By Jerson Hatch
Big and Little Cottonwood Canyons, American Fork Canyon, Moab, Zion National Park; all of these locations are Utah rock climbing wonders. Hundreds of climbs for each skill level dot these majestic areas. But where do all the climbers go when warm summer weather ends and the cold winter creeps in? We can either wait out the winter months on our couches, or we can take our climbing indoors to climbing gyms.
Why indoor climbing? Trent Meisenheimer of Momentum Indoor Climbing said, “Indoor climbing trains us for better performance outdoors.” Moving indoors allows climbers time to prepare for the next season and build their ability. Indoor gyms have many benefits compared to outdoor climbing. The gyms are climate controlled and shielded from bad weather conditions so you can climb no matter what the forecast says.
Never climbed before? Not a problem. Climbing gyms offer routes for all abilities whether you are a first time climber on a 5.5 top rope or a seasoned veteran working on a 5.13b lead climb. Gyms offer climbers time to practice and perfect their technique for outdoor difficulties. Unlike outdoor climbing, indoor gyms have several routes close together; so you can easily run 10–15 routes during your visit, with each route posing a different problem to overcome. Plus, there are no long hikes to reach your climbing wall. With so many routes close together you can focus on conditioning and endurance.
People who climb indoors generally climb at a harder level than outdoors. This is partially due to the atmosphere. Indoor climbs are much safer than outdoor climbs due to the positioning of the holds and the pitch of the walls. Gyms are also void of the ledges that jut out of a route and interfere with the climber’s fall. Plus, the employees will certify you in your ability to belay, top rope or lead climb and they can offer tips on climbing, equipment preferences and notify you of safety concerns.
But perhaps the best part of indoor climbing is the social aspect. People at climbing gyms are generally friendly, courteous and many are happy to lend a hand or a belay if needed. Climbing gyms are a great place to find new climbing partners and if you don’t have a belay partner, check the bulletin boards at climbing gyms where information on people looking for one is posted.
Most climbing gyms offer an array of climbing options for one person or partners. If you’re going solo, you’ll want to stay in the bouldering areas where you only need a chalk bag and shoes. The top rope area requires a climbing harness, shoes, chalk bag and a belay partner. If climbing the lead wall you’ll need a lead certified belay partner and all your own gear, including ropes. Want a challenge? Try the crack climbing walls at Momentum Indoor Climbing in Sandy. All gyms listed offer equipment rentals for shoes, harnesses and chalk bags. In addition to climbing walls, some climbing gyms (like Momentum and Rockreation) have free weights and cardio equipment for members to use. Momentum, The Front and The Quarry also offer yoga classes.
Local Climbing Gyms
Here are some great local climbing gyms where you can perfect your skills throughout fall and winter.
2261 Kiesel Avenue, Ogden
Price for adults $10 and children $7.50, plus equipment rental.
Momentum Indoor Climbing
220 West 10600 South, Sandy
Price for adults $15 and children $12, plus equipment rental.
2074 East 3900 South, Salt Lake City
Price for adults $15 and children $10, plus equipment rental.
200 East 1780 North, North Logan
Price for adults $15 and children $11, equipment rental included.
400 West 1450 South, Salt Lake City
Price for adults $15 and children $7, plus equipment rental.
2494 North University Parkway, Provo
Price for adults $13 and children $10, plus equipment rental.
Cool New Climbing Gear
Scarpa Force Shoes
Perfect for climbing indoors, this suede climbing shoe fits snugly with a tight heel that provides good support on the toes when negotiating a questionable foot hold. The Forces have a sticky Vibram sole that helps them hold on any wall without slipping, and the Velcro Powerstrap closure tabs make the shoes easy to put on and remove between climbs. $125 scarpa.com
Rock Lock Liquid Chalk
Use this liquid chalk as a base coat and begin your ascent up a wall. The liquid chalk adheres to your hands longer so you don’t need to chalk up as often, giving you longer climbing runs. However, it’s only a base coat and you’ll need a traditional chalk bag while on the wall. A healing agent in this liquid chalk prevents your hands from drying out and cracking, even after several days of use. $5.99 rocklockchalk.com
Krieg Chalk Bag
Looking for a chalk bag that’s stylish and functional? Try Krieg bags, which are handmade and contain a zipper pocket that’s perfect for an iPod or energy bar. The bag’s opening is big enough for large hands, making it easy for anyone to chalk up and continue climbing. Krieg bags come in many styles, but can also be specially ordered in any design by sending the fabric or image of your choice. $20.95 kriegclimbing.com
Smart Belay Device
This ergonomic, easy to use device is ideal for indoor climbing on skinny ropes or when there is a large weight discrepancy between leader and belayer. There’s a small learning curve, but once you get used to it the Smart’s unique shape makes belaying comfortable with smooth rope feeding. It’s also safe for locking off the rope if the climber takes an unexpected fall. $29.95 mammut.com