I have always struggled reading man made routes and often used the gym to get fun climbing and hard core socializing in. Then I would get motivated and get my climb on outdoors. However, recently I starting reading ‘Training for Climbing’ and ‘The Self Coached Climber’ and I am figuring out how to truly utilize the gym as a stomping grounds for solid training.
That being said, as a frequent traveler, rather than working out in the hotel gym, I suck it up and get to the local climbing gym and boy I am really surprised how much I love trying out new gyms. Getting on fresh new routes set by unfamiliar route setters and meeting new climbing friends from all over the US, what’s not to like about that!?!?
So, when you are on vacation, visiting friends or family, on business travel, and so on, make sure to check out the climbing gym in that area! A small crew of us headed over a few weeks ago to Midlothian, VA (close to Richmond Area).
What in the world is in Midlothian, VA? Peak Experiences! From Raleigh, NC, it is only about 2.5 hours drive. Yuppers! We went on a field trip to get our indoor ‘cragging’ on because mother nature was crying over a lot of the outdoor crags leaving them soaking wet. So after our visit, here is a little beta on Peak Experiences:
- The gym is a good size at about 14,000 sq. ft.
- There were at least (if not more) 125 climbs (lead and TR) with slightly less then vertical slab, vertical, steep and super steep walls. Many climbs were about 40-50 ft. tall. The walls appeared to be of a reinforced concrete material and the routes are distinguished by the color of the holds.
- The bouldering section is in the back left hand corner, about 13 ft. tall and is fully covered with mats velcroed together (you do not want to land on those rocks I suppose, haha!).
- The space in between the climbing areas is very spacious, if the gym is packed, you are not negotiating space and bumping into folks.
- There are two tall rope type ladders where the birthdays and camps spend their time being belayed (really cool, I wanna try!) so you rarely have kids running into to you.
- There is an upstairs area where the birthday parties spend their time, we even saw those inflatable, covered trampolines, how cool is that? I think I have a birthday party idea…for my birthday….am I too childish or what?
- Passages Camp – Everywhere I looked I saw things on their camps, which seem AWESOME.
- Consistent and Creative Route Setting – I cannot believe how consistent their routes were overall, not too soft or too stiff, just right. And we really seemed to enjoy every route we got on, not a single route seemed shabby! Kudos to a gym that has found a good balance in creative route setting without letting up on any quality!
What you need to know:
- Day pass cost – The day pass is $17.00, which is about what I pay for most of the gyms I have visited in other states. What is super nice is that they have a $9.00 bouldering only pass. In writing up my reviews I make sure to ask for this and have yet to find many gyms with a bouldering pass only fee.
- Rental gear – For those that are on business travel and do not want to haul their gear in their luggage, this gym offers a rental package at $9.00 which includes harness, shoes, chalk bag and belay device/carabiner. I on the other hand, never leave my Ketanas behind, my gear loves to travel on Delta airplanes and try out new gyms!
- Bring flip flops – The climbing area floor consists of only rocks….yes like lots of little pebbles. So when you are walking from climb to climb, unless you have super human calluses, it might hurt to walk bare foot.
- Belay Testing – I was really impressed how serious this gym takes their belay testing. I have been to many gyms where in seconds I am climbing away, but at Peak Experiences, you will not be handed a belay tag in seconds.
- Top Rope (TR) Belay Test – You need to know how to properly tie a figure eight, and either tie a fisherman’s or Yosemite finish. You will need to tell them what you would check on your belayer, the commands, when you climb take an announced and unannounced fall. When belaying, you will need to tell them what you are checking for on your climber before they go on to climb. Generally, if your climber is 20 or more pounds heavier, you will need to anchor in. I know for us experienced climbers this could sound silly, but in actually it is not. I actually had to recite verbally what I knew and I really appreciate how much emphasis they put on safety at this gym. Kudos to Peak Experiences!
- Lead Belay Test – Once you pass the TR belay test, then only you can test for the lead belay/climbing tag. If you want to get lead certified, call ahead and make a reservation.
Overall, the gym’s strong family, friendly environment, quality routes and friendly staff were most impressive to me. We had a blast and will plan to return again for a rainy day Peak Experiences excursion! Like so far, check out some end user pics and start planning your Peak Experiences excursion, check it out…http://peakexperiences.com/!