Go Play: Rock climbing for beginners | PostIndependent.com

Go Play: Rock climbing for beginners

Brittany Markert
Grand Junction Climbing Center (1548 Independent Ave.) is a great place for kids to enter into the sport of climbing. It offers beginner classes and even a climbing team.
Submitted photo |


WHAT: Grand Junction Climbing Center

WHEN: Monday through Friday, Noon to 10 p.m., Saturday, Noon to 8 p.m., Sunday, Noon to 6 p.m.

WHERE: 1548 Independent Ave., Grand Junction

COST: $12 for adults all-access pass

INFO: http://www.gjclimbing.com

Randall Chapman, 38, fell in love with climbing 14 years ago after taking a class at a college in California.

Since then, the owner of Grand Junction Climbing Center (1548 Independent Ave., Grand Junction) has introduced hundreds of people into the climbing world, both indoor and outdoor.

“Climbing isn’t about the adrenaline to me,” Chapman said. “It’s about being in the moment and enjoying where I’m at. Everything else goes away; zeroing in on the moment.”

Grand Valley locals can enjoy that moment, too, by learning the basics of the sport at Chapman’s climbing gym.


Upper body strength is a plus, but Chapman said it’s not about pull-ups; it’s using the core of the body more than anything.

“If you can climb a ladder, you can climb here,” he said.

According to Chapman, routes at the center vary from easy to hard, and they are set incrementally to improve and track progress. The routes are based on the Yosemite Decimal Scale, which is used to base difficulty of hikes and climbs. Levels from Class 1, which is walking with a low chance of injury, to Class 5 — what is considered technical, free-climbing, which involves rope, belaying, and other protective hardware.

Plus, climbs at Grand Junction Climbing Center range from 5.5 or 5.6, which are the easiest grades, and go up to 5.12, which is one of the hardest.

“A lot of people say they can’t find any friends to climb with them,” Chapman said. “But, if you start climbing here and join the Western Colorado Climbers Coalition (WCCC), you will make new friends. You enter a whole new community of people.”

WCCC recently partnered with the Access Fund to save two major cliffs in Unaweep Canyon.

“It’s about protecting the land and being good stewards,” WCCC member Jesse Zacher said. “Plus, it’s a larger playground for us climbers.”

Find the group on Facebook to find partners to climb with or join group outings.


When starting to climb, there are several terms to learn before heading to the ropes.

According to REI’s website, climbers can partake in a variety of outdoors climbing — bouldering, sport climbing, or traditional climbing.

Bouldering requires the least amount of equipment. It is close-to-ground climbing, where beginners can traverse on the rocks or walls.

“That’s the first thing I’d recommend trying outdoors,” Zacher said. “It’s a great way to get a feel for the rocks.”

He added it is the least expensive way to climb, as a crash pad, chalk and chalk bag are all that’s needed.

Sport climbing is a “‘clip-and-go’ style of climbing which allows the leader to progress upwards without the worry of placing protection,” REI’s website said.

And traditional climbing is when there are a few permanent anchors, and using protections into fissures in the rock.

Belaying, a term used in the climbing world, is a technique used to stop the climber’s fall with equipment and harnesses.


According to Chapman, only a few pieces of equipment are necessary to begin climbing at the Grand Junction Climbing Center. For indoor climbing, new climbers need shoes ($80-200), chalk and bag ($15-30), and a harness ($40-100). For outdoor climbing, the same equipment is needed, plus carabiners ($5-30), rope ($150-200), a helmet ($60-130), a belay device ($30), and a belayer (case of beer.)

Those interested in bouldering should also invest in a crash pad ($150-300), a chalk bag, bouldering shoes, and a spotter to help find good lines.

Climbing shoes should “fit snugly so they don’t move around,” Chapman said.

The Grand Junction Climbing Center offers rentals for those climbing inside. A package costs $5 and includes shoes, a harness, and chalk bag.


Zacher recommended for beginners to first hit a climbing gym before heading outside.

“It gives a great feel for being above ground,” he said. “Plus, employees are able to give instructions and teach you how to climb.”

Grand Junction Climbing Center offers several ways for beginners to enjoy climbing for the first time.

A service called “Clip-N-Climb” is available. The device is an auto belay, where a partner isn’t required, and climbers can rope climb alone. It takes up the slack as a climber ascends and safely controls the descent when the climber lets go or falls. The center has six available to use if a belayer is not available.

If interested in climbing outside, people must learn to belay, and a one-hour class set up by appointment is available. It costs $20 and includes harness and shoe rental.

“Climbing 101” is offered to beginners as a two-hour course. It covers a broad overview of the sport, the different types of climbing and gear, and how to belay. The class includes harness and shoe rental plus a three-week membership to the center. It costs $65.

“Come as you are and we will take care of the rest,” Chapman said.

For more information on WCCC, visit http://www.westernslopeclimbers.blogspot.com. For more information on Grand Junction Climbing Center, visit http://www.gjclimbing.com.

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