons, the topo graphically depicts everything important, helping you orient yourself on the climbing wall. The lead climber always has the topo at hand when climbing. As a backup, you should still have it digitally saved on your mobile phone.

Reading and understanding topos

To read and understand topos, the graphic representation of a climbing route, it is necessary to know and understand the different symbols. Have a look at the listed symbols below. In addition to the prominent rock formations, the number of pitches and the length of each pitch, the difficulty per pitch, location of anchors, fixed protection etc., general information such as the wall orientation, climbing length and duration of ascent and descent are often included in topos. Depending on the creator, topos differ in their shape, design, and level of detail. The topos on Outdooractive Climbing use the symbols below. These are strongly aligned with the recommendation of the Union Internationale des Associations d'Alpinisme (UIAA).

With each climbed route you will learn something new. Gaining experience is really key here. The best way to start is to go with an experienced climbing partner. A good topo will make route finding easier overall. In very well-protected routes, you usually “only” have to follow the bolts. Routes with large distances between bolts or no fixed protection at all require a good topo and climbing intuition.


In sport climbing crags, either wall pictures, photographs or drawings (showing wall features) with the lines of the routes and a table with information on names, lengths, difficulty levels and features are usually used. Topos of crags are thus more stripped down than alpine climbing route topos. On a single-pitch route in a crag, for example, it's not necessary to know where the next bolt is, since the protection level in sport climbing crags is usually very good.


  1. The leader always has a printed topo at hand.
  2. As a contingency, in case you lose the printout, save a photo of the topo on your phone.
  3. Before starting, you should study the topo, ideally already at home, to prepare yourself adequately.
  4. On the approach to the wall, you should compare the approximate route with the topo and memorize it as well as possible. Often, directly at the entrance, you can find it challenging to get a good overview.

For our alpine climbing routes on the Outdooractive platform, which you can find in the Outdooractive Climbing user group, you will receive a topo and wall picture (with the route line) specially created by the climbing editors for almost all routes. Since the preparation is very time-consuming and labor-intensive, these routes can only be viewed in their entirety for Pro+ users.