Indoor Rock Climbing: Should I Dare?

a woman climbing a rock wall in an indoor rock climbing gym

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Want to try something fun, new, and challenging that will simultaneously exhaust your grip strength and ruin your manicure? Then indoor rock climbing is for you! 

I’m not selling it very well, but I had such a fun time indoor rock climbing for the first time over a year ago. I was feeling pretty bored of working out at the gym, and my friend/former co-worker is an avid climber who has invited me to join her before, so I decided it was finally time to give it a shot. 

rock walls at indoor rock climbing gym
Giant curvy wall I did not go on
rock walls at indoor rock climbing gym
More giant walls

Getting Started with Indoor Rock Climbing

After taking a quick tour and sizing up the incredible walls, it was time to get ready. First up, I had to put on all the gear, like this attractive harness that squishes your ass out like it’s in sausage casing, as well as these lovely velcro shoes. 

the author proudly stands in her climbing harness and velcro rock climbing shoes in front of the indoor rock climbing wall
Modeling all the fun climbing gear: shoes and an extra-comfy harness

Next, the very helpful humans of the gym showed me how to use the fancy automatic belay system, which is semi-alarming because if you mess it up, you can send the belay thing flying up to the top of the wall, where some unfortunate person will somehow have to go up and retrieve it. Actually, the whole thing is semi-alarming since you are dangling 20-40 ft above ground by this cable. This provides a great incentive for listening very carefully to how everything works.

Up, Up and Away!

But after your quick orientation lesson where you demonstrate you can use the equipment without injuring anyone, it is time to climb! I started with a few baby runs on the “short walls,” (20ft?) which was great for my confidence, until I realized tiny seven year olds were scampering right up the wall next to me. 

the author scaling a wall
I spent most of my time on these smaller walls, getting the hang of it.

But these shorter walls were a great playground to learn some of the ins and outs of the sport. It was so nice going with a seasoned climber; my friend was able to explain things a bit further, like how you can follow the routes by only using certain color grips and footings. Or, you can just do like I did and grab whichever things are closest to you that make you stay on the wall, and go up and down as you please. (There is an extensive vocabulary for the names of these holds, but I am not fancy enough to use it properly.)

Challenges of Indoor Rock Climbing

After I felt more comfortable, I decided to try some of the higher walls. The extra cute thing they do is make the holds TINY AND AWKWARD closer to the top, so sometimes I was left clinging to the wall like a damn gecko trying to figure out what to do next. After about an hour of climbing, my forearms were BURNING from the effort. Good thing it was fun to launch yourself off the wall and rappel down if you decided you had had enough.

the author rappelling down a rock wall at an indoor rock climbing gym

Why should I go indoor rock climbing? 

But here is the thing; I really really enjoyed it. It was so much fun to peek into this whole other world with its own vocabulary, gear, and lifestyle. I love how it engaged my mind and my body; I had to be strategic and think about how I was going to get to the top. Sometimes I had to backtrack and descend to try something new, sometimes I just had to let go, fail, and start over. I had to keep going even when I was scared. And if you are really intense and do this with a partner, instead of the automatic belay, you have to have CRAZY trust and communication with your partner. 

a blond woman rappelling down a wall in an indoor rock climbing gym
Gotta stick…
a blond woman landing after rappelling down a wall in an indoor rock climbing gym
the landing!

As an athlete, I have always loved how sports put you in uncomfortable situations in relatively low-risk settings so you can practice skills that serve you later in life when things gets scary or hard. Climbing a crazy wall, or lifting a heavy weight you don’t think you can do lets you practice feeling the “Oh my gosh, I can’t!” and then pushing past it and doing it anyway. 

two women wearing masks smile? for the camera after a fun day of indoor rock climbing
Exhausted, but happy!

If this piques your interest, go give it a try! Search a climbing gym near you, or if you are local, try Stone Age. You can rent gear from them so you don’t have to worry about having all the stuff the first time. 

Anyways, the big takeaway for me was that fitness comes in so many forms and this was such a welcome change from some of the usual things that I have been doing. 

So, go try something new to mix up your fitness routine, whatever that may be! Who knows what you may fall in love with, or learn from the experience.

Like this post? Check out some other adventures: Lake Agnes Tea House, Banff or Hiking Angel’s Landing.

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