Updated: May 16
When you're new to an area or just new to rock climbing, it's easy to feel a bit isolated. You don't have a crew to climb with, and you want some friendly competition to inspire you to push yourself harder.
You’ll soon want to find the best outdoor climbing spots—not the ones that everyone knows about. Every climber goes through plateaus, so you’ll also want a place where some friendly advice is always accessible.
That's where a good climbing gym comes in. While all gyms can help you practice your skills, it takes the right kind of gym to foster a climbing community that really benefits newcomers. According to an article in Athletic Business magazine, "a climbing gym stay is around three hours because of the social aspect...these gyms are becoming community centers." Those three hours aren't just spent climbing—gym members are socializing, watching other climbers, and relaxing together after challenging climbs.
When you join a gym that's right for you, you'll have a local climbing community and access to a lot of great information that you wouldn't be able to get on your own.
Competition (Not Condescension)
What you want in a climbing gym are fellow climbers who will inspire you, not put you down. Just like walking into a regular fitness gym and being stared down by a bunch of muscleheads, a climbing gym can have an intimidating vibe that turns off beginner climbers.
The best gyms foster an atmosphere of friendly competition, where experienced climbers give tips to novices and challenge them to push harder. Everyone always feels welcome.
One of the significant aspects of climbing in a gym is getting to watch climbers of all levels tackle new routes. There's a lot that you can learn climbing alone. But when you're stuck, it can be invaluable to watch how a more experienced climber moves through a crux.
There will also be tough days ridden with failures. You’ll find it nice to have a supportive crowd around you at the gym to keep you motivated.
A True Community Hub
When a climbing gym has a true sense of community, it becomes an information hub for climbing in that area. You'll learn about those excellent, lesser-known climbing spots from other climbers. Regular gym members might hang out after hours with the staff, or the gym could host special events like movie screenings and outdoor excursions to boost camaraderie. Camps and youth programs will bring in the energy of a younger crowd. It can also offer other fitness opportunities like yoga classes.
When you find the right gym in your area, you'll start to feel at home. Your fellow climbers will become part of your social circle, and your climbing skills will likely improve with the support of a strong local climbing community. If you want to venture out of the gym and climb outdoors, odds are you'll have a built-in crew that you can explore the area. Before long, you'll be the one giving tips to newcomers and sharing your favorite local climbing tips.
At Vertical Horizons, we strive to be the gym where anyone from novice to expert can feel included. Where your climbing experience is enhanced, not only by the routes on our walls but by the climbers you'll meet.
A little fun fact: one of our owners is an outdoor route developer in the area. He has worked to build a climbing community in Forth Smith over the last several years by creating routes in local crags so that others can get into the sport. So be sure to check out Jerry’s route development work over on fernclimbing.com.
Not ready to start outdoors? No worries, sign up for any of our classes or just come in, and we will get you set up. If you’re content with climbing indoor routes forever, our climbing community is growing, and we’d love for you to be a part of it.
Climbing is for everyone, and we look forward to seeing you soon.