Vail Living with Vitality column: Climbing myths and facts
Ryan Summerlin February 18, 2013
Kids are natural climbers. They instinctively approach obstacles – a boulder, a jungle gym, a big pile of snow – with a desire to ascend. Fast-forward a few years and many of us lose the natural pull to climb. Self-doubt creeps in and we don’t trust our bodies. But if you think back to being a kid, to living in the moment, to being physically and mentally present, you’ll find the foundation you need to start climbing again. And, if you reignite that passion you’ll discover a life-changing workout that can transform your body and your mind.
Climbing poses a unique challenge because it demands both physical and mental toughness, but it also instills the very same attributes. Climbing is a balance of strength and problem solving in a fearful environment. It takes concentration and commitment. And it gives confidence and balance.
Climbing also comes with a few misperceptions:
Myth: Climbing is not safe.
Fact: Climbing is very safe. Most accidents can be attributed to human error – usually poor judgment. Safety protocol is extremely important: always work within the acceptable ranges of your ability; seek out appropriate instruction; and gain experience.
Myth: You must have a strong upper body to be a climber.
Fact: Climbing requires total body strength: core, legs and upper body. In fact, over half the exercises recommended for climbing preparation are core-focused.
Myth: Everyone free solos (climbing without ropes, harnesses and other protective gear).
Fact: With recent media coverage of free soloing, there is a misperception that this is a regular method of climbing. In reality, less than one percent of climbers engage in free soloing.
Myth: You must have a certain body type to be a climber
Fact: Anybody can climb. You’ll find climbers of all body types, personalities and abilities. You don’t need to be super-strong, super-lean or super-fit to start climbing. You will find, however, that by climbing regularly your body type will change and you’ll develop a leaner look.
Now that you’re ready to get started, you’re probably wondering where to begin. An indoor climbing wall provides a controlled environment, so it makes for a great first experience. Indoor walls allow climbers of all ability levels to gain skills, knowledge and confidence that translate to outdoor climbing. Indoor walls also allow for close proximity to instruction.
The Vail Athletic Club (VAC) has the only indoor climbing wall in Vail, and instruction is available for adults and children, from beginner to advanced levels. The climbing program includes a foundations class and private lessons for climbers of all ages, as well as the Vail Athletic Climbing Team for kids, ages 5 to 18. An affordable “Community Climbing” session is held on Fridays at 5:30 p.m. and the VAC provides equipment.
The local climbing community is both welcoming and supportive, making those first steps less intimidating. There is a robust local competition called the Vail Valley Bouldering series, which is open to all ages and abilities. The club’s Vail Athletic Climbing Team provides support and instruction for children interested in competing. In fact, two Vail Athletic Climbing Team athletes are headed to the American Bouldering Series (ABS) Nationals in Colorado Springs, March 1- 3. Amalia Manning (10) and Ethan Pitcher (11) competed at local, regional and divisional levels in the strongest region and division in the nation (Colorado) to qualify for nationals. The local climbing community will be cheering them on as they compete at the highest level.
Our community is eager to welcome new climbers, too. Put your fears aside and join us for a mentally and physically challenging fitness experience. Who knows? You might discover you’re a natural after all.
Larry Moore is the Vail Athletic Club (VAC) climbing wall manager and climbing team head coach. He has been climbing for 28 years and coaching for the past 11 years. Moore is also certified for both outdoor climbing and indoor wall instruction. He is a USA Climbing nationally ranked competitive climbing coach, and the owner and lead guide for Adventure Travel Guides International. Moore also coordinates volunteers for the Climbing World Cup in Vail. For information, visit www.vailathleticclub.com or contact him at 970-949-6366.