Last weekend, Phyll and I took his sister out to celebrate her birthday. One piece of that was a trip to the local rock climbing gym, Climb Iowa. Climb Iowa is a place I’ve been wanting to go for awhile, but kept putting off. I’m not sure why, but we just never seemed to get around to it. With a busy Saturday at home, we ended up going in during the late afternoon. Getting set up was super simple — no appointment needed. We signed a waiver, paid ($15 for a day pass + $4 to rent a harness) and then a staff member taught us how to use the auto-belay system.
Rock climbing with an auto-belay
Let’s start at the beginning. When you climb, you need a “belay” system. This is essentially a means of tension against falling — so, if you fall, you don’t fall far. In a traditional belay scenario, a partner will provide the tension for you. To learn to do this safely, you need training.
The auto-belay is a harness “hook up” that instead attaches you to a rope system built with air pressure (and other technological things I don’t understand). It enables you to be secure, without the assistance of a someone formally belaying you up and down the wall. When you’re with a group new at rock climbing, the ability to climb without having someone with that training is extremely helpful! So, the belay is attached to you when you climb, but the air suspension system within it provides resistance if you fall, giving you a safe landing. Here’s a brief shot of what one looks like (sorry for the action-shot-blurriness).
How do you rock climb?
For those of you who haven’t been rock climbing, the concept is pretty simple. Climb the wall! Grip rocks as you go, and support your feet on them to assist. To make it more of a challenge, you can grip on certain colors, or kinds, of rocks. Some rocks are much easier to climb than others, which is something you identify early, and the climb is both physically and mentally demanding. As you choose the next rock to climb on, you have to think through if you are setting yourself up for a stable hold — not every move is a smart one. If you reach for one rock, does your foot leave another? Is there a rock available to put it on and support you, yet again? It’s a puzzle, but a fun one! Then, once you reach the top of the wall, you hit the biggest challenge of all. You have to jump down. The belay lowers you slowly, but in reality it’s terrifying. Letting go? Definitely a lesson in trust. If you just can’t seem to jump, climbing down is a viable (albeit exhausting) option.
There were several auto-belays; they were all different, and we tried many of them as they became available. As a whole, anyone who visits is able to use the auto-belays, so you do have to take turns. I’d say there are definite advantages to going when it’s less busy, given that fact. But, if the auto-belays are full, there’s option two: bouldering!
Bouldering at Climb Iowa
Bouldering is climbing without the harness. Whaaaaat? But honestly, it’s so fun. The wall is much shorter, and there’s a thick pad at the bottom. Climb Iowa has two bouldering areas. One, on the ground floor, you can “top out” on and climb over the top of the wall, taking stairs down. The larger, more “intense” bouldering wall is on the second floor. It’s more difficult to climb, and incidentally, is also one you must simply jump down off of.
… if you can get to the top, that is!
Try out rock climbing yourself at Climb Iowa
Now, I wasn’t given anything to say that. I genuinely enjoyed my time at Climb Iowa, and I certainly plan to go back. It’s fun, it helps build strength (primarily upper body) and it has a cardio aspect to it, though you might not expect that.
3605 SE Miehe Dr, Grimes, Iowa
Cost (there are additional things you can rent beyond this):
$15 for a day pass (this is your entry fee, but they have punchcards available, or you can even get a membership!)
$4 harness rental (you can bring your own if you have one)
Monday – Friday: 11:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m.
Saturday: 10:00 a.m. – 9:00 p.m.
Sunday: 10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.
And if you want a friend … Phyll and I are eager to revisit!
Have you ever gone rope climbing?
Do you have a climbing gym in your hometown?