Fitness Training

Indoor rock climbing gyms offer all the thrills of the outdoor sport, but with the chill of AC

Rock climber Alex Honnold made headlines in June when he climbed three,00zero ft to the prime of Yosemite’s El Capitan with no rope. But lengthy earlier than he stepped onto these granite cliffs, Honnold, like many of in the present day’s main climbers, first discovered his sport in an indoor climbing health club.

Once considered an excessive sport, climbing has exploded in reputation in current many years, thanks partially to the 400 such gyms throughout the U.S.

Even for individuals who would — fairly correctly — steer clear of the variety of journey Honnold pursues, rock climbing supplies a bonanza of advantages from bodily fitness to psychological training to camaraderie.

And indoor climbing presents these advantages year-round, with air-conditioning, cushioned flooring and every part climbers have to have enjoyable and keep protected — together with ropes.

Arizona’s first climbing fitness center, Phoenix Rock Gym in Tempe, will have fun its 25th anniversary in August, and the Valley has gained a number of different gyms in recent times. They function climbing classes for adults in addition to leisure golf equipment, aggressive groups and summer time camps for youngsters. Many offer yoga courses and even Ninja Warrior-style fitness training. They lease climbing footwear and harnesses; host competitions; and supply a enjoyable choice for birthday events and company team-building.

Although every fitness center is exclusive, they share some primary qualities. All function rugged partitions supported by metal framing and confronted with both wooden or fiberglass, which is coated with a textured paint to offer grip. The partitions are formed with angles, curves and overhangs that simulate pure rock options, but the color-coded climbing routes are created with plastic holds.

All of the gyms function newbie partitions with giant, intently spaced holds to assist new climbers get snug. All present training in how one can fall and belay safely.

And all of them offer leisure and exercise good for all ages — and any time of yr.

Phoenix Rock Gym

When Paul Diefenderfer first heard about indoor climbing, he thought it was a silly concept. An avid rock climber since the 1970s, he could not think about how a man-made wall inside a climate-controlled constructing might present the similar exhilaration and journey.

But in 1991, Deifenderfer was cajoled into visiting a rock health club throughout a visit to California.

“It blew my mind,” he remembered of the expertise. “Somehow it captured the essence of climbing, but made it totally accessible. I went from thinking it was ridiculous to deciding that I had to open a climbing gym.”

Diefenderfer and a pal scraped collectively $20,00zero and opened Phoenix Rock Gym in Tempe in August 1992.

At the time, climbing was nonetheless a fringe sport, and there have been no different gyms close by to make use of as fashions. Tempe’s metropolis constructing inspectors argued about how you can deal with the permits. But Diefenderfer was assured his unusual new enterprise would draw individuals in.

“We figured we’d teach everyone we knew how to climb and they’d come, then they’d bring their friends, and so on,” he defined. It wasn’t a lot of a advertising technique, he now admits, “but it worked!”

Diefenderfer purchased out his pal a couple of years later and, in 2000, constructed a good bigger facility with 30-foot partitions and 17,00zero sq. ft of climbable terrain.

By now, the fitness center has welcomed greater than 300,00zero individuals, starting from informal guests to hard-core mountaineers.

“We get everybody,” Diefenderfer stated. “I’ve heard people call us the ‘Cheers’ of climbing gyms, which is great. People come here knowing they’ll find friends, even if it’s their first time. And we encourage that. Our goal is to promote fun.”

AZ on the Rocks

Kyle Johnson tries out top-rope climbing for the first time at AZ on the Rocks in north Scottsdale. The fitness center additionally options lead climbing and bouldering in addition to yoga and Ninja-Warrior fashion fitness courses. (Photo: Andrea Galyean/Special for The Republic)

Fun can also be what spurred brothers Kevin and Kent Berk to open AZ on the Rocks in north Scottsdale. Kent was vacationing with his household when rain canceled their outdoor plans and, determined for one thing to do with three wiggly youngsters, he found a climbing health club. None of the relations had climbed earlier than, but they beloved it a lot that the brothers needed to construct their very own fitness center.

