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Cultural divergence between indoor and outdoor climbing
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By Ming
Feb 4, 2013
At Railay East Beach in Thailand

So I went to an indoor climbing gym's "hardhat tour" this Saturday. The gym itself is still under construction and looks to be about 2 or so months from completion. They have all the reception area/lockers/party room/ etc framed out and most of the plywood on the steel frames for the climbing walls are up. These new gyms are much bigger than any of the local gyms in my area.

It will have a new esthetic for me - instead of trying to create "outside" like surfaces such as the type provided by rockwerx these people are going to finish the walls with white birch veneer.

In any case, they have a lot of really interesting and for me really novel concepts of what a climbing gym can be. They really want to foster a larger community than just dirtbag climbers. They are proposing the gym as almost a "community" center of sorts - bringing together local artists, entrepreneurs, climbers and other people of the community together. They are planning to have lounges, meeting rooms, a coffee bar as well as a room for pop-up stores or art exhibitions.

So all that sounds great (and I do love coffee). But when I asked about what I consider to be needed in a climbing gym, the answers unsettled me a little bit. First I asked about crack climbing - the representative said "no cracks, the insurance is too much". That I can understand. Beginners jam without knowing what they are doing, slip and break their wrists. Ok that is more than reasonable. But then I asked about the other types of climbing - slabs, offwidths and chimney's, and the guy basically gave me the same response. I was like "huh?". There is a little bit of glaze over the representative's eyes.

That is when it hits me - what I consider to be climbing - the dirtbag climbing, scary R-rated slab runout, unglamorous huffing and puffing in chimneys, is not part of the culture of the "indoor-ers". I mentioned the responsibilities of gyms teaching safe and becoming (at least somewhat) responsible for the outdoor areas in the region. The representatives say they are working with Access Fund and the like but never answered my question in regards to what I see is their responsibility of unleashing thousands of newbies into the wild much as the previous gym did. The owners are primarily boulderes - even the talk about installation of speakers and having separate sounds system for the rope area and the boulder area made me realize that the indoor climbing culture is diverging from outdoor climbing culture - and outdoor climbing culture is really diverging between "low and hard" and "big and adventurous".

So what are people's thoughts on this subject? I feel conflicted about the developments. While on one hand I can't wait to check out this new gym and it's amenities (and the coffee, and the lounge), and I know the bouldering is going to be excellent. On the other hand I am concerned a little bit about the direction that it is leading in terms of the world of climbing. My friends and I talk abit about the "false confidence" problem that I have seen first hand in outside - and the attitude that outside is just one big gym.


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By randy88fj62
Feb 4, 2013
Thunderbolt Peak in the Palisades

We are the minority when it comes to indoor climbing gyms. I'd love a bolt ladder for tuning in my aid systems. I'd also love to dry tool and work on my ice climbing endurance but that's not in the cards.

It's a business and therefore they want to make money with the least amount of investment and risk.

This is also why people build their own training grounds that cater to their own needs.


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By Leo Paik
Administrator
From Westminster, Colorado
Feb 4, 2013

FWIW, this isn't the only viewpoint out there. We were at a college and saw the new wall put in there. It had an offwidth/chimney, handcrack to a fingers lieback, hands to fingers crack, and a fingers to off fingers crack. It made me smile. Sure, there were lots of face climbing routes, but still...these are going to train some of the new generation out there.

In addition, there were photos from outdoor routes there. They included desert cracks, towers, long granite routes, and sport climbs. :)


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By scott cooney
From La Casa Taco
Feb 4, 2013
11th hour of the Sundial

where are you located? the birch finish sounds like a Vertical Solutions job


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By Martin le Roux
From Superior, CO
Feb 4, 2013
Stairway to Heaven

All very true, but why stop with slabs, offwidths and chimneys? If you really want to simulate the outdoors then you'd need something like this...

Sport mountaineering, by Tami Knight
Sport mountaineering, by Tami Knight


BTW it's not really a new issue. This cartoon is almost 25 years old.


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By Ian Stewart
Feb 4, 2013

Ming wrote:
I mentioned the responsibilities of gyms teaching safe and becoming (at least somewhat) responsible for the outdoor areas in the region. The representatives say they are working with Access Fund and the like but never answered my question in regards to what I see is their responsibility of unleashing thousands of newbies into the wild much as the previous gym did.


Why do you think it's the gyms responsibility to do anything outside of their gym? Sure, I would welcome and encourage the gym to become involved with local climbing areas, and I think such involvement would resonate good vibes with the outdoor climbers, but it's no more their responsibility than, say, the shops selling climbing gear. Teaching safe belay and climbing technique is where their responsibilities (and liabilities) end.

Ming wrote:
I am concerned a little bit about the direction that it is leading in terms of the world of climbing. My friends and I talk abit about the "false confidence" problem that I have seen first hand in outside - and the attitude that outside is just one big gym.


