Over the past several years, the unique sport of rock climbing has experienced a surge in popularity; according to the Climbing Business Journal, the commercial climbing industry grew at a rate of 6.9 percent in 2016, 10 percent in 2017, and 11.8 percent in 2018. This growth in popularity has inspired the opening of a number of indoor rock climbing gyms, where practitioners of the sport can climb bouldering walls, which they climb laterally a short enough distance above the ground that they don’t need to wear a safety harness, and top-roping walls, which extend several feet above the ground and require the use of a harness and a belayer to manage the safety rope. Rock climbing is an intense and exciting activity, and its recent surge in popularity is reflected in the decision to add the sport to the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.
The sport’s burgeoning popularity can be attributed to a number of factors. For one, the sport is a full-body exercise that builds both cardiovascular endurance and muscle mass; as such, frequent visits to the rock climbing gym can replace ordinary, less exciting workouts while maintaining the physical benefits of strength training and other forms of cardio. For people who have a fear of heights, taking up rock climbing is an excellent way to get over that fear, and the activity is sure to build confidence and courage in the face of danger. Furthermore, rock climbing is a mental activity as well as a physical one, as the process of determining how best to scale a rock wall can be compared to solving a three-dimensional puzzle in your head. Additionally, indoor rock climbing, particularly when climbing top-roping walls, is an activity that requires people to partner up, as one person needs to manage the safety equipment while the other climbs. As a result, the social pressure of knowing that your partner is relying on you to make it to the gym is useful in promoting commitment to a lasting gym routine.
There’s no question, however, that rock climbing can be a dangerous activity.
Visiting a rock climbing gym, for this reason, is more of a social activity than visiting ordinary gyms, and relying on another person to ensure your safety when climbing provides for a bonding experience, which is particularly attractive at a time when people are feeling increasingly disconnected from one another. The shared experience of the activity and the fact that climbers take turns between scaling walls and belaying on the ground makes it easy to connect with strangers at rock climbing gyms. Also, rock climbing is a sport that can be enjoyed by people of various degrees of fitness and experience, as rock climbing gyms offer routes of varying levels of difficulty, and experts can even graduate to climbing rocks outdoors. With proper supervision, kids as young as 5 years old can enjoy the activity, as children are natural climbers. There are even people who are so dedicated to the sport that they climb mountains without using safety equipment, as documented in the critically-acclaimed “Free Solo.”
There’s no question, however, that rock climbing can be a dangerous activity. For this reason, understanding how to properly use safety equipment is of paramount significance, as falls sustained while rock climbing can be deadly. Most, if not all, rock climbing gyms will require first-time climbers to undergo a lengthy training course, during which they learn how to properly use the belaying device, which secures the climber and prevents falls, how to tie secure knots, and how to perform safety checks before climbing. Rock climbing gyms also generally require members to sign waivers preventing the gym from being held liable in the event of an injury. However, as long as climbers understand the importance of safety and how to use equipment properly, the risk of falling or sustaining injury can be all but eliminated.
If you’re interested in pursuing the sport, all you need is a partner and access to a rock climbing gym, which can be found easily via an Internet search and are popping up in cities and towns around the world. Many rock climbing gyms also provide free weights and other exercise equipment as a perk. Generally, a membership to a rock climbing gym is more expensive than memberships to traditional gyms, but memberships generally include shoe rentals for members as well as access to all other necessary equipment. Many gyms also tend to offer lower introductory prices to entice prospective climbers to sign up. If you’re brave enough to learn how to scale walls several feet into the air, rock climbing is an endlessly rewarding and fun activity that makes a great way to destress after work or school.