Despite a noticeable lack of boulders, cliffs and mountains, Central Ohio has embraced the sport of climbing and there are now several options, mostly indoors, for the growing number of rock jocks. And, with competitive climbing’s inclusion at the most recent summer Olympics, continued growth and added venues keep building the sport’s upward momentum daily. Here are some of the best local indoor options.
This mini-climbing empire began in 1994 when Carrie and Alexis Roccos opened their first climbing gym: Vertical Adventures. They were a bit ahead of the times, and their sport, but as climbing grew more popular, membership at Vertical Adventures increased. Mardi and Matt Roberts joined the ownership team in 2013; a new, larger Vertical Adventures facility opened in 2014; Chambers Purely Boulders, located in Grandview, opened in 2018, followed by the opening of Bloc Garden, in 2021, on the edge of the Scioto Audubon Metro Park. 5.Life also operates Climb Nittany in Boalsburg, Pa.
“Bouldering is becoming more and more popular,” Roberts notes of the growth of indoor climbing’s most simple entry point across Central Ohio, “especially among young professionals, the 18-to-35 group—but any age can do it.”
Details: The 44-foot-high walls at Vertical Adventures include 16,000 square feet of climbable space, 100 rope routes and six auto belays. Free weights and lifting machines are available, and yoga classes are offered.
Vertical Adventures is open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Monday, Wednesday and Friday; from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Tuesday and Thursday; 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturday and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday. Daily passes are $9 for children 8 and younger, $19 for students and members of the military, $23 for adults. Equipment rentals include harnesses ($3), shoes ($4) and belays and carabiners ($4). In addition, 10-day punch passes and monthly memberships are available.
Details: This bouldering-only facility offers 3,000 square feet of climbing space that reaches a height of 15 feet. Chambers is open from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday to Friday; 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. The fees are the same as Vertical Adventures.
Details: This is also a bouldering-only facility located on the edge of the Scioto Audubon Metro Park, a handy place for a run or walk after climbing (and also home to the area’s only outdoor climbing wall). Bloc Garden has 6,500 square feet of indoor bouldering space and 15-foot-high walls. The facility is open noon to 10 p.m. Monday to Friday; 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. The fees are the same as Vertical Adventures.
5.Life’s efforts to grow the climbing community go beyond the walls. It’s created an Adaptive Ascents program as a way to connect with and teach climbers with disabilities to enjoy and compete in the sport. Vertical Adventures has also hosted the US Paraclimbing National Championships twice and the company works with Central Community House, a Columbus-based nonprofit that operates a community center and provides services for underserved Near East neighborhood families.
“One of our members works for them, and that’s how we connected,” says Roberts, adding how 5.Life has hosted two open-house type events for families, another event for Near East youth, and is working with the Central Community House to create an after-school program at Bloc Garden, the closest facility to the Near East.
“We think climbing is one of the greatest things in the world and we want everyone to have the opportunity to climb,” Roberts says. The sport, she adds, teaches several critical life skills, including understanding and managing risk, coping with fear, plus problem-solving and adversity. Presenting those opportunities has, in turn, impacted how their company functions, Roberts notes, by becoming “more conscious about inclusivity and access—changing the culture in our own organization to create these types of partnerships.”
More Info: 5.life
Westerville Community Center
Climbing: This 30-foot-tall plastic wall has the look and shape of a rock wall, complete with overhangs and cracks. There are nine top-rope routes, including four auto-belays and pitches ranging from a beginner’s slope all the way up to a 5.10+ overhang. There’s also a full-length crack.
Details: Daily and monthly passes are available. For youths (3 to 15), the daily rate is $5 for Westerville residents and $9 for non-residents; and $20 and $35 for a monthly pass; the daily rate for adults is $7 for residents and $12 for non-residents and $26 and $45 for a monthly pass; the daily rate for seniors is $6 for residents and $11 for non-residents, and $24 and $42 for a monthly pass. Monthly family memberships (three or more members) are $70 for residents and $120 for non-residents. The center is open weekdays from 5:45 a.m. to 9 p.m., from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturdays, and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sundays.
More Info: parks.westerville.org