Climb­ing Gyms Are The New Crags

Gripped - - EDITORIAL - Bran­don Pul­lan

In­door climb­ing isn’t just a great way to train for rock climb­ing, it’s a sport in it­self. Wayne Merry, who was on the first as­cent of The Nose on El Cap­i­tan in 1947, said this win­ter, “Sit­ting around the camp­fire at Camp 4 in the 1950s, we couldn’t even have con­ceived the pos­si­bil­ity that climb­ing would evolve to this.” And what it’s evolved to be is a multi-dis­ci­pline sport with tens of thou­sands of par­tic­i­pants who travel to climb, com­pete, train and ex­plore.

There were no climb­ing gyms in the 1950s, the f irst in­door ar­tif icial wall was built in 1964 by Don Robin­son at Leeds Univer­sity in the U.K. Climbers had no idea that in 2018 there would be hun­dreds of gyms in North Amer­ica with count­less climbers scal­ing walls in ma­jor metropoli­tan ar­eas. But here we are and in­door climb­ing is boom­ing. In fact, climb­ing gyms have be­come the new crags.

At any given time, at any given gym, you’ll find pup­pies sleep­ing next to ex­pen­sive ur­ban back­packs, chalk-cov­ered climbers, ditched post-ses­sion tape on the f loor, scrappy brushes be­ing scrubbed against holds, ropes hang­ing and be­ing hung, screams of frus­tra­tion and joy, pumped and tired peo­ple, and senders and ob­servers. Gyms are places to push your­self and have fun.

As ac­cess be­comes an is­sue at most of North Amer­ica and Europe’s fa­mous climb­ing ar­eas and the num­ber of climbers con­tin­ues to rise, cre­at­ing new spa­ces is cru­cial. And what bet­ter way to do that than with gyms. There are so many rea­sons to climb in­doors: great com­mu­nity, close to the pub, easy to get to, clean, close bolts for lead climb­ing, squishy f loors for fall­ing, new routes and prob­lems, train­ing tools and you can get a lot of laps in dur­ing your visit.

In­door climb­ing will never give you that rush of be­ing up high on ex­posed rock with ravens soar­ing around, the sound of a creek or the breeze blow­ing, the threat of bad weather or a sum­mit, but it will give you ev­ery­thing else you’re look­ing for when you go climb­ing. And you won’t have the threat of rock­fall, a light­ning strike or be­ing rained out. Of course, for you gym-only climbers who do want to head out­doors to climb, there are a few things to know, such as crag eti­quette, how to deal with loose rock, where to stand to be­lay and that the bolts are far­ther apart than in­doors.

My life as a climber started on the textured ply­wood walls of a climb­ing gym and the ma­jor­ity of my climb-time is still spent in­side. Most climbers, es­pe­cially in 2018, will start their climb­inglife in­doors. And some, maybe even most, will never ven­ture far from the air-con­di­tioned and staff-run spa­ces found in ur­ban cen­tres. And why should they? I salute you in­door-only climbers and hope to see you around the gyms – I mean crags – this year.

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