The Berks aimed to make AZ on the Rocks as family-friendly as attainable, with packages for all ages and particular occasions for holidays. But as a result of they did not know a lot about the sport, they employed skilled climbers like supervisor Stephanie Mills, who began work the day the fitness center opened and continues to welcome new climbers.

“Climbing is such a great form of exercise,” Mills stated. “People love that they can work out without having to ‘work out’.”

AZ on the Rocks opened in 2004 as a spacious facility with 31-foot-high partitions, plus options like a bouldering part, auto-belays for youngsters and solo climbers, a separate space for fitness and yoga, and a devoted get together room.

Many health club members are already half of the Arizona climbing group, Mills stated, but even when individuals get on the partitions for the first time, she needs them to really feel the similar pleasure that impressed the creation of AZ on the Rocks.

“We’re totally inclusive,” she stated. “We’ve had 18-month-old kids, and we had an 88-year-old great-grandmother who came here for her birthday. And she loved it.”

Ape Index Rock Climbing Gym

Sheldon Cummings belays whereas Shaun Cummings climbs at Ape Index Rock Gym in Peoria.  (Photo: Andrea Galyean/Special for The Republic)

Across the Valley, Amos Cox tries to foster an identical sense of group at Ape Index in Peoria. A longtime outdoor climber and information, Cox constructed his West Valley health club in 2008 to mix the problem of outdoor climbing with the comfort of an indoor setting — and to have enjoyable.

One of the largest gyms in the space, Ape Index has partitions that attain as much as 38 ft excessive and are textured very similar to actual rock — if rock got here in Day-Glo colours. Playful options embrace a 32-foot-diameter globe that lets climbers step from Argentina to Brazil, a stalactite-like tower with routes that spiral round the sides, and big soda cans with names like “Dr. Crag.”

The bouldering space features a climbable tunnel between the first and second flooring, and a further, members-only bouldering space is about with competition-style routes for extra critical climbers.

But, regardless of expertise degree, supervisor Aidan Jacobson stated the aim at Ape Index is to interrupt down obstacles to the sport.

“For the longest time, climbing was a mentor-student thing,” Jacobson defined, “where you could only learn by finding someone who would teach you a little at a time. But at the gym, you can come in here with a 2-year-old and we’ll get you climbing in a few minutes.”

Focus Climbing Center

Climber Zach Levy competes in a bouldering competitors at Focus Climbing Center in Mesa. Focus proprietor Joe Czerwinski encourages even new climbers to enter comps. “I try to get people out of the mindset that they can’t compete just because they’re new,” he stated. “It’s not about winning; it’s about getting out there and trying it.” (Photo: Focus Climbing Center)

Joe Czerwinski is aware of firsthand how climbing gyms can break down limitations. In 1992, the Arizona native was mountaineering Camelback Mountain when one of his buddies prompt they might climb the rock formations.

His response?

“I said: ‘I don’t know; I don’t think that sounds safe.’ “

A couple of months later, the good friend talked about a brand new place referred to as Phoenix Rock Gym. It was indoors and offered all the security gear a nervous athlete might need.

“We went the next week,” Czerwinski remembered, “and that was the day I got sucked into rock climbing.”

Czerwinski was sucked in so completely that he turned a route setter and labored for the X Games in the U.S. and Asia. He began competing and landed on the U.S. National group as a workforce member, then coach.

And, in 2013, Czerwinski opened Focus Climbing Center in Mesa.

A shiny, open area, Focus includes a bouldering wall that reaches as excessive as 18 ft and a 28-foot wall for roped climbs. The flooring, made of a 2-foot-thick gymnastics cushion, not solely catches falls but doubles as an enormous sofa to relaxation on and socialize between routes.

Although Focus hosts frequent competitions, Czerwinski stated he places extra emphasis on the social facet of climbing than on profitable contests.

“To me, climbing is about coming together with your friends and supporting each other,” he defined. “Some people have called this gym ‘the fun frat house,’ and I like that.”

Black Rock Bouldering Gym

Climber Tesla Mitchell competes in the New Year’s Resolution Comp on January 28, 2017 at Black Rock Bouldering Gym in Phoenix. Bouldering and climbing competitions, often known as comps, are an more and more well-liked half of the sport and aggressive climbing will probably be included in the Olympic Games for the first time in 2020. (Photo: Black Rock Bouldering Gym)

At the similar time the Valley’s oldest rock health club hits the quarter-century mark, the latest will rejoice its first birthday. Chris Dodge opened Black Rock Bouldering Gym final August in a former ice rink in Phoenix.

