I miss the old Raleigh Rock Yard, a classic neighborhood climbing gym on the east side of town that closed a couple years back. I miss it in part because it was a great place to climb. But what I really miss is the staff. Courteous, helpful, exceedingly polite. And I’ll bet not one of them was over 16.
If you want your kid to develop into a confident, motivated and fit adult, take them to the nearest climbing gym and hope it takes. There’s something about the physical and mental demands of climbing that causes a person’s decency genes to assert themselves. And climbing is such a natural thing to do. Consider: What do most toddlers-in-training do before they start toddling? They climb. They climb out of their crib, they climb out of their highchair, they climb down off the couch, onto the coffee table and, if you can’t get there in time to stop them, onto that heirloom Hepplewhite chair that’s prone to tipping over. We’re born to climb.
Winter break is a good time to introduce the kids to your neighborhood climbing gym. My gym, the Vertical Edge in Durham, has extended its hours over the break, opening at noon (as opposed to their usual 3 p.m. opening) and closing at 11 p.m. Now, perhaps you’re conjuring an image of a rock climber harnessed to a rope, 60 feet off the ground and are thinking, “You just can’t walk in and expect to do that.” No, you can’t. You need some instruction and you need a qualified person to belay you.
What you can walk in do, with no training, is boulder. Bouldering is climbing without a rope, usually no more than 10 feet off the ground. You have a spotter and crash pads to soften the fall, should that happen. Sometimes, you go up a short wall. More fun is to make your way horizontally across the wall. Vertical Edge, for instance, has a 500-square-foot bouldering cave that’s maybe seven feet tall and has manufactured holds screwed into the walls and ceiling. Beginners start out using any hold they can find. As your strength and confidence grows, try the various routes that have been marked: The only holds you may use are the ones marked with a certain color of tape. A plus at Vertical Edge: It’s only $7 to boulder vs. $11 to climb. To make it a good experience, pay an additional $3 to rent climbing shoes. They’re snug have have grippy rubber surfaces that help you cling to the holds. Learn more about rock climbing here.
Below is a list of some climbing gyms in the state. For a more comprehensive list of climbing walls and gyms statewide, visit indoorclimbing.com.
Asheville’s Fun Depot , Roberts Road, Asheville
Rates: Call for information.
Hours: Mon.-Th., 11 a.m.-9 p.m.; Fri., 11 a.m.-11 p.m.; Sat., 10 a.m.-11 p.m.; Sun., 1-8 p.m.
Info: 828.277.2386, Web site.
, 43 Wall St., Asheville
Rates: $12.50, $9 bouldering.
Hours: Tue.-Th., 1:30 p.m.-10 p.m.; Wed. & Fri., noon-10 p.m.; Sat., 10 a.m.-10 p.m.; Sun., 1-6 p.m.
Info: 828.252-9996, Web site.
Inner Peaks Climbing Center, Charlotte
Rates: Adults (12 & up): $14; kids, call for information.
Hours: Mon.-Fri., noon-10 p.m.; Sat. & Sun., noon-7 p.m.
Info: 704.844-6677, Web site.
U.S. National Whitewater Center , 5000 Whitewater Center Parkway, Charlotte
Hours: Tue., Wed., Fri., Sat., 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Th., 10 a.m.-8 p.m.; Sun. 11 a.m.-5 p.m.
Info: 704.391.3900, Web site.
Vertical Edge, 2422D US Hwy. 70, Durham
Rates: Adults $11, kids $7; Bouldering: Adults $7, kids $5.
Holiday hours: Dec. 21-23 and 28-Jan. 1, opens at noon, closes at 11(closes at 7 p.m. New Year’s Eve). Saturday: 10-10, Sunday: 2-7 p.m.
Info: 919.596.6910, Web site.
Triangle Rock Club, 102 Pheasant Wood Ct., Morrisville
Rates: Adults $17, kids $10; $4 shoes.
Hours: Mon.-Fri., noon-10 p.m.; Sat.: 10 a.m.-10 p.m.; Sunday, noon-7 p.m.
Info: 919.463.7825, Web site.
The Ultimate Climbing Gym, 6904 Downwind Road, Greensboro
Rates: $10, $15 including rentals
Hours: Mon.-Th., 5-10 p.m.; Fri., 3:30-10 p.m.; Sat., 2:30-9 p.m.; Sun., 2:30-6:30 p.m.
Info: 336.665.0662, Web site.