There is limited information on the anthropometry, strength, endurance and flexibility of female rock climbers. The aim of this study was to compare these characteristics in three groups of females: Group 1 comprised 10 elite climbers aged 31.3 +/- 5.0 years (mean +/- s) who had led to a standard of 'hard very severe'; Group 2 consisted of 10 recreational climbers aged 24.1 +/- 4.0 years who had led to a standard of 'severe'; and Group 3 comprised 10 physically active individuals aged 28.5 +/- 5.0 years who had not previously rock-climbed. The tests included finger strength (grip strength, finger strength measured on climbing-specific apparatus), flexibility, bent arm hang and pull-ups. Regression procedures (analysis of covariance) were used to examine the influence of body mass, leg length, height and age. For finger strength, the elite climbers recorded significantly higher values (P < 0.05) than the recreational climbers and non-climbers (four fingers, right hand: elite 321 +/- 18 N, recreational 251 +/- 14 N, non-climbers 256 +/- 15 N; four fingers, left hand: elite 307 +/- 14 N, recreational 248 +/- 12 N, non-climbers 243 +/- 11 N). For grip strength of the right hand, the elite climbers recorded significantly higher values than the recreational climbers only (elite 338 +/- 12 N, recreational 289 +/- 10 N, non-climbers 307 +/- 11 N). The results suggest that elite climbers have greater finger strength than recreational climbers and non-climbers.