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How do I Choose the Best Rock Climbing Gym?

Dan Cavallari
Dan Cavallari

A rock climbing gym is a great place to hone your rock climbing skills and get in shape, but not all rock climbing gym locations are created equal. Some are larger than others and have different wall features such as a lead wall, a bouldering cave, and several top rope areas, while others are simple places with a small number of walls and just top rope areas. Some offer classes on climbing, and some have an abundance of rental equipment available. To choose the best rock climbing gym, consider first what you will use the gym for, and how regularly you will use it. Determine your climbing goals and choosing the best rock climbing gym should be easy.

Of course, if there is only one gym in your area, the decision is easy. But if you need to compare rock gyms before joining one, think about the kind of climbing you want to do. If you do mostly lead climbing, then you will want to choose a gym that has the equipment and capabilities to support such a climb. If bouldering is your specialty, choose a gym that has a large bouldering cave that will accommodate more than one user at a time. Check out the gym's rates, too, as many gyms offer bouldering passes that are less expensive than a full pass to the gym.

Woman with hand on her hip
Woman with hand on her hip

Whatever your purposes are, make sure to talk to the staff at the gym. Ensure that they are knowledgeable and safety-minded. Ask them about their climbing pasts, and inquire about the class instructors. Aside from a knowledgeable staff who can help you when you need it, safety is the most important feature of any rock climbing gym. Take a look at rental equipment and make sure shoes and harnesses are clean, well-maintained, and free of defects, rips, or tears. Ask staff how often ropes and other equipment are inspected for safety.

For the advanced climber, a rock climbing gym should have a variety of climbs that will accommodate an easy warm-up and several challenging climbs. Look for varied features, holds, and textures on the wall. If the walls have features like overhangs, slopes, and chimneys, it will provide more of a challenge than a simple, straight wall. If competitions interest you, check with the gym managers to see if any climbing competitions exist, and on which walls they will be held. The more activities and features the gym holds, the better off you will be as an advanced climber.

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