Clamber up the walls like a mountain cat. Swing like a monkey from a two-hand hold. Dangle like a spider from an anchor 40 feet above the ground.
Whatever your inner adventurer wants, you’re likely to find it amidst the rock wall jungles at one of the region’s popular climbing establishments. Though it might seem daunting, the hands-on hobby is a great workout accessible to all ages, users say.
At Sacramento Pipeworks Climbing and Fitness, there are two routes that beginners can take – bouldering or belaying.
Bouldering is an equipment-free trek up a series of 17-foot walls. Each is adorned with a few hundred “holds,” or colored pieces of molded plastic sticking out from the wall’s surface meant to support climbers’ feet and hands.
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First, get your climbing shoes. They are tight, flat sneakers meant to allow flexibility for the foot ($4 rental). Climbers can also purchase powdered chalk to protect their hands from blisters ($5 per sack).
Next, choose a route. The routes are color-coded and range from novice to advanced on a scale of 0 to 7. If a climber chooses a yellow “0,” for example, he or she will follow only the yellow holds to the top of the bouldering wall.
To belay at Pipeworks, beginners must take an introductory class ($30) that teaches the basics of harness safety and climbing with ropes. From there, visitors can rent a harness package ($6) and choose from dozens of routes in the rope-climbing section of the gym, where walls are 43 feet high.
Whether attached to a rope or moving free-form on the bouldering wall, visitors will get a full-body workout on each visit, said Ryan Kowalski, a Pipeworks staff member.
As climbers choose holds along their routes, they need to manipulate their body in creative ways to get from one step to the next. They make careful choices about how to distribute weight and conserve energy throughout the climb.
“A lot of people think they can’t climb because they can’t do a pull-up, but rock climbing is not pull-ups,” Kowalski said. “Certain bodies move differently than other bodies, and they can use those skill sets rather than strength to get up to the climb. We get super strong people who can’t do the climb because they haven’t figured out how to get their body to allow them to do it.”
Rather than training one area of the body at a time, climbers use all of their muscle groups when reaching for difficult holds, keeping their core tight and maneuvering in a “ballet-like sequence” up the wall, Kowalski said.
It’s also a problem-solving game. Climbers need to find patterns in the routes to plan their way to the top.
There is no prior fitness level required to climb. Because there’s never too much weight put on any one part of the body, climbers aren’t likely to injure a knee or an ankle, staff said.
Sarah Murphy, 27, and Garret Arney-Johnson, 30, said they took the introductory belay class in the fall because they wanted to change up their exercise routine. They go to Pipeworks a few times each week, they said, to get both their cardio and strength training in.
“We just came to work out,” Murphy said. “We can only last about 10 minutes on the treadmill, so this is a lot more fun.”
Other climbing gyms in the Sacramento area include Granite Arch Climbing Center in Rancho Cordova and Rocknasium in Davis.
What you’ll need
- Comfortable activewear
- Climbing shoes ($4 rental)
- Harness, if belaying ($6 rental)
- $15 for daytime sessions (before 3 p.m.) or $20 for evening sessions (3 p.m. and later)
- $72 monthly membership, which includes other fitness classes
- Adult day pass: $23 with equipment, $13 without
- Adult day pass: $22 with equipment, $15 without