I’d never been before this past spring, but I’m glad I tried it! It’s extremely challenging, fun, and a fantastic workout!
The first time I stepped into the Rockville Earth Treks Climbing Center, I have to admit that I was intimidated. There were these really high walls with colored marks all over them, and weird stone-type things. The people in the gym didn’t look like me, which had me taken aback at first. Of all the couple hundred people in the gym, I was the only person who was not white or Asian. There were barefoot people, little kids, and really intense-looking people wearing what I could only describe as yoga gear. While the composition of the gym was initially striking, I was able to shrug it off pretty quickly. My sport of choice is volleyball, and I can say that I had similar impressions when I originally started playing. It never stopped me from enjoying it and succeeding! The demographics of different athletic activities have always interested me, but I’ll save those thoughts for another day.
Climbing is extremely difficult. Using your brain extensively during the workout is a necessity. You have to think three or four steps ahead sometimes. You have to follow the color path that you choose at the beginning (no cheating!). You start sweating and trembling, and you hear all of the people around you, and the higher up you get on the wall, the more isolated you feel. It’s quite overwhelming for a beginner. Throw all of that in with the fact that you are using every inch of your body to climb, from your head to your curled-up toes, and you know you are getting a legit workout. Fortunately, I am not afraid of heights, because there is no way I would get up on that wall – another thing to consider when thinking about going rock climbing for the first time.
The first time I reached the top on an intro course, I was afraid of how I was going to get back down. “Climb down like Spider-Man,” my buddy Diego shouted. I assure you that it was terrifying and didn’t make me feel any more comfortable about coming down. I think I basically had to get pulled down super slowly that first time. But… I DID IT! And once I conquered that wall, I felt proud of myself. I also was a sweaty, disgusting mess with a harness lodged in my junk, but I felt an overwhelming sense of pride and confidence.
That’s one of the great things about rock climbing — the confidence and pride received from conquering a climbing route.
If rock climbing is so fun, why isn’t everyone doing it? Rock climbing is kind of expensive, not gonna lie. A gym membership can be pretty pricey, and the equipment is extremely important – and not easy to come by. For example, I have a pretty basic harness. (Yes, you need a harness, otherwise, you’ll have to rent one.) I bought it with my friend’s member discount, but it still wasn’t cheap. If you order the one I got online, it will set you back about $55. It’s definitely comfy, and the Black Diamond brand is trusted by rock climbers.
The price of the shoes surprised me. These evolv Elektra VTR women’s climbing shoes are about $90 without any discounts. The shoes take some adjusting to, as they’re made to be worn with your toes sort of curled under. It sounds odd, but it helps with climbing. As I noted earlier, there were plenty of barefoot people in the gym, but I prefer to wear shoes when I climb.
Can you go rock climbing by yourself? I’m not even sure how that would work! I noticed a few people signed up to have someone “belay” them (which you can see me doing in the picture below), but that still requires another person, albeit a stranger. It takes two to tango, and it takes two to go rock climbing. Here’s the good news, for people who might be new to their neighborhoods: Rock climbing gyms are communities. People really get into climbing, and they encourage each other. When you have that sort of dynamic, it seems like it would be natural for people to transition from rock climbing gym friendships to friendships outside of the gym.
I highly recommend giving rock climbing a try. I must reiterate that it is great fun, an amazing workout, and works wonders for your attitude!