So as a kid, I had gone rock climbing before. I thought it just sounded like an awesome activity and begged my father to bring me somewhere (we had to actually drive pretty far out of the way), and I got to experience rock climbing with a belay and everything.
Now probably over a decade later, I found out that at this gym there is no harness! Apparently 'bouldering' is the new craze and it is getting a lot of attention.
Bewarned, this is a pretty lengthy post.
The second I walked into the facility I knew that it would be a pretty cool experience and that I would want to return -I immediately asked about the cost of a membership or multi-pass. But silly me, I didn't realize that I would want to do a write-up on it right away and took no 'real pictures'. Being the social media addict that I am though, I did take a photo to add to my Snapchat story, so that's the only picture I have to add to this blog. I know, it's pretty lackluster but it's still worth a thousand words, I think? In all fairness, I feel like it captures the most important aspects (namely, the 'Dragon' - which is the wall featured in the picture and more importantly that really tall wall).
So totally, this cost me $22.45. Although this is a bit on the steep side and could be a slightly expensive hobby, it's not too bad for a one time experience. If I wanted to be a regular at this there are membership options (the 10 Pass seemed to be approximately $15 each). At that price point it would be almost comparable to what other fitness classes such as yoga require.
What's included? Well they provide you a rental pair of rock climbing shoes, I'm pretty sure that this is required as I didn't see anyone walking around in regular running shoes. These are pretty specialized and are also rubberized along the front allowing for some better grip on the wall. When you give them your size, although they may give you a size up, it may feel that the shoes are a half size too small - and this is normal from what I have heard.
There also seems to be no time limit. They never specifically told me one and I hear that this is opened pretty late, but no one really wants to spend an entire day here cause it would simply be too tiring. I feel like staying here for 1-3h would be just the right amount.
So as you can see, although there is no harnessing or belaying, the entire place is surrounded by mats. The walls aren't too tall, so falling from that height is still fairly safe. I believe the height is approximately 16 feet but I'm not actually sure. One part of the wall, the only part in the gym, is actually surrounded by a deep foam pit. You can see it to the left of the picture, as the climb gets pretty steep, thankfully the fall seems really fun and not dangerous at all.
The thing with bouldering is, although you can fall back down, they encourage you to climb your way back down. This is written on a sign. So of course, the facility doesn't want to be held liable for any injuries and places an emphasis on safety, so in addition to a waiver that they require you sign upon arrival, they also give you a short orientation that's 5-10 minutes long (it depends how many people in the group already have experience bouldering).
What they do, is they teach you how to fall! Given two scenarios, falling from below 5 feet and falling from above 5 feet, they instruct you on the 'safe' way of falling. That is, to land in a squat like position and depending on the scenario, to rock back and to take the rest of your fall on your back as you slap your arms down against the mat.
After that you're pretty much free to go off wherever you wish. Along the walls there are actually quite a lot of rocks/ steps; the hard part comes from following only one set of 'colors'. This means that there are various pathways of varying difficulty depending on which set of colors you have chosen. Colour does not mean difficulty however. This just means, stick with only the red rocks, or only stick with the green rocks, but don't use a combination of red and green rocks because they're not both supposed to be at your disposal (or else it would be too easy).
How they really encode for difficulty is through a simple numbering system. It increases in difficulty chronologically, so there are some paths that are designated '0' (intended for beginners) and increasing difficulty from there on out. Even some of the 0s can be somewhat difficult, I personally found one that gave me trouble. A regular mentioned that after 2 the difficulty is already quite demanding, although it does go up to 7 or something.
And not only are there different difficulties set out simply due to the step arrangements, but there are difficulties associated with the steepness of the climb as well. There are certain walls with a negative slope, meaning that your body isn't vertical and that you are ever so slightly hanging upside down. For these walls a recommended tip is to keep your feet attached to the wall. It's really easy for them to fall off, and for you to be left hanging simply through your two hands.
So once you're at the top of the wall there are three main methods of getting back down depending on the wall that you climbed You can climb back down (and jump once you're closer to the bottom) regardless of where you are. One wall leads you to a wall where a ladder has been created to allow you to climb back down. Another wall, has something that's really fun - a slide. Bet you haven't gone down a big slide since you were a kid! It's pretty fun, and to be honest I wish that this was an option for each of the climbs.
This was tiring and frustrating. There was one wall that I couldn't climb, and because I stubbornly tried to get up it so many times I wore myself out and by the end I didn't have nearly enough strength to pry myself up! Soon after, and more importantly the next day, my entire body was exhausted. Other people comment that they had muscles, that they didn't even know existed, which were tired. I would say the majority of it is hand, arm, biceps and upper body strength. To be honest, the day I found that I felt too weak to even move the 'gearshift' in the car, to open drawers, to put on my jacket and many other menial tasks I had never given a second thought to!
The best part about being this sore, is knowing that I got such a great workout while doing something that was fun. I find that with working out, there are a lot of activities which can be really boring where you feel like you're really working out just for the sake of ..working out. Repeating 'sets' and 'reps' is something I don't get too excited, but if I can get exhaust my body similarly without realizing the time is passing, then I am down!
This place seems to be doing quite well despite having been open for less than a year. I got there around 2:30 and noticed that the place had filled up quite a bit. There were lots of kids (I think there was even one birthday party happening), families and groups of friends. This is definitely something that can be done as a social for groups of people looking for something to do.
It's also quite ingenious of a business idea as well, unlike yoga there are no scheduled classes which makes it feel even more 'drop in'. You can literally start whenever you want to and the place welcomes so many people at one time. Although max capacity could be an issue if there were too many people on the walls at one time; however, it didn't seem like it would be a problem at all.
So I realized that on their website they have a video featuring Scotiabank (they must have helped finance a loan or something), it's pretty cool cause you can see a lot of the interior of the building if you want to get a better sight of it besides my lame-o snapchat picture.