Dodge himself remembers attending birthday events at Phoenix Rock Gym as a child. But he did not begin climbing recurrently till he was in the Army and, looking for a approach to keep match with out becoming bored, he found indoor bouldering.

In addition to the bodily exercise, Dodge beloved the psychological readability of climbing and the method it took him away from the stress of army life.

“When you’re climbing, you can’t do anything else,” he defined. “You can’t worry about anything. You can’t zone out or you’re off the wall.”

After returning to civilian life, Dodge got down to create an area that might assist different individuals discover a comparable serenity. Because he prefers the simplicity of climbing with out ropes, Black Rock is devoted to bouldering. The fitness center presently has 5,00zero sq. ft of partitions, but Dodge plans so as to add extra partitions subsequent yr for his rapidly-growing membership base.

“Originally, I thought I’d just get really dedicated climbers who wanted additional training, but I’ve also gotten a lot of beginners, which is great,” he stated. “When we get first-time visitors, the first thing we do is give them a high five. And then we teach them how to be safe.”

“Climbing is wild by nature,” Dodge admitted, “so we’re trying to present climbing in a somewhat controlled environment.”

And, contemplating the climate outdoors proper now, a managed setting feels like a reasonably good place to start out climbing.

Indoor climbing gyms

PHOENIX ROCK GYM: Bouldering, prime rope and lead climbing with partitions as much as 30 ft. Offers day passes and memberships. Gear rental, personal classes, yoga courses and lead courses. Climbing group and summer time camp for youngsters. Hosts competitions, birthday events and company occasions. 1353 E. University Drive, Tempe. 480-921-8322,

AZ ON THE ROCKS: Bouldering, prime rope and lead climbing. Ten auto-belays. Offers day passes and memberships. Fitness middle with Ninja Warrior course and training obtainable. Gear rental, personal classes, yoga courses and lead courses. Climbing workforce and summer time camp for youngsters. Hosts competitions. Private room for birthday events and company occasions. Zip-line and freefall expertise for particular occasions. 16447 N. 91st St, Suite 105, Scottsdale. 480-502-9777,

APE INDEX ROCK CLIMBING GYM: Bouldering, prime rope and lead climbing. Offers day passes and memberships. Fitness gear. Gear rental, personal classes and lead courses. Climbing membership, workforce and summer time camp for youngsters. Hosts competitions, birthday events and company occasions. 9700 N. 91st Ave., Peoria. 623-242-9164;

FOCUS CLIMBING CENTER: Bouldering, prime rope and lead climbing, with auto-belays for prime rope. Offers day passes and memberships. Fitness gear. Gear rental and personal classes. Preschool climbing courses, summer time camp for grade-school youngsters, climbing workforce for youngsters and youth. Hosts competitions, birthday events and company occasions. 2150 W. Broadway Road, Suite 103, Mesa. 480-718-5258;

BLACK ROCK BOULDERING GYM: Bouldering. Offers day passes and memberships. Fitness middle with weight-lifting and cardio gear, slackline, and Ninja Warrior course. Gear rental, personal classes, and yoga courses. Climbing workforce and summer time camp for youngsters. Hosts competitions, birthday events and company occasions. 10436 N. 32nd St., Phoenix. 602-843-2724;

CLIMBMAX CLIMBING GYM: Top rope, lead and bouldering. Offers day passes and memberships. Fitness gear. Gear rental and personal classes. Climbing workforce and summer time camp for youngsters. Private room for birthday events and company occasions. 1330 W. Auto Drive, Suite 108. Tempe.  480-626-7755;

Other climbing amenities

LIFETIME FITNESS: Health and fitness membership together with climbing wall for member use. Locations in Tempe, Gilbert, Scottsdale, North Scottsdale, Goodyear.

ABILITY 360 FITNESS CENTER: Fully accessible fitness middle together with a climbing wall with adaptive climbing. 5031 E. Washington St., Phoenix. 602-386-4566;

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