It’s the excitement of being 20 feet in the air. It’s the thrill of overcoming your fears. It’s the exhilaration of climbing rocks.
Rock climbing is a sport that offers adventure and fitness. With rope, gear and trained professionals, people of all ages and skill levels can safely experience the fun of indoor rock climbing at Sportrock Climbing Centers, and Burke Racquet and Swim Club and outdoor climbing through REI.
"It’s the imagination of climbing," said Pete Morgan, the general manager at the Burke Racquet and Swim Club. "It might look intimidating, but it’s very simple."
Josh Fisher, who currently climbs at Sportrock Climbing Center in Alexandria, has been rock climbing indoor and outdoors for 12 years.
Fisher’s favorite part about climbing is "the absolute focus when you’re on a route," he said. "Because while you’re on a route, nothing else matters, but the moves right above you." Climbers like Fisher enjoy the challenges rock climbing offers, both physically and mentally, as they figure out different ways to make it to the top of the climb.
The sport provides many fitness benefits, from burning calories to increasing strength, flexibility and balance.
Fisher likes climbing weekly at Sportrock Climbing Center because the gym offers a variety of different kinds of climbing walls and difficulty levels, which is sometimes harder to find at outdoor climbing spots.
"Inside you get to go through a whole different sequence of climbs," he said.
After seeing the growing success and interest in climbing walls, Morgan said he wondered, "How cool would that be if I could bring that kind of difference and fun to a gym?" The Burke Racquet and Swim Club ended up turning one of its racquetball courts into a 20-foot climbing wall room with ten climbing stations.
While the facility mostly caters to children, Morgan said some thrill-seeking adults are willing to give it a go.
"Most of the adults are parents of our kids that find it intriguing and inviting," said Morgan.
REI in Fairfax also has a rock climbing wall, and it is used for climbing classes, youth open climbing, and for customers to try out the store’s climbing gear. The store has an outdoor school, which provides several one-day classes in which people can learn to safely climb outside at Great Falls National Park.
"It really is an activity that is overshadowed by other family activities, but people really can learn how to do this activity together and really enjoy it together as a family," said Halle Enyedy, the head of the REI Outdoor School program.
In addition to classes, REI offers weekend getaway climbing trips to Elizabeth Furnace, where climbers of all skill levels can experience the world of climbing outdoors during a three-day climbing and camping excursion.
"We notice that people come outside, and they love nature and it’s combined with something that they love, which is climbing and they’re lifetime climbers all of sudden," said Enyedy. "We want to make sure that we provide them with the increasing skill sets and safety and knowledge about how to get into this sport safely.
Rock climbing is an activity that is open to people of all ages, fitness levels and experience. It’s not just a sport reserved for adrenaline junkies, but also those brave enough to give in to their curiosity.
"It’s the same thing you do when you’re a child and you look at something to climb," said Morgan of people’s draw toward the climbing wall. "Whether it’s a set of bars, or in this case, just looking at the potential."