I'm not sure I follow you...what exactly are you concerned about? By "false confidence" do you mean something like a newbie saying "I can climb this 10 in the gym, so I'll have no problem leading this 5.9 crack outside"? If that's the case, the same thing happens even if you don't ever go to a gym...I can get up some 12 sport climbs, then flail miserably on 5.9 cracks. Or I could even go to a different sport climbing area and be working on 10s, depending on the climbing style and rock. What's wrong with thinking of the outside as a big gym?


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By Mark E Dixon
From Sprezzatura, Someday
Feb 4, 2013
Sure, I can belay

Ian Stewart wrote:
What's wrong with thinking of the outside as a big gym?


Trash, noise, lack of stewardship, no environmental awareness, a sense of entitlement and irresponsibility.


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By Brian Adzima
From the Paris of Appalachia
Feb 4, 2013
somewhere in WV

The current gym I climb in (a woody-fest from the early 90s) had a couple of big chimneys (~ 3 feet) until last year. I never remember the setters coming up with anything particularly interesting or original, other than a gnarly transition to the adjacent slab. The one chimney was replaced with a much more functional 45 degree wall that allows for 10 or so routes, compared to the two or so usually set up and out of the chimney. They still have a 4" inch off-width a couple of finger cracks that get very little love.

My experience with cracks in the gym has been you get on them a couple of times, and then they just end up being a waste of space as they cannot be easily changed.


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By TWK
Feb 4, 2013

When is it gonna become obvious that climbing gyms and most of their customers have very little to do with climbing outdoors (other than bouldering)?

It's a place to work out and to try to stay fit--it's like trying to compare running on a treadmill or lifting weights to a day climbing multipitch at a crag or on a mountain. There's some overlap but they remain really entirely different pursuits.

And they should.


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By Ian Stewart
Feb 4, 2013

Mark E Dixon wrote:
Trash, noise, lack of stewardship, no environmental awareness, a sense of entitlement and irresponsibility.


Those aren't "gym" traits, those are "douchebag" traits.


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By TWK
Feb 4, 2013

Ian Stewart wrote:
Those aren't "gym" traits, those are "douchebag" traits.


Could it be that one may equal the other more commonly than we would hope?


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By Mark E Dixon
From Sprezzatura, Someday
Feb 4, 2013
Sure, I can belay

Ian Stewart wrote:
Those aren't "gym" traits, those are "douchebag" traits.


Fair enough.

Don't get me wrong, I love the gym and consider it 'real' climbing, unlike some.

However, there seems to me to be less environmental awareness amongst those who come to outside climbing from the gym, rather than directly or from hiking. Maybe I'm wrong and it's a generational thing rather than a gym thing. Or maybe I'm misremembering the good old days.


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By Rob Davis
From Brooklyn, NY
Feb 4, 2013

indoor crack climbing sucks. They're fun exactly twice, and then you are left thinking "I wish they would just set something else". As for chimneys, just consider whether you would do it more than a half dozen times. Now consider whether a face climb, that can be reset over and over and over would be at least a little bit more fun.


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By SexPanther aka Kiedis
Feb 4, 2013
Thumbtastic

^^^^^^^Disagree. Went to a great gym with cracks, got dirty strong lapping them. Did wonders for my confidence and technique, kept finding new jams and variations. Very positive experience for me.

Speaking as an anti-chalk, anti-rap-bolting, anti-fancy-climbing-pants, anti-techno-at-the-crags, anti-man-tampons kinda guy:

Relax. It's just a gym. The good ones are pretty great, the bad ones are usually still OK. Be glad you have access to one. I personally wouldn't want anything "community" oriented anywhere near where I sharpen my swords, hence the home wall I'm torturing myself on for a one time fee, not the ***absurd*** cost of $60+ bucks a month our local slagfest center is charging.

On second thought..White Birch??? OOf. Maybe you have a point. The mind recoils at the coffee-scene annexing brain cells and draining attention. Enough MP. Time to train. Y'all have fun.


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By Jake Jones
From The Eastern Flatlands
Feb 4, 2013
Me and the offspring walking back to the car after a day of cragging.

Smarty Ports/Shants wrote:
Speaking as an... antii-fancy-climbing-pants,


Whoa slim. Stop right there. Have you seen me in a pair of those?


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By Mark E Dixon
From Sprezzatura, Someday
Feb 4, 2013
Sure, I can belay

Jake Jones wrote:
Whoa slim. Stop right there. Have you seen me in a pair of those?


If it's not a .jpg it never happened.


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By camhead
From Vandalia, Appalachia
Feb 4, 2013
You stay away from mah pig!

this debate has never come up before. ever.


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By JCM
From Golden, CO
Feb 4, 2013

Mark E Dixon wrote:
Trash, noise, lack of stewardship, no environmental awareness, a sense of entitlement and irresponsibility.



Ian Stewart wrote:
Those aren't "gym" traits, those are "douchebag" traits.


I'm with Ian here. When visiting my local climbing gym, I try to be quiet, clean, and courteous. I apply the same traits at the local crags, and in the park at the middle of town, for that matter. Meanwhile, the guy leaving trash at the crag is probably the same guy who doesn't pick up his dog's poop from the park, and makes noise in the library. People who lack manners are found in all aspects of life.

