Climbing Blog #2: Rock climbing gyms in Seattle and more!


Note: If this is your first time reading my blog and you are unfamiliar/new to climbing, I highly recommend you look over the introduction to climbing guide provided in my first post.  Definitions for climbing terms that were not discussed in the introduction guide but do appear in this entry are provided immediately after this post-and appear in bold type.

My life hasn’t been overly exhilarating lately.  I have rock climbed of course- but that’s pretty much a standard part of my life. When I’m in Seattle I climb at a gym called Vertical World (VW) most often- both because I’m a member and because it’s close to where I live. Plus, I just like the gym a lot, and as I mentioned in my first entry, I use to compete with the VW team. I still go to team practices now and again when I’m back from college although I haven’t been to them lately.   Vertical World is most well known for their roped climbing.

VW just opened a new gym to replace their older gym in Seattle, and it’s conveniently only a few blocks from their old location. The walls at their new gym are much taller than they were at the previous Seattle location.  I don’t know exactly how tall the current walls are but my best guess is the tallest walls are around 50 feet. To put this in perspective, the tallest wall at Whitman is around 39 feet, and the walls at the older Seattle VW were also in the 30- something feet.  Climbing at VW lately has really helped me improve my endurance since I’m on the wall for such a long amount of time.

vertical world seattle, photo credit: Bob Scoverski,

I’ve noticed the grades seem to be stiffer at VW lately than when I climbed there during winter and spring breaks. For a while I was climbing 5.12’s relatively easily, but so far I’ve only climbed one 5.12 at VW this summer, which I surprisingly flashed (it was a 5.12b). However, I think I have the potential to do some of the other 5.12s if I just work on them a bit more. I’d rather have the grades be too hard than too easy because that way I feel like I am challenged more, and in the end grades are just grades and they do have their limits. Some people really get caught up in climbing the hardest grades they can- to the exclusion of all else- but I feel more rewarded when I do climbs that are truly challenging for me-even if the grade itself isn’t that high. I distinctly remember falling on more than one v0 at Joshua Tree (a national park in California), and I couldn’t do any of the slab v0s- I swear there was nothing to hold on to!

I guess it should therefore come as no surprise then that I ended up spending my memorial day climbing at VW with friends. I was initially thinking of climbing outside during Memorial Day weekend, but those plans fell through so I ended up just climbing inside. However, just because I’ve talked about VW so much I do not want to give off the impression there are not other good climbing gyms in Seattle.  The Stone Gardens gyms in both Seattle and Bellevue (which just recently opened and is at Crossroads mall) both have really good bouldering. Another gym worth checking out is the Seattle Bouldering Project (SBP), which is the largest bouldering gym in the world and has a nice yoga studio there that offers plenty of classes. SBP is a new gym as well and celebrated their one-year anniversary earlier in May (around the time Whitties were taking finals, actually).  Fun fact: my dad’s an economist and he actually did a little financial advising for the SBP.  The climbing industry in Seattle seems to be booming based on all the new climbing gyms opening (VW Seattle, SG Bellevue, and SBP.)

Definitions (for bolded words, for non-climbers or those new to climbing):

Roped climbing- simply any climbing that requires the climber to tie into a rope for safety.

Stiff/stiffer- this is a bit tricky to explain but I’ll do my best.  By “stiffer” I mean that the climbing grades overall seem harder than before or the last time I climbed there. For example, if the 5.11 climbs I did at VW felt harder than the 5.11 climbs I did there earlier, I could say the 5.11s feel “stiffer” than before. Another word for routes that seem hard for their grade, although it has a bit more of a negative connotation, is “sandbagged.”

Flash- completing a given climbing route on your first attempt without falling at all. Related term: redpoint: completing a climb without falling, although not necessarily on your first try.

Links to Climbing Gyms in Seattle:

Correction: I said before (in blog post #1) that speed climbing is usually done on 15m and 20m walls. Actually I think 15m and 10m walls are more commonly used for this type of climbing. Sorry for the error, I’m certainly no expert when it comes to speed climbing and it has changed a lot since I last competed in speed climbing (early summer of  2009).