Crystal City’s new indoor climbing facility requires physical and mental balance.
You always know when you’ve gotten a good work out. Muscles and joints, sometimes ones you didn’t even know existed, ache from soreness. This was definitely the case after my first indoor rock-climbing foray at the new Earth Treks indoor training facility in Crystal City. My wrists and forearms throbbed post-climb, but in the words of John Mellencamp– it “Hurt so Good.”
In addition to Rockville, Timonium and Columbia, the dynamic gym is Earth Trek’s fourth in the area, the largest in the Mid-Atlantic region and in the top five bracket nationally. The 45,000 square foot facility includes a full gym, yoga area, retail space and boasts 35,000 square feet of climbing. A rainbow of colored holds cover walls of different shapes and sizes to make up 400 climbing and bouldering routes. Route setters change up the cleverly-named courses (ie. “Better than Ice Cream”) every six to nine weeks to keep it fresh for regulars.
As a first time climber, I needed a crash course on the lingo and more importantly, technique. Earth Trek’s climbing director Ex Pow-anpongkul started me off with the basics. The numbering system on each route corresponds with its difficulty level. If the course starts with a 5 that means it is considered top-roping and requires a partner to act as a belay (aka you’re covered if you slip). As a climber goes up, the belayer offers slack to ensure safety and stability. I found these to be comforting words as I strapped into a harness for the first time. The routes are labeled 5.Intro (easiest) to 5.13 (most challenging).
Ex reminded me that climbing power comes from within. Quite literally, the core propels upward progress, not the extremities as beginners mistakenly assume. Women, he says, are typically more effective climbers initially because they depend on their agility more than men, who immediately activate brute arm strength and burn out quickly as a result.
During my two climbs, I listened to my body and stayed conscious of each small movement, shifting my weight accordingly. What impressed me more than conquering the physical feat of making it to the top of a wall was the decision making process that got me there. Each upward motion required making quick choices on the fly.
Though I physically felt the burn, I was also mentally fulfilled. It was only later that I learned the big joke in the climbing community: the hardest part of climbing is opening the car door after a day out on the rocks. My rattling brain would beg to differ.
Earth Treks,1235 S. Clark St. Crystal City; open seven days a week; 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. on weeknights, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturdays and 6 p.m. on Sundays. A day pass is $25; individual memberships are $89 per month and family memberships are $150 per month.