According to the thermometer, it’s pretty cold out there in most the country right now. As in single digit cold. Which wouldn’t be such a big deal except for the fact that you’re the kind of person who likes to burn calories outdoors. Hiking boots, bike shorts, a life vest, climbing shoes—these are your preferred gym clothes. So what are you supposed to do when winter temperatures dip low enough to make a snowman shiver?
The answer is simple, and fortunately for the fair-weather adventurer, heated: find an indoor climbing wall. As the sport of climbing has grown in popularity, rock gyms have sprung up everywhere, especially in eastern cities where busy professionals don’t necessarily have easy access to cliffs, crags, towers, and other large rock formations. And just about every spot offers day passes, equipment rental, lessons, and the occasional discount, so you can show up for a test climb without committing to membership. Plus, they’re good places to meet other outdoor enthusiasts and a fun alternative to yet another predictable workout on the elliptical.
Mainers can probably handle the cold better than most, but on those extra icy days when strapping on a pair of snowshoes doesn’t sound like much fun, there’s Maine Rock Gym in Portland. After signing a waiver and running through a simple intro course, you’re ready to go, just clip in to the top rope, pick a wall, and start stretching for your first hold. Up in Boston, Rock Spot Climbing is open from 10am until midnight seven days a week, giving beginners and veterans plenty of time to explore all 9,000 square feet of climbing surface. Preview the space from the second floor mezzanine, warm up on a cardio machine, and then get climbing or bouldering. Routes are reset every two or three months and boulder problems change out regularly.
New York’s climbing scene meanwhile, gathers at Brooklyn Boulders in the borough’s Gowanus neighborhood, sometimes until two in the morning. Sign up for one of the classes in their Peak Performance Program (all of which are led by climbing instructors certified by the American Mountain Guides Association) and learn everything from fitting harnesses and tying basic knots to setting anchors and lead belaying. Slackline and yoga courses taught on-site focus on improving strength, balance, and focus, essential skills for any serious climber.
Further south in Pennsylvania, Philadelphia Rock Gyms has been around since 1994 and is about to open its third location in the metro area. Join a drop-in class once an hour on the half hour here, book a private lesson, or reserve a spot in one of their intermediate and advanced level clinics such as self rescue and learning to lead. As with Rock Spot Climbing and Brooklyn Boulders, Philadelphia Rock Gyms also operates a pro shop stocked with all sorts of gear if you decide you’ve found your calling. The first thing to do though, is give it a try. Because even if you don’t suddenly become a climbing junkie, you’ll build confidence and improve your fitness while avoiding the frigid temperatures outside. Take that, winter.