Reporting Natalie Nyhus
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — It’s inevitable. The temps are dropping in Minnesota, and soon that outdoor workout or activity that you enjoy is going to have to be shelved until the spring.
One way to stay active while indoors, though, is rock climbing, a sport that’s gaining in popularity, especially as a brand new gym opens in Minneapolis.
For nearly two decades, Vertical Endeavors has kept Twin Cities climbers belaying and flashing walls east of downtown St. Paul. But now, residents on the other side of the Mississippi River will have a lot less commute time to get their climb on.
The new Minneapolis location of Vertical Endeavors is holding its grand opening starting at 11 a.m. this Saturday, though the doors have been open to members and curious climbers for about a week now.
Though they’re still putting the finishing touches on the gym, once it’s complete, it will boast about 25,000 square feet of climbing wall. Some routes will reach dizzying heights of more than 60 feet.
“This is where the wow factor comes in,” said Vertical Endeavors director Pat Mackin, who has been a part of the adventure since the start, when the first of four gyms opened in St. Paul 20 years ago.
Despite people’s initial fears, the sport of rock climbing claims converts all the time.
“People will tell me all the time, I’m afraid of heights,” Mackin said. “The first time they sit on a rope and learn how the process works, a lot of the time that ‘fear of heights’ thing goes away.”
Not only is climbing a great physical workout, but it can also be a brain-teaser.
“People think that climbing is about doing pull ups,” said Mackin. “You’re using upper body, but you’re really using your feet.”
“This is as much a mental puzzle as it is a physical puzzle,” said morning meteorologist (and on-the-side climber) Mike Augustyniak. “Because you have to figure out how to balance yourself and where to grab and when. And that’s why I’m stuck right now!”
Vertical Endeavors offers four different types of climbing.
For the beginners, there’s auto belay climbing, which hooks you into a device that picks up the slack in the rope as you go up, and then gently lets you back down.
Top rope climbing is the same principle — with the anchor point at the top of the route — only there’s someone on the ground taking up the slack in the rope as you ascend.
For the more serious, there’s bouldering, in which climbers power up shorter but sometimes more intense routes with no ropes attached at all.
Finally, there’s lead climbing. That’s when you climb above your last point of protection, continually clipping in as you climb. That means, if you fall, you’ll fall twice as far as the last point you clipped in.
As staff members always say, there are inherent dangers in rock climbing, and that’s why Vertical Endeavors educates every climber on safety first and foremost.
During Saturday’s grand opening, you can climb for free and enjoy some music, food and demonstrations.
Memberships at Vertical Endeavors run from $120 for 10 visits to $569 per year for unlimited use, but here’s a helpful hint: every year in February, they run a special sale for just one hour. Last year, the annual membership price was cut in half.
For more information on indoor rock climbing in the Twin Cities, check out our article on the subject here.