If anything, I find that people are generally better behaved in the gym, since they are in an institutional setting with stated rules and expectations of behavior. Most of the behaviors that cause the most problems at a crag, like unattended dogs, littering, and pooping near the base, are not things that one would do at the crags. I see no reason why someone who mostly climbs in a gym, upon going to an outdoor crag, would take up those behaviors. Perhaps the uninitiated, who have not yet learned crag etiquette, might behave improperly, but that is not something that is unique to the gym generation. New climbers have been acting like dweebs and endangering themselves ever since the era when John Salathe was hand-forging his own pitons. The only difference now is that the number of climbers is much greater, requiring greater management of crag traffic.

On a different note, I think that it is a little silly to complain and shake your head about how the gym lacks cracks, chimneys, slabs, and the like. Gym climbing is it's own entity now, with its own characteristics and style of climbing. Generally, good gym climbing is not produced by trying to make a facsimile of outdoor climbing. The gym is about gymnastic athleticism, and getting strong. Generally, when a slab-wall, a chimney, etc are added to a gym, they are not popular with members; indoor walls just don't do a good job reproducing these features.

Accept the gym for what it is, and accept each crag you go to for what it is. I don't expect the gym to feel like Eldo, any more than I expect Wild Iris to feel like Devil's Tower. Each venue is different, and enjoyment of one venue and style is not mutually exclusive of enjoyment of others.


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By RockyMtnTed
Feb 4, 2013

Yep that was about the most pointless and worthless rant I have seen on mountainproject ever. I agree with pretty much everyone above that you are an idiot.


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By NorCalNomad
From San Francisco
Feb 4, 2013

Think of all the booty that will get left behind by noobs though ;D.

Seems like they might be trying to stretch themselves over too many markets/ nichés.

+1 for gyms that offer the whole range of climbs that you can get a total climbing skillset with. I'm so thankful that PGSF has 5.13+ overhanging stuff to OW, cracks, low angle, and everything in between.


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By Captain Fastrousers
From Pasadena, CA
Feb 5, 2013

Mark E Dixon wrote:
Trash, noise, lack of stewardship, no environmental awareness, a sense of entitlement and irresponsibility.


I think you just described the Camp 4 scene in the seventies.

In reply to Ming:
The notion that 'gymn00bs', and by extension gyms, are responsible for more trash, death, noise pollution and general 'unclimberly' mayhem than pre-gym climbers is surely the most hackneyed, tedious and unsubstantiated myths in climbing.

Climbers, skiers, tourons, gym-bunnies, it doesn't matter; homo sapiens are largely a bunch of self-interested, stupid, dickheads, and trying to separate the behaviour of one sub-sub-group of society from another's is like rearranging sun-loungers on the deck of the Titanic.


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By Fat Dad
From Los Angeles, CA
Feb 5, 2013

Ian Stewart wrote:
I'm not sure I follow you...what exactly are you concerned about?

Then you are likely part of the problem. This should be evident to anyone who has seen indoor climbers attempt the transition outdoors.

Also, Captain Fasttrousers, I'm sure if your last comment was just intended as humor. If so, no biggie; if not, it's so off base it borders on the ignorant. Post that comment on Supertopo and wait for the pummeling to begin.


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By bearbreeder
Feb 5, 2013

but how many hawt young gurls are there in tight yoga pants ...

that is the TRUE measure of a gym ;)


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By Healyje
Feb 5, 2013
girl40

bearbreeder wrote:
but how many hawt young gurls are there in tight yoga pants ... that is the TRUE measure of a gym ;)


Didn't you get the memo? Hot girls only go to bouldering gyms where there are no nasty harnesses to spoil the lines and no ropes to mess with. Or are you in one of those hick towns without a bouldering gym. I mean, like really?


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By frankstoneline
Feb 5, 2013

Captain Fastrousers wrote:
In reply to Ming: The notion that 'gymn00bs', and by extension gyms, are responsible for more trash, death, noise pollution and general 'unclimberly' mayhem than pre-gym climbers is surely the most hackneyed, tedious and unsubstantiated myths in climbing. Climbers, skiers, tourons, gym-bunnies, it doesn't matter; homo sapiens are largely a bunch of self-interested, stupid, dickheads, and trying to separate the behaviour of one sub-sub-group of society from another's is like rearranging sun-loungers on the deck of the Titanic.


I didn't spend any time in camp 4 in the 70's so I've got no input on that statement, but I think this is a pretty good point.


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By bearbreeder
Feb 5, 2013

Healyje wrote:
Didn't you get the memo? Hot girls only go to bouldering gyms where there are no nasty harnesses to spoil the lines and no ropes to mess with. Or are you in one of those hick towns without a bouldering gym. I mean, like really?


you obviously are going to the wrong gyms ...

u think i pull plastic to climb?

nonsense ... i spend all my time belaying starring at camels ;)


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